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What’s New?Vintage Press InformationAn ’Ironside’ Title and Airdate ListingOriginal NBC Stills ArchiveVintage Magazine Features’Ironside’ CollectablesEditorials and Analytical FeaturesLinks
What’s New?Vintage Press InformationAn ’Ironside’ Title and Airdate ListingOriginal NBC Stills ArchiveVintage Magazine FeaturesIronside’ CollectablesEditorials and Analytical FeaturesLinks
 NEW ZEALAND TV WEEKLYOctober 28, 1968  •  pp. 23-25 
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Only on his Pacific Island retreat of Naitaumba can Raymond Burr find what he describes as “a true civilisation.” He has dedicated himself to improving conditions, methods and crop standards, but at the same time retaining all of its “tourist folder” charms.Naitaumba
Actor’s Quest for ‘Real’ Civilisation
Part II of a story by Ellen Torgerson
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How does Raymond Burr, actor-plantation owner, spend a typical tropical day — that is, when his professional worries are left far behind him, and he becomes “Lord of the Manor” on his island paradise of Naitauba?
 
— Let the man himself take up the story …
 
“I get up about five in the morning,” he says. Burr has been said to breakfast on beer. This he denies. “I have toast and coffee,” he says, with dignity, “then I begin my day as a working plantation owner. I talk to people. I oversee, I check fences, I examine the crops—sugar and copra. I try to cover as much of the plantation as I can. I do it on foot because there are roads and paths, but no horses.” He does have a Landrover, but he’d really rather stride through his acreage. He likes the exercise.
Raymond Burr
Raymond Burr (as Detective Chief Ironside) … the “help-humanity” causes come before everything else — even his newly acquired island.
Raymond Burr
“If we happen to be away from the house at 10 a.m. for the lunch break, we sit wherever we are and eat the sandwiches that the cook has prepared for us.” He’ll have a drink of beer now. “If 10 a.m. seems early for lunch,” he says, “it isn’t to anyone who’s been up since dawn.”
Three Languages
 
Part of the population of Naitauba originally came from India as indentured servants, numberless years ago when the British owned the islands. They liked it so well, when their period of servitude was over, they remained. “So there are three languages spoken on Naitauba,” says Burr. “English, Fijian and Hindustani.” He picked up a Fijian dictionary and began speaking from it. “It looks like a harsh language when it is written down,” he says, “But there is nothing that sounds more poetic when it is spoken.”
 
The big crop is copra. Half of the island is planted in copra producing coconuts. Copra is dried coconut meat. The desirable part of it is the oil, which is squeezed out of it. Burr says the method of harvesting the coconuts is relatively simple. “We wait until they are ripe and drop from the trees,” he says. He is as expert about the coconut as he is about all the things on the island. “A young coconut is called ‘bu’,” he says casually. The man’s a sponge for knowledge.
 
Burr does not express any great preference for either eating the coconut meat or drinking its syrup-sweet milk. “In order to do that I’d have to climb a coconut tree, break open the coconut and drink.” Since Burr is always fighting a weight problem—or thinks he is—he doubts he could get his bulk to scamper up a coconut palm.
“I don’t need exercise when I’m on the island,” he says. “The work is hard and there’s all that walking in the fresh air and sunshine. I get into bed at night and have no trouble falling asleep.” He disagrees that the agricultural journals he takes to bed with him might be soporific. “I enjoy knowing as much as I can about the area,” he says.
 
“What I like best about the island is the people,” says Burr. One of the reasons for that could be that they love him, not for who he is but what he is. They know what he does in the outside world. But they couldn’t care less. The average Fijian is not a TV buff. There isn’t a set on the island. And Burr does not show his own old movies.
Raymond Burr and Greta Thyssen
Burr, says the writer, has aged little since he performed regularly as the courtroom king in “Perry Mason,” (as pictured), some ten years ago. The co-star in this instance is Greta Thyssen.
“The islanders have given me peace and I am grateful,” says Burr, who explained about his life on the island to me in his office at Universal Studios, where he is making Ironside. The place looks like the office of any busy executive who’s making a lot of money—deep carpets, good paintings (one a lovely Fijian portrait) and dark, handsome woods. His face has changed little since he essayed the role of Perry Mason 10 years ago. His skin is firm and brown for a man of 50, his eyes are as fresh-coloured as those of a man 15 years younger and his hair is only a little grey.
 
Gourmet Meals
 
When he is in Hollywood, at his various flats and temporary lodgings, he does a lot of cooking. He has been known to turn out gourmet meals for a hundred guests with 34 varieties of canapes alone. And he once had, in his ocean-front home in Santa Monica (when he had that) a 12-burner stove called a Wolf-range that also had two regular ovens, a warming oven, three broilers and a large pancake griddle. But on the island he does little cooking.
 
“We have a couple of very good cooks,” he says. “And there are a variety of things to cook in the Fijian manner. It’s all delicious. They do a good deal of broiling, baking and roasting.
 
“The islanders utilise everything that grows on the island,” says Burr. “We have tapioca, giant yams like sweet potatoes, breadfruit and taro.
 
“I said I don’t do any cooking on the island—but I have been experimenting with new bread recipes,” Burr admits. It seems, too, that a lot of eating goes on at the island. There’s a tea break at 2.30 p.m. with sandwiches, cakes, bread and butter and, of course, tea. “Cocktails are served around 5.30 and dinner about 6.30,” says Burr. That’s his time to relax. “I’m delighted to have company,” he says. “But I can’t be a proper host when I am working on the plantation during the day.”
 
Brief Stop-over
 
Sometimes he stays on the island for as long as four weeks. Sometimes he only gets two weeks there. When he goes to Vietnam (“to talk to the troops,” as he puts it), he always makes a stop-over at the island.
 
“Last time I was there was in April,” he says wistfully. “Next time, I may get there in March—hopefully. If I don’t make it in March, I’ll definitely go there next Christmas. I have to evaluate my time carefully what with the series and with speaking engagements I have.” Burr, a devoted doer of good, speaks before all kinds of groups and raises money for all kinds of charities. And much as he would like to get to the island faster and stay longer, he wouldn’t give up a help-humanity speech for his own pleasures.
Raymond Burr
Burr deserves his island. He has been married three times. Two of his wives died—his last wife of cancer, his first in an aircraft crash—his second wife divorced him. His only son died of leukaemia. And the life of an actor — even one as succesful as Burr—is filled with compromise, pain, humiliation, hounding, struggle and people who are monsters one way or another.
 
“Everything is much fuller there,” says Burr. “It’s not just that you have more coral, stars, open water and colour. You stop and look at an ant because it is there. And you really see a flower. A wave is important, a sea shell is important. You really see the people, the sky, the pebbles, blades of grass.
“We are much more civilised on the island than in any city. Politics, business, war, world affairs, the entertainment industry—they are not civilised.
 
“My aim in life is to be civilised.”
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