Flash: Bond bandit bites baguette!

And other information you don't need, but the Times of London insists on giving you.

Published July 1, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

What the hell's going on over at the venerable Times of London? Aren't they feeding them enough? Nick Leeson, the resourceful young man who nicked Barings Bank for more than $1 billion, will be flying home from his Singapore jail cell this weekend, and the Times has scooped news outlets throughout the world by being the first to provide a detailed inventory of ... his in-flight meal.

Leeson, you'll recall, while working for Barings in Singapore, performed some overly fancy international trading gymnastics and in no time at all chocked up liabilities of #850 million, wiping out Britain's oldest merchant bank, which ended up being sold to a Dutch bank for #1 (ouch!). According to the Singapore authorities, Leeson has learned his lesson and they are releasing him now that he's served two-thirds of his six-and-a-half-year sentence.

In an article in Wednesday's Times, the Nickster, who's suffering from cancer, is referred to as the "sad rogue," partly due to his illness, with which his widowed father is also afflicted, and partly because of seriously ticking off his wife, Lisa -- who left him and remarried while he was incarcerated -- with the revelations in his book, "Rogue Trader." In the book, Leeson, displaying characteristic good judgment, provides accounts of his sex life with his then-wife as well as revealing the color of her underwear -- not generally a move that binds you to near and dear ones.

However, the real story here is not Leeson (without his squeeze and his billion he's just another colorless sad sack), but the Times, which hangs its report on the meal Leeson will be having as he flies home via British Airways (not Virgin Shaglantic?) club class on Sunday. Taking an, uh, interesting journalistic direction -- I mean, it's not as if Leeson faced the gallows at dawn -- the paper reprints the entire menu (in facsimile, no less), from the "Seafood salad appetizer" through the main course (choice of "Grilled fillet of beef and herb butter, or sweet and sour tiger prawns, or chicken piccata, or vegetable lasagna, or roasted squash ravioli") and the dessert (chocolate cake), finishing up with the breakfast (muesli, OJ, etc.) Leeson was to have been served shortly before touchdown at Heathrow. In what may kick off a new trend in crime 'n' culinary reportage -- sort of Martha Stewart meets James Ellroy -- it took three journalists to put together the nicely garnished account. Bon appitit, Nick.

OK, maybe they're right: Satire's impossible in a postmodern world. But how many times do I have to tell you that you can't expect to sell cocaine to the Amish and get away with it, especially if you belong to a motorcycle gang called the "Pagans"? Last year, after their arrest in Lancaster County, Penn., the charmingly monikered Abner Stolzfus, 25, and Abner King Stolzfus, 24 (No, they're not related. Why would you think they're related?), two Amish snowblowers, pleaded guilty to conspiring to sell the thinking man's Dristan. Five non-members of the religious sect (but members in good standing of the Pagans motorcycle gang) also were popped for supplying Aspen lift lines to Amish youth looking for more thrills than horse-drawn buggies, butter churning and barn raisings can provide. Last week the bikers were sentenced to terms ranging from home confinement to prison. The Abners, on the other hand, are looking at five to 40 years each and up to $2 million in fines, or 6 million hand-dipped candles.

And the Baptists, too, are under siege from Lucifer. The Rev. Dan B. Moody, 52, pastor of the Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Douglasville, Ga., was arrested recently for playing fast and loosey-goosey with his video camera. Apparently, when the spirit moved him, the good reverend liked to take to the escalators at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport and tape close-up documentary footage under young women's dresses. He bravely employed an Atlanta Braves baseball cap to conceal his camera, a thoughtful technique designed to help the gals overcome any self-consciousness they might have had about having their underwear videotaped while they were walking around an airport in it.

(Moody's alleged technique itself -- holding a hot-blooded camera under a small cap while negotiating what we can assume is a busy, fast moving escalator -- is a little tough to visualize, and must have taken some practice to perfect. Where would one rehearse such a technique? Well, let's see, choir practice might offer an excellent opportunity, but then you'd have to be the sort of person who could gain access to said practice without raising undue suspicion ... )

The minister was arrested when a witness spotted him doing Satan's surveillance and asked him what he was up to. Moody replied that he was doing nothing and pulled the tape out of the camcorder. This, of course, begs the question of what precisely constitutes doing something and what constitutes doing nothing, but that's a long and winding existential road we don't have time to wander at the moment. Brenda Moody, the pastor's understanding wife (much more understanding, I might point out, than Nick Leeson's Lisa), says that "The camera was an accident," and that his congregation "stands behind him." Yes, all well and good, Mrs. Moody, but what have they got under those caps?

By Douglas Cruickshank

Douglas Cruickshank is a senior writer for Salon. For more articles by Cruickshank, visit his archive.

MORE FROM Douglas Cruickshank

Related Topics ------------------------------------------