Wow, this man and his lifestyle really intrigues me. I had heard the rumors, but thanks to this excellent memoir by Jillian Lauren I started to really roam the Internet.
Prince Jefri is the youngest brother of the sultan of Brunei. He is - or in fact, was - known for his extravagant lifestyle. He owned a collection of 2000 luxury cars, a private Boeing 747, countless properties, including hotels all over the world, an enormous art collection and a yacht names Tits (its lifeboats were called Nipple 1 and Nipple 2). He's also a notorious playboy (in case you hadn't guessed it yet with a Yacht named like that, ha!). Despite his 4 wives and 18 children, he was spending upward of $250 million per year just to fly in expensive calls girls, centerfolds and runaway teens from all over the world to compete for a position in his infamous harem.
And that's where Jillian Lauren, the author of the memoir Some girls: my life in a harem, comes into play. In tight, effective prose she describes how she was adopted into a somewhat dysfunctional family, became a stripper when still a minor and an escort girl not much later. She frankly tells how she was driven by her insecurities, a need for money (she had dropped out of college) but mostly by a thirst for adventure, when she one day accepted an offer to audition for a somewhat mysterious job: an anonymous Singaporean businessman was looking for girls who would entertain him. The chosen girls would be compensated very well.
"My job description was elusive at best, but I fantasized that I might arrive and find a wild adventure, a pile of money, and an employer who was no less than Prince Charming. This was my opportunity to shake of my bohemian mantle and re-imagine myself as an enigmatic export, maybe a royal mistress or the heroine of a spy novel. More realistically, I suspected I had signed on to be an international quasi-prostitute. There are worse things I could do."
At that time, the sultan was the richest man on the planet. And Jillian was part of one of the first groups of American girls that were flown in to the bizarre and decadent world of the sultan's youngest brother, prince Jefri. Here, she and numerous other beauties were paid generously ($20.000 for only 14 days, but teenager Jillian ended up receiving approximately $200.000 to $300.000, what she would call "a gigantic amount of money, especially in the early nineties.") to attend his nightly dance parties as entertainment for the prince and his buddies.
It's incredible and unbelievably surrealistic, this life that prince Jefri was able to lead. The girls would attend his million dollar parties in their prettiest outfits and then just hang around, bored senseless. However, when Jefri was due with his entourage, they were given a signal and hurriedly started dancing and pretended to have the times of their lives, all the time trying to capture Jefri's attention. He often hardly acknowledged his harem though. Although every night another girl went missing, presumably to have sex with the prince. After which she was showered with expensive jewelry.
In the meantime, the other girls would back-stab their way towards becoming Jefri's first or second favorite girlfriend. They planned the terrible things they could do to make other girls go home to increase their chances. Despite the rivalry, Jillian did manage to attain the position as the prince's second favorite girlfriend. Something that would provide her with many interesting and entertaining anecdotes to share in Some girls: my life in a harem!
Long after Jillian had bitten the dust, a former Miss USA, Shannon Marketic, sued the prince and the sultan in 1997 for holding her against her will as a sex slave in Brunei, drugging and raping her. Her suit claimed she and other young women were lured into traveling there under false pretenses. It said that their passports were confiscated on arrival and that they were checked for sexually transmitted diseases. She said she and the other women were routinely groped, fondled and otherwise sexually assaulted in the palace, where they were forced to show up for late-night disco parties to entertain Jefri's pals.
However, Jillian's story makes it perfectly clear that she and the other girls were never held against their wills and could leave at any given moment. The prince's sexual desires too, were - considering the endless possibilities that must've been up for grabs - almost laughably normal. Jillian only ever had completely normal sex with him. He was really into voluptuous booties and would give hers a slap after sex, but that was as 'violent' as it would get..
Even Playboy playmate Rebecca Ferratti, who had headed for Brunei to see if the wild stories she'd heard about actresses, models and escorts making $35,000 a week to 'entertain' the prince were true, told the NY Post - despite not having had the jolliest time of her life in the harem - how she "never saw evidence of anyone being drugged or tortured unless you count boredom in that category. There was plenty of that." She never had sex with Jefri either. "There were so many of us, by the time they'd get around to you, it could be a year."
Marketic's suit was dismissed (diplomatic immunity), but the scandal embarrassed the sultan so much, that he began investigating his brother and claimed he'd stolen billions from the family. It would be the beginning of Jefri's decline.
In 2006, the prince began legal proceedings against his former advisors, the barrister Thomas Derbyshire and his wife Faith Zaman, in both the UK and US, accusing them of stealing funds from him. He eventually lost the case. Zahman said: "He is a very, very smart man. And he had hidden assets so well that the sultan, with all of his resources and all of his private investigators, couldn’t find them. The assets were registered in layer upon layer of 'bearer shares'. Eventually we gained his trust, and then he opened up and we got to know everything: the art vaults full of paintings, the jewelry, gold, diamonds, bullion, and secret bank accounts.” (check out this interesting Vanity Fair article)
According to Wikipedia, in late April 2008, a New York court officially transferred control of what was believed to be prince Jefri’s last major asset, the New York Palace, to the B.I.A. After he finally surrendered what he contended were the rest of his diamonds—five stones worth approximately $200 million and a hundred paintings, his 10-year odyssey had finally come to an end and he had to kiss his lavish lifestyle goodbye.
That must have been hard to deal with. His lawyer had told the court earlier: "The idea of prince Jefri working for a living is on a level of when during the Russian Revolution they put the aristocrats in the streets of St. Petersburg in the middle of the winter without any clothes to sweep. Unimaginable wealth all his life. He’s 55 or so. Now he’s going to go and bus tables?"
Towards the end of her memoir, which is, by the way, prohibited in Brunei, Jillian ponders about how "..treasure loses its power as an ego boost pretty quickly and becomes just another watch, another pair of earrings, jewelry so gaudy it looks like you probably bought it at Patricia Field. Eventually the jewels lose their sentimental value entirely and you wind up selling them to an estate jewelry buyer in a second-floor office in the diamond district."
And Ferratti summarizes the prince's lifestyle concisely: "I think he viewed himself as some sort of Islamic Hugh Hefner - but he really should consult with Hugh on how to throw a party."
In the end The Beatles were right again, weren't they?