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Ron & Valerie Taylor

At sea on a boat’s deck somewhere in the world, a tried and true formula is underway. A man suits up in diving gear and checks his video camera to make certain it is functioning properly. Once satisfied, he signals to his partner, whom, in addition to being his dive buddy, is also his model and his wife.

She wears a bright pink wetsuit and her waist-long blonde hair is braided and tied into a ponytail with a bright pink ribbon. She, too, checks her camera, which she uses to take still pictures to compliment her husband’s moving pictures, and when she is ready, she puts her regulator into her mouth and nods. Together, they jump over the side of the boat and enter the water with the purpose of documenting some aspect of the underwater wilderness. Odds are, most likely, the subject will be sharks.

Why sharks? Because this couple produces underwater documentary films and sharks sell very well. Sharks are what the public wants to see. And the reason that the public wants to see sharks and to see more sharks and more sharks is because this Australian couple has put sharks into people’s living rooms for nearly 50 years. Also, they happen to have an affinity for sharks. Which is a good thing because, to the casual observer, it would appear that the husband, Ron Taylor, is trying to get the shark to attack his wife — which is, and most will deny it, many a husband’s occasional, fleeting, deep, dark, secret fantasy. When asked by me one time, “What it’s like, feeding your wife to sharks on a regular basis?” Ron says, “I know Valerie is very capable. She understands them. Valerie’s had a few little nips and I’ve had a nip also. But it’s always been our fault. We don’t blame the sharks at all. Valerie’s very capable with sharks.”

Capable, is an understatement, even for Australians, for whom understatement seems part of the genetic makeup and national character. And referring to shark bites as “nips” is typical of Ron. Quiet, softspoken, patient… he defines grace under pressure. Nothing fazes him. He sometimes seems detached from, what to others would be, panic situations. He sees problems and solutions; possibilities and outcomes in very real events. For example, when Valerie was bitten by a Blue shark off San Diego many years ago, it was captured on film. The scene is instructive: Valerie lies flat on the boat deck in a great deal of pain. As crewmen try to comfort her, blood from the wound hidden beneath her wetsuit forms a large pool around her on the deck. Ron leans over her and peels back the leg of her wetsuit. What was but a single slice along neoprene is, in the flesh, a gash long, deep and nasty, leaving her leg looking much like raw steak. He assesses the damage and says simply, very matter-of-factly, “Oh yeah, that’s a bad one. A bad cut. That’ll have to be stitched.” And that’s all Ron says.

Valerie, by contrast, can exhibit equal sang froid but is notorious for speaking her mind. Describing her as outspoken would be – and often is – an understatement. While she lay on the deck waiting for medical assistance, Howard Hall offered to stitch up the bite wound. She politely, but emphatically (and you are never, ever left in an ambiguous position of possible doubt about how Valerie feels about something), declined, stating she would instead wait for a proper competent plastic surgeon. In the meantime, she waited… in pain, on camera, bleeding upon the deck.

As if being bitten by a shark might not be serious. Still, the term “nips” does not do justice to the notion of a shark’s bite. Take the incident that occurred when the Taylors were experimenting with a chain-mail mesh suit in 1981. The shark “merely” wrapped its mouth, jaws and teeth around Valerie’s head. Its teeth in its lower jaw punctured her chin — the only part of her anatomy that stuck out of the protection offered by the chain mail. Valerie was again in pain, but the extent of the damage seemed to be that she found it hard to chew for a few days. She did not realize that the shark’s teeth had actually broken off and had lodged in the bones of her chin until she visited the dentist’s office months later. The teeth were revealed, quite prominently, in her set of x-rays made as part of the annual visit. Again, the most important thing was Ron had captured “the action” on film.

They are true diving pioneers: working professionals that have neither stopped nor stalled in a nearly 50 year (so far) career. The story of their life together and their life in the sea is both the history of scuba diving and a mirror to hold up to the nowpopular world of scuba diving today. In the world of diving, if you think you’ve invented something, odds are Ron and Valerie Taylor did it first and did it a long time ago. For instance: if you’re a male photographer trying to meet a pretty girl at a dive club by using the “Won’t you model for my camera?” ploy, nice try. But Ron (quiet, mild-mannered, shy Ron!) invented that trick when he met Valerie at the St. Georges Spearfishing Club, back in 1958. You want to go photograph a Great White shark in South Australia? Sorry, Ron Taylor was the first person to try (and succeed) at that in 1965 and, by the way, without the benefit of a cage. The still frame blow-ups from that movie footage remain their most successful and best-selling image.

Doing a bit of macro photography with extension tubes and framers? Ron made Valerie the first-ever set in the early seventies. She parlayed her pictures into a cover feature in National Geographic. Fancy exploring the ocean, discovering new dive locations and reefs? A casual perusal of the names of dive sites on the Great Barrier Reef, in Papua New Guinea, in Indonesia and throughout the South Pacific reveal a frequency of places named “Valerie’s Reef.” Are you a scuba instructor scheming to teach the rich and famous? During a cruise in Indonesia, Valerie Taylor did teach a man listed on the ship’s passenger manifest as “Michael Jagger” how to scuba dive. She called him Michael even though he kept insisting, “Everyone calls me Mick.” Well, Mick, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. The list goes on and on.

“The greatest adventure of my life”

On March 30, 1969, Ron and Valerie arrived in Durban, South Africa, to begin a six-month, 12,000-mile odyssey that Valerie describes as “the greatest adventure of my life.” The film project was Blue Water, White Death. In 1974, the Taylors were approached by Hollywood producers Darryl Zanuck and David Brown. They were making a movie of the book Jaws and it was being directed by a young guy named Steven Spielberg. Ron flew to Hollywood and met with the production designers. They were building three mechanical sharks for their location shooting on Martha’s Vineyard and the fake sharks were very realistic-looking. But the producers knew that they could only use fleeting glimpses of the mechanical shark and for the scene where the shark attacks the cage holding marine biologist Matt Hooper, they’d have to use the real animal. So, they designed half-sized cages and had to find a half-sized man for the live action. Because, in the movie, the shark was 26 feet in length and the real sharks would be around 13 feet. Again, Ron and Valerie and Rodney Fox set out to South Australia to work with Great Whites in the wild.

The shooting was difficult because of the weather although ultimately, the shark action was the fiercest the Taylors had ever witnessed. The sharks smashed up the small cage pretty well and thrashed the support boat to such a degree that the half-sized man, a midget named Carlo, hid from the Taylors when he was supposed to be getting in the cage. They were lucky to get two or three shots per day since the production required that no boat or cage bars be seen on camera. Jaws was released in 1975 and was received unlike any movie ever. It produced a phenomenal interest in sharks, initially to the sharks’ detriment, but ultimately to a new appreciation for them as animals in the sea. It also led to greater interest in the Taylors and they were besieged with book projects, television projects, public speaking appearances and further film work. As a result, they ended up handling the underwater sequences for Gallipoli and The Year of Living Dangerously with Mel Gibson; The Blue Lagoon and The Return to the Blue Lagoon, Orca, Honeymoon in Vegas, and the third re-make of The Island of Dr. Moreau with Marlon Brando.

In recognition of her role in the field of marine conservation – and the protection of the Potato Cod, in particular – Valerie was summoned to Soestdijk Palace in Holland in October 1986. His Royal Highness, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands honored her by presenting Valerie with a Knighthood in the Order of the Golden Ark. It’s been my good fortune to know the Taylors as friends for some time. When Bret Gilliam suggested I interview them for this book, I jumped at the chance. The tape recorder rolled for hours as we discussed their fascinating careers and lives together.

Love through a Lens

Well, how did it all start?»RON: Oh, that was back in 1951 for me, when I found a facemask that had been lost and I put it on and the underwater world became clear. I was fascinated; I was hooked. I took up the sport of spearfishing and at the same time I was interested in photography, so I made my own underwater housing for a still camera. I started to get good still photos and a friend of mine had a 16mm movie camera and I built an underwater housing for that and started shooting news clips for television when it first came to Australia in 1965. Of course, everybody wanted to see sharks. From my spearfishing experience, I knew how to attract sharks. The best way to is to spear a fish and have the vibrations and the blood and it brings the sharks around. All of my hands-on experience came from my spearfishing days but I gave that up in 1969 and was shooting with a camera. I was able to turn my hobby and my sport into a business and I’ve been fascinated ever since. VALERIE: My parents had a waterfront home near Sydney. My brother and I used to snorkel and spearfish for our father, who had stomach ulcers and could always eat fish. The man next door was a ship’s chandler and he got some sample dive gear right back in the early days. From America it came and he didn’t want it so he gave it to us. My brother and I started experimenting with scuba diving – and it wasn’t called “scuba” then, it was called “aqua-lunging.” We didn’t go any deeper than, say, 10 or 15 feet, which is probably the only reason I’m still here today. Because we’d never heard of the bends; we’d never heard of narcosis; we’d never heard of any of that – embolisms – it was just that we were so nervous that we took our time. And eventually, because I was quite good at spearfishing by this stage, I joined the same club that Ron belonged to. RON: I was still experimenting with my 16mm camera at that time and saw this pretty blonde girl in the club and I asked her if she’d pose for my camera underwater and that’s how we got together. I got some nice images of Valerie and then we went to the Great Barrier Reef and made a film called Skin Diving Paradise that the Queensland government bought. Then we made a film about sharks, called Shark Hunters that the NBC network in America bought. So that gave us a terrific boost and I thought, “Wow, this is great. I’ll try to make a living out of filming.” And that’s what we’ve been doing ever since.

Valerie, when did you start into photography?» VALERIE: Oh, I fiddled around with still cameras for a while, but I didn’t do anything very good. I was mostly the model until Blue Water, White Death and I started taking photographs there. All of which, except one roll, ended up with Peter Gimbel. I never actually even saw the end result. But that got me going. And Ron invented “the prongs.” He thought, “If you put a ring behind a camera lens above water for macro, why not do it underwater?” And he got on his lathe and he made me three different rings and put these prongs out and he said, “Don’t let anyone see this. You’ll be able to do macro underwater and everybody will wonder how you did it.” Well, the first people to really wonder were National Geographic. They wrote me a letter and said, “We’ve seen some of your macro in the wild” – because before that, it was all done in tanks with a camera on a tripod – “and we’d like to see some more. Could you bring it over?” I flew first class to Washington and I took a suitcase that was full to the top with close–ups. And that’s how I got my first job with National Geographic. They put me on the cover holding the little camera that Ron had made the prongs for. About two or three years later in the American Skin Diver magazine someone else came out with the idea. And Ron mused, “Isn’t that amazing at the same time someone else thought of it and marketed it.” But that gave me a great leap forward because no one else could do that sort of photography at that time.

Changing Perspectives In and Out of the Water

Back in these early days diving was considered “a man’s sport.” Certainly your contribution softened that image.»VALERIE: I never ever thought of it as a man’s sport. I was frequently the only female, but I thought that was because most women didn’t like getting around looking like a drowned rat. Most of the girls who snorkeled or scuba dived or spearfished hadboyfriends or husbands who did it. And they did it to keep them company. I was very aware of the fact that if they had just had their hair done there was no way they were going to go into the water. I think nowadays it’s much more fashionable and acceptable for women to, you know, look a bit scraggy and look like they’re out there fighting the elements. Certainly, I know when I’ve been diving I don’t look particularly attractive because I’m just such a mess. And I don’t think it was that it was such a man’s sport. I think that it was that women didn’t like looking awful. Ron, what’s it like to film your wife in the clutches of sharks all the time?»RON: I know Valerie is very capable and if ever the situation got very dangerous, then I’d rush in and beat the shark off. But she’s got a lot of guts, as they say, and she can handle sharks as well as anybody. She understands them. And so far, we’ve got out of it pretty lightly. Valerie’s had a few little nips and I’ve had a nip also. But it’s always been our fault. We’ve had baits in the water. We don’t blame the sharks at all. Valerie’s very capable with them.

How do you feel that attitudes towards sharks have changed over the years?»VALERIE: I think that the younger generation sees sharks in a more realistic light. It’s the old-time fishermen that still want them to be the monsters of the sea – you know, the vicious animal out there to get you. They justify killing sharks by saying, “Well, it’s me or it, you know, and I’m not going to let it get me.” When sharks get pulled up along the boat – I’ve been there – they’re screaming out, “Look at the thing! It’s trying to get us! Watch it! It’s going to get one of us! It’s after us!” All the shark is doing is fighting for its own life. It’s not trying to get anybody. But they don’t like to hear you say that. Makes them sound awful. But it’s the truth.

What changes have you noticed in the oceans over the last nearly 50-some years?»VALERIE: The changes are huge in all the oceans that I’ve ever been in. A diver who starts today will never ever know how it really should be or how it really was. And I don’t think that the oceans will ever recover from the disastrous impact of man. I think we’ve done a huge damage and they will recover to a certain extent but they’ll never go back to being that wonderful untouched wilderness – a kaleidoscope of fish and color. They were not afraid of you, because marine creatures had evolved without an instinctive fear of man. So when we started spearfishing, it was really easy. They just took no notice of you. I think we’ve done a lot of damage and we’re still doing it. I don’t think we’re going to stop until it’s no longer viable. That’s sad. RON: The life is not there. The spearfishing and other fishing pressures have reduced the numbers of fish life. It’s just not there. And the sharks have lost all their aggression. You go to the Great Barrier Reef, Coral Sea diving, see the same old fish swimming around. The sharks and all the coral trout and most of the tuna are gone. There’s so much I never filmed because we thought it would always be as it was. We thought it was limitless. At the end of the 60s, we could start to see that wouldn’t be the case.

Val, what would you have done for a living if you didn’t dive?»VALERIE: I’m an artist by profession and I guess that’s my talent. But I love to dive. Diving is addictive. Adventure is addictive. Once you get into adventure and risking your life and skirting on the edge, you just want to go further and further and further. I’ll be a little old lady on crutches and I’ll be out there doing it and I know it. One day I may never come back. But don’t worry about it because I’ve had a great life. Is it the animals, is it the environment?»VALERIE: It is the adventure of entering the unknown. You can go into the same body of water every day and it’s different. You do not know what waits for you beyond the vision – or the limitation of your vision. You do not know what living in it. We’ve loved it, hated it, but it’s everything to us. And I’ve had many great experiences. One of them happened just about 15 years ago. We had a place in the Coral Sea called Coralita Pass, which wasn’t on the charts, where we had 26 sharks that were friendly; they were “our sharks.” One day, we were down there working with our sharks and we had Scott Johnson, a scientist from the American Navy, with us. He was there to do tests on sharks to determine what would turn them and what would bring them to you. We put down our table, we put down our baits, we had our frenzy – our sharks frenzying with blood and everything – and we’re standing there, the bait’s gone, and this big Tiger shark just cruises in. And she’s just swimming around. I hold up my fish. I wave it nicely and I say, “Hi, hello, sweetheart, come here, come on, I love you, come on.” They do not know what you say; they know what you think. They know what you feel.

They know if something’s wrong. They pick up your fear from your heart; they pick up your love from your heart. And this giant creature, 16 feet long, swam over and from my hand, took this little fish, and took it so nicely. I patted her on the head. I said to her, “You’re such a good girl.” Our message to the diver on the surface to get more bait was to pat our heads. We knew there was more bait in our dinghy. But he was petrified, he couldn’t move. It took him ages to get the bait and when he did – we used frozen tuna, whole tuna, frozen – he brought the tuna out and he was too frightened to swim the tuna down. He dropped it and I saw this tuna floating down. My nephew was with us and we both swam over and chained it to what we called “the table” and we had that Tiger shark for the entire dive. And Ron ran out of film. I stood on the bottom and held my arms outstretched and she would swim between them and I would run my hands along her body and she would come back. And I felt no fear. She was a honey. And five years later, the finners moved into Coralita Pass and they took all the sharks. They took her too. So, never be afraid of Tiger sharks. Look them in the eye; put out your hand. They eat people. They kill — more people in Australia than Great Whites but they also have a sort of a soul. I’m very fond of them.

 A Whole Different World

How does it feel to be so accepted by such a different world?»VALERIE: I never thought of myself as being accepted by the marine world. I think I’m a privileged visitor. I go in gently and I touch softly and I speak to all the animals. They don’t know what I say; but I’m sure they know what I think. And I’ve had some wonderful relationships with marine animals, all different types. I realized that they are no different from land animals. They like to be touched softly. They like to be treated with respect. They enjoy interacting with people just as they enjoy interacting with each other. We are just as mysterious to them as they are to us. We’re both curious. And, if you have the right attitude, you can get so much more from the marine world, than, say a spearfisherman can. What’s your favorite animal in the ocean?» VALERIE: My favorite animal in the ocean is the Australian sea lion because he’s just loveable, beautiful, gorgeous, sweet, gentle, huggable, kissable, warm. He’s everything that I could ever want a creature to be – and he’s wild. And, he accepts you.

Ron, did you ever have a normal job?»RON: I spent 10 years as an apprentice in the printing industry learning photo engraving, making printing plates. I was interested in photography before that, I think probably because my father was a photographer. You did some early films like Ron Taylor’s Shark Fighters that showed divers stabbing sharks and creating general mayhem. At some point, your attitude changed?»RON: About 1965 I just got sick and tired of spearfishing. When you become an experienced spearfisherman, there’s no spark in it. The fish just commit suicide. Because you’ve got the techniques and you can kill every one of them. I’d already won many championships. On one hand, I was killing them and the next dive, I was down with a camera appreciating their beauty and their characteristics and getting a rapport with them. It was sort of a conflict of interests and I just got sickened by the killing, particularly competitions, where you would kill fish that are of no use, no good to eat. I was in a competition one day and it was murky It was over at Long Reef and it was cold and murky and I was killing these poor, little, defenseless fish and I just thought to myself, ”What the hell am I doing down here, murdering these poor, defenseless fish?” So I just got into my boat, went back, didn’t even weigh the fish in, went home and never ever went to another competition again. Just dropped out of it completely, just like that.

When did you first photograph White sharks underwater?»RON: After the Australian spearfishing championships at San Reval in Victoria, that’s where I met Rodney Fox, Brian Roger and Henri Bource. We actually went over to Lady Julia Percy Island after the championships. That’s where Henri Bource lost his leg. We baited for sharks there, that’s an island off the Victorian coast. We didn’t get any White sharks there but then we got the idea of “Why not get Alf Dean to take us off South Australia”. So, that would have been about 1966, would have been the very first expedition. We had a cage, but I found it more convenient to hang over the back because it was on a tuna boat. They had that rack right down at water’s level and I would just hang over the top, part of my body in the water with my feet hooked into the tuna rack and so when the shark would come too close, I’d just pull myself out of the water. That’s how I got the sequence with the shark opening his mouth and I blew up the frames and it’s been our most successful still photo ever. They used it in Blue Water, White Death for the poster and in Jaws and in just about every book on sharks you’ll see that shot.

Close Call

Any close calls doing that?»RON: There was always somebody on deck to tell me if the shark was coming from the side. When you’ve got a facemask on, you can’t see out the sides. The only danger is the shark you can’t see. How did your first films start up?»RON: I teamed up with Ben Cropp. I worked with him for a couple of years. We had a company called Taylor & Cropp Underwater. With Valerie, we made a black and white film. I shot it all and Cropp was the actor in it with Valerie. Shark Hunters it was called. It was to do with killing sharks and sea snakes and spearfishing and shark drugging. It was all down with sharks and it was very successful because eventually NBC bought it. But then I split up with Cropp because he was a very difficult guy to get along with.

Who else was making underwater movies in Australia when you started in the sixties?»RON: As soon as I split up with Ben Cropp, he started in himself. He didn’t even have a movie camera when I was with him. I did all the photography. It’s interesting that he got the International Underwater Photographer of the Year award for that film at Santa Monica in 1964 or 65 – I think it was – but I did all the photography. Incredible! He must have implied that he did it because it was on NBC and it was shown round the place and he was in it. They must have assumed it was his film but actually I did 99 percent of the photography. The market was wide open in those days. Nobody else was doing it, except a couple of stills photographers. I think you should tell the story about how you nearly got killed.»RON: Which time? Actually, I have been bitten by a shark, but it was a wobbegong shark. They’re carpet sharks and it was because Valerie and another guy were harassing it and I was fiddling with a still camera not paying attention. I felt a bang on the elbow. I looked over and this wobbegong had bitten me. I could see this green blood coming out. I was down about 30 feet and I didn’t know how bad it was. I went up to the surface and pulled my wetsuit off and there were puncture marks in my elbow. Well, it healed up in a couple of weeks’ time. But that’s nothing. he closest I think I’ve ever gone into getting into real trouble was during Blue Water, White Death back in 1969. Peter Gimbel, Stan Waterman, Valerie and myself were the four main characters. Now the search was for the Great White shark, “white death” being another name for them. We started off in South Africa, out of Durban, going out into the Indian Ocean, on a whale catcher. We were following the whaling fleet while they were hunting sperm whales. We went with the fleet and when they killed a sperm whale, they would pump air into it, put a buoy on it, then they’d go off hunting the other whales in the pod. Within minutes, sharks would come and start feeding on the whale carcass: Blue sharks and Oceanic Whitetips and a few duskies. But within an hour or two, there would be hundreds of sharks all around. Peter Gimbel made special aluminum cages, which could raise and lower, and we tied those cages to the whale. We’d hang about 30 feet underneath the whale. I was a cameraman with a 35mm movie camera as were Stan and Peter. Valerie was a safety. She’d carry a short bang stick that was really ineffective. It was very difficult to make the bang stick explode against the shark. In any case, we were not trying to kill the sharks, but we had a particularly wild time that day. Hundreds, you couldn’t see them all. VALERIE: It was just incredible. The strangest thing happened. When Gimbel said, “Let’s do this, let’s go.” Ron agreed, of course. Stan wasn’t too keen. I said nothing. I just thought, “I’ll probably die in there.” Peter said, “You don’t have to come if you don’t want to, Valerie.” I didn’t hesitate to say, “No, I’m coming. You just go out of the cage first, I want to see what happens.” I thought, “If he gets into trouble I’m going to have go out and find him, help him.” So, anyway, he swam out of his cage first, and he spun that big camera in its big metal housing around and around, knocking the sharks, all zeroed in on him, bash, bash, then he turned around, came back and got me.

And I swam out with the sharks, bang stick in one hand, and my other on Peter’s tank. In the film, everybody thinks I’ve got my hand on Ron’s tank, but it’s Peter’s tank. Then he swam away from me and I started this tremendous battle with the sharks. All the things above water that I’d said goodbye to and thought I’d never see again… I didn’t even mind. Just one single thing happens: you revert to your primeval instincts. You enter a primeval world that hasn’t changed in 20 million years, maybe 200 million years, I don’t know. Great predators of the deep come to feed on the dead whale and it’s been like this for a long time. Certainly when there were dinosaurs roaming the world, long before man. And you revert. You only have one thought: survival. You go out there and you fight for it. There’s no fear. There’s just the most brilliant, exhilarating excitement. I love it. I’d do it again tomorrow. I’d pay to do it. I loved it. RON: We eventually got out of our cages and were swimming with these Oceanic sharks. But we had to be careful. Oceanic Whitetips had a very annoying and potentially dangerous characteristic: it bumps. And we found we had to bump the shark back. We had to be aggressive back towards them. Interestingly enough, they didn’t bite immediately. We noticed they did this to the whale carcass. They would go and bump into the whale. They’d rub the underneath of their snout – which is their sensory system – against the whale, go around, do the same thing again, and eventually they’d come back and take a bite and shake. They’d shake a big chunk out of the whale carcass. So we knew that these Oceanic Whitetips were potentially dangerous, so we banged them. If ever we saw an Oceanic Whitetip going to one of our friends, we’d swim over and hit it with a big camera. But this particular day was just enormous; sharks everywhere. I had run out of film and went up and sat on top of the cage, just watching this incredible scene of Oceanic Whitetips, Blue sharks, Silkies swimming around. Valerie, Stan and Peter were still down there, all surrounded. I was just sitting on the cage with this big camera, just watching, fascinated, and then, all of the sudden, bang! I got hit, here, on the side of my head, and my vision started to narrow. I felt limp, my mouthpiece started coming out of my mouth; I could feel cold water running into my mouth. I knew I was going unconscious. I thought, I’ve got to hang on, I’ve got to remain conscious.” Fortunately, I did, because I’m here. But if I’d fallen, the sharks were watching. I’m sure that I would have started breathing water and they probably would have noticed me go off into the depths helpless. They would have taken me. VALERIE: It was two miles deep. RON: It was very, very deep water. We were 50 or 60 miles out in the Indian Ocean. And the shark didn’t try to bite me; it just simply hit me, just on the critical part on the side of my head. It’s the closest I think I’ve come to a bad end.

Adventure is Priceless

What kind of a man was Peter Gimbel?»VALERIE: Peter was a very unusual man. He had been an identical twin. He was the son of a very wealthy family, they owned Gimbel’s department stores; they owned Saks Fifth Avenue, God knows what else. His twin brother died of cancer. Peter got cancer as well but survived. I think he always felt that he should have died, too. He seemed to have a bit of a death wish. But he was kind, generous, considerate, polite decent human being and I liked him very much.

What inspired him to do this adventure, do you think?»VALERIE: Peter’s father was a very wealthy New York Jew, played the stock market extremely well, a very clever man where money was concerned. And I have a feeling that Peter wasn’t. He wasn’t a “money man”. He was an adventurer in his heart. He wanted to go and do outrageous things. He wanted to be admired, not for making money, but for climbing Everest, for diving deepest. He was desperate to make his mark in a different way altogether from his father. And I think that’s what drove him.

Do you think the success of Blue Water, White Death validated him?»VALERIE: When Blue Water, White Death came out it was the second biggest money maker that year! It was a gigantic success… and it was a documentary! In feature films, Love Story had the biggest gross, but this was a nature film about sharks. It was just beyond anyone’s dreams that a film like that could do that kind of box office revenues. But his father was already dead. His father never knew that his son had finally been a great success. Peter was really sad that his dad wasn’t around to see what he had accomplished. It was all a bit ironic… to strive for your dad’s attention your whole life and finally achieve a pinnacle of recognition. And then he wasn’t there to see it.

Were there ever plans for a follow-up?»VALERIE: There was never any talk about a sequel. I think there is a place for something similar. A feature-length cinema verite documentary and I’m sure it would be very successful if it’s done right. You’ve got to realize, when we did Blue Water, White Death very few divers knew anything about sharks. Diving was still very young, and we went and did something that was totally outrageous. And it was an interesting group of people. It was Gimbel, the rich man from New York, Stan Waterman, a berry-picker from Maine, and Ron and me. Ron was the world’s spearfishing champion at the time. The only reason we were invited was because, at that stage, Ron was the only person in the world who had ever filmed a Great White underwater. And I added some flair as a woman in with these guys. What was the morale like on the boat, from month one until the end of the shooting?»VALERIE: We lived on the whale catcher for five months. Things were not easy. It was an old whale catcher and there was a tremendous problem with food. A lot of the colored crew had to be taken off in Sri Lanka, it was called Ceylon back then because they were seasick. Coming back out then, we all had to stand watches. And on whale catchers, it was a big wheel out in the open, in the elements. There were always two of us. Morale was high, extremely high. Ron and I always knew where they could get Great Whites. When we were working out of Durban looking for Whites, we wanted to go south. If we had, we would have got them because we would have gone to Dyer Island. Ron was already looking at those islands, way back then. But we went north and I’m glad we did because it was a great adventure. I loved it. It was fantastic with all the wonderful people on board; Ron and I are still friends with the ones that are still alive. You don’t do something like that and walk away from the people you’ve been with when you do something like that.

During the production, you all ran into some problems, right?»RON: Well, they spent a lot of money in America before they came to South Africa because they built these cages. They took the cages and all the people involved to the Caribbean to test them. That sort of surprised me a bit. They didn’t take us but all the Americans involved. They had a pretty good time I guess, found that the cages worked and they took the whole lot to South Africa. Chartered the whale catcher, loaded food on board. When we got on board it was in very good condition. But unfortunately, the deep freeze used to freeze up and they’d have to take all the food out and put it on the deck while they defrosted it and chipped out the ice. You could get away with that in fairly cold waters – it was Norwegian – so it would stand on the deck in a cold climate, but we were working around the equator and the food used to defrost. And then it would get frozen again. Every couple of weeks, out it would come, sit on the deck, defrost, while they cleaned out the freezer and go back. And the raw stuff was bad ever since. The production manager was sent off to hospital after terrible, serious stomach problems and we never saw him again. Valerie seemed to have the cast iron stomach. Stan and Peter got through it, but the rest had problems.

The production halted after Sri Lanka?»VALERIE: It did. We had to bring the vessel back to South Africa. We had some problems, huge seas, and had to be back there for 10 days and when we finally made land it was Diego Suarez in Madagascar. And the French wouldn’t give us any fuel and we had to barter. It took Peter a lot of time and a lot of sweet talk to get the French to sell us fuel so we could sail back to South Africa. But it was good for Ron and me. We managed to get a look around Madagascar. I’ve been back since and seen huge changes since the French gave up the colony. Ron and I went back to Australia and we started work on a 39 part series called Barrier Reef. We were working away on that but in our contract with Peter we’d agreed to be available until the end of the shoot. When they came back out to Australia, we had to leave the job we were working on and go to South Australia with them. We hired Rodney Fox to organize the chum. And we went out on a boat called the Satori.

Shark Family

There were White sharks out there! As everyone knows who’s seen the movie. That was filmed at Dangerous Reef?»RON: Yes. Back then, the water was a lot clearer around here. We went to Wedge, we went to a lot of islands. The first five days Gimbel wouldn’t stay still. He was sort of in a state of panic or something. I explained, “You’ve got to just go and anchor and chum.” Finally went to Dangerous Reef and he anchored. We started chumming and on the second day, we got our sharks. We got five all in the one afternoon. And had he known about the sharks of South Australia before he started the trip in Africa?»VALERIE: He absolutely did because he saw Ron’s footage that he had shot. He’d seen the film we did called Hunt for the Great White Shark. Peter knew that Ron had worked with them before and that was one of the reasons that he was hired. Of course, Ron wouldn’t go without me and that was that.

After the film ended, you started doing some shark tours?»VALERIE: We used to come down here with Carl Roessler, but then again it was my idea to run trips out. I contacted Dewey Bergman at Sea & See Travel and suggested that we do it. Dewey came to our house and I called Rodney and said, “Come over and speak to this guy”. They got something going and we made a documentary about the first trip we did and sold it to American television, taking tourists out to see Great Whites. They didn’t live on the boat; they lived on land. We lived on the small boat and when we got the Whites, they just came out on a fast boat. We were working Dangerous Reef at that time. The tourists could go diving elsewhere but they would keep in radio contact all the time. When we got sharks, they just came zooming in. At that particular stage, it worked very well. We started doing White shark tours about 1971 – 1972, I’d say. It was very early in the 70s. In the beginning we only had the one cage. Then we did a film called Ron and the Great White Sharks – a Bruno Valotti film. He had two cages made that we used for many years. RON: In the 1970s, we started shark feeding: tying baits to reef tables. Our gray reef sharks would go into tremendous frenzies. We found we had a good market for that type of film, but back then they used to dramatize it for sale to television as dangerous creatures. We found that we were doing harm to the sharks to that extent, so we changed our tactics. We went on the talk shows and began showing how we could swim with the sharks and we eventually changed direction with our films and to show how we could go in amongst a feeding frenzy in virtual safety.

Some people didn’t like that. There was one guy in particular, named Vic Hisslop – he’s well known as a “shark hunter” in Australia – and he did a media release that the Taylors were training Great White sharks to attack people. Because we were putting baits in the water and divers in cages and the sharks were associating divers with food, supposedly creating a dangerous situation. And he got a lot of press coverage because of that. The press didn’t want to know about the real story. They wanted to accelerate this “danger.” Period. And we got on and said, “When the Great White sharks come around our cages, it’s not a particularly pleasant experience for them because generally they go away with all their teeth broken off. Because the Great Whites come up and they bite everything they can see. They bite the cage, the hull of the boat, and their teeth all get broken off.” And I note that it’s not a particularly pleasant experience for the shark. That characteristic, by the way, is what makes the Great White the most dangerous of all sharks. If it’s attracted to food in the water, its behavior is to check everything out by biting it. They don’t particularly bite it very hard, but they dig the bottom teeth in that are longer and more pointed. And if it’s soft and edible, they’ll bring the big triangular teeth down and start shaking. Unfortunate, if you’re swimming or happen to be divers… They normally don’t eat people. They generally bite and they see that we’re not a marine mammal. Somehow they can tell that humans are not what they’ve evolved over millions of years to prey upon. Fortunately, they let people go… like Rodney Fox, Henri Bource, Brian Roger. They all survived Great White attacks.

You’ve done out of the cage work with Great Whites.»RON: We have. We’ve used the electronic repelling device. And, after you’ve shocked them quite a few times with this repelling device, it will keep them off. In 1991, we saw on a news clip about this electronic repelling device developed by the Natal Sharks Board in South Africa. We were doing a series for National Geographic at the time called Blue Wilderness. So we went to South Africa and went to the Natal Sharks Board. That’s a government-funded organization that puts the mesh nets along the surfing beaches because South Africa has had a lot of problems with shark attacks on surfing beaches. One of their scientists developed this electronic device that emits a pulsing electric field in the water. It irritates the shark’s electro-receptors, probably the ampullae of Lorenzini that are the little black pits you see on these sharks close-up. This really does irritate the sharks and even though the Natal Sharks Board has two very good shark researchers, they haven’t had a lot of practical experience swimming with wild sharks. They know how many vertebrae they’ve got and all the technical details about sharks. Much, much more than what Valerie or I know. But they really hadn’t been in with them. So, we thought, “This is fantastic! If they can get an electronic device to repel sharks, they’ll be able to do away with all these mesh nets.” You’re probably aware that these mesh nets catch sharks very well but they capture other harmless marine creatures, too – turtles, dolphins, whales, dugongs, fish, tuna, everything. And these things die in the nets. We’ve still got them because the authorities in Australia are reluctant to take these mesh nets away in case somebody gets bitten by sharks. So we have this electronic device and we jump into the pool in Durban where there are two big Bull sharks. The week before, they had this giant grouper and these Bull sharks devoured it; there were just scales left lying on the bottom. They were just terrified that Valerie and I were going to get devoured by these two Bull sharks in this aquarium that was about the size of a dining room. As soon as we went in, the Bull sharks had a look at us, then went on their way. When they came close, Valerie had the electronic device and I had the video camera, and as soon as she switched it on, you could see a definite repulsion. We were convinced they really had something that would work.

Then we went down south to Cape Town and I asked them if there were any islands around with sea lions. They said yes, about 50 miles away on Dyer Island. We went out there with Leonard Compagno, an American shark researcher who works with Cape Town University. We camped on Dyer Island, which is now a very famous White shark location with a half-dozen guys out baiting for sharks. People pay to go down in cages and look through very, very murky water at Great White sharks. We tested with Whites and, sure enough, it repelled them. Then a big storm came up and washed the cage off the side of the boat and it was lost. What we didn’t have on film and what we really wanted was Valerie and I down among the Great White sharks repelling them. We had no cage for safety, so what we had to do, was simply go into the water without any cage, although we did have two very experienced South African spearfishermen with us and they had poles.

But prior to that, I had noticed that we had been shocking them with the electronic device for a couple of hours on that particular day and I felt that those sharks were not aggressive. So I felt it would be fairly safe to go down onto the bottom without the safety of a cage and we didn’t have an underwater shocker. We only had a shocker that was working from the boat, so we stayed underneath the boat. And, in theory, the guys up top were going to repel the sharks if they saw them coming too close to us. I would be very reluctant to go in the water with baited Great White sharks without some electronic repelling device or a cage. VALERIE: There were five sharks swimming around us. They kept a certain distance away. Sharks are not stupid. They would have known because they could see quite well that the humans were doing something they didn’t like. We weren’t actually hurting the sharks – permanently – we were giving them little pinpricks – and they got some respect. Did they manage to finally declare the Great White a protected species?»VALERIE: I’m not sure they ever really did.

What’s the attraction to White sharks?»RON: They’re so big; they’re so exciting. You never know what they’re going to do. It’s the anticipation of the unexpected. They’re always bigger than 10 feet. Average size is about 13-14 feet. And some of them can be very aggressive… biting around the platform, onto the cages, onto the hull of the boat. And it’s very exciting when they come around. I think people are interested in sharks because they are potentially very dangerous. Great White sharks in particular, kill people, so our instinct for selfpreservation makes us very aware and very interested in them. When a White shark comes around, it arouses primitive instincts of self-preservation. When I saw my first Great White, the hair stuck up on the back of my neck. Some primitive instinct told me that was a very dangerous creature. I had better be pretty careful. VALERIE: I think people are interested in all monsters. Anything that’s out there big and dangerous fascinates them. I guess, 100 years or even less ago, they had witches, dragons, all sorts of monsters. But now we know that none of those monsters exist, except in our imaginations, so we’ve had to find new ones. I guess our desire for a monster has sort of narrowed down to something we can see like the shark. I enjoy working with sharks – all the different species – though I prefer the more dangerous sharks because of that element of risk and a little bit of excitement. It’s an achievement to get a good photograph of a shark. It’s far easier to go and photograph a lion or a tiger. You can sit in a car and change your lenses, stay there for days, if necessary. With sharks, there’s a lot of luck and skill. I enjoy the challenge. Also, pictures of sharks sell very well. I guess that’s because not too many people do it.

How many White sharks would you say you’ve seen in your career?»RON: I’ve never counted the number of White sharks I’ve seen, but I would guess, I’d say 100, 200, something like that. I saw my first Great White shark in these waters nearly 50 years ago. I’ve been coming back just about every year since, sometimes twice a year. VALERIE: The first Great White I saw for any length of time was in Memory Cove. I saw a fisherman’s 44-gallon drum going under and we went over and had a look. It had a White shark on it… a giant, a female, and the hook had just gone through the lip. She was swimming around and around. We were wondering how to approach this creature and we were in a small abalone boat just looking. Suddenly, a second Great White, equally as large, appeared and ripped open the first shark’s stomach. It tore out her liver and ate it. The water was filled with blood. It all happened very quickly and when the blood cleared, our very alive Great White shark was now a very dead one, still hanging by the hook in her lip. After half an hour, I said, “I’m going in the water.” So, Ron and I went in the water and did some photography with her. That was my first Great White. I saw two in one go. We didn’t have a cage in the beginning. The first cage that Ron ever filmed out of was, I think, Peter Gimbel’s cage in Blue Water, White Death.

Jaws Becoming a Reality

Valerie, what would you describe as your worst experience underwater and your best experience underwater?»VALERIE: My worst experience was being sucked down a whirlpool. My best experience, there have been so many of them actually, that I can’t put my finger on it, on any absolute, best experience. Maybe getting out of the cage in 1969 under the whale in the Indian Ocean, 100 miles offshore, swimming free in the water with maybe 200 large and dangerous sharks – and living to tell the tale. I think that’s the best. How did you come to work on Jaws?»RON: The producers saw Blue Water, White Death and so did Peter Benchley who was inspired to write Jaws. They later asked Peter Gimbel, producer of Blue Water, White Death if he would do the camera work for Jaws and he said, “No, I’m not an underwater cameraman; I’m a producer, a director.” Universal said, “Oh, we’ve already got a director, a young guy by the name of Steven Spielberg.” Peter was adamant, “Sorry, I won’t do the camera work, but contact the Taylors in Australia. They might do the live shark sequences for Jaws.” And that’s what they did. We read the galley proofs. I flew to Hollywood and met Steve Spielberg, Joe Alves and the team there. We designed half-sized cages. They sent over a half-sized man (a stunt midget) to work with our half-sized sharks – because the movie shark was 26 feet long and our Great Whites were only 13 feet long, so it worked out fine.

Not much of the footage ended up being used in the final film.»RON: No, there were only about a half-dozen shots of the real live shark and there’s a shot where the shark appears to be smashing the cage. In fact, it was tangled in the steel cables on the cage. They changed the storyboard for the shoot to accommodate that dramatic sequence. Do you think there’s been a change in the numbers of White sharks here?»VALERIE: It would appear to me there’s been a huge change in the numbers of Great White sharks in this area. Because 30-some years ago, you’d come out and have four or five right away. It wouldn’t be unusual to have 10-12 sharks in just two or three days. Sometimes we’d see even more. Now, it’s commonplace to get no sharks at all. If you get one, you’re lucky and if you get two, you’re elated.

Have you ever had any life-threatening experiences with White sharks?»VALERIE: I don’t think a Great White has ever threatened my life. We have been in the water swimming with sea lions and had a White shark come and circle us. That was at Hopkins Island, it wasn’t very deep, I guess it was 15 feet. Ron and I knew the shark was coming. There was no doubt about that because the sea lions just scattered. They made this funny sort of clucking noise as they went through the water, it must have been their fins hitting the water. We had a filmmaker from the U.S. with us, Bruno Valotti, and he had his head up in the air. I had my mouthpiece out and I’m screaming, “Shark! Shark!” I couldn’t see it but I knew it was coming. And he turned around saw Ron lying flat on the kelp. We both flattened down and the shark just came around, very fast, circled twice, and swam away. The sea lions came back and we swam to a little rock – about the size of that shark cage or smaller – and we all climbed out onto it. We could see the boat, way off in the distance at the mooring. The skipper wouldn’t come get us because of rocks. And we knew we had to swim back. Well, I’m pretty good in the water and I didn’t have a camera. Ron had his camera and is a very strong swimmer. Bruno was a lot older than us. Lets’ just say he was a motivated swimmer. Well, he beat us by back to the boat by a good 10 yards or more! It must have been a 100 yards to swim. But we knew that if the shark was around, the sea lions would let us know. They swam with us as we all swam back to the boat. Bruno’s men were on board. They pulled him and his camera out and I was saying, “Hey, help me out. I’ve got to get out of here!” They were ignoring Ron and I completely. That was the same trip when the shark got tangled in the steel trace on the cage. It was a very sharky trip that one.

Departing from the Whites for a minute, what other species of sharks has caused you moments of anxiety?»VALERIE: I was very anxious once off the coast of California when I felt a large bump to my leg and I looked down and saw my leg in a shark’s mouth. I didn’t really have time to feel anxious because I knew I had to stop the shark from moving its head, which I grabbed. But afterwards, when I was lying in this huge pool of blood on the deck of the boat I thought I might be dead. Actually in the water I thought I might be dead. But I stopped bleeding in a few seconds. At first it was like a tap turned on. It just started squirting out and it sort of flowing away. There was a lot of blood because the bite had cut some arteries. That was a blue shark and there were a lot of blues in the water. Howard Hall had just gone in to check things out and he came back and said, “There’s a lot of hungry sharks down there; I sure hope someone’s not going to get bit.” I said, “Ah, well, it won’t be me.” Famous last words.

Weren’t you also bitten when you were experimenting with the chain mail suit?»VALERIE: I was bitten in Australia when I had the chain mail suit in the Coral Sea and that was just sheer accident. We were doing the mesh suit test and we had a nice frenzy going at Action Point at Marion Reef. I had a mackerel or something, a piece of tuna, in my hand and the idea, of course, was to get the sharks to bite me in the suit. So I swam into the frenzy which I felt fairly confident about, but a shark turned towards me and it bit me on the face. And I heard all the teeth going into the mesh – sort of crunch, crunch, crunch – unfortunately it went in under my chin, because my chin sticks out of the suit. And my mask got flooded and my regulator got pulled away. I thought it was bitten off. Actually, I didn’t know where it had gone to and I was down pretty deep. I really thought I was going to drown. I knew I was bleeding. Afterwards, when we looked at the footage – Ron was filming – it was four frames from where the shark turned until it hit me. So, people said, “Why didn’t you put your mesh hands up over your face?” You can’t think that fast. Afterwards, I had a very sore jaw. I couldn’t chew anything for a few days. RON: When we were doing experiments with the mesh suit, I used to get concerned because Valerie was enticing the sharks to bite onto her body by using baits. Even though we were only using medium sized sharks, they’ve got razor-sharp teeth and we didn’t really know whether the mesh would be 100 percent protective. So that was quite a concern on some occasions, when the sharks were feeding violently on Valerie’s arm, for instance.

Scuba Divers are known to be the best at communicators

You’ve been working with Ron quite a few years. How do you communicate underwater?»VALERIE: Ron and I communicate very well because we’re both photographers. Generally speaking, if I’m on-camera, I do what I’d want a model to do for me. Occasionally, of course, I get into trouble for presenting my behind or swimming out of frame when I shouldn’t or not noticing something. But I also can talk underwater. Ron doesn’t even try. But I can talk, tell him things and even when I can’t see him, I have a method of calling him that he can hear. We’d do much better if he didn’t wear a hood with his suit, but we do okay. I pretty much know what he wants. RON: We both use signals. When I’m working with Valerie, she knows what to do. I know what position to get into and she knows what position to get into. And if we see a potential sequence, we automatically get into the right position. We don’t need to do much communicating underwater; both of us know what we need to do to achieve the best film.

Did you think any animals are attracted to colors?»VALERIE: No, I never really thought any animals were attracted to any of my wetsuits. I noticed sometimes working in the Coral Sea, sharks like my blue fins. I used to have a blue Farallon flash and they used to be attracted by that, if it floated up they’d bite at it, but we did color tests with Great Whites and there was no doubt whatsoever that they liked the color orange. Isn’t that the color they make life jackets out of?»RON: Yes, that’s absolutely correct. We did very extensive tests on orange and red. What made us start doing it, we had a White shark back feeding doing very nicely and Rodney accidentally knocked over a petrol can that was orange with yellow writing. And our shark disappeared over the horizon trying to bite that petrol can. Left the baits. We thought, “Now that’s interesting.” So we did these tests with a dummy – and everybody thinks we had fish in them, we didn’t – we just stuffed it with sheets. We floated out the black dummy. It floated for hours and hours and hours. The shark bumped it, pushed it, never bit it. We put an orange buoyancy jacket on. In five seconds, it had grabbed it around the jacket. Of course, the dummy’s tied to the boat. We managed to get it back, stitched it all up and threw it out again. In five seconds, it attacked it again – on the orange jacket. VALERIE: So then we painted our shark cages yellow and I really do think that we got our best bites on the cages on the yellow floats and you’ll notice in our photographs we have yellow gloves. We’d hang out the cage waving at the Great White and it would turn. Every time it would come. We tried all sorts of things. Ron used to take an orange lift bag in the cage with him so there was a big orange blob in there to attract the shark. And it appeared to work. We didn’t do it enough to say we scientifically tested it or anything but it appeared to work.

You’ve dived with White sharks in South Australia, Western Australia and South Africa. Do you notice any difference between them in different regions?»VALERIE: I don’t think there’s any difference between the Great Whites in South Australia or Western Australia. They certainly look the same to me. In South Africa they had a different look. They’re still Whites. But they have sort of a longer look with bigger fins and they certainly had a different behavior pattern. There was no doubt at all. Different behavior pattern. The South African Whites didn’t put their heads above the water like the South Australian sharks do, to investigate the unusual or just to see what’s going on. They didn’t like to take a bait at all. They refused to take a bait off the back of the boat. They didn’t come and chew around the back of the boat. I have no recollection of them biting on the cage. And when we got in the water with them, they were very wary. There were five of them swimming around us and I’d say the closest one came would be eight feet. It was fairly close, but mostly they seemed to stay 10 to 15 feet away. Certainly we didn’t feel threatened at any time. Any advice for the non-diver or the casual swimmer who worries about sharks?»VALERIE: Swim in a swimming pool, then you don’t have any more worries! If you’re concerned about sharks, why go down where you might meet one? It’s very unlikely but why go around being worried? There are plenty of places to swim where there are no sharks.

A Real Adventure

What is the thing you’re most proud of filming underwater?»RON: I think our experiences in Blue Water, White Death. It was an adventure, really pushing the frontier of shark encounters. What we achieved then was very satisfying. But the most famous piece of filming I’ve been involved in was shooting the live shark sequences for Jaws. Where’s your favorite place to dive anywhere in the world?»RON: I haven’t got any one favorite place. I’ve got several. Because no one place has got everything. Just like here in South Australia, we only come here for Great White sharks, which used to be very, very exciting. For reef sharks, we go to the Coral Sea; for critters we go to Papua New Guinea or Indonesia; for schooling hammerheads we go way over to the Eastern Pacific. I’ve just recently been to the Bahamas where we had a great experience with Caribbean Reef sharks. All these different locations are interesting in themselves, but there’s no one place where everything is all in one place.

Any location you’d like to go that you haven’t been so far?»RON: I’d like to do some more Oceanic work, ya know, offshore sharks. But the last time I went offshore near Sydney I got seasick for the second time in my life after nearly 50 years of ocean experience. That wasn’t very pleasant. I’d like open ocean shark work or large marine creature work in good conditions and usually where the best action is, it’s all calm.

Valerie, I noticed something interesting as I’ve questioned you: you talk about adventure and Ron filming Great Hammerheads, 1972 Valerie and Ron Taylor Bahamas, 2006 you talk about risk. Do you consider yourself a risk-taker or a thrill-seeker, because they’re not the same.»VALERIE: I like adventure very much. The more you do it, the more you want to do it. It’s addictive. Most people don’t get enough. My dreams are all about wild adventure. I don’t want to venture into outer space or chasing ghosts, I want real adventure.

Do you think if you’d grown up in Africa you’d have been in the bush instead of in the ocean?»VALERIE: Absolutely. Damn good at it too, I reckon. I don’t know what makes me tick. What makes Ron tick?»VALERIE: Not a clue. except he likes dinner at six o’clock on the dot!