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By Eric Shackle

A wealthy American living in Bangkok (Thailand) is scouring the world looking for a nude model whose image will decorate a huge new hot-air balloon which he plans to display in Sydney next year.

Alf Erickson, heir to a bread fortune,  recently swapped his home in Florida in favour of a luxury suite on the 14th floor of "the world's finest hotel," Bangkok's Oriental. He already owns three hot-air balloons, which have been displayed in several European countries.

His Internet website, which reads like a personal diary, contains dozens of photographs of his favourite models, dressed and undressed.

Asked for details of his quest, Alf replied: "I want to bring Corkscrew-Balloon Number 4 to Australia for its maiden trip.

"Right now we are running a 'contest' to find a model for the balloon...with the winner being able to come along. Anyway...we have had very little luck in finding anyone. I think people think we are joking, but we are not.

"Maybe we'll just wind up using a composite girl...oh well. The balloon is connected with my all girl elephant-polo team which will play here in Thailand next year. Then we'll take it to Australia."

Publicising his quest for a model, Alf says on his website: "A photo shoot or sketch session can be arranged at any of several locations around the world. Although our initial plan called for an Asian model, we will consider candidates from all nations.

"Think of the satisfaction of having your image on this balloon! Corkscrew Balloon III has now flown all over Europe, and it has been admired wherever it has gone. The images on that balloon - based upon Denise and Christen - are now beloved by balloon gazers in several European countries. No prior experience is required.

"In addition to the fame, however, there is also adventure: You will accompany the balloon on its initial flights! Current plans are for the balloon's first public inflation to take place on a chartered barge on the Chao Phya River in Bangkok. In Bangkok, you'll stay at the Oriental Hotel, which is generally regarded as the finest hotel in the world.

"A day or two after the initial ceremonial inflation, you will travel with the balloon to Australia for additional flights. In Australia, accommodations will also be the best available. All expenses will be paid, including round trip air transportation from wherever you live. All you need is a valid passport.

"Contact us at right away. You can write to me at"

Last year, Alf embarked on a similar quest for a new model. "Our ultimate goal was to find a replacement who could be passed off as Denise, the balloon model who will be unable to join fellow Screwmaid Christen in Chateau d'Oex [Switzerland]. We need to be able to say to the assembled throng of press and hangers-on: 'Here they are: Christen and Denise' and get away with it.

"Our diabolical scheme now looks like it will actually work, because our winning Screwmaid Replacement is actually named ... Denise!"

That lucky winner was Denise Hagan, of Seattle, Washington. In her application for the job (duly shown on Alf's all-revealing website) she had listed: "Turn-ons: I like my hair pulled, my neck bit, and seeing lust in a man's eyes."

Why are all Alf's balloons named Corkscrew?  Well, that's because he owns the world's greatest collection of corkscrews - more than 4000 of them.  Corkscrews are often used in preparing screwdrivers (vodka and orange juice served with ice). They have no connection with screwballs (whimsical, eccentric persons).

Copyright 2001.   Eric Shackle   Story first posted September 2001.

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