Geejam exudes the kind of unhassled, unhurried luxury that makes it possible to be there for a week without seeing another guest, if you (or they) so wish. Villas are tucked among trees, accessible only by narrow footpaths, and though the Bushbar—Geejam’s commissary and watering hole—is open to outsiders, Baker’s network of drivers, informants, and local insiders are adept at steering the wrong kind of people in the wrong direction. As for the professional prying class—paparazzi—Geejam’s remoteness discourages most, and Baker, who does a quick check on prospective guests, is skilled at spotting fake names and false occupations.
However, unlike the all-inclusive resorts to the west in Negril and Montego Bay, Geejam has an open-door policy when it comes to the surrounding community. “Most of the people who work at Geejam have roots in the village of Drapers, just down the hill,” Baker says. “I’m fully of the belief that you can put up as many big walls and as much barbed wire as you choose, but ultimately, it’s integration that’s going to make things work.”
Mention Baker’s name almost anywhere in Drapers, around San San, or in Port Antonio proper—to a local fruit vendor, to the purveyor of a roadside rum shack, or to your guide on a rafting trip down the Rio Grande—and you’ll get a broad smile and a singsong patois tribute: “Jon Baker, mon!” His name itself is a kind of currency.
In retrospect, Baker’s gambit to open a resort in a faded, little-traveled part of Jamaica, with no relevant experience and a massive mountain chain in the way of the region’s major airport, might seem foolhardy. What Baker had, though—what he’s always had—was a nose for the next thing. Upon dropping out of London’s Chelsea School of Art in 1977, he followed the advice of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood and opened a New Wave shop near their seminal punk outpost, Sex, on King’s Road. When New Wave morphed into New Romantic, Baker reinvented himself as a stylist for bands like Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran; and when the cool-kid scene moved from London to New York (where Baker had relocated in 1980 with his friend Billy Idol), he found himself running with a downtown crowd that included Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Madonna, before returning to England to found his own record label.
Though Baker is three decades and an ocean removed from anything approaching his anarchic U.K. roots, he still lives in a mod Fred Perry uniform and proudly refers to himself as a “card-carrying champagne socialist,” an affiliation enshrined in the name of his 4-year-old son Che—“as in Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara,” he says.