Four designers spent six weeks putting the 61-year-old billionaire's grin, goatee and lustrous mane on ice, using photos and laser scans. These "Little Richards" splash down into beverages served this May, celebrating Virgin Atlantic Airways' recent revamp of its cabins, seats and on-board bars.
Often hailed as the king of publicity stunts, Branson has appeared everywhere from "Baywatch" to Bollywood to hot-air balloons. He also famously — and repeatedly — has failed in attempts to fly around the world. He has bungee-jumped off The Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, driven a vintage Sherman tank down New York's Fifth Avenue and started a water fight on "The Colbert Report."
This is one knight of the British Empire who doesn't stand on ceremony much. Branson has dressed like a sheik, a bride, a Zulu warrior and hard-rocker Axl Rose to attract attention to the 400-odd companies under his brand's umbrella (including his optimistic space-tourism enterprise Virgin Galactic). He's even shouldered the burden of Dita Von Teese, carrying off the saucy burlesque performer, cave-man-style, from the 2007 launch of Virgin Media.
Now he's turned down the heat and is cooling off high-flyers' Cokes and cocktails. "He is able to join our guests 'in spirit,' as they toast their trip and the exciting times ahead," explained Steve Ridgway, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic.
Here are more ways to chill out like one of the world's richest men.
Hop on a balloon
Sir Richard may have crash-landed many of his record-challenging flights. But Virgin Balloon keeps passengers soaring over 100 destinations, from Leeds Castle in England's southeastern corner to Perth, the ancient capital of Scotland. Take off near Oxford — the City of Dreaming Spires — and you might just drift near Branson's home in nearby Kidlington ($144—322 for an hour's flight).
Cross the English Channel
In 2004, Branson blazed from Dover, England, to Calais, France, in a James-Bond-style amphibious sports car, setting the amphibious-vehicle speed record with a 100-minute crossing. Visitors can follow in his wake — and can even beat his pace — with a 90-minute trip on a P&O Ferry (day trips start at $40 with a car and up to 9 passengers).
Get your motor running
Accelerate through the curves just like a driver for Marussia Virgin Racing. About 90 minutes north of London, Silverstone is the only British venue that opens its Formula One Grand Prix circuit to the public. Speed freaks can rev up ten cars ($1,196), while budget-conscious visitors can get a taste of rallying ($160) or simply tour the historic track ($49).
by Amanda Castleman
- Travel & Tourism
- Virgin Atlantic
- Richard Branson