He is, in all ways, a true British original, charmingly sui generis. Whether dressing up in drag to open a storefront or rounding up a posse of venture capitalists or ballooning down a jet stream faster than an Indy car, he plays the entertainer off the explorer, the adventurer off the entrepreneur—in a way that suggests a cross between Ted Turner and Chuck Yeager, with a healthy dose of the Flying Wallendas thrown in. This is a cross he bears proudly. And no, despite all evidence to the contrary, Richard Branson entertains no wish to die.
"I would hate to die," he says. "I love life. People say that to want to fly around the world in a balloon is sheer madness. I suppose it is, but it's one of the last great aviation challenges. I just want to live life to its fullest. I love fun. I love challenges. I'm so lucky to be in a position where I can do almost anything I want, and I don't want to waste that. I'd kick myself if, when I reached the age of 80, I had to look back with regret that I'd said no instead of yes."
There is so much of the boy from Devon in the man today. Eve, vivacious and charismatic, spun the mother-web that fixed him evermore. It was she who said, "Get off your butt and go out and climb trees!" That was nearly 45 years ago, and he is still climbing.