"the" Mrs. Astor

Saturday, September 30, 2006

I don't know why, but I'm bored by everything these days and was nodding off on my divan when startled by the image of camouflage before me. Thoughts of Che Guevara pulsated through my mind until I saw the carefully pedicured toes and matching camouflage flip flops of Thomas Barker, who is hardly a terrorist, but certainly a terror. I smacked him with my fan and chided him for dressing like that in times like these. REALLY! Do we need to fan the flames of revolution by dressing the part? I was still trying to get over the resignation of Palm Beach Republican congressman (and head of some sub-committee on child abuse), Mark Foley, after a series of sizzling IM's to a 16-year-old male page was published today. Imagine; the Republican leadership knew all this a year ago and let him go on with protecting Bush Family Values. It just isn't Right.

New and exciting faces flow through this town like rain water down a mountainside. So, it was not unusual that a new face (and body) today made most courtiers open their snuff boxes and talk. He was a likeable boy from Texas who just moved here (and like Riley, is studying law at UM), and the court circled around him like a wagon train besieged by Indians; his name is Jay. At one point, an Asian friend of ours was giving him a massage and I couldn't stop my sassy mouth from saying, "Please; all you need to do is walk on his back to make this complete", when Jay's face lit up and he pressed down to the floor. Within seconds (too short for me to even get the camera out) our Asian buddy, Donnie, kicked off his sandals and was walking on his back. It didn't last for long but, when he got up, we asked him to take off his shirt, which he did; I said to Riley, "He is the new Court Favorite." "Oh," Jay asked, "and who is The Court?"

Riley chuckled, and I thought, "L'Etat, c'est moi"

Friday, September 29, 2006

Today I was so confused that I might have murmured aloud that "I'm losing touch with reality"; but that would be so ridiculous since, I've never touched the thing to begin with.

It all started last night with Riley; we were enjoying the rather quiet comfort of Seventh when someone actually said, "Oh, did you see that The Coconut Hunter was killed? He was killed by a coconut." We looked at each other and evilly smirked, and I had the audacity to say, "No, you mean The Crocodile Hunter." My corrective comment was totally ignored and taken offense by; it wasn't the first time. (I tried to post this last night, but forgot my rule of No Drunk Posting!)

I sank deeper into the abyss of frivolity when I had the bright idea to look on eBay for my Baby Jane dress. "Hmmmm, wouldn't it be so cheeky of me to look at Dresses: Plus Size?" What happened next was a Pandora's Box of madness. I didn't find Jane's baby doll dress (I know I will end up making it myself), but I found a wardrobe to fit every special occasion coming up for the next ten years. It was magical: "waist 34" - 42" with train". I saw this piece, in particular, the perfect greeting dress to wear for the next Black Ships Ball in Newport; the Japanese ambassador would be mesmerised by the symmetry and beauty of this floral gown. ( I actually thought, "Mrs. Pinkerton", for one deluded moment.) All for a pittance on eBay.

My warning to all out there: Whatever you do, DON'T go to Ebay Plus Sizes and expect you life, and wardrobe, to remain unchanged.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

In Memoriam

The Happy Place was laid to rest today. Many will remember that room as a cauldron of drunken activity from "Senate" debates in front of Ditmar to sexual hi jinks in the corner out of camera range. Witches, cops, mental patients, politicians, drag queens, scientists, and a lot of normal men and women met and enjoyed each other's company there. There's no use for a long eulogy; it's just gone.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

This is what a marriage in Gossip Heaven would look like. The Miami editor of In Touch Weekly, Michael Cohen, stopped by our table Sunday when he spotted fellow gossip columnist and Man Everywhere About Town, Thomas Barker. Between incessant phone calls, they were able to catch up on the latest news and entertain the rest of us.

The second weekend of sitting on Lincoln Road attracted even more visitors to an afternoon of two-fisted drinking and hard-nosed mudslinging. El Riley carefully documented a riotous day and night that began with my video documentary of Barker's "Would I Pay For Sex?" and it's sequel, "Would I Pay For Sex With a Married Man?". (All agreed the second documentary was hot.) Then an old, shirtless man passed by doing "wheelies" and almost crashed into a nearby table while another table member was passing out flip flop key chains from his manicure shop.

Talk screeched to a halt when someone (most likely Barker, things were getting confused) said, "Don't you just hate drunken pygmies at parties! Were you there when one passed out on the top stair and no one could get down?" I doubt whether it was a real pygmy, but the image a fire trap like that--with the grass skirt and all--lingered in my mind and Riley and I couldn't stop giggling. We all piled into cabs and headed down the road and a cranky cab driver asked why we gay guys weren't bringing more tourists into town instead of the low lifes he saw playing awful music. "What type of music do you like?" asked Carl. "Well," the cabbie replied, "now that I'm old and my penis is down, I like soft music." You can't get better than that on a drunken afternoon.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Family Looms

Plans are taking shape for another meeting of The Family. Emails are flying, bookings are being made, and top-secret meeting spots are being reserved. For one week--and it is the week that includes Halloween--countesses and courtesans will converge on handsome guardsmen and engage in a well-orchestrated amount of hooliganism. There are private as well as public parties planned by none other than duBarry of Newport.

I'll be attending the Save Dade Halloween Ball (the biggest in town) costumed as Blaby JaneHudson, which gives you an idea of the night(not only do I share Jane's taste in gin, but we have the same accent). I'd like to tell you about some of the other events planned, but I'd have to kill you if I did. The only one not to RSVP so far is Thomas; since he lives in my basement, I just just have to go down and beat it out of him.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

For those in town who have labeled me the Cassandra of South Beach for worrying about a severe downturn in business, I invite you to the death bed of an old friend, The 11th Street Diner. I visited my sick friend this morning for perhaps the next to last breakfast and found its employees preparing for the end; a notice had been posted of The Diner's impending demise on Monday. They walked around with worried looks, nervously moving sugar containers and other condiments around as if this activity might breathe some life into the patient.

Situated in the heart of the entertainment district, across from police headquarters, and sharing a wall with the equally venerable Twist, the 24-hour Diner was always the epicenter of activity and gossip. You would walk in at 7am on a Sunday and see the chief of police with his officers at one table, a bevy of drag queens at the next, and a family from Iowa beside them. Come back later and you would often see Rosie O'Donnell (so often that a salad was eventually created just for her, Kelly, and the kids).

Obvious indications of trouble had been mounting and, when the payrolls were missed recently, I could almost assure that my mourning gown would be coming out. It's a sad and mystifying passing; few places were as crowded and popular as The Diner, and--at the risk of not being believed still--I would think more trouble is on the way. Call me Cassandra.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Always On a Friday

The entire internet crashed at the office, and I wasn't even there to see it go down in flames. I was engaged in a life-or-death struggle with the pool robot, Rosie, who was choked up with leaves from the idiot gardeners who believe that every cut grass needs to learn to swim. KiKi's casserole was in the oven, Ditmar had just stopped by--chuck-full of pills from his doctor--and I was dreaming of a sort of Valley of The Dolls afternoon with cocktails, when the phone rang. "The internet is down."

"This is how you reboot the internet" went nowhere, so I set Rosie back to work with just a warning and climbed out of the pool (it was then that I noticed the blinds on the next home move; those Russians are spying on me again). No amount of computer hocus pocus would find the server and Bell South--after an entertaining two hours of chat that would have made so much more sense with a glass of gin in my hand--could only promise a technician in the morning. Unfortunately, modern credit card transactions are transmitted over the internet and the day was coming down like a stack of cards.

Six hours without the internet and I arrived home lost, vulnerable, and afraid. No news, no weather, no emails, no--well..... I'm always afraid I missed something in the emails, something more than the latest Lahoma van Zandt puppet show story or how I can get five Viagra for the price of one, and today I did. Ryan Field of Best Gay Blogs sent a message saying he had reviewed my blog and was posting it. I never--to this day--know why anyone not acquainted with me would read Mrs. Astor as it's just ramblings, but Ryan was so sweet in his review that I was truly humbled (and I hope it means I get Alex under me again--no, no; just kidding).

And just in case you THINK you won't see half naked boys here, well, those who ARE acquainted with me know that's just a matter of discretion, isn't it.

"Please Pardon the Inconvenience"

So read the communique of the world's most polite military coup. That was what the Steering Committee took into account tonight when we discovered that Jeremy is NOT in Bogata shuffling papers in the American embassy, but has orchestrated the military coup in Tailand.
This comes as no surprise to me. The day before he left, Jeremy stopped over for a swim and walked to change in the "Situation Room". That room is disguised as an old, unused music room with piano rolls stacked up around the area.
(Piano rolls hold secret plots formed in the craziness of drunken planning.) They go on an on: The Plot to Take Over Andorra, The Plot to take over the Gibralta, the plot to take over Key West. Anyway, the afternoon that Jeremy asked to use the Room, I noticed on the seal to the Piano Roll box named, One Night in Bangkok, had been opened and my plans for the successsful takeover of that country missing. Drat! I hate when others obscond with the takeover plot of foreign goverments. Then I have to write it all over again.
Fortunately, I have given him the sympolic weapon with which to take anything he want: the rusty machete.

We know Jeremy is in control of the situation in Tailand and we are all planning trips ASAP. I'm still waiting for the request for me to step off the airplane in the royal sash. I will step down each stair so gracefully, acknowleding all the happy people. Queen of Thailand, I'd been waiting so long. As I reach the bottom step an all-knowing hand will place itself upon mine. It will be Jeremy's. I can hear him now,
"Darling, you are under arrest." We'll giggle and I'll ask for some tea.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

No Escape...

...from The Madness.

I needed to do some food shopping as it was time to make KiKi's weekly casserole and it was to be chicken and sausage with egg noodles in a garlic alfredo sauce this week. Normally, I would go to Publix, but it was too late to avoid the fags and housewives and--ideally--I would go to Epicure, but it was too late to avoid the GAPS and the JAPS (Gay American Princess's and Jewish American Princesses), so I stopped in the local, friendly Art Deco Market where humble people and tourists shop (I put a scarf over my head to appear humble).

Upon entering I was engulfed in a media frenzy, and it wasn't about me. There--in the store of The Humble--was Hulk Hogan and his wife checking out with the most mundane assortment of groceries imaginable. I shamelessly joined in the fun and Hulk's wife smiled and winked at me when she saw my apparent glee.

This was for that reality show, the name of which I don't even know, but which I see from time to time on one of the bar TV's. It is an obvious rip-off of The Osbourne show and has none of the excitement of The Gotti's, but I will be the last to toss in my opinions on American taste. KiKi is going to get one, special casserole this week.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Lucky Strike

Sometimes you just have to eat your words (or drink them, as the case may be). The bowling party at Lucky Strike was an extremely fun and entertaining evening. Just imagine 24 gay guys and one fag hag with an open bar all night and a catered fare that was quite impressive.
That, naturally, is the map of a good night with lots of giggles. I'm sorry to say I did not partake in the actual bowling, but did a remarkable job of shouting and sighing as the action demanded. It's interesting how knocking down ten pins with a ball can rouse the spirit; it's even more so when there's two drinks in hand.
I loved the colors that made these such luscious balls. I have to apologize to Bill Diehl. He scored 147 and when congratulating him I said, "That's real White Trash". Bill sighed and said, "That's all we had to do in Maryland." I ate those words, too, when Lucky Strike awarded him with a bottle of Dom Perignon for being highest scorer of the night.

Today is the 80th anniversary of the 1926 Great Miami Hurricane, a storm of unimaginable destruction that virtually wiped out Miami Beach and threw Miami and the surrounding areas into a depression three years ahead of the rest of the country.

There had not been a hurricane since 1910, when Miami was in its infancy, but by 1920 Carl Fisher had turned Miami Beach from a mangrove swamp into a well-laid out young city with great weather, gambling, a free-wheeling spirit to suit the needs of Prohibition, and a very, very speculative atmosphere. The population of Miami had swelled ten-fold to 200,000 with very few every having experience a storm. On the night of the 17th a warning was issued from Washington, D.C. that a very large hurricane was coming, but most of the residents had gone to bed by then, and the storm struck at 2am..

You don’t see many buildings that date before 1926 on Miami Beach. A fifteen foot storm surge washed over the island and took most everything with it. About 300 people were killed and another 800 just disappeared. When South Beach was put back together it was all within the same years and is the reason for the homogenous, Deco look.

The effects of a similar storm today on Miami would be stupefying with an estimated 80 billion dollars in damage that would bring down not only the economy, but most of the insurance companies. The survivors would live for months without electricity and would force the migration north of hundreds of thousands.

Today there is a similar spirit to 1926. Speculation in real estate is out of control and teetering on collapse, a free-wheeling spirit still persists with the authorities looking the other way for a cut, and millions want to live in the sun, on the ocean. Everyone knows that it is just a matter of time.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


I am not overly superstitious, but I do brake for "signs". If, for instance, I opened the door and found a dead raven on the step I would immediately turn around, take a Xanax, and call it a day. As I opened the gate today, a beautiful swarm of yellow butterflies took flight around me and took off into the air. THAT was a good sign, and after stopping by the office for a short bit, enjoyed a day a home.

Sunday afternoon, though, is the high point of the week. When Michael called, I suggested that we would spend the day on Lincoln Road and away from all the court intrigue. I'm very good at timing, and arrived at The Van Dyke for a perfect seat and then--again conscious that timing is everything--suggested we leave for Score where we secured a prime table just after it opened. That type of table on a Sunday is what I refer to as a seat in The Diamond Horseshoe; no one can pass by without being scrutinized or without us being seen. After a while many friends join in, people you know pass with a quick kiss, and still others take a distant table and sulk. Four hours passed of gossip and mindless banter. It was, itself, a sedative from the usual madness, and eventually we were joined by the usual friends. "Good choice," Michael commented as we left. No, I thought, a good sign.

Don't Look Down

Although there are many more troublesome questions these days, I still wonder why so many weathermen are gay. If this is some supossedly secret society, the truth was revealed here.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Noon on Friday; not a soul to be seen on Ocean Drive. September is the most distressed month of the year. It is hot, humid, and you are always watching satellite pictures of what's rolling off the coast of Africa. At mid-month you feel like you might be getting away this year and the "H" word is only whispered.

But something else is wrong with September. Everyone keeps asking "What happened to the Europeans?" Although little will ever stop a gay tourist from getting where he or she wants to go, the families stayed home this year, and who blames them. If get through security there is a good chance your plane will be escorted back by a jet fighter when a forbidden jar of hair gel is discovered in flight. We are being slowly strangled by the interruption of commerce, a technique well-known to the people who are not really "terrorists" but shrewd, calculating foes.

At two I am having another lunch with David Kelsey, the head of The South Beach Hotel and Restaurant Association. It is actually part 2 of last Saturday's lunch meeting where I am trying to get a clear idea of where this town is headed. He's also always got a big bag of city gossip to sort through and everyone knows how much I adore gossip. A great site for Miami gossip is thedirtmiami.com; everyone in town is wondering who writes it (and it isn't me, although I should). I avoid the spinach salad this week and stick to the wine.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Silly Land

I took the day off and made the tragic decision to stop at the Palace at noon. The known criminals were there and I got corralled into another discussion with Chris, who has flown in again from Switzerland for a few days. Before I knew it, Dr. Brad was squirreling me off to an endless afternoon of happy hours. Seeing Henrietta can always spark a Balkan war.
We, of course, said "Hi" to Jere who is that expert gymnast who can do supposedly wonderful things with his legs.
Giuseppi at The Bungalow Bar of Twist also had many things to offer an afternoon, thirsty crowd. He tries to be straight, but like all Italians can switch sides when needed.

But, in the end, it was my dear friend Thomas Barker who held the cards. In this case I stood up in the middle of The Senate floor and accused him of dealing in Confederate currency. "Is there no decency," I exclaimed, only to reminded of where I was and why I was there. Yes, Twist still deals in Confederate currency; at least the type Thomas prints up at home.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Life's Work Goes ON

I wouldn't want anyone to think that while I was adrift for a week in the nostalgia of home that I didn't keep up my charity work. While working on plans for a home for refugee Lebanese boys, I noticed a new face at court. He was not unnoticed by other courtiers and did not lack attention, but on the third day we managed to draw him into our circle.

His name is Marco, he's from Germany, stands 6' 3"and is visiting for four weeks; he had no clue how to accomplish all the things he wanted to do. The poor thing had even booked a room in a hotel that usually rents by the hour.

I sent a houseman off for some supplies. First I took a bat to swat all the vultures circling around Marco; most know better than to interupt my charity work! Then in the best tradition of Auntie Mame, I gave him a pad and a pen and asked him to write down all the places he wanted to go, leaving four lines between each one. It was the usual stuff: The Everglades, Key West, Ft. Lauderdale, Little Havana.... I summoned over two other court officials and we wrote directions, warnings, hints, and opinions in those blank lines (one even wrote a phone number, but I let it go). The next day I saw him off to the first leg of his journey, Ft. Lauderdale; his face was already glowing from the Miami, summer sun.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Emotion of Love

When I lived in Providence I almost always passed by the Carrie Brown Memorial Tower on Benefit Street where I lived and marveled at the emotion that erected such a landmark with that forlorn statement over the door, Love Is Strong As Death. For a long time I thought that was the only memorial Count Paul Bajnotti left for Carrie.

Years later, I was catching a train (or trying to) from the Providence train station back to New York when I arrived from some local dive just late enough to see my train departing. It would be two hours before the next, and I did not want to re-enter the same den of sin I had come from with my luggage, so I--in the most gentile manner imaginable--put out a cloth, made a little pillow with my bag, and flattened out my Shantung silk dress out in front of the station. I was as dignified as possible under the circumstances, but shortly after placing my head down read the letters, " B-A-J-O-N...." That meant only one thing to me and I jumped up to read, "Dedicated in loving memory to his wife Carrie Brown by Paul Bajnotti of Turin, Italy". This was before Providence had been revived into the Renaissance city it is today and the park was overgrown, the fountain unused. It was as if I have found The Fountain of Youth! Yet another monument by the husband (I would find others later). Love; it ruled all of us and shortly thereafter set about setting up a Society dedicated to it (discussed later).

But, when I see the bell tower, the fountain, and the urn on the south wall of Beechwood, I sigh a little bit and say, Love.

Monday, September 11, 2006

How You Never Forget

Walking around someone's home can reveal a lot; in the home of my sister, Peter duBarry, you can see the abundance of taste and refinement that marks many a Newport home. But, I always look for the pictures.

Seven years ago a very young man died, whose name to this day, makes Peter choke up. His name was Michael Magerah, a talented costume designer from Newport who had made quite a name for himself on Broadway; so much so, that Salve Regina College in Newport gives an award every year in his name. When you walk around Peter's gracious home you can see Michael's photos everywhere; he's a striking boy with black hair and porcelain skin. There is Michael with Peter, Michael with Liza, Michael everywhere. Peter always said to me, "If you had only known Michael...."

When Michael died Broadway dimmed it's lights for ten seconds; I somehow feel Peter dimmed his for much longer than that. He organized a benefit in Newport in Mrs. Astor ballroom at Beechwood for which Liza Minelli and Broadway star (a great friend of Peter's), Mimi Hines performed.

Beechwood is privately owned and not open to the public, although a sort of living tableau exists there. In testimony to Michael, Peter used the money from the benefit to install this urn in Micheal's memory on the south wall of Beechwood (and donated the rest to Broadway Cares). The urn is named Whispering Angels and fits in so perfectly that you might almost think Caroline Astor, herself, put it there. But Peter put it there in an act of love and devotion which brings tears to my eyes even though I never knew Michael.

It reminds me of the famous Carrie Brown Tower on Benefit Street in Providence. Carrie had married Italian Count Paul Bajnotti, and her death must have devastated him, too. He erected two huge fountains in Providence in her memory and the striking bell tower on the grounds of Brown University. The Count's sense of loss can be seen every day over the door to the tower in the inscription, "Love Is Strong As Death".

I'll will always see that, too, in the baroque urn on the south wall of Mrs. Astor's Beechwood.

Love is strong as death.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

It has been a pleasure to have had Newport for my distraction this week; we are almost half way through September and no one mentions the "H" word. And, it also allowed me to look away from the rapidly deteriorating situation at The Palace.
Any visit to Newprt should begin--just as the early settlers' did, at the wharf. This mix of 17th and 18th century buildings still serve as taverns and roomin houses. (I would love to stay on a rooming house on the wharf; it sounds so romantic.
From there you begin the inevitable walk up the hill and find the very 17th centry homes which Doris Duke saved from demolision through buying them all up and re-selling as low prices by contract to restore and keep them original.
The further you walk up the hill, the better the homes get.
Although there are some (owned by the same person I hear) who keep them in the same, dilapidated shape they got them in. I don't know wh;y The City doesn't either "make" them spruce them up or take them from them.

You continue walking up the hill from the wharf and see the inevitable richening of Newport. Newport--like Rhode Island itself--was founded as a religious haven first, and a port of commerce second. Commerce made riches for better homes to be built up the hill.
As a place that granted religious freedom to all, Newport--to no ones's surprise--has the first Jewish temple in American, Touro Synagogue.
Up in Providence. Roger Williams escaped the Massachusetts Puritans and founded Providence on the same freedom of religion basis. That freedom extended to commerce, a sort of "anything goes" situation which exists to this day. I remember my grandmother, the formidable Sarah Jane Gallagher, telling me once: "Don't step on toes, and anything goes".

At the top of the hill you arrive at the great streets of Bellevue Avenue, Ochre Point, Ocean Drive, Rhode Island Avenue, and others. This is where wealth found a comfortable place to vacation in summer and still does.
Up there, you are more likely to find the owner polishing his gate than his car. It is fashionable to drive a frumpy car in Newport while living in a ten million dollar estate, so you polish the gate first.
These are the gates of a fabulous gay couple which throws one of the most over-the-top halloween parties every other year. This year it is in Miami so all will be notified of it's whereaboust.

I needed this distraction as an important way to remember my past and be reassured about my future. du Barry helped me with that when she said in her ever-so-blunt way,"Alexis, for as long as I've known you you have had the ability to make people feel special enough to WANT to be a customer. Many people wish they had that talent; you have it and you do it well. There are not many who do." That made me a bit more relaxed about the changes coming in South Beach; I don't envision being at The Palace much longer; the upheaval there is not one a New Englander can't deal with.

But--til then--the party goes on, the drinks flow, and the boys need to be entertained. As we know, Life is a banquet and most of the beggers are starving.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Don't Mess With a Messer

On Friday night out group went to the The Inn On Castle Hill which was hosting a party of the most boring corporate wannabes imaginable. We were decidedly not formal and one hook-nosed woman actually snarled at my Kenneth Cole slip-ons. A snarling match ensued and we stormed out of this group of idiots who obviously had never been to Newport before. As we walked to our car, the manager ran out and apologized to du Barry (she is known TO ALL) and begged us to come back in; du Barry doesn't give second chances in social instances like this.

Instead we drove over to Ocean Cliff, a castle in it's own right built by The Huttons and immortalized when it was named Shamrock Cliff. One of the first mansions made over into a private business, I can vividly remember a long, long time ago having dinner there with someone I loved (and still do) when the electricity failed during a violent lightning storm and silver candlabrum were brought out while the storm raged all around us on that hill.
The staff and general feeling was so much more pleasing at Ocean Cliff and I pointed out a rather striking young man to The Countess who beckoned him over. He was an intern from Roumania and about to wrap up his stay. We joke about some other things we'd like him to wrap up when The Countess claimed she was "chilly" and needed "a wrap". The boy ran off and found her a great piece of peach linen (which went so well with my mauve silk). She works fast, just like the next day when American Team captain Dan Keating outwardly professed affection to me only to be photographed later with his arms around The Countess. No, she didn't stop with stealing the Roumanian baby from me.

I did catch The Countess mugging it up with Bennett at Flo's Beach Shack (or something like that), a sea-side restaurant that just kept piling on dish-after-dish of scallops, crabs, and chips.

My grandmother used to say, "Every now and then EVERYONE acts like a horse's ass." Wwe all did and had so much fun.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Tale to Two Upstairs

My sister, The Countess du Barry, lives in a modest, Victorian bungelow in which everything is polished. The floors are polished, the silver is polished, and life itself is polished.
On Saturday morning I glided out of my room feeling like Roselind Russell to find the dining room set for a formal breakfast. Du barry showed me how to take pastry sheets, cutting a flat bottom and then slicing pieces to fashion a thing that baked into a puffed basket which held lucious scrambled eggs with a cream topping. (I usually content myself is toasted waffles.)
The home was warm and inviting, everything Newport is about.
Du Barry told my she had a "boarder" upstairs; a nineteen-year-old boy who worked at the equestrian stables in town. While du barry was shopping I gazed at those stairs to his room; knowledgeble of my tawdry past I did not dare climb them without reason and thought long and hard for one. "Fireman" seemed rather far-fetched and I did not have the rubber boots. Having packed a Red Cross uniform, I had a plausible reason for climbing the stairs if I could make a case out of checking for scarlet fever. I even thought of sleeping on the bottom step as if cast upon with a "spell". All this came to an end with the arrival of the guests, and I never met the boy.
Rather more interesting is the story of the third floor of The Breakers, Cornelius Vanderbilt II's summer "cottage" in Newport. His youngest daugher, Gladys, married a rich Hungarian nobleman in the 1908 and became Countess Szechenyi. She was a kind and generous woman whose children used to coast down the grand staircase on silver trays to everyone's amusement. Gladys used her money and influence to rescue hundreds of children trapped in the Nazi nightmare that encirled Hungary of World War II, and in 1948 leased The Breakers to the Historical Society for one dollar a year on the condition that she retained the third floor for her family's, private residence.

The third floor was no attic; it was 30 rooms of elegance from another era. Gladys lived a long and rich life filled with glamour, generosity, and fun. The historical society bought The Breakers for a song from her daughter, Countess Sylvia Szapary, in the 70's with the same residential agreement; I always remember hearing of Countess Szapary's charity balls and benefits. When Sylvia died in 1998, the historical society quietly notified Gladys and Paul Szapary, her children, that they had to leave. Gladys--to this day a social beacon in Newport and a friend of du Barry--replied that they would, if they had to, but would be taking all the original furniture in the 100-room mansion. Their mother had wisely sold only the mansion and not the furnishings.

Needless to say, Gladys and Paul still live on the third floor, although I still haven't found a good reason for climbing those stairs, either.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Tailgate Luncheon

It was not difficult to spot du Barry's position along the track. The linen on her tables were flapping in the wind as much as the flags.
Our table set-up was a bit more flamboyant than all the others.
But, everyone was in a great mood and all got invited over.
Other spectators kept walking by to inspect Bennet, Brian, and du Barry setting up.

It was too windy for du Barry to set up her tent, but it didn't matter. We were so happy to be together again. NO ONE can match the elegance and flair du Barry has at these tailgate parties; people actually walk by each time she's there to see what it's like this week. There was plenty to drink and du Barry invited all the neighbors with, "Don't worry; look under the table. There's a LOT more where that came from."
There was plenty to dine on, too, and I had worked up quite an appetite watching those polo players in action.
Bennett was not only beautiful, but--as the raised pinky shows--elegant. (Brian was too busy counting the numbers of beef medallions and shrimp on my plate for my comfort.)
And, The Countess swears that Glenlivet tasted better in a silver goblet. (Doesn't everything?)