Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Charleston Social Diary, Part II

Michelle Bovell, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, and Paula Bovell Kerr-Jarrett at a picnic at the government-owned private retreat residence for the Prime Minister just outside Ocho Rios, called Laughing Waters.
Charleston Social Diary, Part II (with a side of Jamaica)
By Ned Brown

Charlestonians love to dress in costumes. Mention an event is black-tie, and a large percentage of the men will arrive in kilts of their family pattern. I think it's a two-fer: they get to be expressive, and can make the statement, "my family has its own plaid." That's Charleston: if you can combine creative dressing and family lineage, all the better.

Playing dress-up with a blazer, red pants, and knee-high boots at the Charleston Cup Steeplechase.
Now, if you toss-in horseracing, alcohol, a sunny Sunday afternoon, a whole roasted pig with mac & cheese and other sides, you can get all sorts of outfits — male and female. Such was the case in the 20th running of the Charleston Cup Steeplechase at the plantation at Stono Ferry in November.

While I typically take Sundays off to read the Times, my accumulated piles of magazines (6 unread National Geographics at last count) and previously set aside work stuff, my friends beseeched me to experience this quintessential fall Charleston gathering. All 16,000 participants wandering around with cocktails in hand (why couldn't I have been born as the Solo Cup heir?). I must admit, it was pretty fun people watching.

Christina Baxter and I ran into men's preppy clothing designer, K. Cooper Ray, who had a display of his neck and bowties at the event. Naturally, Vineyard & Vines was there too. The Charleston firemen drew a big crowd of the ladies while autographing their calendar. All proceeds from calendar sales go to Toby's Fund, a no-kill Charleston animal society. While I didn't know many attendees at the event, it was great to see people having a good time, and living up to that tried and true axiom, "If you invite a Charleston outdoors in the fall to drink and have fun, ten will show up."
Cooper Ray with his models.
K. Cooper Ray and Christina Baxter. Charleston firemen Eric Glover (August) and Dustin Ford (January).
Mandy Kinsella and Bambi Mcgraw.
Too taken aback to get the woman's name, but the pup in the hat is Macallan.
Crowd gathering around the track.
Watching the race.
A Moment To Transition ...

Before I write about my Thanksgiving week in Jamaica, one of my favorite places to be, I want to say a few words about NYSD, my association over the last eight or so years, and how it has helped me to live my life better, which is pretty darn good. There are a number of stories that appear from which we can all learn how to live fuller, happier lives. I like John Foreman's stories about homes; they give us an insight about how people defined their lives many scores ago.

Gertrude Legendre, 1949.
Great granddaughter Gertrude "Gigi" Manigault today in camo.
Ellen Glendinning Frazer's photo archives are right in sync with the wonderful photography of the late Slim Aarons during that period of the '50s to '70s.

Gertrude Legendre is a constant feature in Ellen's stories, and her grandson, Pierre Manigault, and I often talk about Gert and the force she was — a huge presence in South Carolina, Fisher's Island, Watch Hill or wherever she might be. One of our favorite Glendinning stories is the trip Gertrude took in the early '60s to the south of France and Italy — also chronicled in NYSD. Arriving, Gert found there was no way to accommodate her 20-plus assortment of Vuitton luggage. No problem for Gertrude Legendre; she immediately bought an Opel station-wagon, and hired a driver to follow her entourage.

Now that's style, and taking control. Fortuitously, the spirit of Gertrude Legendre lives fully in her great-granddaughter, Gertrude "Gigi" Manigault, who was earlier quite the tomboy, now an accomplished equestrian, and ascending debutante. Gigi's grandmother was reputed to be the best shotgun shot in South Carolina, and Gigi is following right behind as you can see. The young man who goes for this girl is going to have hold his own. And finally, when you die, get DPC to write your obit; he gets the good, the flaws, and makes it real — the best send-off.

Onto Montego Bay, Jamaica

When I write about Jamaica, I do it through a prism of living in Charleston, working in Washington, DC,  and having the good fortune of regular trips to Paris, Geneva, Gstaad and Cannes — all fabulous places to live, work or visit old friends. 

I find Jamaica to be one of the most picturesque, elegant places to be. I have made many great friends there. I just helped the new U.S. Ambassador, Luis G. Moreno (a supremely qualified career officer), get confirmed by the Senate. He will be a great addition to the American presence. Trust me, I have lived in the Caribbean (San Juan and St. Maarten), and travelled throughout — St. Barths, Lyford, Turks & Caicos, Mustique, you name it; Jamaica is the best place to be.
Amb. Luis G. Moreno being sworn in by Asst. Sec. State, Roberta Johnson.
My Charleston friend, Leslie Turner (the former Mrs. Robert E. "Teddy" Turner IV), has been to Jamaica three times this year. Leslie loves the convenience, "I can leave Charleston in the morning, and have lunch on the beach in MoBay." Leslie goes onto say about Jamaica, "I love the timeless elegance and understated luxury, which is not dissimilar to Charleston, but more relaxed with the British Colonial history and a Caribbean vibe." If you still have questions about Jamaica, just remember, if Ralph Lauren has two homes there, it ain't chopped liver.
Leslie's favorite view: champagne
on the Round Hill beach.
Two babes on the beach: Gannon Hunt (former Mrs. Beau Turner) and Leslie Turner.
For this trip, I was a guest of Rep. Carolyn Maloney at her family home in the hills of Rose Hall, just east of Montego Bay. Carolyn's parents bought the house in the mid-1970s, and it was passed along to she and her siblings. Two elements I find most appealing about Jamaica and my Jamaican friends, is their history with the island, their connectedness, and they love to celebrate with friends. But make no mistake, they take the well-being and future of their country very seriously; many have been here for twelve generations or more.

Mark and Paula Kerr-Jarrett with son, Josh, and daughter, Rebecca.
One of those families are my friends, the Kerr-Jarretts, Mark and Paula. Actually they are a combination of two prominent Jamaican families. Mark's family arrived in 1655, booted out the Spanish, took all the land around Montego Bay, and have owned much of it ever since. Paula's family, the Bovells, originally from Kingston, have been in Jamaica for over eleven generations — her family has been prominent in business, politics and the law.

The Kerr-Jarretts are fabulous entertainers, and their circle of friends come from all over. It also doesn't hurt to entertain at one of Jamaica's greathouses (estates), Bellefield, which has been in the Kerr-Jarrett family since the late 1600s.

Among the guests at dinner were Chris Blackwell (of Bob Marley fame and owner of the Goldeneye Resort), Daisy Soros, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Jay Carney (former WH press secretary), Claire Shipman (ABC News, author, and Mrs. Carney), Danny and Stency Wegman (of supermarket fame), Manuela and Jimmy Goren (NYC, LA and Tyrall, Ja), Tony and Sheila Hart (lots more coming up on them), Caroline St. George, Christopher Tufton (prominent Jamaican politician), Christina Baxter (Washington, DC and Charleston wedding planner extraordinaire) and others I apologize for omitting.
Dinner on the lawn at Bellefield.
Christopher Tifton (foreground), Paula K-J speaking with Chris Blackwell, Daisy Soros, and Jay Carney.
A couple of days later, Tony and Sheila Hart invited us to their greathouse, Good Hope, which sits above a valley eight miles outside of Falmouth. It is now a museum open to the public as an exquisite example of 18th century plantocracy. The Harts are an old and prominent Jamaican family working on the 13th generation. Tony developed the magnificent multi-use harbor in Montego Bay.

A little side note: Tony purchased all the waterfront from Mark Kerr-Jarretts' grandfather, Sir Francis, for $1, because the latter embraced his vision. Sheila is from the equally old and successful Desnoes family which started and formerly owned Red Stripe beer. Sheila's family of French ancestry emigrated to Jamaica in 1791 after the slave rebellion on St. Domingue (Haiti).
Tony Hart and Rep. Carolyn Maloney at Good Hope greathouse.
Queen of Spain Valley from Good Hope.
The tour of Good Hope was a real treat. First, the views over the Queen of Spain valley are breathtaking. The property today comprises over 2,000 acres of forest and fruit farms. It is now run by the Harts' son, Blaise (and old Desnoes surname).

At one point during the late 1700s Good Hope comprised over 9,000 acres. Originally, the main house was built in 1755 by Col. Thomas Williams for his young wife, Elizabeth. Unfortunately, Elizabeth died seven years later at 24 of malaria, and her husband had her buried in a private room (more like a shrine) on the ground floor underneath the main house.

In 1767, Col. Williams sold it to a 23-year-old John Tharp, who was a successful planter, inventor, socially conscious, and fortunate to take a rich wife. Tharp had over 2,500 slaves, yet he built a church for them, a 300-bed hospital and a school to teach his slaves how to read and write. Tharp's plantation continued to prosper even after the abolition of slavery in 1833.
Entrance hall at Good Hope.
The dining room.
View of the valley from the house.
Among some of the interesting features of the greathouse is a separate money counting house (it was considered bad luck to count money in your main house), and the first hot water bath in the Caribbean to treat his arthritis; actually nearby Falmouth had running water before New York City did. Tharp devised a wood-burning stove to heat accumulated rainwater, which was transmitted through copper tubing. However, Tharp made a fatal mistake: beneath the beautiful mosaic tiles of the bath, the tub was lined in lead. Eventually, Tharp succumbed to lead poisoning.
The money counting house.
The infamous lead-lined bathtub. Bronze wash woman in the garden.
Thanksgiving dinner itself was at the fabulous seaside home of Jimmy and Manuela Goren in Tryall. I love Jimmy; he has this attitude and enthusiasm that "it's never too late to have a good childhood." Jimmy and Manuela are still like two teenage sweethearts together. Thirteen of us jumped into a van, Maloney, her two daughters (Christina and Virginia) and a posse of their friends. Manuela, never intimidated by a descending hoard, prepared a fabulous turkey dinner, with delicious stuffing, and a sweet potato casserole to die for. 
Jimmy and Manuela Goren at Tryall ...
Manuela entertains an army.
Next stop on the Jamaica trip a couple of days later was a picnic at the government-owned private retreat residence for the Prime Minister just outside Ocho Rios, called Laughing Waters. The house sits above a magnificent beach surrounded by a tropical flowing river, which culminates in a waterfall flowing into the Caribbean. For those James Bond film buffs out there, the beach scenes in Dr. No with Ursula Andress and Sean Connery were shot at Laughing Waters.
Ursula Andress and Sean Connery on the beach at Laughing Waters in Dr. No.
Laughing Waters was originally built as a winter home by George Farkas (Yes, same family as Somers and Jonathan who grace these pages, and founder of Alexander's Department Stores). Winston Churchill, when he visited Laughing Waters in the 1950s, described it as one of the most beautiful places in the world. Unfortunately, in the early 1970s, when the Democratic/Socialist government of newly-elected Prime Minister Michael Manly took control, he forced George Farkas to sell the property to the government for their use.
Main house at Laughing Waters.
Private beach at Laughing Waters.
View of the Caribe from the master bedroom.
River flowing by Laughing Waters property.
Christina Baxter and NB in front of the twin falls.
For over forty years, the Jamaican government has held onto the house, but I recently told Andrew Farkas that this wrong to his family will eventually be righted. Among our picnic guests for the day were Paula and Mark Kerr-Jarrett, Michelle and Chris Bovell (Paula's parents), Rep. Carolyn Maloney, and Christina Baxter.
Picnic set-up in the Laughing Waters dining room.
Our group at lunch.
Last but not least, we concluded our Thanksgiving week stay in Jamaica at the beautiful home of Michele Rollins, who owns most of Rose Hall property via her late husband, John, and she continues to develop the same with her sons. Rose Hall also has an interesting New York/Jamaica historical connection.
Michele Rollins addressing her dinner guests.
Christina Baxter, Sheila Hart, Tony Hart, Virginia and Christina Maloney.
When Seagrams could not acquire molasses for the production of Scotch whiskey after WWI, Sam Bronfman came to Jamaica in 1928 to acquire sugarcane plantations to control his supply. Along the way, he also acquired Myers's Rum. Among the acquisitions Bronfman made was Rose Hall estates, which he did in concert with his New York friend, banker John Loeb, and his Jamaican friends, Sir Francis and his son Peter Kerr-Jarrett. Eventually, Bronfman decided that being a Jamaican property owner was not worth the headache, so he got Loeb and Kerr-Jarrett to go along, and sell the property to John Rollins of Atlanta, Georgia.

And finally,  the icing on the cake to the entire trip was being seated next to the irrepressible and great fun Desnoes sisters, Rosemarie, Joan, and Sheila. I heard great stories of growing up in Jamaica, and the wonderful lives they lead. From there, it was home to the Holy City of Charleston.
The Desnoes sisters: Joanie McConnell, Sheila Hart, and Rosie McIver.

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