Monday, January 11, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Musing On Mustique

Princess Margaret reclines on a chair next to Colin Tennant in Mustique, 1973, photographed by her cousin Patrick Lichfield.
by Liz Smith

Musing On Mustique

"IT HAD rained too much in 1315 (700 years ago) ... they were already running out of food ... there was a severe shortage of salt ... farmers had begun eating their seed corn to survive ... the Great Famine of 1315 -17 killed a tenth of the population ... what followed? the Black Death ... killed a third of the population ... then came the Hundred Years' War ..."

So writes Amy Davidson in the January 11th issue New Yorker magazine.

And you think this old world has got troubles now?!
I'D like you to read Ms. Davidson's rumination, titled "The Next Great Famine," especially if you are interested in Climate Change.

Another piece in this issue deals with our ally Saudi Arabia, much in the news right now. Katherine Zoepf wrote this titled "Sisters in Law."

But in spite of all the bad news, you'll end up rolling on the floor over a satirical little story by Simon Rich telling of the Messiah coming down to earth and mixing up Al Roker with Al Sharpton as well as Martin Luther King with Malcolm X.

I say don't miss this!
I HAVE returned from the studiously low-key island of Mustique. Situated near the equator, it is a 45-minute, small plane ride from the nearby much bigger, fully British isle of Barbados.

Barbados is where I spent many vacations with the late film star Claudette Colbert. And where, incidentally, I slept in the very cabin Claudette had especially built for Frank Sinatra's 1966 honeymoon with Mia Farrow.
Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow on their honeymoon cruise. Photo by Bill Eppridge.
I enjoyed various Caribbean islands from the late Fifties on. They have changed and exploded commercially since then. For instance, this is the year when Barbados will probably vote to replace Queen Elizabeth II from her largely ceremonial job of running what's left of the British Empire "for a local."
Queen Elizabeth II on a walkabout during a visit to Bridgetown, Barbados.
But Mustique exists greatly in a class by itself. (Not for Mustique, the popularity of, for instance, St. Bart's where celebs, paparazzi and stars crowd each other and make the gossip columns over holidays.) Still, many a famous rich person can be encountered on Mustique. They seem to love it for its sheer beauty, peace and quiet.

It's remained that way since a man named Colin Tennant bought it in the early 60's and dedicated his life to improving it. He offered a large property to Queen Elizabeth's younger sister, Princess Margaret and she accepted. He convinced the British stage designer and artist, Oliver Messel to start building homes on Mustique. Mr. Tennant built roads here and they are pretty much the same minor thoroughfares today. But the name "Princess Margaret" was magic and before long we began reading about stars like Mick Jagger and how the rock n roll British crowd flocked here to Mustique.
Princess Margaret dancing with Colin Tennant in Mustique, 1977.
Colin Tennant and his wife Lady Anne and Bianca Jagger at the gold-themed 50th birthday party of Tennant on Mustique, 1976. (Photo by Lichfield/Getty Images)
Sir Tennant and Princess Margaret.
There is no there there on Mustique, no major city or township. One has to arrive, if not by yacht or private boat, by small airplane at an appointed time so the people on Mustique won't be too disturbed by jet noise. The Mustique experience is early rising, lots of exercise, tennis, horseback and superb household staffs either rented or already there. Most of the houses are used chiefly by their owners and some are magnificent. The main happening I encountered on Mustique was going to "informal" dinner parties. There is little of what passes for public nightlife. There are a few places to "eat out." I did enjoy the group singing Christmas carols under a tent along with children galore in costumes. On Christmas morning I went with friends to a mass under the same open-air tent.
Mustique from the air.
Touching down at the Mustique airport.
The one big celebration on Mustique seems to be a New Year's Eve party where one can see a mature Mick Jagger or John Cleese on the dance floor as scantily dressed young beauties attempt to dance with both of them. There are spectacular fireworks and everybody on Mustique comes to this whether they can afford to attend the party or not.

The Mustique harbor is wonderful to watch for its appealing yachts and chartered boats. Everybody waits to see if the Food and Liquor boat has delivered for the day.
Mick and Bianca partying in Mustique in 1976. (Photo: Patrick Lichfield).
You can go to Mustique and use one of the small hotels; you'd have to ask your travel agent. Landing on Mustique by plane is to be met by the good-looking female mayor and woe to anyone arriving who doesn't have a specific house to visit or a hotel reservation.

I'm told that Robert De Niro was in Mustique several years ago and spied an island nearby. He wanted to buy the house he was visiting and eventually be allowed to build a little bridge across to the neighboring isle. The powers that be on Mustique said no! no! a thousand times no!
MY most memorable moments on Mustique were visiting my friend, the famous advertising genius, Mary Wells Lawrence and her family and seeing how the other half lives. (Mary and her late husband Harding Lawrence were early settlers on Mustique.)

I also had a wonderful visit with my old friend from Texas, Jerry Hall. The friendly and popular former model had four grown children visiting around.

Jerry was on board the yacht charted by the one and only Rupert Murdoch. Just for the record, the powerful publisher who is trying to save printed newspapers the world over looked great. These days he is trim, tan and healthy. He is in such good physical shape that he personally helped me up and down the ladders. We had an interesting drink.
Liz and Mary Wells Lawrence in Mustique.
Contact Liz Smith here.