This is the first time I have ever spent July 4th weekend in Palm Beach. But due to Covid, we decided to wait until August to head back to New York. August and September are the hottest months here, so it’s best to pull the hurricane shutters down and head north.
Having said that, we have felt relatively safe here considering the number of Covid cases continuing to rise in Palm Beach County. By taking precautions such as closing the beaches, social distancing, wearing a mask, dining outdoors, instituting a curfew, taking visitors’ temperatures and testing regularly, as of today, we still have only 53 confirmed cases and two deaths attributed to Covid-19 in the Town of Palm Beach.
Some of my happiest July 4th memories include watching the fireworks at Devon Yacht Club in Amagansett, New York, performed by the Grucci family, organized by fireworks enthusiast George Plimpton who was appointed Fireworks Commissioner of New York by Mayor John Lindsay.
Everyone would gather at “Asparagus Beach” where we literally stood having cocktails in bunches like … asparagus. Then we’d head over to the Club for more cocktails and a picnic-style dinner while George and the Gruccis set up the pyrotechnics.
George was truly one of the funniest men I’d ever met. The Club had a meeting every year to decide “who to keep and who not.” One year, they told him he was “no longer quite their sort.” There were many rumors as to why — including one that he’d brought “some midgets to play tennis” at the Club, which he swore wasn’t true! He said that he’d simply “invited some people from the circus to his house.” They eventually let him back in.
I had the pleasure of getting to know George while working for Tennis Week magazine. He was listed as the “Curator” on our masthead, but was basically editor/publisher Gene Scott’s best friend. As a teenager, however, while visiting my eccentric godfather H. Harding Isaacson, affectionately known as “The Colonel” (who later became my step-father, but that’s another story), George (always “Mr. Plimpton” to me) was addressing the membership at the annual Commodore’s Dinner. I’ll never forget his opening statement: “You’ll forget a lot of numbers during your lifetime … your children’s birthdays, your anniversary, the combination to your bike lock. But the one number you’ll never forget ’til your dying day is your father’s audit number at the club!” (I still remember it!)
On the Fourth of July here in Palm Beach, the beaches were closed and we were reticent to gather anywhere to watch fireworks, so instead we got together with a few close friends for an impromptu dinner outside by their pool.
It poured and it poured, and so we got to enjoy God’s fireworks instead.
Earlier in the the day, we accepted an invitation to go boating with Danielle Rollins and Tom D’Agostino, Jr. on his Chris-Craft, The Liberty. It felt good to take off our masks for a bit and get some fresh air and sunshine. And we were happy to see that there were plenty of police monitoring the waterways to ensure everyone’s safety.
We also played nine holes at the Par Three Golf Course with Douglas Asch and Barbara Bogart (yes, that Bogart). Masks are required while loading clubs onto the golf cart, and only couples who reside together are allowed to share one. The carts are disinfected after each round and golf holes are filled with styrofoam to elevate holed balls, making them easier to pluck out.
Douglas and I worked together at Elite Model Management from 2000-2006, launching the modeling careers of Lauren Bush (now Lauren Bush Lauren), Amanda Hearst (now Amanda Hearst Rønning), Kick Kennedy, and Vanessa Hayden (now Vanessa Trump), among others.
With the recent news that Ghislaine Maxwell had finally been arrested, we had plenty to talk about, as she and Jeffrey Epstein had once tried to buy Elite. I recall being horrified by the thought. The first time I had heard Epstein’s name was in connection to French model agent, Jean Luc Brunel, and his agency MC2. Brunel has been the subject of disturbing sexual-abuse allegations, and back in the ’80s a number of American models accused him of “fostering an abusive culture” at his agencies. In 1988, 60 Minutes even aired an exposé on him, but he faced no criminal consequences.
We always made sure the young women we represented were kept far away from what our legendary colleague, Monique Pillard, called “the snake pit.”
As for Ghislaine, although I had seen her out and about on the party circuit in NYC (and she always seemed to be in the “right” company), I had been told she was “a procurer of young women” and so I stayed far away. There was no way I was ever going to let these sexual predators near any of the young women we represented.
On hearing the news of Ghislaine’s arrest, I called Prince Andrew’s cousin Christina Oxenberg, who was recently interviewed for Investigate Discovery Channel: Who Killed Jeffrey Epstein? I asked her if she thought Ghislaine was scared to death sitting in that jail cell or expecting to be rescued by her “friends.” Christina told me Ghislaine was not Epstein’s girlfriend, but simply “an employee who desperately wanted to marry him.” She was apparently just a beard for him.
According to Christina: “In 1997, she propositioned me to ghostwrite her autobiography, which I declined. When I met with her, she told me her grand plan, how she wanted Jeffrey to marry her. Then she told of how she could not keep up with Jeffrey’s sexual needs, and she recruited females to, ‘do it for her’.
‘Who are these females?’ I think is all I asked.
‘They are nothing!’ Maxwell spat out. ‘They are trash!’ Then she stood up and paced. She was angry. I had no clue she was talking about kids but I knew it was time to leave.
“But these days she’s splattered all over the press. I hope it delivers justice to the survivors,” writes Christina on her blog.