Palm Beach Pride

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The Birthday Party by Slim Aarons (Courtesy of Mary Aarons). Can you tell which one is George?

My husband George Ledes and I had just finished watching the documentary “Slim Aarons, The High Life” on Amazon Prime when he showed me a photo his childhood pal, Mary Aarons (Slim’s daughter), sent him this week. It’s called The Birthday Party. 

Mary and George grew up in Bedford together where George’s mother was a friend of Mary’s mother, Rita (Slim’s wife). It was her “sixth or seventh birthday” — October ’64-‘65. Huckleberry Hound hats and candy holders in the Aarons’ Katonah dining room: Mary, George, Carina Kjellstrom, Eric Reimer, Fenn Harvey, Katy Wells, Philip Ohler and several little girls hidden in the photo. Many of whom are still close friends.

CZ Guest with her son Alexander and dogs, circa 1955, which is featured on the cover of the book, Slim Aarons: Once Upon A Time, published by Harry N. Abrams, 2003. (Photo Slim Aarons/Getty Images)

Slim was well known in Palm Beach for his beautifully memorable photographs of C.Z. Guest at Villa Artemis, as well as many great photographs of The Colony, La Coquille Club, Worth Avenue; as well as the socialites, debutantes, and other “attractive people, doing attractive things, in attractive places.”

Yank magazine cover, July 7, 1944. Photo by George Aarons.

But before there was Slim Aarons, there was George Allen Aarons (October 29, 1916 – May 30, 2006), a WWII Army photographer, who, after the war (from 1947 to 1993) traveled the world on assignment for Holiday, LIFE, Vogue and Town & Country, photographing  the rich and the famous at home and at play.

As Patricia Bosworth wrote in an article for Town & Country (Sept 2016): “Once upon a time, he was a combat photographer for Yank magazine. For three years during World War II he crawled through battle fields in North Africa and Europe. He recorded the agonizing siege of Monte Cassino, in Italy, and was wounded during the invasion of Anzio when the Germans blew up a dock along an Italian beachhead. He reached Rome in time to see it fall to the Allies and took a now famous shot of an American soldier holding a baby in font of joyful crowds massing in the streets. It was on the cover of Yank in July 1944.”

Fred Krais, Jr.

Slim also likely took this photo of my dad Fred Krais, Jr. playing tennis in Italy during WWII, which originally appeared in Yank magazine (and then The Pelham Sun). Dad served in the 5th Army, which fought the battles of Monte Cassino, the Anzio landings, and the liberation of Rome. Who else would photograph soldiers playing tennis during the war if not Slim!

Afterwards, Slim vowed that he’d never photograph death or destruction again: “I’d wandered through enough concentration camps and bombed-out villages. I’d slept in the mud and been shot at. I owed myself some easy, luxurious living. I wanted to be on the sunny side of the street,” Bosworth reported.

Speaking of photographers who served, we ran into Ralph Lauren’s handsome and charming older brother Leonard Lauren at Pizza Al Fresco, with Newsmax Media’s Christopher Ruddy.  Len also captured great wartime photos for Stars and Stripes. And like both my father and Slim, he has one of the most endearing personalities, having been through so much at such a young age.

Whitney Schott, Leonard Lauren, Christopher Ruddy, and George Ledes at Pizza Al Fresco.

I also had the pleasure of lunching this week with Alexander Gaudieri at  Sant Ambroeus Palm Beach. He asked me what I plan to cover in Palm Beach, especially now amid the pandemic. I told him I wanted to cover Palm Beach now,  in “real time” respecting the old traditions that make living here so special, while embracing the new, and all the promise it holds.  So many friends are moving here from New York. With their  children now grown, they don’t feel the need to live in the city full time any more. And then there’s a whole generation of younger people here now, too — some of whom “got stuck here” in March when the Covid outbreak occurred. They have enjoyed their time here so much that they don’t want to leave!

A few such young women are Lauren Merck of Lauren Layne Swimwear and Kristin Simmons of Glitter is the New Black line of jewelry. Merck and Simmons are now part of The Skinny Dip Collective — a shop at the corner of North County Road and Royal Poinciana Way. Both girls are originally from New York City and are now planning to live here full-time.

“My boyfriend, George Merck and I, came down for Christmas and got stuck when the outbreak began. We enjoyed our time here so much we bought a house and got married!” When asked about the wedding, Lauren added, “We are hoping to have a reception next year.” George is the son of pharmaceutical heirs Dede and Laddie Merck of Palm Beach.

Lauren Merck, Olivia Meyer, and Kristin Simmons at The Skinny Dip.

The gals are co-hosting another trunk show, along with PB pal Olivia Meyer of Banniere Scarves, this Friday, July 3rd, from 4-7 p.m. at The Skinny Dip, 100 North County Rd. (Masks required). A percentage of sale proceeds will benefit Covid-19 relief funds.

Another young woman who divides her time between New York, East Hampton and Palm Beach is Aerin Lauder. She has a charming shop off Worth Avenue, where my daughters and I recently bought some lovely dresses, fragrance and candles — while donning masks and respecting social distance rules.

Aerin also has a new book coming out in September on home entertaining called Entertaining Beautifully. This book was inspired by Aerin’s grandmother, Estée Lauder, who was known for entertaining beautifully at her oceanfront home here in Palm Beach. The book is available for pre-order now at

Entertaining Beautifully by Aerin Lauder (Rizzoli Books, Sept 2020)

This past June 15th, one of Palm Beach’s newest residents, Yaz Hernandez, hosted a fun Zoom interview on behalf of The Friends of the North Castle Public Library with former Vogue editor-at-large and author André Leon Talley on his recently published best-selling memoir, The Chiffon Trenches.

Watching it, we learned that André won a scholarship to Brown University where he earned a Masters of Arts degree in French Literature in 1972. He wrote his thesis on the French poet, Charles Baudelaire. The book is currently available at The Classic Bookshop, 310 South County Road, Palm Beach.

The Chiffon Trenches by André Leon Talley. Ballantine Books, 2020

June is Pride Month, and our pal, Chris “Ab Fab”  — who also serves as a volunteer for Equality Florida — hosted a Pride Pop-up Party at Petanque in West Palm Beach this past Sunday to benefit H.G. Roosters, “which was basically like the Cheers Bar of the LGBTQ Community,” he told us.

Roosters, the oldest gay bar in West Palm, was sadly destroyed by accidental fire in May. Chris organized performances by Rianna PetroneMelissa St. John and Daisy Deadpetals and a “Show me your Pride T-Dance” on Sunday to help raise funds to rebuild. Masks and social distancing were required, and a fabulous time was had by all.

Chris wore a T-shirt that read: The first PRIDE was a RIOT. Ha! For those who may not know, the last Sunday in June is always celebrated as “Gay Pride Day,” but many consider Pride Day to be June 28, marking the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots which took place on June 28, 1970 in New York City.

Chris “Ab Fab” — a fabulous example of how PRIDE is done in Palm Beach.

Here in Palm Beach, the Compass Community Center in Lake Worth serves as the local LGBTQ center. Equality Live also hosted a Palm Beach Pre-Show Brunch on YouTube which was underwritten by the John D. Evans Foundation according to Deputy Director, Stratton Pollitzer.

And speaking of fabulous, La Salona, one of the most iconic homes in Palm Beach, has hit the market for $49.5 million. A Palm Beach landmark, the majestic Mediterranean style house is owned by Burke Ross who purchased it in 1989. It was built in 1926 for the Wiley Reynolds family, and designed by architect Marion Sims Wyeth. The original structure consisted of what is now the portion of the house that faces Clarke Avenue and also the 2-story garage. In 1929, the Reynolds expanded the house by adding an L-shaped addition which enclosed the swimming pool on all four sides. This addition was made by another Palm Beach architect, Maurice Fatio. In July 1990, La Solana was Landmarked by the Town of Palm Beach.

One enters the 16-bedroom, 19,434 square foot house through a massive doorway, punctuated above by its broken arch pediment, urn and cartouche — a salute by Wyeth to the Spanish baroque tradition — and is greeted by an interior colonnaded courtyard embellished with carved coquina rock columns.

The decorative tile work is said to have been made in the workshop of Addison Mizner, as was much of the tile work from Palm Beach homes during the early period of the 1920s and ’30s.

Distinctive features of the house include exquisite Cypress coffered ceilings stenciled using a technique called lime paste, the decorative ironwork, the paneling and Mediterranean tile work.

In the dining room, a coffered ceiling carved columns tiled floors and paneled doors are all part of the original construction.

The Reynold family sold La Solana in the 1960s. Thereafter ownership changed a number of times. One well-known owners was The Hon. Ruth Farkas, U.S Ambassador to Luxembourg under President Nixon, who was married to the founder of Alexander’s Department Stores, George Farkas. They had four sons Robin, Alexander, Bruce and Jonathan, who is married to Somers Farkas.

In 1989, the E. Burke Ross, Jr. family purchased La Salona. Mimi McMakin and Brooke Huttig of Kemble Interiors were hired to to oversee the extensive renovation of not only the house, but also of the pool and garden courtyard.

Andrewa grandson of Ruth Farkas, recently told me that he vividly remembers attending a party at the house in the 1980s during which the beautifully tiled pool had been covered with lucite to create a spectacular see-through dance floor for the event.


Speaking of Andrew Farkas … just look at what he got for his 60th birthday! It was given to him by his former wife and best friend, Sandi Farkas, with whom he shares two adorable sons. He also plans to spend more time here in Palm Beach!

Co-parents Sandi and Andrew Farkas in his new Prime Golf Car.

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