Wednesday, May 17, 2023. Yesterday was another one of those beautiful days in May with the Sun bright and the temps in the high 70s.
The compulsions that come forth when reading a new good book. I’m one of those. I love books. That in itself is a compulsion. I love owning them, looking at them, embracing them, and always approaching like a young person who can’t help wanting to read them, or even just open them to see what’s inside. It’s basic curiosity but it’s also addictive. When I am a guest in a home where there are lots of bookcases, I like time just to look at what books are desired reading around that house.
I have way too many books now. It’s a result of not only my own book compulsiveness and curiosity, but also because authors, agents and publishers send me copies (to review). It’s an impossible task time-wise but I always make a point of looking to see what’s in the book. Whether or not it’s of interest to me personally, I like to be able to tell the reader who would be interested in what it’s all about.
It’s not uncommon to open a book with disinterest and find myself actually reading it to the end. My problem is finding new homes for the literally hundreds of books that my apartment can accommodate.
My friend, the author Michael Gross (740 Park, Model, House of Outrageous Fortune), has written a new book, Flight of the WASP — the term referring to the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants who as new citizens of the new American colonies were the first to settle in and develop a new country contrary to the monarchies their ancestors escaped.
In telling me about his newest venture, he pointed out that for decades, writers from Cleveland Amory to Joseph Alsop to the editors of Politico have proclaimed that the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants for generations were the dominant socio-cultural-political force in America.
Growing up in Massachusetts in the mid-’50s, I was aware early of the “differences” between those W-A-S-Ps the rest of us. They were just … better, or so they thought, it seemed.
Having lived my adult life entirely in the metropolises of New York and L.A., I remain aware of the history of the WASP but also its ongoing irrelevance. The United States has always been a “catch-all” civilization-wise, people looking for a better home or a better deal.
However, Michael, looking closely at the matter, has concluded that while the WASP elite has in the last half century drifted from American centrality to the periphery, its relevance and impact remains. From Colonial America’s founding settlements through the Gilded Age to the present day, he traces the complex legacy of American WASPs — their notable and even profound accomplishments and egregious failures — through the lives of 15 influential individuals and their very privileged, sometimes intermarried families.
He explores the elite culture in microcosm chronicling the WASPs who for generations were the dominant socio-cultural-political force in America across four centuries and fifteen generations in an ambitious and consequential contribution to American history.
And the stories they could tell! And if you’ve read Michael Gross, you are already assured that you will find it fascinating.
William Bradford of the Plymouth Colony was the “founding” ancestor of an extended American family either directly or through marriage producing William C. Whitney, Harry Whitney and Gertrude Vanderbilt, Payne and Helen Hay Whitney, Dorothy Whitney Straight, Flora Whitney, Jock and Sonny Whitney, Joan Payson, Whitney Tower Sr. and Jr., George Sturgis Pillsbury and his wife Sally Whitney, and their children Sarah and George Pilllsbury, all of whom are in the book. The Whitneys also connect through marriage to the Vanderbilts, Drexels and Paynes.
The same applies to each of the families: The Morrises connect to the Randolphs, Rutherfurds, Mortons, Millses and many others, and through marriage, backwards to the Stuyvesants and Livingstons. The Biddles cross paths with Drexels, as well as Mortimers, Jays, Dukes and Duponts. The Casses, perhaps the most obscure family (I focus on Lewis Cass, who was the first governor of Michigan), marry into the Ledyards, who produced ten generations of lawyers). The Sanfords of New York and Florida introduce the Legendres of Louisiana, and intermarried with the Biddles.
The Osborns’ marriages connect them to the Morgans and the Dodge, Harriman and Phelps families. In more modern days, there’s a chapter on the Butlers, focused on Michael, who just died, but again, going back to Colonial times.
And there are the Peabodys, whose family had a vital business connection to the Morgans (George Peabody brought Junius Morgan into his business, effectively kickstarting J.P. Morgan), including Endicott, of course, and ending with Penelope Tree and Frankie FitzGerald. After all, people are fascinating.
The flight to marriage. While on the subject of old and new, Richard Hyde Gregory Jr. married Alexandra Enzor at Bethesda-By-the-Sea. Mr. Gregory’s family has a 100+ year history in Palm Beach.
His great-grandparents, Quentin and Lillian Feitner, were founding members of the B&T. His great-granduncles, James Hyde and William R. Hyde, were founding members of the B&T and the Sailfish Club in 1914 (the oldest club on the island).
Lillian Hyde Feitner (great grandmother) was one of most prolific golfers in the state of Florida, winning the state tourney in 1914 and 1915.
Lillian Feitner and Mary Louis Feitner ran a successful real estate company that merged with A. Parker Bryant.
The family has been a member of Bethesda for more than a century (Lillian Feitner is buried there). The great-grandparents were also very close to Marjorie Merriweather Post.
PB notables at wedding included Rufus Wakeman III (great-great-grandson of John Deere); Matt and Tracy Kemper Stevens; David and Connie Thomas; Richard and Renee Gregory (the groom’s parents); and godmother and aunt Lisa Bytner.
A grand plié in Palm Beach. YAGP Trustee Kamie Lightburn hosted a luncheon celebrating YOUTH, TALENT & DANCE in honor of Youth America Grand Prix at Carriage House, an elegant private club down there.
The luncheon was attended by the leading members of the philanthropic community and arts and culture aficionados from Palm Beach and beyond. The afternoon featured YAGP alum, Ukrainian dancer Vsevolod Maievskyi, who flew in from Germany to attend, and Argentinian-born former star of New York City Ballet, Ana Sophia Scheller
The dancers participated in a short Q&A, sharing stories from a lifetime in dance and their feelings about why dance matters.
Youth America Grand Prix is the largest global network of dance. It fulfills its mission of dance education through scholarship auditions, master classes, alumni services, performances, and education.
Since YAGP’s founding in 1999, more than 200,000 young dancers – ages 9 to 19 – of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds have participated in YAGP’s international workshops, audition classes, and dance awareness events.
Today, more than 12,000 young dancers audition annually. More than 450 Youth America Grand Prix alumni are now dancing with 80 professional companies around the world, including American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, The Royal Ballet (UK), Mariinsky Ballet and many others.
The afternoon culminated with the group photo featuring the dancers in performance costume, taken by well-known social photographer Annie Watt.