Mar-a-Lago lecture a success at first try-out; new life for the Duchess of Windsor

It’s been a while since my last blog post. The summer is our time to focus on new projects.

The first of these projects was to create a totally new presentation which fits with our brand, entitled: “Mar-a-Lago, a place where dreams come true-From Post to Trump.” We had our first try-out of the lecture at a local venue in Provincetown, which was very well-received. The “champagne-flowing event” at The Residences of Seashore Point confirmed the presentation’s format and cadence works perfectly. Many thanks to Sheila McGuiness for all she does.


Therefore, we are very enthusiastic and honored to have been booked by the Palm Beach Fellowship of Christians and Jews to have our Palm Beach inauguration of the Mar-a-Lago lecture. It coincides with the Fellowship’s 25th anniversary, and René will be the first in a series of “Sunday Conversations” held on December 3rd at 4 PM. The special event will be held in the community room of the newly renovated Wells Fargo Private Bank at 255 S County Road in Palm Beach. Special thanks go to Councilwoman Maggie Zeidman, Chairman Skip Randolph, Executive Director Sherri Gilbert and Enid Pollak. Admission is free for Fellowship members, $12 for non-members, and series passes for all 4 “conversations” are available for $40. RSVPs requested by calling 561-833-6150. Check out all Fellowship events on their webpage here.

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We are eagerly looking forward to our upcoming trip to Abu Dhabi, where we plan to present the Mar-a-Lago lecture at a high-level venue in the exquisite Emirate, which René has frequented for over 30 years. Details to follow.

The Mar-a-lago lecture will be presented four times this coming winter season around Palm Beach County. Check out the locations, dates and times on our events page (here).

Besides the Mar-a-Lago project, new life has been injected into René’s long-standing Duchess topic. First, we have been booked here in Provincetown at one of the premier performance venues: The Paramount Theater at the Crown & Anchor complex. The splendid Paramount theater is outfitted with a full bar, which gives performances a casual, almost cabaret feeling. The event will be on Friday, August 25 at 7 PM. Special thanks to Rick Murray, Crown & Anchor owner and the man responsible for bringing a new level of nationally recognized, high quality performers to Provincetown.

 IMG_5960 The wonderful promotion for the Crown event

This will be followed by our third appearance at the prestigious Redwood Library in Newport, Rhode Island on September 6th, at 5:30 PM. A number of our Palm Beach friends summer in Newport, and we hope to enjoy their company for a Duchess of Windsor lecture.

Finally, we felt it was time to republish the Windsor book with many more pictures and personal anecdotes. The new and more accurate sub-title is: Noblesse Oblige, the Duchess of Windsor as I knew her: “An Intimate Look At Their Controversial Lives.”

IMG_5961The potential new cover of the 2nd edition

We hope that, if you enjoyed the first printing, you may consider adding this updated and more mature edition to your library.

Summer is not over yet, and we certainly don’t want to leave Cape Cod, but we are also looking forward to our return to our friends in sunny (and hot) Florida.

Written by Robert Versteeg, partner at Silvin Books & Productions.


A look back at season 17/18 and looking ahead at Mar-a-Lago

Although we are not going north just yet, Silvin Books has successfully delivered 18 lectures and is now finished with making presentations for the winter season 2016/2017. Here’s a brief review:

We started with a big bang at the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach with the lecture about the SS Normandie on November 7. A packed house, with almost 200 people made the event very special, and certainly one of the highlights of our season.

img_4262 René at Four Arts

Only 3 days later we delivered the first of three lectures at Abbey Delray in Delray Beach. Our hostess was Linda Lanson; a special woman who is very devoted to provide something worthwhile for her residents. This first lecture about the Duchess of Windsor was attended by our Californian friends Kevin and Rita, which made it uniquely enjoyable for us. The Normandie lecture, which followed in December, brought out a special lady who lives at Abbey Delray and travelled on Normandie. The Mizner lecture followed several months later at the end of March, which rounded off our commitment at this venue.

IMG_5234René and Linda Lanson

Late November brought us to the Mizner Country Club, which fittingly booked the Mizner lecture. Although a relatively small audience, they were very appreciative.

img_4482 René at the Mizner Country Club

December saw the official launching of the brand-new lecture: From Necessity to Glamour to Recreation, the history of transatlantic ocean liner travel. This was at the Lifelong Learning Society of FAU Boca Raton. As always Dr. Herbert Shapiro was our biggest fan, and we continue to work with him on a follow up engagement next season.

img_4546 René at LLS of FAU Boca

The first of two appearances at the Jewish Community Center of Boynton Beach followed. We worked closely with Alan Egenthal to make both evenings a success. During the first “Duchess lecture” René was battling a cold, but the audience was none the wiser. Luckily, for the second lecture, which took place in February and about Mizner, René was in tip top shape again, and all went well.

img_4580 René at JCC Boynton

Another highlight of the season was the morning tea presentation of the Duchess lecture at Oceanreef in near Key Largo, in the Florida Keys. Barbara Wolf and Katherine Medaglia were instrumental in making this a wonderful event, including classic tea sets on each table, when high tea was served after the lecture.

img_4705Barbara Wolf presenting René at Oceanreef

Our Kravis Center for the Arts appearance followed, where we presented the Normandie lecture. Keena Gumbinner welcomed us, and when we arrived we found out we had been moved into a bigger room than the one used last year. Building upon this relationship, we have been invited back next season by Keena and Lee Bell, The Kravis Center’s Programming Director, to present the Duchess lecture at this wonderful preforming arts center. Although René was interviewed about the Duchess of Windsor at a “Lunch & Learn” at Kravis several years ago (which is still very popular on YouTube), this will be the first actual Duchess presentation at this prestigious venue in March 2018.

IMG_4747 René at the Kravis Center

In January we began what quickly became a very rewarding relationship with Barbara Chase, who runs a foreign movie club at the Boca Raton Resort & Club. After seeing René at Four Arts, she booked the Normandie and the Duchess lectures immediately for this season. Both lectures were well received culminating in our return to Boca Raton next season, thus continuing our collaboration with the fashionable, energetic Barbara and her charming husband, Ron.

IMG_4781René at the Boca Resort and Club

To top off January, René presented the Mizner lecture to a filled room at the Royal Poinciana Chapel for the Palm Beach Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Palm Beach Town Council woman, Maggie Zeidman, also the Fellowship’s Vice-Chairperson, had invited us. We were happily surprised to find Skip Randolph, Attorney for the City of Palm Beach, and Chairman of the Fellowship, introducing René.

IMG_4796 René being introduced by Skip Randolph

A second presentation of the new lecture about the History of Transatlantic Travel took place at the Lifelong Learning Society of FAU Jupiter in Jupiter, Florida. Wendy Geller and Kristen Robbins welcomed us, as we now have become very familiar with, and fond of, the staff at LLS Jupiter, since René has presented several lectures at this impressive venue many times over the past few years.

IMG_4872 René at LLS of FAU Jupiter

Because of a lecture delivered at the Bellaggio Clubhouse last year, we were asked to speak at the Club house of Villa Borghese in Delray.  The wonderful Maris Newmark was most competently at the helm to prepare her membership for a Duchess lecture. A week later we returned to The Bellaggio Club house for a lunch, after which René presented his Normandie lecture. Leia Moses-Levine and Shannon Emmell worked the room, and we will return to this venue in December for a Mizner presentation.

IMG_5060  IMG_5069

René at Villa Borghese                                René at the Bellaggio Clubhouse

Then it was time to travel! We went to Atlanta to present the Normandie lecture for the Members Guild of the amazing Atlanta History Center. The nighttime lecture was preceeded by a lunch at the stunning home of Ruth Dobbs Anthony, where we presented a one-of-a-kind production about the glamorous life aboard ocean liners through the twentieth century. In the evening, it was Katherine Hoogerwerf’s and Lisa Fuller’s turn to shine, and the program went off perfectly.

IMG_5165 Lunch presentation at Ruth’s home

IMG_5177 René at the Atlanta History Center

Finally, this past week, we finished our season with a specifically tailored Mizner lecture at Al Fresco restaurant in Via Mizner, followed by 4 tours through Villa Mizner. This event was coordinated with the Palm Beach Preservation Foundation. The generosity of Al Fresco’s Javier in opening the restaurant for the event was overwhelming and a special thanks to Villa Mizner’s owners, Dee and Nick Adams, who agreed to have some fifty people tour their historic home.

IMG_5273 IMG_5269  IMG_5277 René at Al Fresco and in Villa Mizner

Having successfully completed our winter season lecturing, we will focus on our next project. A new lecture: Mar-a-Lago, where dreams come true. From Post to Trump. As of this writing, it will be exclusively presented next season at both Lifelong Learning Societies (FAU Boca and Jupiter), but we expect to be booked at numerous venues once we promote this subject, since Mar-a-Lago has become a subject of both national and international curiosity. The history of the mansion is fascinating, with the money to build it coming from the Post Cereal fortune, as well as the Hutton family fortune. Actress Dina Merrill grew up in the iconic architectural masterpiece, which is now considered the “Winter White House” with President Trump spending most winter weekends in Palm Beach. Read more details about this new lecture on our webpage, as details evolve over the summer. We promise it will be presented in the style which has defined René’s lectures, using dozens of pictures and numerous videos to create a story which members of the audience often say is more like going to the movies than attending a lecture.


René in the entrance hall of Mar-a-Lago

We hope to see you next season at a lecture.

Written by Robert Versteeg, partner at Silvin Books LLC.