Release of I Survived Swiss Boarding Schools causes a stir!!

Can you believe it? Summer is almost over. We just finished our 6thand last presentation of this season. The last three lectures were back to back.

First, we did a very successful Addison Mizner lecture at the Whaling Museum in Nantucket. Invited by the Nantucket Historical Association and the Nantucket Preservation Trust and sponsored by our good friends Michael Kovner and Jean Doyen de Montaillou, the reception was overwhelmingly warm. The beautiful location helped to make this a memorable event, including René giving the presentation standing underneath the humongous skeleton of a baby sperm whale. Impressive!

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Just as we were leaving Nantucket, I unfortunately discovered my mother passed away. Therefore I had to fly to The Netherlands and leave René to fend for himself at Seashore Point to present the renewed Duchess of Windsorlecture. Always the professional, he again had a room filled with people who hung on his every word.

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As soon as I returned we made our second trip of the season to the charming town of Lenox in the Berkshires. Tom Hayes welcomed us once again, and this time it was the Mar-a-Lago presentation that drew an enthusiastic crowd, who stayed afterwards for an extravagant, high-tea with sandwiches and elaborate cakes. We are honored to have been invited back next year to do the Normandie lecture.

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Our main focus this summer has been the re-writing and formatting of the second edition of René’s book I Survived Swiss Boarding Schools, now with a new subtitle: All That Glitters Is Not Gold. The project, which includes a film play treatment, was finished two weeks ago and is now available on Amazon in both print and kindle versions. The book chronicles René’s childhood, beginning at a small Swiss boarding school, La Clairière, and then at the world-famous Le Rosey. To rewrite the book, René reached out to several of his peers to expand on the details related to the rowing accomplishments that led to his team becoming Swiss rowing champions in 1966. He also added an “aftermath” portion to the book, which describes what has happened to the many players in their lives after boarding school.

New cover Swiss Boarding Schools

The release has caused quite a stir on Facebook! Two camps rapidly became evident. Those who read the book were extremely positive, while those who had not read it expressed violently negative reactions! The only way to explain this odd dichotomy is by understanding the motivation of the two groups: Those who had negative experiences at boarding schools and want those stories told, and those who see everything through rose-colored glasses and view Rosey as their passage to elitism. The debate got so heated that the admin of the Le Rosey Alumni Facebook page removed our post about the book and the entire discussion, mysteriously claiming that “salacious comments” had been used.

Of course we are plugging along with developing the accompanying lecture presentation. Although René’s personal story will be included, the lecture will focus on the many famous and glamorous people whom René shared time with when he attended these Swiss boarding schools. Approaching the subject from that angle assures the presentation will be consistent with Silvin Books’ brand of exploring the extinct elegance of the mid-twentieth century “beau monde” with high-tech, colorful visuals.

For those who have already purchased the renewed Swiss boarding school book, we thank you and would love to get some reviews on Amazon. You can do those here.

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

Mid-summer update: New Duchess of Windsor and Swiss Boarding Schools

Summer season is moving steadily along! We hope everyone is having as great a time as we are!

 Three summer presentations behind us, three more to go! The season is bookended by our Berkshires lectures. We did the updated and renewed Duchess of Windsor lecture, rechristened to Noblesse Oblige, the Duchess of Windsor as I knew her (yes, the same as the book) at Ventfort Hall in Lenox, MA on June 12th. In this new version René reveals untold details about the Windsors, and several of their friends’ infamous and dramatic lives. This includes the contentious custody suit for “Little” Gloria Vanderbilt; the brutal, unsolved death of Sir Harry Oakes; William Woodward’s death at the hand of his infamous wife, Ann; and how Maître Blum, the sole executor of the duchess’ estate, abused the dying duchess.

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A packed room and warm welcome awaited us at Ventfort Hall. Before the lecture, our gracious host, Thomas Hayes, toured us through Edith Wharton’s magnificent and brilliantly renovated estate: The Mount, right next door to the Seven Hills Inn, the wonderful guesthouse we stayed at. We look forward to returning on September 4thto present the Mar-a-Lago lecture, which also has a new title: The History of Mar-a-Lago, from cereal heiress to winter white house.

The second presentation of the summer was actually given by me (Robert) at The Residences of Seashore Point here in Provincetown, Massachusetts. It was my normal educational presentation, turned into an entertainment lecture called: Growing up gay in 20thcentury America, from the 1930s to now. It was especially poignant because I did the research for my doctoral dissertation at this older adult living facility. Mark Boucher, the coordinator, was very welcoming and supportive! We look forward to working with him again at the end of August, when René will do his new Duchess lecture at Seashore Point.

Rene at Seashore Point René at Seashore Point

Just this week we did our third presentation of the summer. It was the Mar-a-Lagolecture right here in Provincetown at the largest entertainment venue: The Crown & Anchor’s Paramount Theater. We were proud to be in the same space as where stars like Linda Eder, Lucy Arnaz, Bruce Vilanch and Randy Rainbow also perform. A big thank you to Rick Murray.

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René at the Crown & Anchor

Our next trip takes us to Nantucket where we will present the Life and Work of Addison Mizner for the Nantucket Preservation Trust and the Nantucket Historical Association at the wonderful Whaling Museum in  the middle of town. I have worked for 5 years to get us a gig there, and finally, with the help of our friends Michael and Jean this is coming to fruition.

Between all these presentations we have not been sitting still. Our biggest project has been to rewrite René’s first book: I Survived Swiss Boarding Schools. The new sub-title (All that glitters is not gold) more accurately reflects the updated book’s contents. For decades, René has had the dream to have this book about his childhood transformed into a visual presentation. Publishing the updated and re-written Second Edition will be the first step in this direction. We are also working on an accompanying lecture, presented along with scores of period pictures and delivered  in René’s inimitable story-telling fashion.

Additionally, I have been working with a local (Palm Beach) author to format their soon to be published new book.

New cover Swiss Boarding Schools
The new cover of “I survived Swiss Boarding Schools, all that glitters is not gold”

Check out the extensive list of presentations for this upcoming season in South Florida. We hope to see many of you at venues like the Kravis Center and the Four Arts, of at a country club, like The Polo Club of Boca Raton or Addison Reserve in Delray. www.rrsilvin.com/site/events/

Have a wonderful rest of the summer!!

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