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.

20D9B1D2-2D82-4356-9A13-604F8FB298D9 4CD80786-3308-40FD-8453-011AE571BA36 A7D2DA06-105B-4D23-8EFF-C874B6A515F0 René at Ventfort Hall in Lenox, MA 

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.

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.

Looking ahead at the summer and next winter: big Kravis and Four Arts news!!

So, the Palm Beach season is officially over for us in regard to Silvin Books’ business. Last week we finished our final event with René being a table host at the Mandel Public Library in West Palm Beach for the annual charity event “Food for thought.” After cocktails and some speeches by the West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, and state representative Lois Frankel, we moved on to our dining tables, where René hosted 8 guests and spoke about his experiences with the Duchess of Windsor. Many thanks to Rebecca Weiss and Natalie Alvarez for including us in this event.

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ene with Carole Gigliotti and as table host at the Mandel Library

Now looking forward we have some exciting plans in the pipeline. This summer we have 6 presentations lined up, including two in the Berkshires and one in Nantucket, as well as one done by me (Robert) about my dissertation topic: LGBT elder discrimination in health care. We will also return to the Paramount Theater at the Crown & Anchor, which is Provincetown’s largest performance venue. Rick Murray the talented proprietor invited us back to present our Mar-a-Lago lecture. Here is a preview of the proposed promotional poster.


In between these presentations, we are also considering creating a brand-new lecture (we are sifting through a myriad of lecture topics), as well as René writing a new book. Additionally, we are considering revamping the Duchess of Windsor lecture. The plans for all these ideas are slowly coming together, and we will keep you informed about the progress.

Season 2018/2019 is gearing up to be pretty spectacular! We will start with a return to Thomasville, Georgia, where we are hosted by the lovely Theresa Brown to revisit the Duchess of Windsor lecture.

Some of the highlights of next season include a presentation of the updated Duchess lecture at the Dixon Education Building of the Society of the Four Arts right here in Palm Beach, courtesy of Molly Charland.

567882F7-DD85-4B4D-B792-13A052DC1488 René at the Polo Club 

We will also return to the Boca Raton Polo Club. We had about 350 attendees this past season there for the Duchess lecture, so this time we are invited for an evening engagement with the Normandie lecture, for which they expect up to 700 people! We look forward to working with the fabulous team, led by Kathy Kelly.

René at Kravis’ Cohen Pavilion

Finally, we are also very honored to have been asked to return to the Kravis Center. We will present the Mar-a-Lago lecture there on March 22, 2019 BUT not in the Cohen Pavilion. After this last season’s success, René will now be performing in the Rinker Playhouse! A big thank you to Keena Gumbinner and Lee Bell.

Lastly, as many of you know, we have been very involved in pending deportation case of the wonderful Javier Gonzalez. After René helped Javier present himself to the Palm Beach Town Council, his case got a lot of attention in the paper, and the online petition went from about 38,000 signatures to now nearing 100,000. Because of these efforts, Javier has now received a stay of deportation, giving him the chance to a hearing with a specially appointed agent. We continue to aim for a positive outcome, but continued support is very much needed and welcome. Sign the petition here.

Find the article from the Shiny Sheet here

We can’t wait to see you all in the new season and showcase our new presentations and books. Enjoy the summer!!!

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