Since I have not written to you this year and although it is almost a month and a half into 2018, we hope you are all happy and healthy, and enjoying the season in Florida, if you are local.
We have not been sitting still!
Our year started at Valencia Shores, one of the wonderful Valencia Country Clubs in Delray. We were welcomed by Beth Smith and an audience of about 300! With The Crown on Netflix, Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, is drawing large crowd everywhere, and this impressive audience was a testimony to that. Our friends from Thomasville, Georgis, Joe and Theresa Brown, were in town, so they were able to attend this big event. Theresa is now planning a Thomasville appearance for René in the fall.
At Valencia Shores
What followed was our second appearance this season (our fourth in all) at the Boca Raton Resort and Club. The History of Transatlantic Ocean Liner Travel stirred up a lot of memories for our audience, many of whom had travelled extensively on the big ocean liners. This included the Palm Beach Town attorney John “Skip” Randolph and his wife, as well as René’s childhood friend Count Richard Reventlow and his charming girlfriend Rollin. Of course, our hostess was Barbara Chase, who is always a delight to be with.
Barbara Chase at Boca Raton Resort and Club
A week later we gave a daytime presentation of the Duchess lecture at the Polo Club of Boca Raton. This this was our first time at this venue, so we did not know what to expect. The crowd grew to about 350 people, surprising even the staff of the Polo Club, including our lovely hostess Kathy Kelly. Once again, The Duchess proved to be a major draw.
At the Polo Club of Boca Raton
Next was the 6th time we returned to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at FAU Jupiter. This time with the new Mar-a-Lago presentation. Over 170 were in attendance, including Rick Gonzalez, Mar-a-Lago’s achitect for the past 20 years! We were very honored to have him in the audience. Kimberley Bowman and Wendy Geller greeted us, as well as the great AV/IT specialist Justin Beyer, about whom we now heard is unfortunately leaving FAU. We wish him the best in his next endeavors. He is a very smart chap, so we are sure he will do very well.
At FAU Jupiter
Next, we delivered the only Normandie lecture of this season at the South County Civic Center for the Brandeis University, Boca Raton Chapter. Sheila Gettelson was our lovely hostess, and we will be back with them next month for a Duchess presentation.
At South County Civic Center
We finished this month’s line-up at Valencia Falls. The Women’s Club had requested the Addison Mizner presentation, and about 125 women (and maybe 5 men) were in attendance. Both Susan Stein and Judy Silver welcomed us, and graciously invited us to return next season, which is in the works.
Judy and Susan at Valencia Falls
Upcoming is another Duchess presentation, this time at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. The 300 seats have been sold out for months, but I do have a few personal tickets kept back, so if you still want to come, please let me know.
Unexpectedly we were approached by the Boca Raton Museum of Art. They were organizing a small tour for their Collectors Forum, which included only two homes at that time. In coordination with them, we were able to get the group into a home here in Palm Beach which won the coveted Ballenger Award, and we will also present the Mizner lecture to them during a luncheon at Pizza Al Fresco in Via Mizner. It promises to be a wonderful day, and we are very happy we got to meet the organizer, the fabulous and glamorous Tammy Morgenstern.
I am working hard on lining up presentations for next season, which at this time includes a return to the Dixon Education Building of the Society of the Four Arts here in Palm Beach.
This December all our presentations were squeezed into the first week, and what a great week it was.
Our first lecture was our third appearance at the Bellaggio Club House. Leia Moses-Levine hosted the event with about 100 people in attendance. The Life and Work of Addison Mizner presentation was well-received. We did get the sad news that the wonderful Shannon Emmel, who was co-host the prior years, passed away unexpectedly. She was much too young, and we surely did miss her. She was a force to be reckoned with.
René with Leia Moses-Levine Speaking at Bellaggio Shannon Emmel last year. She is missed:(
Just two days later we had the highly anticipated Palm Beach premier of our new project: Mar-a-Lago, from Post to Trump. René was introduced by the fabulous Maggie Zeidman, who is the vice-chair of the Palm Beach Fellowship of Christians and Jews and a remarkable Town Council Woman here in Palm Beach. She is running for re-election and we are throwing our total, unequivocal support behind her campaign. The event was in the community room of the newly renovated, landmarked building of the Wells Fargo Private Bank on South County Road, and the Senior Vice-President Heath Randolph made this a very successful event. Around 100 people were in attendance, including several club members of Mar-a-Lago. All of them said they learned so much about the club they had been frequenting for many years, which validated the method we use to explore this amazing structure.
The packed room at Wells Fargo With Maggie
Since then we met with the Regional Managing Director of Wells Fargo, Ted Brown, who is interested in having René do some events with and for their clients. We are working out those details with Ted directly.
What followed was a three-day involvement with the Institute for Classical Architecture & Art. Classical Excursions leaders Lani Summerville and Tom Hayes hosted a tour group through Palm Beach, and René and I facilitated several of the home visits. Additionally, during a lunch at Al Fresco, René gave his Mizner presentation. Of course, we got to know the group well, and we hope to work with them for some presentations next summer in New York and the Berkshires.
René presenting at Al Fresco
Then we had another big event at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute of FAU Boca Raton, where we did our second Mar-a-Lago presentation of the week. This time for over 200 attendees, and again the lecture was very well-received. This is not a political lecture, and our goal is to be neutral, so that no one knows our political leaning when the lecture is over. I think we accomplished that because several attendees later asked what our party affiliation was. Clever, non-committal answers were used. We thank provost Dr. Herb Shapiro for his continued support of our endeavors.
Herb Shapiro introducing René
We finished the week with an intimate Mizner presentation for the Delray Book Club at the Gulfstream Little Club. Pat Wanklyn and Susan Ridgley hosted some 30 stunning and charming women, whom we got to know well by the end of the fabulous luncheon. We hope to do some further events with them next season.
Pat and René The intimate room at Gulfstream
January will bring three more lectures. The first will be on January 8th at the Valencia Shores Club House, and is the Duke and Duchess of Windsor lecture. With the Netflix series “The Crown” airing its second season, the hype around the Windsors has gone sky high. Although we love the series, the Duke is not portrayed favorably, and at times the truth is stretched just a little too far. Our good friend and Royal biographer Hugo Vickers has written a paperback about the errors in the series. If interested, you can buy it here on amazon. It details all the story’s inaccuracies and is a great read.
One day later, January 9th, René will be the secretary of the town caucus in Palm Beach, where the nominees for three seats on the Town Council will be presented. It is an honor to have been chosen for this position.
Then on January 24th, we return for a fourth time to the Boca Raton Resort & Club. Hosted by the lovely Barbara Chase, we will present our lecture The History of Transatlantic Ocean Liner Travel, from necessity to glamour to recreation.
Finally, on January 30th, we give another Duke and Duchess lecture, this time at the Polo Club of Boca Raton. Another prestigious event.
We are in negotiations with The Society of the Four Arts here in Palm Beach to return next season to the Dixon Education Center. It will most likely be the Mar-a-Lago presentation, but of course we will keep you posted on the progress about this.
Last year at Four Arts
Lastly, don’t forget the second edition of Noblesse Oblige, the Duchess of Windsor as I knew her was just released. If you are in Palm Beach you can still get them in time for Christmas if you drop by Classic Bookshop on South County Road, where it is now available, alongside René’s coffee table books Villa Mizner, the house that changed Palm Beach and Normandie, the tragic story of the most majestic ocean liner. Say “Hi” to storeowner Jeff from us, he’s a really cool guy!
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and we hope to see you in 2018: Happy & Healthy.
Written by Robert Versteeg, partner at Silvin Books LLC.