COVID-19 effect, let’s look back at an easier time

Today would have been one of the highlights of our social and lecture season: René’s latest presentation All That Glitters Is Not Gold at the Kravis Center for Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, with the amazing Lee Bell and Keena Gumbinner. Of course the lecture has been cancelled with the current state of emergency, and we hope it can be rescheduled for the fall. We are all “sheltering in place” as much as possible, so we all get through this situation healthy, and we can see our audiences again next season.

Before this all started, we had a full lecture schedule over the Winter. Let’s take a look back, and give credit where credit is due.

Fellowship Glitters

“Skip” Randolph introducing René

We started in early December with the official première of our then-new presentation Glitters, which chronicles the lives of 6 uber-wealthy women, who all had tragic lives, including Barbara Hutton and Christina Onassis, whom René knew personally. We were honored to start the season off for the Palm Beach Fellowship of Christians and Jews, and the gracious Enid Pollak actually helped us identify this new topic. Of course “Skip” Randolph, our host, opened the afternoon with some eloquent and helpful comments about the international rise in anti-Semitism.

Boca Raton Resort

René at the Boca Raton Resort and Club

A few days later we reprised the same presentation at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, which is always a pleasure. Barbara Chase, our host in Boca, could not be more engaging and glamorous!

Valencia Falls

René at Valencia Falls

The following Monday, René was the speaker to open the season for the women’s club at Valencia Falls, where he delivered Noblesse Oblige, the Duchess of Windsor as I knew her. The lecture was followed by an authentic British high tea. Both Susan Stein and Judy Silver are the kindest women you could ever meet. They have already booked us again for next season!

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René at Oceanreef, Key Largo

Then 2020 started with a bang for us. Our 4threturn to Oceanreef, Key Largo, Florida where three Women’s Quester Groups hosted a luncheon, while René took them on a trip through The history of North Atlantic Ocean Liner travel – from necessity to glamour to recreation. Ruth Perfido and her friends, including Barbara Wolf, hosted us at their table for a gourmet lunch. They have also booked us again for next season!

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René at Valencia Reserve

On to another Valencia, this time Valencia Reserve, with the fabulous Ellen Schiffman and her women’s group, who enjoyed The History of Mar-a-Lago, from cereal heiress to Winter White House. Again, they have asked René to return next season!

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René in Thomasville, Georgia

Then it was time to get on the road for our 3rdtrip to Thomasville, Georgia. A jewel of a place, including our hosts Theresa and Joe Brown. The Browns are perfect examples of southern gentility and always spoil us beyond description. They went through a lot of trouble to have their landmarks preservation committee host Noblesse Oblige. A distinguished audience attended the lecture at Thomas University in their new, high-tech auditorium. Guests were treated to Champagne and cake prior to the presentation.

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René at the Gulfstream Little Club

Back in Palm Beach, we were asked by a childhood friend of René, Henrik Vanderlip and his lovely wife Louise, to present the Mar-a-Lago lecture at the Gulfstream Little Club in Gulfstream, Florida. It was a packed house in the club’s beautiful restaurant overlooking a manicured golf course. The presentation was followed by an epicurean dinner.

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René at the Polo Club of Boca Raton

We then had the pleasure of speaking for the 3rdyear in a row at the Polo Club of Boca Raton. This year their selection committee chose the new Glitterslecture. As always, they had a huge turnout, definitely due to the organizational skills of the talented and efficient Christina Doucette.

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René speaking at the Royal Palm Yacht Club, Boca Raton

Diane Ricca asked us to be involved in a charity event for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, held at the elegant Royal Palm Yacht Club in Boca Raton. Close to René’s heart, since he is a long-time lymphoma survivor, he presented some details of his own struggles with the disease, before captivating a luncheon audience with the story about the Duchess of Windsor.

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René at OLLI of FAU Jupiter

Time to get back to Florida Atlantic University with duo performances of Glitters at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes of Jupiter and Boca Raton. As usual the audiences were graceful and welcoming. Both premier continuing education programs are led by extremely qualified and charismatic women: Kimberley Bowman in Jupiter and Judith Scara in Boca Raton. We have submitted multiple proposals for next season, at both programs.

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René at OLLI Boca Raton

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René at Renato’s with the Circumnavigators Club

Then things started to change as the current Covid-19 virus’s threat became a stark reality. We had three lectures scheduled the week the world started to talk about the virus. As the news-filled days passed, we wondered if the events would or should take place. As it turned out, the events were held just before the concept of “social distancing” emerged. The first event was a Disasters at Sea presentation, specially created for the Circumnavigators Club of Palm Beach, headed by our good friends Paulette and Paul Noble. The lecture was followed by a stunning dinner at famed Renato’s restaurant in charming Via Mizner, Palm Beach, which was excellent thanks to owner/manager Jose Luis Duran, who provided excellent service and delicious food.

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René at the Old Palm Golf Club

The next day we were at the Old Palm Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens. Our friends Herb and Joanna Roemelle, who had just moved into a magnificent home at the club, brought several close friends to attend our Mar-a-Lagolecture, which heart warmingly welcomed us! We hope to return and work with Darlene Impellitiere again.

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René at the Palm Beach Yacht Club

We had no idea that our next presentation, two days later, would be our last of the season. Hand washing and elbow bumps were the talk of the moment as we put on a Mar-a-Lago presentation at the Palm Beach Yacht Club. The ultra-chic club produces a much-talked about Lunch & Learn series every winter. Carey Reed organized an immaculate luncheon in a charming room, designed to look and feel like the dining room of an enormous yacht or small cruise ship. We hope to return next season. Also, a great thank you to Jeremy Johnson, President of the  Historical Society of Palm Beach County, for making the introduction, as well as for inviting us back to his venerable organization next year.

And then…everything shut down…which brings us to today. We hope everyone is staying home as much as possible, so we can all get through this period healthy, and help “flatten the curve,” as we have all come to say (see CDC guidelines here). René and I are diligently adhering to the rules. We are using the opportunity to work on our next project: Are Diamonds a Girl’s Best Friend? – All the glitters is not gold, Part 2.

It will continue our theme of wealthy tragic women, including Princess Margaret (whom René knew personally,) Marilyn Monroe, Whitney Houston, and several others.

We hope, when next season comes around, life will be back to some sense of normalcy, and we will have the pleasure of seeing the lovely audiences we are honored to know, for what we hope is an entertaining foray into an hour when your very real problems can be forgotten.

Warm regards and stay safe,

Robert Versteeg, Silvin Books & Productions

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