Chapter Twenty-one - 1990
My Scotland, and
The End of Edward Carter’s TRAVELS©
(Equivalent to 114 pages in hard copy)
Update from Chapter Twenty…
In 1989, I moved from London to Los Angeles via a trip around Ireland and celebrated the launch of my British Airways First Class Hotel Selection with a nation-wide series of Edward Carter’s TRAVELS Awards presentations.
In 1989, there were two monthly, hard-copy, monthly, travel newsletters worth mentioning – mine and The Hideaway Report. For $96 a year, you could stay updated on where to go and what to do.
For $25, I could send you an overnight fax – The Inside Fax – on my personally-experienced visit to almost any hostelry or restaurant (worth its salt) in the world.
How the world has changed!
So, Chapter Twenty-one begins…
Looking back, there have been two periods in my life where events were so shocking and moved so fast that they congealed in my mind preventing cohesive memories from forming. One was now - 1990-1996, and one was Sept 11, 2001 and the two years following.
It’s the beginning of January 1990…
We are living on Sweetzer Avenue in West Hollywood.
I am writing and publishing Edward Carter’s Travels©, a hard-copy, subscription monthly, managing The Inside Fax as part of the subscription package, am a contributing editor to the European magazine Inside Hotels, and a regular contributor to Courvoisier's Book of the Best.
James is working as an unpaid intern at Alan Somers Management, a Hollywood actor management company.
As James gets back to work, I am tweaking our two flats on Sweetzer Avenue.
Liz, the sister of our ex-secretary in London, Victoria Thorburn, is Elizabeth Taylor’s personal assistant and invites me over for coffee. The place is a totally unassuming ranch house… with priceless, French impressionists scattered about on the living room walls! Funny how people live.
On the 24th, my nephew Rick and his wife, Cindy, drop in from the mid-west. We are a very scattered family and it was so great to see them!
I’m concerned about my blood pressure – my diary is covered with readings taken every hour or so. I call my doctor in London who is also the Queen’s personal physician; he recommends a doctor in L.A. who turns out to be the best cardiologist on the West Coast. He prescribes daily Vasotec and my readings go back to normal.
Sally calls to say that she has given her Saab to her daughter Liz; would I like to drive it from Baltimore to Denver where Liz goes to university?
“Sure,” I said, here’s the trip…
Rick and Cindy van Vliet
Mr. and Mrs. Graf
Joyce and Jim Acton
Barbara and Ray Vasconcellos
Dirk and Laurie Van Zante
Mary Anne Lucas
Norma and Ken Bessingpas
Jerry and Elaine Shanafelt
Mr. and Mrs. Meyer
Barb and Rodney Nickell
Jane and Richard
Sharon and Andrew
Alix and Tom
George and Elizabeth Lane
Rolf and Hanna Langerfeld
Marilyn and Jonathan Chilvers
Stella and Marti
Diane Elinor Connors
Tony and Gina Wignall
Mrs. David Baber
Bob and Jane Taylor
Alison and Nick Parsons
Mr. and Mrs. Wood
Sir Robert Gordon
Gretchen, Audre, Freddy & Bill, Marianna, Bedford, and Geri
Cousin Matt Davidson and mother, Perk
Moments in Chapter Twenty-one
Liz Thorburn at Liz Taylor’s,
A Saab Story – Driving cross country,
The House of Seven Fables,
Sir Percy Blakeney and James Cameron at Steamboat Springs,
Les Cles d’Or Open the World,
No More Sex for Nine Years!,
There’s a Bridge Over the Atlantic!
While at The Home Ranch, I had a funny conversation with Producer/Director James Cameron (we have the same birthday) trying to explain why I, "Sir Percy Blakeney," was a "Knight."
I returned to L.A. on February 23, drove to Phoenix on March 22 and on to Tucson, Carefree (doncha love it!), and Sedona…
On the 27th of March, I flew to Portland, Oregon, the city of roses.
Dusk was approaching as fast as my plane. As we passed over Mt. Hood, the Columbia River was down on my right and standing above the clouds, Mt. Rainier, the highest mountain of the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest, and the highest mountain in the U.S. state of Washington shone in the last rays of the sun. Moments later, the clouds gapped and there was truncated Mt. St. Helens - all of this was new to me.
I'd come to do a training seminar for some of the most important people in the country, the American and Canadian members of Les Clefs d'Or - North America's concierges.
Not knowing any better, I was staying at The Benson Hotel. Except for the magnificent Russian wood paneling and glorious, chandelier-hung ceiling in the lobby and the dedication, charm and generous hospitality of Jim Gimerelli, the head concierge, this hotel has spent too many years looking after undemanding visiting firemen and has lost its perspective of the needs of today's travelers. However, don't write it off yet. While I was there, it was announced that Westin had sold it to a group with, one hopes, as much sense as money - they are going to spend something like $16 million to bring it up to speed. They and everyone else have a lot of running to do to even approach The Heathman.
My first evening at The Benson, Les Clefs d'Or had a reception for their members and Portland's mayor came to say hello. Bud Clark is as open-faced, down-to-earth and just plain charming as darn near everyone I met in Portland, the city of roses. During the reception, everyone was inducted into the Mystic Order of the Rose by a delightful contingent of ladies whom Central Casting would proudly represent as typical members of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Joining the likes of Zazu Pitts and Jack Benny, we pledged that every time we mentioned Portland, the city of roses, we would have to add… the city of roses.
The next morning, I was out early on the empty, sun-drenched sidewalks. A janitor was sweeping out a garage; I asked him where The Heathman was.
"Why right this way." He led me down the block and around the corner. "It's right over there; it's very nice."
Three minutes later, he grinned and waved as I looked back over my shoulder under the marquee of The Heathman. That's Portland, city of roses, and very nice people.
The Heathman is a gem; perhaps the nicest small city hotel in America and Portland, city of roses, is certainly the nicest small city I've ever visited in this country… of course, there're many more I've yet to see. But for the moment, my head took on a rather jaunty set and my step had quite a spring to it.
The Heathman is dignified, yet stylish; polished, yet friendly and comfortable, comfortable, comfortable. The pin-stripe-suited staff is young and helpful, the service is anxious and eager, the decor distinctive and distinguished.
I was surprised at the costly use of furniture I'd only seen in some of Billy Baldwin's and Tony Hail's client's homes. There's always an explanation - turns out that Eleanor McGuire, of the renowned furniture firm who first melded rattan and rawhide, is the sister-in-law of the owner.
Her eye is evident everywhere from the graceful lobby and its cheery, always-lit fire to the elegant, HackerCraft-green, Empire, brass-tacked chairs in the sunny dining room. An erudite touch: at the entrance of the dining room are a selection of newspapers on library slats. You know what I mean - sort of like a wooden-ribbed umbrella without the fabric, which keeps the pages together and has a nicely turned handle with which to carry it to your table… sets a pleasantly-private atmosphere.
The emphasis is on seafood and the cuisine is terrific. I had a lunch of Sauté of Indonesian Tiger Shrimp and Bay Scallops with ginger, garlic, vegetables, coconut, and toasted almonds.
Even better is that they give you the bill before you ask for it. My father would have been dumb-struck - he always thought there must be a special school in which waiters learn to disappear just when you want the bill. I've come to believe that too. Apparently, no one from Portland, the city of roses, knows about it. This is a considerate town.
The seminar was well received – I simply asked the delegates to make a point about their many responsibilities in paragraphs that started with the letters: E, G, R, E, I, C, N, O, and C.
For example, Eagerness to assist, Greet everyone as a valuable friend of the hotel, Remain always discreet, etc. etc.
It wasn’t until the end of the two-hour session that they realized they had spelled… C O N C I E R G E.
The concierge can be the most valuable person in your travels; learn how to give them opportunities to be proud.
The press picked up my visit…
I was home in L.A. until flying to Naples on May 4 to drive Mother to her summer home in Minneapolis. We arrived on the 10th and I did two radio shows and flew home.
On May 27th, I was interviewed by CNN and flew to New York the next day to meet with Dan Strone of William Morris, the influential agent who was working to get me interviews and assignments.
Back to L.A. for radio shows every week and, on June 19th drove off on the “First Movement” of my "Pacific Overtures" odyssey…
I drove back to L.A. and welcomed Mother’s annual summer visit. I took her to Universal Studios! We had lots of fun for a couple of weeks. I saw her off to Minneapolis and, the beginning of August set off on my Pacific Overtures, The Third Movement.
On the first day, I pulled off the road and following a whim, bounced down a dirt track which ended abruptly at a creek. I waded, spied a lovely pebble, and took what has become one of my favorite photographs. (The last time I saw it was on a wall in Sally’s dining room in Lewes, Delaware.
James had a few days off and flew in to join me. We went to Poulsbo, Washington…
James on the dock at The Manor Farm Inn
James returned to L.A., and I resumed my trip behind the wheel of Bella Bella.
P.S. There was no "Katy." I either travel alone and, for journalistic reasons, pretend to be accompanied by a person, or James travels with me.
Now, the last of "Pacific Overtures" – "The Crescendo"…
It’s August 16 – my birthday…
My birthday dinner at Emerald Lake Lodge was Fish terrine followed by Duck stuffed w/spinach and red peppers Link. The next morning, I walked the shore and took another memorable photograph. I gave it to James for his birthday – it is his favorite of all my photographs…
The trip continues…
On August 24, I checked in to the Vancouver Four Seasons and met with Clive Mostyn of The Vancouver Sun…
I returned to L.A. Along the way, I stopped off in Rockefeller Forest and took another significant photograph…
When I got home, I open this note from my cousin Alix…
Too many eras ending.
At that moment, James comes in the bedroom door. There are tears in his eyes…
“I’m H.I.V. positive.”
I was shattered but didn’t show it.
Two days later, we went to see a live production of Brigadoon with Stella and Marti. I cried through the whole performance. They thought I was moved by the show – it was James being H.I.V. positive.
James said, “I am desolate not just because I am positive, but that we will never be able to be intimate again.”
And we weren’t. For nine more years, I lived without sex.
Why didn’t we use condoms? We had had the best sex – almost twice a day since we met, without condoms. Remember, we started our relationship in 1980 – before the “plague” became apparent. There was no thought of starting to use condoms.
We never discussed it again. There was no point. James was symptom-less and never indicated in any way that he was sorry for himself. I determined to be strong; in those days one assumed he wouldn’t last for more than a year.
A couple of days later, I went with James to the clinic that had diagnosed him to pay the bill. They asked me if I would pay the “other boy’s” bill. I declined.
James found a compatible doctor and was disciplined in taking the prescriptions.
James joined APLA – AIDS Project Los Angeles. APLA raised money, held events, and, among many other things, assigned members to each other as “buddies” after whom to care.
James met many wonderful people through APLA including Diane Elinor Conners who headed a company within the Walt Disney Studios. “Lady Di’s” company handled the launches of new films and projects and Lady Di was one of the most significant of the shakers and movers in L.A.
James also met Patrick Veitch and his boyfriend, David Silvestri. Patrick had been the director of Sydney’s Opera House and was a dynamic and enthusiastic person. He ended up working for me in New York, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
On September 23 – James threw a great birthday party for me and I met some of his new APLA friends.
Another present was a review in Mirabella magazine…
On Sunday, October 14, I flew to London (thanks to Gene Dickey, a sometimes contributor to my journal, who gave me his miles) for what turned out to be the last Edward Carter’s TRAVELS expedition.
As you know, my mother’s family comes from Sutherland - the most northern part of Scotland. Grace Sutherland was my grandmother and Grace Sutherland Carter van Vliet was my sister… each was an Amazing Grace!
I wanted to devote two issues to Scotland.
When I got to London, I dined with Richard Shepheard who suggested I meet his friend Nicky Fairbairn who lives in Dunfermline in Fife, not far from Edinburgh.
Thursday, I fly up to Glasgow to start my Scottish odyssey. I checked in with Elizabeth Thorburn who offered to get on the horn with our friend David Watt, the heir to the title of Duke of Sutherland, and tell him I’d be in touch shortly.
Edward Carter’s TRAVELS takes it from here…
My trip continues as the March issue of my TRAVELS…
The world headquarters of Macdonald's Smoked Produce!
I took this at 5 in the morning. It is my favorite of all of my photographs. I call it Brigadoon.
After Dower House, Tulchan Lodge, Invery, and Kinnard, about which I never did write, I shot straight for Edinburgh and on November 4, my twenty-third day in Scotland, drove to Nicky Fairbairn’s castle in Dunfurmline across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh.
Sir Nicholas (Nicky) Hardwick Fairbairn, QC was a Scottish politician. Nicky was the Conservative Member of Parliament for Kinross and Western Perthshire from October 1974 to 1983, and then for Perth and Kinross until his death in 1995.
Nicky’s house, Fordell Castle, a restored 16th-century tower house.
Nicky was hosting lunch for a group of Russian politicians and a lady who had been a Mengele experimentee (how horrific!). Turns out she was very entertaining and the Russians… very thirsty – Nicky was well known for his love of Scotch and it flowed all afternoon. Great fun but, in the end, the years of Scotch killed him.
I am on Nicky’s left.
After a few days visiting friends in and around Edinburgh, I flew to London on November 9, dined with George & Elizabeth Lane, and returned to L.A.
The next few weeks were devoted to pulling together the December Annual Awards issue and bits and pieces for January. I wrote up my travels in Scotland for the February and March issues and, after much thought, decided that it was time to put Edward Carter’s TRAVELS to bed for once and for all.
Despite nearly four years of effort, paying $7000 a month to Peter Brown for PR, and participating in dozens of radio shows across America, we were not generating enough subscribers to make it pay. We needed a new wrinkle and I believed that new media in the form of a CD-ROM might just do the trick.
Leaving James in L.A., mid-December, I flew to New York for a week of playing with pals: cocktails w/Gretchen, dinner w/Audre, lunch in Barney’s, jovial bantering with Freddy & Bill, dinner at La Bohème, and lunch at PJ Clarkes with Marianna, Bedford, and Geri Trotta.
Then off to Mom’s in Naples on the 19th to spend Christmas. I got the flu and had a fever for a couple of days but enjoyed seeing cousin Matt and his mother, Perk. Matt was very funny. He lost most of the little finger on his right hand when stabbed by a girl in school wielding an old-fashioned ink pen. He always said he lost it “up here” sticking the stump into a nostril!
MLC, Matt, and Perk
Quite a year; time to turn the page and start a new chapter.
End of Chapter Twenty
All hand-drawn illustrations throughout this book and site by Sue Hunter.
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