Chapter Twenty-two - 1991
Los Angeles, California Wine Country, Alaska, and
Our “Last” Fling Across Europe
(Equivalent to 69 pages in hard-copy)
Update from Chapter Twenty-one…
It’s 1991; James (I refer to him as either James or JWM – his official name is Jimmy Wayne Myhre) and I are living on Sweetzer Ave. in West Hollywood. We have a duplex garden apartment. The ground floor has an office, a kitchen, and a guest room with bath. The second floor has a large, fireplaced living room with outside deck, a dining room, kitchen, and fireplaced master bedroom.
Bella Bella, our Maserati Quattroporte, and JWM’s Suzuki Jeep are sharing the garage.
I’d spent 1990 traveling the United States, British Columbia, and Scotland to generate material for my newsletter, but as subscriptions did not cover expenses, I’d just put Edward Carter’s TRAVELS© to bed and closed the business.
JWM is working as an actors’ manager under the auspices of Alan Somers Management, and even though last summer, he discovered he was HIV positive, he is happy, dedicated to APLA (AIDS Project Los Angeles) and is healthy.
So, Chapter Twenty-two begins…
Free of my writing obligations, for the time being, I spend January converting the TRAVELS office on the ground floor into a photographic studio, and the kitchen into a darkroom.
Life is busy. JWM’s clients are continually in and out of Sweetzer Ave and we have cocktail and dinner parties galore.
James hob-nobs with dozens of people in “the Industry” (motion pictures) and our lives are filled with actors great and small, and lots of new friends who include: Jan McGill, Stella Theodoulou and Marti Harlow, Billie Neal, Maggie Wheeler, Elizabeth Perkins, Amy Madigan and Ed Harris (who kissed me in the midst of one party) (Amy and JWM are godparents to Stella's daughter Alex), Andrew Batey, Patrick Veitch, Diane Connors, Stuart Sokol, David Silvestri, Liz and Michael Dalling, Maryedith Burrell, Chiyo Maniwa, and lots of others who just pass through.
James is a truly great manager – unique in his field. He has something barely discernable in the industry – integrity. Although he works for no remuneration, he is compensated by his own success in establishing a niche in a rather fake world – in my opinion, there really isn’t any “there” there.
James always goes the extra mile for his clients who include: Maggie Wheeler, Maryedith Burrell, Amy Madigan, Martha Plimpton, Sally Kirkland, Joanna Cassidy, Xander Berkeley (saw him on TV last night), Barry Tubb, Jason Gould, and Leon Ichaso. Two of the four Baldwin brothers are often in the house, but I don’t know whether they are part of his working stable or not.
I don’t get involved other than being “Host #2.” In fact, I regularly berate him for his unpaid working arrangement – not very helpful or... sympathetic.
We aren’t part of the West Hollywood scene and very rarely go out on the town. A notable exception was a raucous evening clubbing with John Kay seen here on the left plying me (on the right) with dollar bills to stuff in the jockstrap of his favorite dancer…
Jimmy Wayne Myhre (James/JWM)
“Lady Di” Diane Connors,
Liz and Michael Dalling,
Stella Theodoulou and Marti Harlow,
Amy Madigan & Ed Harris,
Patrick Veitch and David Silvestri,
Jim and Mary Alinder, Ansel Adams,
Tony Hail and Chuck Posey,
MLC (Mother/Mom/Margaret L. Carter/Marnie),
Grace van Vliet (Dade),
Rick and Cindy van Vliet,
Gardner Cotrell Leonard,
Julia Child, Brian To, Ronald Bolisay,
Albert Roux, Michel Roux, Robin Roux, Michel Roux, Jr., Mimmo,
James Williams, David Watt, Jamie Lord Elphinstone, George Lane,
David Garrett, Joel Robuchon, Anthony Bourdain, Patrick Bateman, Jacques Pepin,
Aunt Marnie, Nanny Sutherland Leonard,
John Herbert, Mito, Baroness Carrie de Vendeuve,
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,
Sheik Yamani, and
Louie and Bill.
Moments in Chapter Twenty-two
Kissed by Ed Harris!
Shooting Boys in West Hollywood!
Finding Heaven in California’s Wine Country
Sea Ranch – Not a trailer park!
Glacier Bay with MLC
Albert Roux… blanched!
3800 FF for Mashed Potatoes!
Snow Squall, Thunder, Lightning, and Police!
Annual Christmas Eve Gala at the Palace Gstaad
"Shake ya manni, shake ya manni!"
New Year’s Eve in the Vienna Woods!
Sweetzer Ave is a quick walk… sorry, this is L.A. – I should say drive from La Cienega Boulevard., the home of several top photography retailers. So, I am able to equip my new darkroom with the best of everything.
The camera I used in Scotland was a Toyo 4x5 Field. I trade it in for an 8x10 of the same make and a “Hollywood” tripod on a dolly. I buy ten-foot long rolls of background paper and a strobe lighting system with extraordinary soft-boxes and umbrellas. As James says, I am “incredibly focused and all in.”
It’s February; I advertise in The Advocate, a gay newspaper, and on the bulletin boards of the photographic stores. The phone rings, appointments are made, and the boys arrive. Some of them have their clothes off before getting in the door, and many are disappointed that all I want to do is photograph them. And that’s all I do.
I set up four to five appointments a day and eventually, choose one out of four to model. Their remuneration is a set of fine prints. Many have never modeled before, some are pros, and most are aspiring actors – they need the photographs for their bio portfolios.
One photographic session requires many days in the darkroom. I farm the exposed film out to be developed by firms that specialized in that kind of work – this is Hollywood after all. My forté is printing and devote hours to one shot.
Here are some of the results. (Years later, I was still selling them in my retail gallery in Manhattan’s SoHo.)
The third week of March, Sally Packard, on Spring Break from graduate school, flies in from Baltimore and, leaving JWM to the industry, we slide into Bella Bella and cruise north to play in the wine country.
Sally wants to stay at someplace called The Sea Ranch in Gualala near Mendocino. I asked around, found a little photo and description in Travel & Leisure and thought it sounded like a trashy trailer park. To me, The Whale Watch Inn sounds much more fun.
First stop is Carmel by the Sea and the Sandpiper Inn.
then on to St. Helena and the Wine Country Inn.
Wine Country Inn
We dine at L’Auberge du Soleil.
L’Auberge du Soleil
The next day we brunch at Domaine Chandon – Sally has wild mushroom ragout on polenta; she says, “It’s heaven.” We dine at Meadowood… also “Heaven!”
On the 25th, up at the crack of dawn to go ballooning, but we are rained out. That evening we dine at Tra Vigne…
On the 26th, moving north just beyond Mendocino, we stay at the Whale Watch Inn…
and look at the llamas at the Glendeven Inn in Little River...
Glendeven Inn (and llamas)
On the 27th, we lunch in Mendocino and - the point of the whole trip - go to the Alinder Gallery in the almost invisibly-small village of Gualala and meet Jim and Mary Alinder.
Mary had been Ansel Adams’ Chief of Staff and Jim had been the executive director of The Friends of Photography. Their gallery is renowned for its massive collection of Ansel Adams’ work. Sally buys Adams’ “Leaves Mt Rainer, Alaska,” I buy “Refugio Beach, California, 1946” from Portfolio I.
Adams’ work is beautiful and a good investment. I’ve been collecting Adams’ work since I was twelve.
The Alinders have a house at The Sea Ranch which is, it turns out, … a glorious, architected community!
(Wikipedia) The Sea Ranch is a planned unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) located in Sonoma County, California, United States. It is a popular vacation spot. Sea Ranch is noted for its distinctive architecture, which consists of simple timber-frame structures clad in wooden siding or shingles. The building typology of the Sea Ranch draws on the local agricultural buildings for inspiration, in the way that those buildings are designed to deal with prevailing weather and topography. Originally, the Sea Ranch had local lumber mills to draw on for the Douglas Fir and Redwood used in the homes. The majority of the 1800 or so homes currently finished are smaller second homes, though there is also a small contingent of about 300 full-time residents. Approximately half the homes are rented as weekend rentals.
Sorry, Sally; another time.
The next day we drive to San Francisco, check into The Clift, have cocktails with Tony and Chuck, and dine at the Balboa Café.
In the morning, we tell Bella Bella to take us home and, lo and behold, some nine hours later, we pull into our garage on Sweetzer Avenue. After a day of winding down at home, Sally flies back to Baltimore.
Checking facts with Sally by email yesterday, she wrote, “Yes, I remember…
• Since you had converted your guest accommodation into a photographic studio, I had to sleep on a cot and use your bathroom.
• Bella Bella was heavy and hard to drive on the curvy coastal highway.
• We did see whales.
• I remember having arugula salad for the first time and then went crazy trying to get it in the east when I got home, and now it’s everywhere.
• Time flies…
• We drank lots of wine!”
Three weeks later, April 24, I meet a Joe Deluna who thought we should incorporate Edward Carter, Inc. and sell shares to finance the future – whatever it might hold. He fussed and fiddled around with an underwriter in Seattle for many months. I invested $50,000 in the activity but in the end, it came to naught.
That evening, Jim and Mary Alinder come to Sweetzer for dinner. A special relationship was building and… I buy another Ansel Adams.
Jim and Mary Alinder
The middle of May, I fly to Naples to drive mother north to Minneapolis (my annual duty). The first night, May 13th, we drive to Gainesville, Florida; the next day to Columbia, South Carolina. On May 16th and 17th, we are sidelined by a hurricane; then on to Lafayette, Indiana.
We usually stay in a Holiday Inn – mother explained, “I know where the Ladies’ Room is!”
Then La Crosse, Wisconsin, and home on the 20th. 2035 miles.
We lunch with my sister, Dade, the next day and dine at her home with the family on the 22nd. The next day, I fly back to L.A.
With the help of the Alinders, I arrange to rent a house for a week at The Sea Ranch for me and JWM and Patrick Veitch and his boyfriend, David Silvestri; (sorry, Sally).
So, on May 31, Patrick, David, and I pile into Bella Bella and drive to San Francisco. The next afternoon, JWM flies in from L.A. and we drive to Gualala and our gray, two-bedroom house perched on the edge of the coast.
I spend the days photographing…
The kids shop, cook, and explore…
The Sea Ranch Chapel, designed by James Hubbell.
We have Jim and Mary over for cocktails and they take us to St. Orres, a top local restaurant.
On the 5th, we drive to San Francisco and check into Campton Place Hotel. We play with Tony Hail and the San Francisco regulars.
James flies back to work in L.A. and I take Bella Bella to Giorgio’s, the Maserati specialist of the Bay Area. He says we need to replace the drive shaft – no wonder she was uncomfortable in the curves on the coastal highway.
Giorgio has no concept of telephoning the factory in Italy, so I make the arrangements and FedEx brings it in a few days later. I try her out on a quick trip down to San Diego to lunch with the owner of the Del Coronado Hotel.
She was dazzling in a Courrèges trouser suit. We lunch al fresco; I learn that her husband is California’s largest political contributor – don’t remember his name nor which party - that tells you something.
The boys and I drive back to L.A. and on the 6th I have dinner with the stylish and vivacious Jan McGill who became a great friend. We are still swapping images on Facebook to this day.
The second week of August, Rick, Dade’s oldest son, and his sweet wife, Cindy, drop in for dinner. Three days later, Mother (MLC) arrives for my birthday and the trip we are taking to Alaska.
The jigsaw has been in the family since January 25, 1923 – we keep a record on its wooden box of successful completions since.
On my birthday, August 16th, James gives me a lovely Eddie Bauer jacket, and MLC gives me a big check!
The next day, we head to Pasadena - MLC wants to find her mother’s winter home. We easily find 1660 Lombardy Drive in the San Marino part of Pasadena. I ring the bell and a uniformed maid says that the owners aren’t in but, yes, we can have a look around. Mother almost runs to her old room and then shows me the gardens. She says the place has hardly changed.
These are from the family album and the place does look the same today.
MLC was born and brought up in Albany, New York where my grandfather, Gardner Cotrell Leonard, established the firm of Cotrell & Leonard – the only source of academia regalia in the United States for decades. Even today, many rentals still bear the label of Cotrell & Leonard.
Her Albany home was at 42 Willet Street. A very grand, multi-storied house reflecting the social prominence of her family. In the winter, when they used the Pasadena house, Mother attended Westridge School on Madeline Drive in Arroyo, Pasadena. Julia Child was a classmate.
On the 24th, we fly to Juneau, Alaska by way of Seattle and board the MV Yorktown for the Alaska Cruise:
o Aug 25 – Juneau to Tracy Arm.
o Aug 26 – Baranof Island; Shore excursion by Zodiacs
o Aug 27 – Sitka; shore excursion on our own. Walk to Raptor Center, tour.
o Aug 28 – Glacier Bay
o Aug 29 – Haines and Skagway, shore excursions, on our own.
o Aug 30 – Skagway to Juneau
o Aug 31 - Seattle to L.A.
It is an informal, small ship with perhaps only one hundred passengers. We go up on deck at cocktail hour and often see whales close to the ship. We sit by ourselves in the dining room and the food is simple and good. In Glacier Bay, I set up my 8x10 on deck but can’t capture anything significant. The shore excursions are fun. We se several authentic totem poles and I buy Mom a carved humpback souvenir.
EGLC at Glacier Bay
The last evening, after a dinner with several wines, MLC is a bit tipsy. I walk her to her cabin as usual, but should have seen her into bed because, the next morning, she was sporting a black-eye – she’d stumbled in the shower, grabbed the shower curtain, but it had come away in her hands, and she fell!
The doctor gave her a clean bill of health and we return to Sweetzer Avenue without incident.
Brian To, one of my best models, calls. His friend, Ronald Bolisay, is a great model, lives near Miami, and would love to be photographed; do I ever get to Miami?
Do I ever! In fact, I will be there before the end of the month. Arrangements are made, and dates agreed. I call Little Palm Island, a highly-rated small resort, and book a night. Ronald will meet me there.
I call FedEx and they pick up my camera, tripod, film cases, and strobes and will have them at Little Palm before I get there. (What did James say about my being focused?!)
After a week of taking it easy chez nous, MLC flies home to Minneapolis. I follow her a week later to drive her south to home in Naples (my other annual duty).
I pick where to stay by its convenience to our route. These are the days before the internet and OTAs (Online Travel Agents). I have no other reference than a phone number, and that’s how I construct our itineraries. Sometimes, but not always, we take pictures.
o Sep 18 - Mn to Hazel Green, WI – 323 miles. Wisconsin House Inn.
o Sep 19 – Hazel to Indianapolis, IN – 378 miles. The Canterbury.
o Sep 20 – Indianapolis to Knoxville, TN – 375 miles. The Country Inn.
The Country Inn, Knoxville
o Sep 21 – Knoxville to Charleston, SC - 390 miles. Lodge Alley Inn.
The Lodge Alley Inn, Charleston, SC.
o Sep 22 – Charleston to Gainesville, FL - 325 miles. Holiday Inn.
o Sep 23 – Arrived Naples.
Two days in Naples seeing Dade and the family and I am off to Mayfair House in Coconut Grove. Around the corner from Ransom-Everglades school, this is my old stomping ground (see Chapter Fifteen). On the 27th, I taxi to Little Palm and spend the day photographing Ronald.
I have no recollection of the event except that Ronald slept on the sofa in the suite’s living room. Also, I don’t have one negative to spur my memory!
I flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico and drove up and down and around and through the island for a week of no significant events, people, or photographs.
Back to Coconut Grove, this time at the Grand Bay, I FedEx my gear back to Sweetzer, and after a couple of days in “the Grove,” go home to L.A.
In 1991, HIV and AIDS were very much in your face. At least that’s the way it seemed in West Hollywood. The local radio talk shows were putting the fear of God into anyone who would listen - “DON’T KISS!”, “DON’T TOUCH!”
“The Industry” has always been ostensibly homophobic even though most insiders know that many favorite stars are gay.
Ever since he knew he was HIV positive, James has been very involved with AIDS Project, Los Angeles (APLA). He has been assigned a buddy to look after, participates in events, and has become a very close friend of one of the main shakers and movers – “Lady Di” Conners, a top executive at Walt Disney Studios.
James and I never discuss the topic. We agreed that a year ago. We continue to sleep in the same bed, but the intimacy is gone. I like to kiss more than anything else but that is taboo now. We may never discuss it, but there is a whole herd of elephants in every room.
These days, it was widely thought that persons infected might last no more than a year. James seems fine; he sees his doctor regularly and looks healthy. But I can’t ignore the warnings.
Without giving away my real reason, I decide we should go to Europe for Christmas. A trip that I think might very well be his last fling. I ask Audré if she wants to join us (at her expense). She loves the idea. Then I ask James; he is for it, of course!
So, starting mid-October, I work on our itinerary and make reservations. We will leave on December 14th and return January 3. I want it to be his trip of a lifetime, truly.
Le Gavroche is the first three Michelin-starred restaurant in London, serving French food from Albert Roux. Albert and his brother, Michel, had been the chefs to the President of France and are now the greatest food stars in the UK. Michel created The Waterside Inn in Bray, on the Thames, also three-starred. Later, Michel’s charming, Australian wife, Robin, became an Edward Carter’s TRAVELS contributor. Even later, Albert became the Executive Chef (in absentia) at The Point, and now is the Executive Director of 47 Park Street, a chic hotel upstairs from Le Gavroche. I figure that would be a good place to start our odyssey.
We fly to New York, pick up Miss Audré, and check into Number 47 on December 14th.
From London’s The Guardian...
"47 Park Street, Mayfair, London
First impressions: The kind of classic upmarket residence visitors might regard as quintessentially English: an immaculate concierge opens the solid black door on a Mayfair street to reveal a Regency-inspired interior, lacking only a Bertie Wooster draped over a chaise longue with a cigar and brandy. A small, discreet reception is the only communal space in this all-suite hotel.
What are the rooms like? The suites (or residences, as they're called here) have generous lounges with comfortable sofas and dining table, as well as two bathrooms and a kitchen (which can be stocked in advance by the concierge): particularly suitable as an alternative to a traditional upmarket hotel for long-stay visitors. We could see the American embassy from ours, which might make some feel at home (or unnerved). Nice fresh flowers. Lots of very solid wooden furniture, including a gorgeous leather writing desk, large gilt mirrors, as well as the fine audio/video/DVD you'd expect.
The bed test: Looked fabulous, with Belgian cotton and loads of pillows, but our double turned out disappointingly to be two single mattresses, creating an annoying ridge in the middle. Fine and very comfortable if you're the kind of business visitor who's happy to see their partner at the far end of the bed, but where's the love?
The best thing: The space, privacy, and location: for an upmarket suite, it compares favourably with similar nearby hotels, and feels more personal and friendly.
The worst thing: Beware of absently swigging the bottled water in the kitchen... A small label reads: "The taste of paradise is offered to our guests for £4.95", which is either very expensive or very good value, depending on whether you believe the marketing blurb.
The bathroom: Two in fact: a small one with a shower for visitors, and a fully-fledged affair with twin sinks and plenty of towels and robes.
The restaurant: In theory, it doesn't get much better than this: Le Gavroche was the first three Michelin-starred restaurant in London (now back on two), serving French food from Michel Roux Jr. It's perfect for the discreet visitor: celebs can avoid the paparazzi, and the rest of us can avoid the rain, by taking a plain door leading straight in from no 47. We particularly liked the seared scallops, a gold-leaf risotto and the Assiette du chef, a magnificent array of desserts.
You can even have dishes from Le Gavroche brought to your suite. A separate room service menu is available; breakfast is also set out in the rooms."
Audré squeals, “It is very me!”
James and I resume our well-established, subtle, English manners, and simply smile – the mattress was king-size.
We dine at my favorite restaurant in the world – Mimmo d’Ischia. Best sea bass and ribs anywhere. Also, usually full of very recognizable people.
I introduce Mimmo to Audré. Ever since he has always asked about “the lady in red.”
The next day, we all lunch with one of our favorite people in the whole world – James Williams – a wondrously cheerful American with friends in high places. We skip our way back to the hotel through the park. We are having such fun that we dine together as well.
On the 16th, we do Harrods, lunch at The Dorchester Bar with David Watt and have dinner with Jamie, Lord Elphinstone at Poule au Pot, both long-time favorites.
The next day, we lunch at 190 Park Lane with George Lane, go to the theatre, then grab cheeseburgers at Joe Allen’s.
On the 18th we go shopping with Audré, have lunch at The Lanesborough...
and tea with Albert Roux in his office. He proudly shows us a large, framed photograph of the Great Hall of The Point at Christmas – the towering tree making its own point.
Audré asks Albert if he has actually been there and points to the window curtains she had provided. He blanches. She goes on, “I suppose you know that Ted cut down that tree with his own chainsaw and James here, decorated the whole eighteen-feet-high of it! I was there – it was my seventh Christmas at The Point!”
James blanches; Albert, used to being the center of attention, mutters something and leaves the room; so do we, out the door, and up to our room.
Audré goes on about how she feels Albert is undeservedly trying to aggrandize himself by associating with The Point. I had had nothing to do with it. Albert’s involvement was David Garrett’s idea after he bought The Point from me. I still don’t know if Albert ever did get (to) The Point nor if David felt his association had been profitable.
We dine that evening at another favorite, Le Gourmet.
On the 19th we train through the tunnel to Paris and check into the charming, 3-star Hotel des Marronniers at 21 rue Jacob in the heart of Saint Germain-des-Prés.
James and I are in room 52…
We all hot-foot it to Galleries Lafayette where I buy 12 pairs of sheer, dark blue socks – I still have one pair left, twenty-seven year later!
On December 20th we lunch at Joel Robuchon. Back in October, it was one of the first reservations I’d made. It was only because of my previous position with Relais et Châteaux that I was able to get the booking. It normally requires at least three months’ notice.
You see, Robuchon was named "Chef of the Century" by the guide Gault Millau in 1989 and awarded the Meilleur Ouvrier de France in cuisine in 1976. He published several cookbooks, two of which have been translated into English, chaired the committee for the Larousse Gastronomique, and hosted culinary television shows in France. In 1991, he was operating more than a dozen restaurants in Bangkok, Bordeaux, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, London, Macau, Monaco, Montreal, Paris, Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo, and New York City, with a total of 32 Michelin Guide stars among them, the most of any chef in the world.
Believe it or not, the restaurant is famous for… its mashed potatoes!
From the web:
We ended up here entirely by chance. My father had watched Anthony Bourdain wax poetic about the famous mashed potatoes and was obsessed with trying to get in here. He decided to just call at 8 pm on a Friday (despite our exhortations that we'd probably get laughed at a la Patrick Bateman trying to get a reservation at Dorsia) but it just so happened that we were able to get in at 10:00, so we walked from our apartment to the restaurant and were seated promptly--not at the bar because we arrived so suddenly and so late, but at a table in an adjoining room.
I was honestly terrified to go here--I am a chunky, non-glamorous, obviously American person, and somehow "in Paris with 2 Michelin stars" translated in my mind to "snooty, unapproachable, probably talking about me because they think I don't speak French." But that couldn't have been further from our experience. Instead, the waiters were prompt, friendly, and helpful with the French-only menu for my non-French-speaking parents and brother. I'm surprised that other reviewers have a problem with the wait staff and the service, because this was probably the friendliest amongst the surprisingly friendly Parisian service we got through our whole trip. We all decided on the tasting menu, and it was fantastic--from the foie gras to the egg-custard-in-a-cup-thing to the lobster to the "South Seas dessert" (rum granite with pineapple and coconut--fab!) to the famous mashed potatoes the waiter brought us for free when he heard us talking about them--it was an absolutely incredible experience. The mashed potatoes go straight to your arteries (2:1 butter to potato ratio, yo!) but were the best I've ever had. Even stumbling back to our apartment at 1:00 am, in anticipation of a 6:00 train back to London, could not have dimmed the one-of-a-kind (seriously--it is damn expensive!) experience this meal was.
James is a self-taught, culinary genius. At eighteen, when he first came to The Point, he would fearlessly pick up a cookbook, usually Jacques Pepin but sometimes Robuchon, and turn out a meal he had never heard of let alone eaten, for guests paying top dollar at what became the number-one resort hotel in the United States… which it only achieved because of James’ talent.
I had explained all this on the phone to Robuchon when making our booking, and that this lunch was going to be a big deal for James, and I wanted it to work. So did Audré, and insisted that it was going to be her treat. I warned her that it could very well be rather costly, but she insisted.
We arrive and are seated at a table with a view of the kitchen – we can see the great man at the stoves. Other than the obligatory mashed potatoes, I don’t remember what any of us had. I do remember that the border of each main-course plate was dotted with a dozen or more, mashed-potato rosettes.
James thought that was a bit twee, but he turned to our waiter and asked to buy a copy of Robuchon’s latest book that was on display throughout the restaurant and on every table.
Miss Audre asked for l’addition… US$760 for mashed potatoes for three and Robuchon was reluctant to sign his book! We refused to budge. He finally came out of his inner sanctum, signed James’ copy, and deigned to shake our hands… goodbye. Bizarre. (He died Aug 6, 2018.)
December 21st – We walk the 6th & 7th Arrondissements, then go to see the hotel St. James et d’Albany where one of my Aunt Marnie’s three husbands shot himself – something about fake bonds. As I may have already told you, Mother told me that Auntie Mame had been married three times for her money (that she claimed she didn’t have). Later in life, she was so convincing that her sister, my grandmother Nanny Sutherland Leonard, supported her in great style in Albany, New York. After Nanny died, Aunt Marnie lived at 480 Park Avenue in Manhattan where I used to visit in my Brooks Brothers, gray-flannel, short-pants suit.
Someone has changed the name of the hotel to St. James Albany but, at least, the golden statue of Joan of Arc on her horse is still there!
Crossing back to the left bank, we lunch at Les Deux Magots, my “local” when I spent a few weeks with John Herbert at 55 Avenue du Maine in 1963. One can find almost anything there…
Wikipedia. Les Deux Magots is a famous café in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area of Paris, France. It once had a reputation as the rendezvous of the literary and intellectual élite of the city. It is now a popular tourist destination. Its historical reputation is derived from the patronage of Surrealist artists, intellectuals such as Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, and young writers, such as Ernest Hemingway. Other patrons included Albert Camus, Pablo Picasso, James Joyce, Bertolt Brecht, Julia Child, and the American writers James Baldwin, Alison Machin, Chester Himes, Charles Sutherland, and Richard Wright.
I’m told Mito used to hang out there when his visa to the United States wasn’t renewed and I sent him to Paris and wait under That Lovett’s wing until I could work something out.
That evening we dine at L’Hôtel.
Wikipedia. L'Hôtel is a 5-star luxury hotel in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris. When previously known as the Hôtel d'Alsace, Oscar Wilde spent his last days there in room 16, famously remarking "I am dying beyond my means". Other former residents include Marlon Brando, actress and singer Mistinguett, and writer Jorge Luis Borges, who said it seemed to have been "sculpted by a cabinet maker."
One can’t find anything much more chic than L’Hôtel. I’ve stayed there, I’ve played there; as it was always after 9 PM, I don’t remember much, but I’ll never forget the circular stairwell…
Nor the flamboyant rooms…
The Dining Room
The Baroness Carrie de Vendeuve introduced me to this fantastic spot in the seventies. Dinner is a delightful celebration of all things Moroccan– couscous, lamb kebab, Moroccan wine.
Well, I figured we had “done” Paris so, on December 23rd, we fly to Bern. Not much to see in this capital of Switzerland but it’s convenient for renting a car to drive to Gstaad. While all the roads to Gstaad had been out yesterday – tough winter this year, today they feel we can get through. I reluctantly take the set of chains proffered and we make it to the parking lot at the Alpenrose in Gstaad without incident. The Alpenrose is in the Relais et Châteaux and, again, this connection allowed me to get rooms during the highest season of the year. It is a Heidi-looking place with warm wood, huge beams, and happy faces.
While the Alpenrose has a pretty good kitchen, La Cave at the nearby Olden Hotel is world famous. We dine there. We choose the owners’ combo - frisée salad with confit of duck, roast chicken, lamb stuffed w/black olives, and rabbit! Wow!
It’s Christmas Eve. The highlight of the trip, at least for Miss Audré, is the Annual Christmas Eve Gala at the Palace Gstaad. We walk the village to pay for our tickets – 840 SWF (US$622) including dinner but not wine.
We lunch in the Olden – raclette & ravioli, then shop in town.
Excitement is in the air.
As the moon comes up, we take a sleigh to the Palace!
The Palace Gstaad
The place is packed! Every gal is wearing every jewel she could buy, beg, or borrow!
It is, in a word… EUROTRASHY!
Dinner is conventional, convention food and the wine is expensive.
We leave early and laugh ourselves to sleep.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St, Nicholas soon would be there;
The child was nestled all snug in the bed,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in his head…
Christmas Day – Audre’s sequined stocking is full of goodies and… a piece of coal!
James’ and mine are full of sillinesses brought from home and found along the way.
We spend the happy morning opening presents.
After lunch at the Alpenrose, we take a drive through the snowy countryside - beautiful.
We have dinner at the Olden – ris de veau, scallops, a strange risotto, and lobster, followed by drinks in the cellar.
Boxing Day – We relax in town…
… and have dinner in the hotel, followed by drinks and guitar music in the cellar.
December 27th – We leave Gstaad for Salzburg, Austria at 8:15 AM; it is snowing. We stop for lunch in Liechtenstein.
The on-ramp for the autobahn is deep in snow. I stop the car, and, after half an hour of squirming in the snow on my back, finally, manage to get the chains on.
Dripping, I get back in the car and, after 50 yards, join the main road – it is clear. I pull over and take off the chains!
Moments later, we enter the 13.5-mile tunnel toward Interlaken. Just after we join the Munich-bound autobahn, we are hit by a sudden blizzard/snow squall with lightning and thunder!
Visibility is zero - all traffic comes to a sliding stop.
A huge plow and screaming police cars come up behind us on the mid-divider.
Thank God we are in the left lane - I pull in behind them, and almost touching the bumper of the police car in front of me, follow along, and make it to the Salzburg exit. Everyone else is stuck.
Entering the town, I don’t have a clue where to go. I keep stopping to ask… no one has heard of Schloss Mönchstein. Finally, I hail a taxi and follow it to the hotel.
I guess I was lost in translation because the 16th-century, castle hotel is a standout! It towers over Salzburg from the Mönchsberg, a hill in the center of town, and is surrounded by a forested park with wide city views.
The place is filled with Persian rugs, oil paintings, and acres of marble.
Some of the rooms are full of antiques with marbled bathrooms; ours, on the other hand, aren’t great – rather Euro-modern but Audré likes her mirrored wall!
Awarded 2 toques by Gault Millau, the restaurant is traditionally Austrian; we have delicious venison for three.
December 28th – JWM and I share a double bath (!) then order a double room-service breakfast that comes in 5 minutes! Later, we head out - the view over the city is spectacular…
The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music. (The reason why James is not in all these photos is that he is taking most of them!)
The front desk gives us tickets to the lift built into the mountain and we go down and walk to the Old Town in just a few minutes. Salzburg was the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. A couple of centuries later, it was the setting for The Sound of Music. We walk all day around and through Salzburg's historic center, gaping at the baroque architecture, garlanded streets, and Mozart’s statue.
I finally break away, run through the cavernous, barrel-ceilinged, exhibition hall, see it all...
December 22nd – James, Audré in the middle, and I “slow-walk” to the Musée d’Orsay. I learned “slow-walking” with Miss Audré when I lived on Manhattan’s East 68th Street and we would snail to The Frick Museum on Fifth. I think, being of a certain age, she was proud to have a younger man on her arm and went as slowly as possible to show off to as many people as possible. Now, in Paris, she has two of us, and you’d have to look very carefully to notice any forward movement at all!
...and am back at her side before they had moved two dozen yards.
We dine at Timgad.
We go to the renowned Goldener Hirsch for dinner…
Sitting across the way, at a table of six men, is a very familiar-looking man. James and I are sure – well, quite sure - he is Sheik Yamani of OPEC. Even if he isn’t, the notion will thrill Miss Audré; so be it.
“Look, Audré, there’s Sheik Yamani.”
She curtsies on our way out. We look at each other and, shaking our bums, say, in unison,
“Shake ya manni, shake ya manni!”
Dinner was grand.
December 29th, we drive to Schloss Fuschl, check in, and lunch. This was James’ trip but as I’d wanted to come here all my life, I stuck it in our itinerary.
Wikipedia: Schloss Fuschl is a castle in the Gemeinde of Hof bei Salzburg, in the Land Salzburg in western Austria. It stands on a peninsula at the western end of the Fuschlsee. It was built in about 1450 by the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg, who used it as a hunting lodge.
In 1816 the prince-bishopric of Salzburg was dissolved, and the property passed to the Austrian state. It fell into disrepair.
By the 1930s it was owned by Gustav Edler von Remiz and his wife Hedwig, who lived there. Remiz was a member of the Thyssen dynasty. He was a supporter of the Fatherland Front, so was imprisoned by the Nazis in Dachau, where he died. His property was confiscated, and Schloss Fuschl became the summer residence of Joachim von Ribbentrop, Nazi foreign minister, who used it for diplomatic receptions for Germany's allies.
In 1955 the property was restored to the von Remiz family. It was used as a location for the film Sissi.
It was made into a hotel in the late 1950s. It retains a collection of old master paintings.
Checking the itinerary at Schloss Fuschl
December 30th – Up by 8 AM, we visit the museum on the grounds, check out, leave Fuschl at 10:20, and check into the Vienna Plaza Hotel in Vienna at 1:00 PM.
The Volks Opera is a “must;” we attend the Vienna State Opera’s “A Night in Venice,” then dine at Huth Stadtkrug – all singing, all dancing, all Armenian piano, and gypsy music! – Wunderbar! We close out the night with drinks at the lobby bar in the Vienna Plaza and stagger upstairs to bed.
It’s New Year’s Eve! Audré has been saving her big surprise for tonight… two of her best friends, Louie, Hungarian ex-dancer, and Bill, American ex-executive – a long-time couple who live in Vienna, pick us up at the hotel by carriage and trot us to… the suburban tram enroute to… the Vienna Woods!
Miss Audré, Bill, and James boarding the tram
In Grinzing, a village deep in the Vienna Woods, we dine at a wonderfully quaint restaurant. James, on especially good form, is the master of ceremonies and we joke, and sing, and dance, and toast everything each of us can imagine. The wine flows like wine!
James, Bill, Audré, and Louie
After dinner, we take the tram to the subway to central Vienna. We come up into a vast square covered with broken glass.
People are dancing in street, throwing their glasses on the cobblestones; cherry bombs are bursting overhead; we shelter in a jam-packed, circus tent with huge mirrors and a big band!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
January 1, 1992 - Well, we woke up in the Vienna Plaza, so I guess we got home alright. After lunch in the hotel, none the worse for wear, Audré, James, and I return to Grinzing by tram.
Wikipedia: Grinzing is characterized by numerous forested ridges of the Wienerwald (Vienna Woods). Hermannskogel, the tallest hill in Vienna, lies on the border to Lower Austria.
We taxi up to the top of Hermannskogel. Overlooking Vienna, I take what has become one of my most favorite photographs…
We taxi back down the hill and take a bus back to the Prater. The public Wurstelprater amusement park in Vienna includes the Wiener Riesenrad Ferris wheel, Europe’s largest. We ride the wheel and return to the hotel for drinks in the lobby. Audré goes to dinner with “the boys,” while JWM and I go to Kupferdach Restaurant for yet another delicious Weiner schnitzel. We are in bed by 11.
January 2nd – Audré wants to wander on her own so James and I take the trolley around the “ring.” We drop off at the Opera and walk to Hotel Sacher’s Café Sacher. As we’re luxuriating with coffee and Sachertorte - one of the most famous Viennese culinary specialties - Miss Audré walks in. We said if we had stayed there long enough, everyone we knew in the world would come in sooner or later. We close out the day window shopping, dine at the Vienna Plaza, and go to bed.
January 3rd - We fly to L.A. via London; Audré flies to New York.
Some trip! Some year! Time to start a new chapter…
End of Chapter Twenty-two
All hand-drawn illustrations throughout this book and site
by Sue Hunter