I suppose my name could equally have been Walker, Ryder, or Porter. All I know is I've been carting my journal, binoculars, and bathrobe around the world all my life - blazing trails, making friends, and storing memories.
When I was born in the Mt. Kisco, New York hospital, Dr. Robinson announced my arrival, "Cannon Fodder!" - the country was at war. (That's me on the left, looking serious.)
We went to "The House in the Woods," our Adirondack camp, every summer. This was a typical outing in the mid-thirties.
Left to right: Poppy, my grandfather, Dr. E.P. Carter, who was a famous heart specialist; Neddy, my father (nobody knew he was deaf and had to read lips) was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon at Yale, and graduated with honors; Granny my grandmother who was delightfully old-fashioned from birth and who put up with me every summer until she died in 1953; and my great grandmother whom I never met, but judging from the hat and the perk of her stance, must have been a fascinating lady.
The white launch was named after my grandmother's favorite Boston terrier, Bobs (something to do with its tail).
My brother, Chris, soon went off to Groton School; my sister, Dade, to Emma Willard. They traveled in the summers; I went to "The Woods."
Left to right: Me, my father, my mother, my brother Chris, and my sister Grace, on the terrace of our home on Ivy Hill Road, Lawrence Farms, Mt. Kisco, in Westchester County, New York.
Chris later switched from Williams to Yale. (Our great grandfather had been president of Williams for the twenty years which straddled the turn of the century; I suppose Chris's classmates punished him for it.)
Dade was dis-invited back to Vassar, changed to Wheaton in Massachusetts, and loved it.
Spending more time in the darkroom than the Study Hall, I got kicked out of Hotchkiss, graduated from Horace Greeley High School, and joined the Army six months later. None of it matter too much, at least we were Socially Registered...few know what that means anymore; fewer care.
My thirteenth great-grandfather was William Bradford, the first governor of the colonies. My third-great uncle, General Sherman, gave Lincoln the "Christmas present" of his march to Savannah.
That same side of the family, my father's mother's, is intertwined with the three Cushing girls. Dr. Cushing was a famous, pioneer, brain surgeon; now he's on a U.S. 45¢ postage stamp. Some say the girls were the most attractive socialites America ever produced - they certainly made their marks:
Minnie, the oldest, married Vicent Astor. Vincent's father, John Jacob Astor, went down on the Titanic and Vincent inherited $69 million - he was called "the richest boy in the world."
Betsy married FDR's son Jimmy. He became the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Here we are at a family reunion just after he joined me at Investors Overseas Services (more to come ahead).
My mother used to enjoy saying, "My husband's mother's cousin's daughter's first husband's father is the president of the United States - Franklin Delano Roosevelt."
Babe married Bill Paley, the late head of CBS. Besides inventing the saying “one can never be too rich or too thin,” she had daily-changed, starched, white linen slip covers... in her car! I may have picked up some of the same style-genes. (The last time I saw her was at my grandmother's funeral.)
Then Betsy divorced Jimmy and married Jock Whitney. Jock was also descended from William Bradford and also a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon at Yale. "Birds of a feather," etc. We are all listed in the Social Register that insiders call "The Stud Book." Among other things, Jock was also the United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James. That's fun, but it gets better...
My father's Aunt Lizzie had a wonderful house in Dorset. Mom and Dad used to visit. Here's a photo of them on a regular visit (quite a few years ago). Seems everyone in my family has always enjoyed traveling.
Aunt Lizzie's daughter married Sir Ronald Lindsay. Mother says he was often at the house and once told my father, "I never travel unless I can go first class."
Soon after, Sir Ronald became the British ambassador to Washington. Therefore, for a while, one cousin was the British ambassador to Washington while another, Jock, was the United States ambassador to the Court of St. James. (That gets me into the royal enclosure at Ascot – a big deal if you like hats.)
So, my mother used to enjoy saying, “My husband’s mother’s aunt’s son-in-law was the English Ambassador to the United States of America (Sir Ronald) at the same time that my husband’s mother’s cousin’s daughter’s second husband was the American Ambassador to the Court of St. James (Jock Whitney).”
My great aunt Marnie, on my mother’s side, was one of the famous Sutherland sisters - stars of the "steam set." Aunt Marnie was presented at court in Peking at the turn of the century and later was three times married for her money...which she always denied she had.
I remember sitting in the drawing room of her Park Avenue apartment watching her address Christmas cards. I was five years old.
Catching my quizzical expression, she paused,
"This one is for the lift starter at The Dorchester, this one's for my maid at Le Crillon, this one goes to a nice taxi man in Hong Kong, and this one is for the doorman downstairs. I can see my friends whenever I want, but these are the wonderful people who make my life comfortable, and they are the most important of all."
Later, when I was bound for Europe on an extended journey, she looked me straight in the eye and said,
"In the years ahead you will be tempted to buy fancy motorcars, yachts, and country estates. Don't...know people who have got 'em."
(But I did anyway - it was easier!)
Here she is (on the right) with Mother seeing me off on the "QE1."
My mother was introduced to my father on a North Cape cruise on the S.S. Bergensfjord in 1926. I had the home-movies put on video. You'll forget about visiting Banff, or Pasadena for that matter, when you see how pristine those places were then.
Mom and Dad went on safari to Kenya in 1955. Bruce drove them out from Nairobi to the Masai Mara in a Land Rover; a bottle of gin, one of vermouth, and two glasses were in a glass-fronted cage bolted to one side...
"In case we get lost," Bruce said.
"What?" said my father.
"Take out the two glasses and start to make a drink. Inevitably, someone will come running out of the bush shouting, 'That's not the way to make a martini!'"
Today there are hundreds of registered vehicles plying those plains. One can’t go back…anywhere.
Aunt Lizzie's house is called Stepleton and had a small-scale, steam railroad on which one could ride around the garden. (I dropped in the other day; new owners, new money, little style, and no railroad.)
I joined the U.S. Army in 1958 and was honorably discharged in Okinawa after three years, three months, and eleven days stayed in Okinawa to complete my personal, "People-to-People" project - The First Annual Okinawa Grand Prix.
One day, while still in the Army, I got dressed in my Brooks Bros. seersucker suit and flew to Hawaii to get permission from the ComSubPac to use a disused airfield on Okinawa. I let the Admiral believe I was the Far Eastern representative of the Sports Car Club of America...he gave his permission.
I trained the 60 competitors, the ground crews and flagmen, and even imported special racing tires for the cars.
There were 250,000 spectators. I won my class but, at 11:30 that night, was still coiling up the rope fences to make way for a dawn parachute drop. Serves me right, I look altogether too cocky in that hat!
The Grand Prix only ran one year but the hoop-la attracted Bernie Cornfeld who recruited me to Investors Overseas Services (IOS); a million and a half were similarly recruited over the next ten years.
I started out knocking on Army sergeants' doors - "Do you want your son to grow up a sergeant or a captain? The difference is a college education; let's start a plan so you can afford it."
I broke all records selling New York's Dreyfus Fund, IOS became the world's largest distributor, and I moved on to Hong Kong. Rare free moments were spent go-karting with the Duke of Kent and racing in the Macau Grand Prix.
Here's Bernie talking with Bob Nagler who ran IOS's The Fund of Funds (I'm on the right).
Bernie gave me a one-way ticket to Cairo - "If you do well, you'll earn enough to buy a ticket back to Geneva and pay me back."
Thus I became Bernie's 'point-man' to dozens of countries. Along the way, I attended the University of Geneva, lectured at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and was part of the team that invented "Universal" Life Insurance.
I moved to Malta, formed a life insurance company, recruited 74 salesmen, and sold more insurance every month on that island of 300,000 people, than Canada Life does in the twelve most western states of America today.
Here's Mother and me on the walls of Mdina, where I rented a house which had been built by the Normans in 1042 and lived in by Queen Isabella of Spain.
Bernie moved me to Ireland...even better results; then to London. We’d formed an independent British life insurance company and after seven years, my team was selling $25 million a month - equal to the largest insurance company in Britain.
As you can tell from my racing days, I've always had a 'thing' about cars. My parents gave me a Volvo as a high school graduation present; I immediately entered it in SCCA races and loved beating MGs. The Volvo got traded for an MGTD, then there was an assortment which included a Porsche Super 90 Cabriolet, a Porsche RS61 racing car, a Brabham Formula Junior, a Cobra, and three Rolls Royces! In London, nearly every company executive drove a Rolls Royce and no one thought it pretentious. In those days a chauffeur cost less than $50 a week so I had a pretty comfortable life. Here's my father and me with my second "Roller," the first long-wheelbase Silver Wraith; it had been built for the High Commissioner of India.
Dad never said much about my interest in cars, only commenting when I made the faux pas of referring to my chauffeur as "Mr."
In another era Dad could have said, "Done that." Here he is in the family's "electric," even Bobs (the dog after whom the boats were named), looks unimpressed.
It's funny when you think how Americans have "outgrown" electric cars, electric trams, and lots of other sensible things, to end up choking in smog and running out of natural resources. Not really very funny at all.
With the collapse of Bernie's IOS, investors world-wide lost faith in "paper." I happened upon an archaic tax law in Britain called the "Gloucestershire Railway Carriage Act of 1893" which had allowed British investors to buy railroad wagons and take a 100% write-off in the first year by leasing them to the British railroads.
Following suit, I established a company to build and sell intermodal equipment to investors throughout Europe who would then lease them to carriers through our management subsidiary. Queen's Counsel agreed the same tax law would apply and within three years, sales were more than $1.5 million a month.
I had a six-storey home in Belgravia (just like the one in "Upstairs Downstairs") and bought this rare Silver Cloud III which had belonged to Patrick Litchfield. Lord Litchfield is a cousin to the Queen and I regularly contributed to his best-selling paperback, Courvoisier's Book of the Best.
Flying more than 250,000 miles a year, I began to be bothered by the occasional creak and thump, and decided to learn exactly what was going on. This Tiger Moth doesn't exactly compare, but I learned to fly and not to worry.
In the summer of 1978, my brother and sister and I could not agree over responsibilities at The House in the Woods which we had inherited. I was loath to leave the spot that had been my home nearly every summer since the age of eight months but I started to look on other lakes.
A neighbor suggested we visit Upper Saranac Lake, and we trailed a boat there that afternoon. As we went down the lake, he pointed out the camps of socially-registered, "Main Line" Philadelphia families. Beyond "The Narrows", south of the Main Line group, there was the “Our Crowd” tribe - a Lehman brother or two, Otto Kahn’s camp, and Jules Bache's home (his daughter, Kitty, had been a buddy of mine.)
We circled and back above "The Narrows," passing by a wooded point, my friend yelled above the roar of the motor, "Someday when you are very old and very rich, you should buy that place. It was built by William Avery Rockefeller, and is the last of the Adirondack Great Camps!”
Not being able to see it through the trees, I shrugged.
The next morning, out of breath, he telephoned, "You won't believe it, it's for sale!"
I wasn't very excited, but we drove over to see Rockefeller's Camp Wonundra. Rather unkempt, it did have terrific bones.
I walked into the great hall, and said to no one in particular, "I'll have it."
The owner was standing around the corner of one of the twin fireplaces. I agreed the price immediately but he seemed sort of stand-offish, and asked me to come back tomorrow.
The vetting committee took the form of Joe Blagden who lived next door. A squint was followed by a grin - Joe Blagden's brother had been my art master at Hotchkiss prep school and his son had been my classmate. He nodded his approval and the sale was done.
Here's Joe with his arm around his wife Clarissa. The lady in red is my great friend from Manhattan, Miss Audré, about whom you'll hear much more later on.
I commuted nearly every week via Montreal to London. The boathouse needed new foundations and the septic field needed replacing. I wanted all to be ready for the summer of '79.
I filled the house that summer with plane-loads of friends and colleagues from London. The visits culminated in a board meeting I'd scheduled for my birthday in August.
No matter what one's American credentials, Europeans have a different value system. I felt having my directors come to see some of my roots would ease the plans I had for the future. However, as they came down the drive, my pure, Adirondack values revealed how out of place they were; both here at The Point, and in my life.
Where was the integrity of my values?
I went to the safe, withdrew all the share certificates, and brought the meeting to order.
"Gentlemen, I will sign over these certificates and turn the companies over to you - a shocked stillness echoed my words - if you will kindly pack your bags and be gone by morning".
Three months later, I invited some New York friends for Thanksgiving weekend. One was Robert Carrier, the well-known cookbook author and restaurateur.
I'd filled the compound of 8 houses with much of my grandfather's wonderful old Adirondack, Hickory furniture, and a few rather good antiques as well.
As Bob looked around, he kept muttering, "PGs, PGs."
"You know, Ted, this place is so beautiful, you really ought to share it; and with the Winter Olympics just a few months away in nearby Lake Placid, there must be hundreds of people looking for accommodations. Why don't you take Paying Guests?"
I went to the Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce; they gave me the Accommodations Wait List, and I started to telephone Paris, Rome, London, New York, and San Francisco - anyone who had a good address:
"I got your name from the Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce, if you're still looking for a place to stay, I could put you up in my home. I've a man who could take you the 45 minutes to the Games each morning and bring you back each evening. Of course, you'll have to take 'pot luck' with me for dinner."
Princess Vera, Prince Egon von Furstenberg, a builder from the Poconos, a doctor from San Francisco, and lots more filled the house for two weeks. They loved it, and so did I!
But after the Olympics, they all went home. March in the Adirondacks is lonely. The ice is three-feet thick, it gets down to thirty below, and the furnace burns a thousand gallons of fuel oil a week. My European friends had taken their long vacations last summer, and the house was empty.
I decided to throw my cap in the ring and open my doors to PGs full time.
But, If I was going to do it, it had to be as perfect as I could make it - that would be the point. So I renamed it The Point; but how to start?
Then my Boat Boy (keeps the Barge stocked with Bloody Mary mix, the Boathouse free of flotsam, and the various crafts polished and fueled) tells me a relative is Pegeen Fitzgerald and he could arrange to have her call me.
I didn't have a clue who she was, and later that week, when the phone rang at 11:30 pm saying I was going to be on WOR (radio) in three minutes, I thought they were kidding.
I walked around the kitchen table talking to Pegeen and Ed - the most venerable radio personalities in the world - for more than an hour and a half. I couldn't imagine anyone would be listening, so when the phone rang after we'd hung up, I was sure it was a wrong number. No, someone wanted to make a reservation!
That summer, The Point was filled with dozens of insomniac geriatrics from New York and New Jersey, and dozens more who thrilled to the idea of being a paying house guest in one of the last great, private, Adirondack Camps.
Above is one end of the Great Hall. That's a John Dickenson galvanized-steel table flanked by two 18th-Century, French, wingless-griffin down-spouts.
Here is my partner, James Myhre, with my mother. She was the kindest, wisest, and most generous person I'll ever know. She was also funny - sort of a mix between Gracie Allen and the Queen Mum. She was so loved by everyone who met her, that guests used to book years in advance just to be at The Point during her annual two-week visit. (She died peacefully at the age of 88.)
When 18-year old, James came to The Point to help me out, we tossed a coin to see who would be responsible for what. I got bed-making, he got the kitchen. While I concentrated on square corners, he became a famous chef!
After a while, we decided I should concentrate on our guests, and James became the General Manager and Head Chef.
Every day after breakfast, he drove our pick-up the 45 minutes into Lake Placid to see what he could find to make for lunch and dinner. The only choice was what was available at the local Grand Union super market, and many a day, when the only vegetable was carrots, he had quite a challenge.
Back he would come, prepare lunch, join our guests at table, water-ski the 65-mile sinuous shoreline, prepare dinner, and host one of the two round dining tables. As many of our guests were highly-recognizable figures from the world of government, medicine, business, and the law – it was an education in conversation and charm. What a rewarding experience for us all!
This is not the place to go into the depths of my mother's family; suffice it to say they were canny Scots from the Sutherland Highlands. I wore the kilt every day at The Point; it seemed appropriate in the wilds of the Adirondack highlands, and I didn’t have to think about what to wear. On Saturday nights, black tie was the norm. This is the kilt equivalent:
Two years later (1982), heralded by the New York Times as "Simply the most attractive private home in America whose owners welcome paying guests in the European tradition," The Point became the fourth establishment in the United States allowed to join Relais et Châteaux and I became the Relais et Châteaux International Delegate for most of the Western Hemisphere.
Ever since, The Point has remained at or very near the top of every “Best Resort in the World” list.
Having made my point, we sold it in 1986.
James moved to Manhattan to attend Parsons School of Design; I re-established home in London and travelled for the fun of it. James joined me when school was over.
Away from the lake, my elegant, 1929 HackerCraft was replaced by "Miss Piggy" (above) - you'll never look at a Rolls-Royce the same way again; and James' Chris-Craft by a custom-made, drop-head, V-12 Ferrari 400i (below).
Then Europe-bound "ex-Pointers" started to write, asking the truth about places in the travel glossies..."Come on, Ted, is X really good, or just the freebie assignment of a tame travel writer?"
They became so frequent, James suggested I photocopy my previous month's itinerary and comments...et voilá, my outspoken, often funny, sometimes bitchy, always fair, and always truthful personal journal was born.
It started out as a few "Letters from Abroad" and grew into the 22-page, monthly, subscription-only, advertising-free Edward Carter's TRAVELS©.
Some issues traveled even more than my readers - special anthology editions were seat-pocketed in the First Class sections of all British Airways flights for more than a year.
I had spent several years developing my database of travel experiences for a CD-ROM which was ported to the Internet in 1995 as the Interactive Travelvision Network. It won awards and brought me to the attention of John Williams, the head of biztravel.com in Manhattan.
John had left his post at American Express to develop and be President and CEO of this unique travel website. He hired me to create an online magazine for frequent business travelers within the site, and I and James and our staff of 2 developed biztraveler. With 40 departments, in hardcopy it would have been about the size of the monthly Conde Nast Traveller – very thick!
By the end of our first full year, we were producing a new issue every fortnight. We also were providing content support to CNNfn and other syndicated media outlets, and had built a large cadre of contributing writers.
Funded by Comcast Corporation, Informix Corporation, Intel Corporation, News Corporation, Accel Partners, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, and New Enterprise Associates, biztravel.com was a pioneer in the online travel industry, winning multiple Webby and PC Magazine Editor Choice Awards.
However, before any of us knew it, biztravel.com became a victim of the "dot com" bubble.
That wasn't the only thing that burst - after 18 years together, James decided to try life on his own and moved to San Francisco. You'll find out why in one of the chapters in this book
I have been collecting Ansel Adams' photographs since I was twelve. He was the best known photographer of the 20th century. For me photography was an obsession. I spent my time at prep school in the darkroom (not the classroom), was a freelance, press photographer during high school, and built my own darkroom at home in our maids' bathroom.
In 1996, finding space downstairs from biztravel.com on 23rd Street, I built a photographic studio and darkroom for 8x10 format, and was reveling in making portraits and processing my work in my part time. Now, with the demise of biztravel.com, I could devote all my time to photography.
Tan and I have been together for 15 years and during that time we established “Cheers,” a bar and restaurant in Koh Samet; “Bubbles,” a bespoke laundry; and “Safeguard Security Services Ltd.,” a security guard company. Actually, they were his ideas and he did all the work; I just looked on proudly.
We signed a long-term lease for a flat in Rachadamri Mansions, opposite the Royal Bangkok Sports Club horse racing track, only to have to move 3 months later – time is flexible in the "Magic Kingdom" and regardless of the leases signed, someone higher up wanted to build a condominium/hotel on the very valuable site.Thinking social life would be like mine in Manhattan - cocktail and dinner parties every night - we moved into Baan Sansiri down the soi — 265 square meters and five bathrooms.
Well, the people we met didn't live like that, so we took a smaller place in Serena Sathorn Apartments (below). And all during this time, we were “chasing the White Elephant” on weekends in Isaan.
Suffice it to say that Thailand is indeed a magic kingdom unlike anywhere else, and life is grand.
All the best,
"As the creator of The Point, one of the most extraordinary small hotels in the world; former International Delegate of Relais et Châteaux; and the author of his famous travel monthly; Dr. Carter is respected internationally as an arbiter of style and taste. His readers are sophisticated international travellers who appreciate his forthright assessments and advice because, independently paying his own way, he 'tells it as it is'."
This is the Introduction to my memoirs which will run from 1940 to today. I will be posting new chapters on a regular basis. Please send your quips and comments to me: email@example.com. With your permission, I’ll publish the most interesting.
Copyright© 2016, 2017, 2018 Edward G.L. Carter
By 2015, I had shared my every experience with my students. It was great fun but the time had come, “the walrus said,” to retire and share the rest of my life with Tan at our home (our nine-year building project) we call The White Elephant (below).
It turned out that over the years I had amassed the world’s largest collection of original, signed works of Ansel Adams. His "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico" (above) was voted the most important photograph of the 20th Century.
Jim Alinder, an Adams expert, convinced me to share my collection with the public (that’s sort of how The Point started) and in 1999 I founded The Edward Carter Galleries in the most prestigious gallery building in New York City - 560 Broadway in SoHo.
We opened a new show with a cocktail party every month and sometimes had dinner parties catered in the gallery for clients. Business was good, clients were happy, and we expanded our unique presentation and client service concepts by licencing a gallery in Lewes, Delaware; opening our own gallery in Aspen, Colorado; and buying a gallery in Gualala, California. We even established a gallery in Singapore.
However, 9/11 changed New York and the high-end photography market.
I lived a block from ground zero and watched and smelled it all!
I was deeply affected and wanted to move to a safer and more pleasant clime. As business virtually ground to a halt, I closed or sold the galleries in the United States and started extensive travels throughout Southeast Asia to try to decide where to go and what to do.
Many amusing adventures ensued in Bali, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
Finally, I moved to Bangkok in August of 2003 as Visiting Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Bangkok University International College to share my life experiences with the students of Bangkok’s first private university.
That year Tan Sitthiphan (below) and his family in Isaan (Northeastern Thailand) came into my life.