Secrets of Southampton Part 2

I’ve told you secrets of the ultra wealthy in Southampton in a previous post. I had many experiences with what we now all call The One Percent.

Well, when I was around twelve years old and my mother was newly single, many of her prominent NYC friends made it their mission to set her up on dates with well-heeled bachelors. One of her Jewish friends set her up with a wealthy fella and my mother had one nice evening meal with him. He invited both of us to his home one weekend, which seemed like a polite thing to do when your new date has a young child. Meet the kid, be a human, etc.

My memories of this day are perhaps a bit exaggerated, but I’m going to pull up photos to explain what happened next. I did not take photos that day, but I think this is pretty close to reality.

Firstly, he had a weekend home on the beach on Long Island. The front hall was a modern glass entry that housed a smaller version of a Bavarian castle, sort of like this one:

He explained that he had literally paid to have a Bavarian castle transported stone-by-stone and rebuilt as part of his modern home on the beach. So the exterior surrounding the castle was more like this.

He was a big fan of German culture. We’re now in a room that looks old as heck, but then there’s a glass wall that looks out to the beach.
Museum meets modern living.


Married to this:

This dude was super house proud. He gave us a grand tour and all the while commenting on my blonde hair. It was noticeable comments, even though I was accustomed to being fussed over for my extreme cuteness, this was noticeably odd. We were soon surprised to learn his preteen son was hanging out in the kitchen with a friend that day. We saw them during the tour but they barely spoke to us. The dude again made a fuss about his son’s blonde friend, and although I don’t recall him making a specific derogatory remark against his own son, it was clear to me that his darker hue was not favorable. I wonder if he felt sorry for my mother that she wasn’t blonder herself.

I guess he was trying to be nice to me, and knowing that girls love animals, he was very excited to show me his game room. At this point I fortunately suspected we were not going in there to play checkers, but the sheer scope of the room blew me away. These photos will give you a sense of what I witnessed, although they look small compared to my memory. And I think I did mention that day that certain of his kills were of an endangered species, although I’m not sure if that was strictly true back in the ’80s. I think he was upset that I was upset, but I’m not sure. I just know that I can recall the feeling of revulsion I experienced that day quite keenly.

My mother whispered something to me about how having money can’t buy good taste but we continued to smile and nod like the polite ladies we were always taught to be. We had lunch in the enormous dining room next to the enormous fireplace. This was not particularly unusual for either of us. We’ve grown up with actual castles and this guy’s new money crassness was annoying to my mother. You can import a castle but it’s rude to tell guests how much it cost you.

Alone in the car later my mother marveled that a Jewish friend should have set her up on a date with a Nazi. That was the day I learned that bad people don’t know that they’re bad.

It’s 2017 now and the USA just elected a certain someone to be their president. I can’t imagine why this particular day from my childhood sprang to mind. Can you?

On watching The Crown

My partner was a little bit unintentionally dismissive when I told him how much my girlfriends and I have enjoyed watching The Crown. It was something like “Oh, you enjoy the pretty settings and costumes?” And I hadn’t considered why I enjoy watching it, but my gut apparently knew, and I snapped at him “Do you have any idea how fantastic it is to watch a twenty-year-old girl face down a room of her nation’s most powerful men and they have to listen to her?”


No, I don’t think a man can understand how fantastic it feels to witness this. Nor watching a young woman who cannot succumb to Imposter Syndrome and must make herself equal to the task. I even found myself watching the movie The Young Victoria for a similar feeling of peeking into the back room of politics, only it wasn’t as satisfying as that movie focused on the love story–something we’ve seen a million times before. *yawn*

I enjoy these shows and movies the same way I enjoyed watching The West Wing. Only here, the diminutive woman must by design be flawlessly feminine in the most traditional sense. She cannot win the game by being more masculine, as many women must normally do in politics, she must comport herself as The lady, yet she holds so much power. I could even relate to that moment when she puts on the crown and asks if she can borrow it for walking practice, forgetting that it actually belongs to her.



It’s really difficult to explain it to you blokes, but I bet all the women reading this understand. She gets to wear demure sweater sets and still be ultimately in charge of pretty much everything. Her husband whines about it but in the end she cannot capitulate to his insistence that they take more traditional roles even within their relationship. He, too, must make remake himself to suit her station. And then the way her job has to naturally impact her parenting and the split of the work / life balance. So many weird ways we can relate to this entirely unique “job” situation!

This is heady stuff and I don’t condone monarchy at all. Her son, Charles, visited our offices a few years back and I couldn’t be bothered to go into the next room to meet him because I do not consider myself one of his subjects. But yet I love this show. The costumes and sets are also lush eye candy, don’t get me wrong, but that’s not what makes the story gripping.

Why don’t you move to Canada?

There are a host of frequent refrains you hear from American conservatives around elections and one of them is laughing at celebrities who don’t move to Canada after the Republican candidate manages to win the US presidency.They’re right. You hear a lot of noise from artists who say they’re going to move away, but then they don’t. So it got me to thinking: why not?
Apart from pure patriotism, what makes them stay in the USA? I think I may know.

There are artists who are mega wealthy. For those in the global elite class, it doesn’t truly matter to them who is in charge of the US government.  They are existing in the 1% layer where they can flit off to their summer home in New Zealand during a long dark Northern Hemisphere winter. They don’t need to dramatically flounce from the USA because they already exist as global citizens. These wealthy artists already have ways to shelter their assets from the tax man and they are shielded from basic issues like airport safety protocol (private jets), public school funding (private school), cost of groceries (private chef).
The ones who are middling wealthy have different obstacles if they wanted to move to another nation as they’d get dinged with the USA double taxation. The US is almost unique in the fact that they tax you on income even if you earn it in another country. If you get taxed by two nations for money you earn why would you open yourself up to that problem by moving? Plus, these artists probably have enough income with their US-based job that they can minimize some of the pain of a crappy government. For example, they don’t worry about ACA/Obamacare because they pay cash for their medical care. Most doctors that work with celebrities of means take cash only and don’t even accept patient insurance. If you can live above it all within the USA, why not stay?


The artists who are below those levels may be working but perhaps not in a financial position to easily move overseas. These are the ones most likely to leave the US and try a different nation, but it’s a massive headache and a large expense to take the gamble. I count myself in this particular group. The thing you have to remember though is that if you don’t have a million dollars in the bank then the only way another established nation will take you is if you have a job in that country or the means to earn money while you live there. Some nations may be pretty mellow about it, so if you show you make money on your Etsy store, welcome to Ecuador — you’re going to live like the 1% back in the USA and pay cash for services but with a favorable exchange rate it’s all going to seem like a bargain! Unfortunately, if you don’t have a local job offer you can forget trying to move somewhere like Australia, Germany or Canada. You’d need to have a local company sponsor you and then go through a lengthy and expensive residency application process.

Then there are the struggling artists. The ones who depend on their day job for rent money and health insurance. They are unlikely to make the leap to another nation for obvious reasons.And yet, twice as many people than average did move from USA to Canada after Bush was elected than in previous years. Did you know that the US and other countries don’t track why folks move overseas? Perhaps the mockery is wrong. Perhaps people are moving away from the USA in record numbers.

So, really, when Trump supporters snidely ask, “Why didn’t all those people move to Canada like they said they would?” remember that it’s not because they don’t *want* to move there. If given the opportunity, most people do go to where the grass is greener. Look at how the 1% chooses to educate and care for themselves and their families. They get homes on Lake Como, Italy, or estates in Queenstown, New Zealand, or send their children to be educated overseas. They can leave the USA anytime they want and they often do, coming back for work engagements often enough that you think of them as still based in the USA. Folks will tell you a celebrity lives in their small town when in reality they may only be in their Montana ranch a few weeks out of the year. Where do they really live?

But if you keep telling artists to fuck off then maybe they will. And if they move away I think you’re going to be left with a sad sort of place with no culture. Call me an elitist if you wish, I do like a country with some poetry in it and where the poets won’t die due to lack of healthcare.


Even shoes are political

My eldest has some atypical brain things that make her hilarious and challenging. She’s probably going to be like a friend of mine who failed most classes in high school but then got a perfect score on the SATs.

One of her less charming issues is sensory processing. Stuff that most kids can shrug off will make her freak out. Like, instead of removing the tag from the shirt that is bugging her she will become enraged and throw a tantrum about her discomfort. With time and training she’s getting better with this and she’ll likely outgrow it.

Meanwhile though, procuring shoes when her feet jump a size is a nightmare. She’s been wearing the same pair of faux Crocs for over two years. I disinfect them once in a while and am grateful she chose a shoe that’s easy to clean. I also told her if she wants to wear these all day her future job will have to be surgeon.


As weather turned colder I started to soften the ground by telling her she would have to change to shoes and socks more suitable for snow and rain. I worked on this for weeks in advance. “We’re going to have to get you good rain shoes so think about that.” It’s a way of spreading the tantrum out into smaller more manageable chunks. I also had her try on a variety of shoes when we’re at friends’ houses. She always hated them and that’s fine, at least I’m getting her into the spirit of trying on shoes.

Finally, the weather turned cold enough I could convince her it was time and we go to a big box chain store and I spot a pair of shoes that are literally perfect for her. She loves cats and Yo-Kai Watch. They light up when you jump. Could they be any cuter?



I’m all excited for her. She says she hates them but I can tell she’s intrigued. She’s warming to the idea of these shoes. She tries them on and she even says they’re okay. (They’re “okay”! That’s a ringing endorsement compared to a tantrum.) Then, a clerk restocking shoes next to us goes, “Those are boys’ shoes. You’re in the boys’ aisle. There are ballet flats in that one.” She points to the next aisle over. I reflexively responded with excessive enthusiasm, “But these light up and they’re great! They have kitties! Do they come in my size?!”

My kid no longer wants to buy the shoes.


I mean, you know sexism is everywhere and women are trained young to accept uncomfortable footwear but damn. Did I even ask your opinion?

I bought the shoes and threatened her continued existence if she refused to wear them at least five times. She’s been wearing them for a few weeks now and hasn’t insisted on the old pink shoes. I feel like dodged a sexism bullet.




Zen and the art of laundry

Choices by the fascist regime now in charge of the USA have me leaning on my coping mechanisms more than usual. I’m refilling on too many cups of hot tea and you can most often find me in my slippers saying, “Oh, dear,” to no one, like a ninety year old. I may also be heard to mutter, “Motherfucking Nazis. God damn,” while laughing like a hysteric at a funeral.

This is my face reading the news every day now.

May we all find solace in the tiny slivers of calm between the cresting waves of bullshit.


I cope with the craziness of life by making inappropriate jokes about everything. I learned last week I am not the best person to have at a candlelight vigil.

May we all find solace in the tiny slivers of calm between the cresting waves of bullshit.

Zen and the art of laundry:

We go to the gym. My man and I both go to the gym a lot. My mom tried to teach me that “ladies perspire, they don’t sweat,” but I sweat like a hog and so does he. We also have two children and a cat and among the five of us generate a heap of laundry every day.

I have three bins. Two get filled with dirties and one fills up with clean laundry. This one tucked away in the bathroom gets the foulest gym clothes. I’m regularly disinfecting this area.


A bin like the one below lives in between the bedrooms and takes all the other laundry, particularly the kids’ clothes. And then the one in the living room fills up with the clean clothes we haven’t put away yet. It gets put away when guests come over. Sometimes.


When we return from the gym in the morning all the laundry goes into the washer. When we return from work at night all of the laundry goes in the dryer.

The moment of Zen happens in our modest laundry room. I like to run the dryer so the cycle will end when I am home. I will spend several deliberate minutes pulling items from the dryer and turning them right side out and matching up sock pairs as I drop every clean item into the empty laundry bin. I notice the heat from the dryer warming my hands; I notice every piece of the children’s clothing, how their bodies are small and growing, how the knees are worn from antics; I think about my man’s gym shirts and his work shirts and all of his silent effort; I look at my gym gear and pat myself on the back for the work I put into building my strength; I consider the resources required to run these machines of modern convenience and take pains to appreciate this immense luxury.


In my laundry moments I give thanks for what I have and I think about people sleeping rough in my city, people coping with cold and wet weather as they try to exist, people living in other nations who are worried about warfare at their doorstep.

I recognize this moment of Zen is a form of meditation or even prayer. Cultures have different words for it. In modern therapy-speak we’d say I’m grounding myself in the moment and practicing mindfulness.

A mental health ritual seems stupid to me unless it’s attached to a practical chore. Laundry forces me to do it.

A moment when I brush the cat and clip his claws and listen to him purr.

A moment when I take the kids for flu vaccinations and give thanks to modern medicine for lowering their probability of premature death.

A moment when I stub my toe and feel a wave of immense pain that reminds me I am alive and corporeal and this is likely the worst pain I will experience this week and therefore I am lucky.

I don’t fold laundry; there are limits. Our eldest sorts it into piles and we all put away our own clothes. I usually just shove it all in a drawer and the kids do the same with theirs. I do not have all the time in the world for laundry. I do not have all the time in the world.

May you find solace in the slivers of calm between the cresting waves of bullshit.

Unintentional bisexual erasure and regret

I have a confession. In my younger years I greatly enjoyed making a homophobic fuckwit plotz by pointing out that their favorite celebrity was homosexual. They hardly ever believed me but I saw an opportunity to put a chink in the armor of their bigotry and I leapt on it with glee.

Lately I’ve reflected and not only was it a bit tacky of me to out celebs who maybe wanted to stay private — a fact that hit home particularly when I started working for some of the more private ones — in many cases I failed in another way. A whole bunch of bisexual people got slotted into the “gay” corner and I never thought twice about it.

Last week was bisexual awareness week and someone asked me why there even needed to be a bisexual awareness week and didn’t LTGBQ et al. already cover the bases? But I thought back to my inconsiderate youth and felt regret that I’d made so many of my friends and colleagues invisible. We’re an either/or sort of species, I reckon.

And I have friends even now who will gently mention their various predilections and maybe I don’t know exactly how to categorize them in my either/or worldview.

I’m working on it and I see you guys and I don’t want to diminish the richness of our human rainbow by skipping over any of the color gradients. My bad.




Nous a French pop song from 1978 by Hervé Vilard


I had an auditory flashback whereby I realized why Bowie’s 1971 Life on Mars always felt familiar to me yet not quite right. Because I thought it was my favorite song when I was a kid, but it wasn’t. In fact, it was this French song from 1978 by Hervé Vilard. I think if you listen you can understand my confusion. Not the same, and yet…

Nous c’est une illusion qui meurt,
D’un éclat de rire en plein coeur
Une histoire de rien du tout
Comme il en existe beaucoup …

For comparison. Plus, you need an excuse to listen again to the late, great Bowie.


Let’s talk about the muse and how they function in the life of the artist. We all have influences that kick our artistic butts into gear.

Growing up with my grandmother Helene‘s paintings I’ve long been fascinated by the literal artist model. I took a painting class in high school where the instructor told me painters tend to add their own features when they paint other people. “If you want to look good, hire a good-looking painter.”

When my maternal grandmother lived outside of Chicago she had a friend who was also her muse. In her friend Susan Bartelt’s beauty I see a woman of chic style who could easily have fit into our family back in France. She was from international New York City herself and studied fashion design and must have adored having Helene around the small suburban town as someone who shared her refined sensibilities.


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Helene used her as an artist model many times. Here is the official portrait that now hangs in her daughter’s dining room:


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Such beauty. Although, if I ever commission a work of myself I should like to be captured in laughter.

I was taken by another muse when I visited Chateau Grimaldi outside of Nice, France.

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One of the rooms is dedicated to portraits of Suzy Solidor.

She even became known as “the most painted woman in the world” and it’s easy to see how her vibe would appeal to artists. Among muses I’ve known they share the same bigger-than-life personality that so many want to attempt to capture. They’re not necessarily the most beautiful person in the room, but they’re always the most captivating. She was also convicted of collaborating during WWII due to singing in her club for the Germans; but that’s another story.


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Muses are often singers and actors and have the rare talent of always being themselves no matter the circumstances. Always comfortable in their skin.

One of my friends, Crystal Durant, even lists Muse as one of her jobs on her Facebook. She knows what she’s about! It’s no surprise that she works with The Art Students League of New York as their model. She may strip Suzy of her title as most painted woman.


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When Crystal posts a new portrait on her Facebook I search for the features of the artist themselves as they may have been influencing their depiction of her. Perhaps we gravitate toward a muse who has qualities of ourselves we want to explore?


We could ask Robin Feinerman who did the painting above. [Trying to get credits on the rest of these outstanding works of art.]


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Mina diva

I’m pretty good with knowing references around divas so it’s a bit shocking to realize I missed one. Particularly as our youngest has the same name!

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Can I just pretend I named my kid after her? This Italian diva is gold. This is pop so beautifully sung it is heart breaking at times.

She’s the sort of person where Chet Baker sleeps one off in her tub. The most unexpected person I ever found in my claw-foot tub was a drunken Mormon teenager sleeping it off.


And her later looks give off shades of pop artistry. Intentional camp.
And she’s on the right side of history even though she hasn’t sung since the 70s.


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My sister the brave

In every family there is a person that holds the center; around whose gravitational pull the other family members orbit. We refer to them as patriarch or don’t really consider their role until they’ve died and the loosely held lines of the family tree split into new directions.

I was lucky as an adult that my eldest sister decided to be such a force for cohesion. If you’ve followed along with our shared story then you know the fractured nature of our father’s relationships and the many ways the adults in our lives made poor decisions and created rifts.

Emmanuelle is quite a bit older than me but we share some similar life experience that made it possible to bridge both the generational and cultural differences between us.

I first met her when I was in my twenties. Struck mainly by the dimples all we half-sisters share, as well as our similar temperament. We stay calm and a bit aloof or inscrutable unless provoked, or unless relating a particularly entertaining story.

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She shared her many dramatic stories and photos and we compared our separate lives as performers as well as narrators. A person like this in a family — the one who holds everything together — is an invaluable service. Having a well-documented life in photographs is a wonderful thing for me on both sides of my family, so rife with entertainers. I get to see the life stages that I missed, spotting the moody teen years and comparing them to my own. The serious phase followed by a more contemplative mien.

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Certainly, it takes bravery to face messy emotions and be willing to look at the past.

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A kind, serious, and funny person.

When my daughter was small we made a trip back to France to visit various family members. Her two strongest memories of that trip were picking strawberries in her aunt’s garden.

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And then check out my kid’s face when I took her into a very old abbey and we visited the stations of the cross for the first time in her life.

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Yep, that made an impression.

I am grateful; many other relations who learned of my existence later in life walked away from me, but my half sister Emmanuelle held out her hand and shared her stories with me. She bridged that age and cultural difference with great effort and made space for me in her life narrative. It’s because of her that I now know so much about my own history and I’m able to catalogue it here, painstakingly putting together the shards into a mosaic so someday my own kids can benefit from knowing their family history.

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Plus, she’s a great storyteller and I always appreciate that.