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His Father’s Son

by Kitty Kelley

hisfathersson_298_450After reading His Father’s Son: The Life of General Ted Roosevelt Jr. by Tim Brady, you understand why military service fired the passions of the 26th president of the U.S. and dominated the lives of his four sons.

Brady’s biography of Ted Jr., the first son of Theodore Roosevelt, offers only a few sentences about the cloud that hung over the patrician family. Theodore’s mother, Mittie, to whom he referred as “an unreconstructed Southerner,” had insisted his father not enlist in the Union army and oppose her three brothers, fighting for the Confederacy. So, to placate his wife, known to lock herself in a dark room for days, Theodore, Sr. paid a substitute to serve for him during the Civil War.

Brady provides no further information about this decision, which was not uncommon at the time but potentially subjected the Roosevelts to ridicule. As historians put it, those able to purchase a substitute exercised “the right of the rich to hire the poor to do [their] fighting and dying,” a practice that became a factor in the New York Draft Riots of 1863.

Even without a biographer’s knowledgeable insight, you don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to see why Mittie’s sickly, asthmatic son, Theodore, transformed his weak body into a muscular machine and charged into history, banging the drum for war in 1898. He created his own special forces — the Rough Riders — and stampeded with them into Cuba, storming up San Juan Hill and seizing everlasting glory.

Glamorized by press coverage at the time (and by his own well-written recollections of the Spanish-American War), Theodore Roosevelt sailed into politics as a national hero and was elected governor of New York. He ran as William McKinley’s vice president in 1900 and, months later, following the president’s assassination, TR, as he was fondly known, moved into the White House with his wife and six children. He was elected president in his own right in a 1904 landslide victory.

Always a big-game hunter, he endeared himself to the country when he refused to shoot a sick bear on a hunting trip, demanding instead that the poor animal be put to sleep. A cartoon of the normally bellicose Rough Rider protecting a frightened cub enthralled the public imagination, and soon, stuffed “Teddy” bears became a favored toy of children around the world. By 1927, the visage of Roosevelt was being chiseled on Mt. Rushmore alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.

But none of this is contained in Brady’s biography of Ted Jr., perhaps because the writer assumes readers will come to his book already grounded in Roosevelt history and simply intuit the immense expectations attendant upon being the firstborn son of such a remarkable man.

Brady tells us that Ted Jr., an anxious child with crushing headaches, a wayward right eye and few pleasing features, grew up emulating his adored father, as did his three brothers — Kermit, Archibald, and Quentin. Their sister, Ethel, is barely mentioned, and there’s not much on Archie, a right-wing Republican who lived to be 85, railing against Communists.

Their colorful half-sister, Alice, is remembered for writing that their father always wanted to be “the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.” The girls married well, and the boys pleased their father by going to war — WWI and WWII — with all receiving medals for bravery and ribbons for valor.

Ted Jr., an Army brigadier general, was heralded for exceptional rapport with his troops. Having served in the First World War, he begged to serve in the second and, despite war wounds and age (56), he was allowed to lead a division on D-Day, becoming the oldest man to land on Utah Beach, the westernmost of the five landing spots in Normandy.

Decades later, General Omar Bradley wrote: “I have never known a braver man, nor a more devoted soldier.” The night before the invasion, a private named Amos Buck wrote to his commanding officer about “General Teddy”: “[T]he men all know he is a front line general and respect and love him…you have no idea how much good a man of that type does with a bunch of scared inexperienced G.I.s.”

Weeks later, General Teddy was struck by coronary thrombosis and died in his headquarters a few weeks short of his 57th birthday. He was buried in the cemetery at Ste. Mère-Église, but in 1955, he and his late brother Quentin were moved to the American Cemetery at Normandy.

In retrospect, the strangest death for the Oyster Bay Roosevelts was the 1943 suicide of Kermit, which Brady barely mentions. He writes that Kermit, while serving with the British Army in WWI, was unable to maintain sobriety, so had to be discharged.

Returning to the U.S., Kermit dried out and, during WWII, he re-enlisted as a major in the Army. He took a mistress, started drinking again, and was hospitalized with what was gently reported as “recurrent illnesses.” Brady writes that while stationed in Alaska, “exhausted by the…failures of his life miserably sick and tired, Kermit put the barrel of his service revolver beneath his chin and pulled the trigger.”

Brady does not tell us that the War Department told Kermit’s mother he died of a heart attack, and that the New York Times reported his death of “natural causes.” In fact, his suicide was not revealed until the 1980 publication of Sylvia Jukes Morris’ biography, Edith Kermit Roosevelt: Portrait of a First Lady. Ted Jr., who did not know the real cause of his brother’s death but had witnessed his dissolution over time, wrote: “He really died five years ago.”

Surprisingly, Brady also does not chronicle the genetic predisposition of the Roosevelts to the alcoholic depression which ran in the family, affecting Kermit’s paternal grandmother, who exhibited signs of bipolar disorder; and his paternal uncle, Elliott Roosevelt, who suffered chronic bouts of depression and died of alcoholism, as did his maternal grandfather, Charles Carow.

Ten years after Kermit took his life, his son, Dirck, committed suicide at the age of 28. His death in 1953 was reported as a “household accident.” In 1957, Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s only child, Paulina Strum, depressed and drug addicted, committed suicide with sleeping pills.

Suicide seems to permeate a threnody in the family, beginning with the former president’s stated resolve to take his own life after contracting malaria and nearly dying during a 1913 expedition to the Amazon Basin. He said he could not fathom becoming a burden to others on the expedition. Kermit, along on the journey to South America to explore the River of Doubt (later named Rio Roosevelt), is reported to have helped save his father.

Four years later, when his brother Quentin was killed, Kermit edited an anthology of his life, including a short story Quentin had written about suicide. The first line of his morbid tale: “A service revolver is a terrible thing.”

Another eerie detail not included in Brady’s biography — and possibly another missed opportunity to assist in untangling the skeins of a life story — was the Roosevelt friendship with the poet Edwin Arlington Robinson, who wrote Children of the Night.  Kermit discovered the book as a teenager and gave it to his father, who shared it with his Cabinet. The book contains the haunting poem of “Richard Cory, who glittered when he walked,” but then, “one calm summer night went home and put a bullet in his head.”

Like his father and his brothers, Ted Jr. loved poetry and even recited verses to reporters who traveled with him during the war. In fact, the best parts of Brady’s book are the quotes from Ted Jr.’s letters. He published several books and wrote well, placing an insurmountable burden on his biographer. Yet, at times, slogging through this book was as onerous as the Roosevelt treks through the Himalayas and New Guinea.

The namesake son of a great man, Ted Jr. showed a definite sense of entitlement, believing he, too, deserved to be governor of New York and then president of the United States, both of which eluded him. As A.J. Liebling wrote, “Old Teddy was a dilettante soldier and a first-class politician; his son was a dilettante politician and a first-class soldier.”

In the end, Tim Brady best sums up his biography of a well-born man with a world-famous name: “As time passed, his story became a footnote in the family saga.”

Crossposted with Washington Independent Review of Books

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Settle for More

by Kitty Kelley

settle_428_648I groaned when the editor suggested I review Megyn Kelly’s memoir, Settle for More. “I couldn’t possibly,” I said. “The girl misspells her name.” (I go through life insisting on the extra “e” in my Kelley, and then get grief from the one-e Kellys for putting on parlor airs.) The editor barked like Ms. Megyn herself on her prime-time Fox show, “The Kelly File.” She told me to suck it up.

The book arrived with a staggeringly glamorous cover of the blonde television anchor looking beautiful but forbidding. Before you even get to page one, you know you’re not meeting Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. This is not the story of a warm and cozy girly-girl, all frills and fluff. Kelly knows she’s good as any, better than some.

So prepare yourself for Cinderella on steroids: the success story of a young woman who learned early in life that hard work will open any door that’s not already kicked in by great good looks. Her book is a testament to slogging, bone-cracking, round-the-clock effort, which she soldered to a laser focus to succeed.

“I believe in the Steve Martin mantra,” she writes. “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Kelly’s memoir is also a love letter to her father, who died suddenly when she was 12. “Sometimes I wonder if he has seen me on TV, and whether he knows that what I’ve accomplished is in part an accomplishment of his. He gave me the confidence to do everything I’ve done.”

But why write a memoir at the age of 46? Television’s czarina, Barbara Walters of ABC-TV, waited until she was almost 80 and off the air to write her life story and to reveal her love affair with Edward Brooke, the first African American to serve in the U.S. Senate.

NBC’s Jane Pauley was 53 when she wrote her book and revealed that she’d been institutionalized for bipolar disorder. Elizabeth Vargas of CBS-TV was 54 when she wrote to reveal her alcoholism. And — make no mistake — a “reveal” is expected of a television anchor who receives a $5 million book advance.

Kelly’s “reveal” comes at the end of her jaunty 320-page book when she busts Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, only to get trashed by some of her Fox colleagues for disloyalty to the boss who made her a star. (For Fox trashers, see index under “O’Reilly, Bill.”)

“I realized I had a choice to make,” Kelly writes. She could be quiet, or “I could ensure that the owners of Fox News Channel — Rupert Murdoch and his sons — understood they might actually have a predator running their company.”

Bye-Bye, Mr. Ailes.

Before she lowers the boom on rutting Roger, though, she relates the trauma of Trump, who made her “bleeding” a global issue and then called her a bimbo, a lightweight, and a liar. He allowed his attorney to encourage 40,000 people to boycott her show and “gut” her after the presidential debate in which she had slammed the candidate with a question regarding his piggish comments about women.

Sounding like a disciple of Oprah, whom she calls her role model, Kelly writes: “Adversity is an opportunity,” and she proved it by asking her attacker to help launch her own Fox Broadcast special. Without consulting anyone at her network, she secretly met with Trump after his poisonous tweets and suggested he sit with her for an exclusive “Barbara Walters type interview.”

Quelle surprise — Trump agrees. Unfortunately, the special bombed. According to Vanity Fair, “The heavily promoted prime time interview was a critical and ratings disappointment.” Slate called her interview “disgusting” and “fawning.” This Kelly doesn’t mention.

Overall, she writes with bawdy good humor and rarely “half-asses it,” as she says. “While discussing the Olympics, I said the word ‘shuttlecock’ made me feel uncomfortable…So sue me.” When her husband defended her to an angry Trump supporter, she told him, “You are definitely getting action tonight.”

Born “lower middle class,” she says she’s “new to money,” having spent most of her life without it. She claims to be a practicing Catholic but admits she doesn’t go to Mass every Sunday. She runs from being labeled a feminist, knowing she might alienate many in her audience, and professes to be an Independent. She doesn’t apologize for sounding racist by once proclaiming Santa Claus “is white,” and then adding, “Jesus was a white man, too.”

Kelly, soon to be renegotiating her television contract for an estimated $20 million a year (eeny, meeny, miny, moe — will she catch Fox or CNN by the toe?), is battling O’Reilly for dominance at Fox, although she dismisses him as an “ideologue” and a “pundit,” while describing her own show as “cool water over hot brain.”

She’s also battling O’Reilly for first place on the bestseller list and, if you look at the top nonfiction books, hers could fit under any of several titles: once a “Scrappy Little Nobody,” she is now “Filthy Rich,” bathed in “Moonlight,” a trifle “Superficial,” but “Born to Run.”

Kelly calls her memoir Settle for More because her mentor, Dr. Phil, changed her life when she heard him say on Oprah: “The only difference between you and someone you envy is, you settled for less.”

As she writes: “This was the moment when I realized I could change my life. I did not have to settle for less. I could settle for more.” And she definitely has.

Crossposted with Washington Independent Review of Books

(Note:  In January 2017, Megyn Kelly did her last show for Fox News.  After this review was written, Kelly made a deal with NBC to do a weekday daytime show and a Sunday evening show.)

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The Courtesan and the Consort

by Kitty Kelley

Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman opened the front door of her Georgetown mansion. Pearls draped her freckled cleavage and reddish hair framed her milk-white face like a froth of ginger. “Please come in,” she said. “The White Roses are straight ahead.”

Everyone grinned like fools. They had been standing outside 3038 N Street for some time, having paid $1000 to support “Democrats for the ’80s,” better known as Pam PAC. Now they clomped into the house like peasants to the palace.

“Does she really think we’re here to see the Van Gogh?” said one woman, whispering like a second-grader.

In fact, Mrs. Harriman knew full well all were there as voyeurs just wanting a chance to rub up against a copper-bottomed courtesan who finally got one of the richest men in the country to marry her. But what did she care? They were paying her for the privilege.

These paid events hosted by the Harrimans from 1980-1990 usually raised $100,000 an evening, and went a long way toward a Democratic restoration in the wake of the Reagan revolution that had seized control of the Senate for the first time in twenty-eight years….

Read the article at

New York Social Diary

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Washington Independent Review Lifetime Achievement Award

Kitty Kelley received the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Washington Independent Review of Books.  The award was presented at the 4th annual “Books Alive!” Washington Writers Conference on April 30, 2016.  The following are her remarks.

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For the last 40 years I’ve chosen to write biographies of people who are alive and influence our world.  I’ve done this without their cooperation and independent of their demands and dictates.  These people are not simply celebrities, but titans of society who have affected us as individuals and left an imprint on our culture, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

With each biography, the challenge has been to answer the question John F. Kennedy once posed:  “What makes journalism so fascinating and biography so interesting is the struggle to answer that single question:  ‘What’s he like?’”

I believe that the best way to find out is to tell a life story from the outside looking in, and so I choose to write with my nose pressed against the window rather than kneeling inside for spoon feedings.

Championing the independent or unauthorized biography might sound like a high-minded defense for a low-level pursuit, but I do not relish living in a world where information is authorized, sanitized and homogenized.  I read banned books. I applaud whistleblowers. I reject any suppression by church or state.  And I believe in freedom of the press. To me the unauthorized biography, which requires a combination of scholarly research and investigative reporting, is best directed at those figures, still alive, who exercise power over our lives.

In writing about contemporary figures, I’ve found that the unauthorized biography avoids the pureed truths of revisionist history, which is the pitfall of an authorized biography.  Without being beholden to the subject or bending to editorial control, the unauthorized biographer is better able to penetrate the manufactured public image.  For, to quote President Kennedy again, “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.”

Despite my lofty defense of the unauthorized biography there’s no question that it exacts a price.  The authorized biographer is often hailed as a white knight while the unauthorized biographer is usually demonized.  It’s the difference between poodles and pit bulls.  One is adored—the other avoided.  Authorized biographers are like seraphim—the angels who stand to give praise.  Unauthorized biographers are like what John Boehner recently called Ted Cruz.  You can understand why I keep an old cowboy motto above my desk that says—“Tell the truth but ride a fast horse.”

I still dream about going to the same heaven as authorized biographers but I’m probably headed for whatever awaits the unanointed.  I’m afraid I’ve toiled too long on the unauthorized side of the street to ever hear the angels sing. But this award for telling the truth and riding a fast horse will keep me galloping forward —with great pride.

Thank you very much.

 

(All photos by Bruce Guthrie.)

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David O. Stewart, president and chair of the board, presented the award to Kitty Kelley.

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Kitty Kelley with keynote speaker Bob Woodward.

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Slap Fest

Kitty Kelley wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post taking issue with George Will’s attack on her book Nancy Reagan in his critique of Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Reagan.

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(Thanks to Patrick W. Gavin @pwgavin for tweeting the photo.)

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Burying Gore Vidal

See Kitty Kelley’s “Gore Vidal’s Final Feud” in the November 2015 Washingtonian magazine for an account of the consternation caused by Vidal’s final disposition of his wealth and property:  “Given his penchant for dissent Vidal–who died in 2012–would be smacking his lips to know that, between his death and this fall, there has been a bitter fight over his will pitting distant relatives against one another.”

 

Update 11/9/15: The article has been posted at the Washingtonian website here.

 

Photo: Gore Vidal with Burr Steers, son of Vidal’s half-sister Nina Auchincloss Straight.

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Joe Biden Interview by Kitty Kelley

Washingtonian magazine  posted online Kitty Kelley’s “Death and the All-American Boy” (June 1974) as part of its 50th Anniversary collection.

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The article attracted some new media attention.

For example, see Gawker, Sept. 26, 2015.

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See also the Huffington Post, Sept. 30, 2015.

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Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

csgv logoKitty Kelley spoke on December 8, 2014 at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence 4oth Anniversary Celebration in Washington D.C.:

This is an evening I’ve been looking forward to because it gives me a chance to be in a room with people I consider royalty who are enlightened and represent a sense of values that I have long admired.  So I come here tonight to pay tribute to each of you for your commitment to stop gun violence.

I salute you because you have refused to be defeated by huge odds.  You have not become disillusioned by the political failure in this country to legislate gun control; you have not been intimidated by the N.R.A.  You have stood tall and you have not wavered.  You are clear-eyed about the obstacles but you focus on your high purpose, which is to bring us back to our humanity.  And in the words of that old spiritual sung by those who marched for Civil Rights–you shall not be moved.

Everything about this organization underscores humanity.  You named yourself a “coalition” which by its very definition embraces outreach to others–of different religions, different regions, different races.  Your roots spring from the hopeful days of the Civil Rights movement for justice and equality.  To date your organization covers 47 different organizations which share your mission of non-violence.  One purpose, many people.

When President Kennedy addressed the nation on Civil Rights in 1962, he said, “This is not a legal or legislative issue alone.  We are confronted primarily with a moral issue.  It is as old as the scriptures and as clear as the American constitution.”

But old as it might be and clear as it might seem, it sometimes looks impossible to achieve.  Yet Martin Luther King, Jr., never lost hope.  He told us that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.”  He said that arc would lead us to a place of peace for all humanity.  He called the place the Beloved Community.

And tonight I feel like I am in the middle of that Beloved Community because for 40 years you have given your time, your talent and your treasure to stop gun violence.  You have held faith in the worst of times even as we are still reeling from Ferguson, Missouri, and Trayvon Martin and too many school shootings to recount.

Some days it’s hard to believe that the arc of the moral universe is ever going to bend, but this Coalition keeps us on course, and remind us in the words of Abraham Lincoln that “To sin by silence makes cowards of men.”  This Coalition helps us all be brave, to stand up, to speak out, and to not be moved.

Your mission is more than an act of faith, or a statement of hope in a noble cause.  It’s a real vow, a pledge of allegiance, and a promise to help us reclaim our humanity and to live in a civilized world.

So you have great reason to celebrate tonight and on the occasion of your 40th anniversary I salute each one of you–and none more so than your founder, Mike Beard, the man who brought us together.  Mike marched with Martin Luther King and he worked for John F. Kennedy.  He saw in both men the best hopes for America, and when both were struck down by gun violence, Mike found his cause and this Coalition.  For those of us who never marched with Dr. King and never knew President Kennedy, Mike has bound us to their legacies, and for that we owe him our deepest thanks.

Kitty Kelley donated copies of Let Freedom Ring for those attending the Celebration, with a letter from her enclosed:

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The Hamptons

by Kitty Kelley

The little girl looked forlorn. Standing in the Starbucks line in East Hampton, she tugged at her mother’s cashmere sleeve, almost in tears. “Oh, Mummy,” she said. “I forgot to kiss Daddy good-bye this morning before he got in the helicopter.”

This child of the “one percent” summers with her prosperous parents on the luscious East End of Long Island known as “The Hamptons,” a term that annoys many locals, who prize the uniqueness of each little village and hamlet tucked into the 27 miles from Montauk Point to East Hampton, including Wainscot, Sagaponack, Bridgehampton, Water Mill, Southampton, Sag Harbor, Amagansett and Shelter Island, which can only be approached by ferry.

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“The Hamptons” conjures the good life of pristine beaches, million dollar mansions, gleaming yachts, and emerald green golf courses where even the sand traps glisten. In addition, the area boasts windmills, horse farms, flowered meadows, rolling fields of corn, and acres of vineyards. The food is farm fresh and, just like Provence, there is a farmer’s market every day in a different town offering fresh fruits and vegetables, sunflowers, eggs still warm from the hen house and even fresh chicken.

For foodies, there are gourmet chefs and starred restaurants, notably Nick and Toni’s (East Hampton), Tu Tu Il Giorno (Sag Harbor), Tom Colicchio’s Topping Rose House and Pierre’s (Bridgehampton). The most romantic restaurant by far is the bricked alley of Sant Ambroeus (Southampton). The orchids cascading from the walls and candles flickering at small tables make you feel like Cinderella with two glass slippers, plus the fairy godmother who grants your every gourmet wish from fresh seafood to locally harvested wines. Plus—all the waiters look (and act) like Prince Charming.

“The Hamptons” also mean celebrities, celebrities, celebrities. In East Hampton you’re bound to see Alec Baldwin with his yogi wife, Hilaria, carrying their baby down Main Street. If you breakfast at the American Hotel in Sag Harbor, you can be sure the man ordering an egg white omelet is the former president. Bill and Hillary Clinton (a k a “Billary”) are summer regulars. Kitchen czarinas like Martha Stewart and Ina Gartner are fixtures as are tycoons like Ron Perlman (Revlon), Ronald Lauder (Estee Lauder), and Len Riggio (Barnes & Noble). Don’t be surprised if you see Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, standing at the door welcoming customers.

Fashionistas love spotting Tory Burch, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren and fans occasionally glimpse Madonna, Paul McCartney, Jon Bon Jovi, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mathew Broderick, Jennifer Lopez, Kelly Ripa, Andy Cohen, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mariska Hargitay and Christie Brinkley, who in her 60’s looks better than when she was as Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl.”

The main streets of every town in the Hamptons are filled with bistro bars, patio restaurants, antique shops, and pricey boutiques. You’ll find many of your favorite labels at the shops of Ralph Lauren, InterMix, J.Crew, Wonder, Tory Burch, Michael Kors, Calypso, J. McLaughlin., Theory and Eli Tahari. In East Hampton you can buy a cashmere sweater for $1250 at Brunello Couchinelli or an $18 t-shirt from Bookhampton that says, “I Believe in Books.” (I skipped the sweater and bought the t-shirt).

While in East Hampton make your way to The Monogram Shop on Newtown Lane for anything you want personalized from finely stitched pillow cases, bathrobes and night gowns to beach bags, sun bonnets, glasses, placemats, napkins (paper or linen) stationary, invitations, and place cards for your dinner parties (the funniest being monogrammed Stop Talking beneath which the impish owner, Valerie Smith, wrote the name of Bill O’Reilly). She also sells 16 oz. shatter-proof glass cups that go in the dishwasher and—ta dah—predict presidential elections.

“The cups know,” said Smith. “The cups always know.” Since 1994 she has been monogramming political cups—last ones were Obama/Biden and Romney/Ryan. “I keep a daily tally of how many sold and post it in the window so passers-by can see the results, and every four years my cups have accurately predicted the presidency.”

Beyond the glitz and glamour of the Hamptons is a cornucopia of culture—theater, music, dance, art, film, and spectacular garden tours. Nearly every night in the summer there is a charity event open to the public for a price to raise money for every good cause from local schools and libraries to hospitals and hospices. Not to be missed is an evening of Shakespeare Under the Stars at Mulford Farm in East Hampton presented by HITFest (Hampton Independent Theater Festival). Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor offers a summer comedy series and top-quality productions by Equity actors. One of the funniest evenings is “Celebrity Autobiography” at Guild Hall in East Hampton, featuring a troupe of actors reading inanities from books written by celebrities like Dolly Parton, Arnold Schwartzenegger, and Tony Danza.

longhousereserve_edited-2An absolute must-see is Longhouse Reserve in East Hampton, the 16 acre sculpture garden created by world-renowned textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen. He has filled his little piece of paradise with towering oaks, weeping Japanese cherry trees, and Hemlock hedges surrounded by flowers in full bloom year round. You will be mesmerized by the marriage of art to nature as you stroll through 37 pocket gardens under rose-entwined arches. Wandering around ponds teeming with lilies, and pools bedecked by outdoor furniture as colorful as a peacock’s feathers, you will see sumptuous sculptures–a deKooning here and a Chihuly there. Yoko Ono’s mammoth white marble chess set gleams in a green garden not far from an arresting fiberglass dome designed by Buckminster Fuller.

On summer weekends the main roads of the Hamptons are clogged with Jaguars and Ferraris. The traffic is bumper to rich bumper; crossing guards (try to) protect pedestrians and parking places are strictly monitored. A ticket will cost you more than the price of an upscale dinner. Fleets of jitneys arrive from Manhattan filled with Generation X-ers heading for summer rentals and Saturday night clubbing. The one-percenters fly in on private planes and then helicopter to their multi-million dollar mansions by the ocean. The sky traffic over the Hamptons on Friday afternoons and Monday mornings has kicked up such a kerfuffle that Sag Harbor recently held a town hall meeting to discuss the racket. The local newspaper headlined the story: “The Very Rich are Angry at the Extremely Rich,” and quoted one resident as saying: “When I look up at small planes and choppers, I see a fleet of middle fingers across the sky.”

While the Hamptons are famous for summer vacations, any season can be rewarding, especially without the hordes of tourists. The Baker House in East Hampton, features canopy beds, plus a spa and  honor bar. So whether you choose the full celebrity throttle of summertime, the dialed-back leisure of spring, or the fireplace romance of fall and winter, the Hamptons promise a memorable trip.

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From Travelgirl magazine
Fall 2014

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Statement, ASJA Awards Presentation, April 24, 2014

On April 24, 2014, Kitty Kelley was presented with the Founders’ Award for Career Achievement by the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) during a ceremony at the group’s 43rd annual writers’ conference in New York.  The following are her remarks at the Awards Presentation.

My love affair with the American Society of Journalists and Authors began on September 21, 1983 when we were introduced by Frank Sinatra. That was the day he sued me for $2 million to keep me from writing his (decidedly unauthorized) biography.  In court papers, he declared that he and he alone or someone that he authorized could write his life story. No one else was entitled to what he called his “right of publicity.”

ASJA immediately stepped forward and joined with other writers’ groups to protest Sinatra’s assault on the First Amendment. In a press conference, they said: “The apparent goal behind Sinatra’s filing of this suit is to scare Ms. Kelley away from her investigation and ultimately to force her to scrap the book.” They asserted that “the unauthorized or unblessed biography” is the essence of free speech and open commentary and declared that Sinatra’s lawsuit was an assault on all writers’ constitutionally protected freedom of expression and should be dismissed on its face.

This public stance stirred a great deal of publicity from outraged journalists, who wrote columns, editorials, and even a few cartoons. One of the funniest was drawn by Jules Feiffer, whoFeiffer pt1 showed a mug’s face under a snap-brim hat, swaying on skinny legs and snapping his fingers:

“I’m chairman of the Board. If some broad wantsa write a book about me… She gotta talk t’one of my boys who talks t’one of my other boys… who talks t’me.  And MAYBE if the broad looks OK, I say, ‘Go Baby.’ Or Maybe I say ‘Shove it, Bimbo.’  And before she can write word one I sue her.

“So don’t give me any First Amendment crapola, I got the Frank Amendment and mine is bigger than hers. Ring a ding ding.”

After a year of litigation that cost me over $100,000 in legal fees, Sinatra finally dropped his lawsuit, but by then he had sent his message to my publisher and the rest of the world that he did not want the book written. Many people were too frightened to speak on the record, and some actually feared for their lives, but over the course of three years I managed to interview 800 people, including members of Sinatra’s family, his mistresses, co-stars, friends, neighbors, employees, FBI agents, a few antagonists, and a couple of mobsters.

In 1986 His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra was published, and– despite his threats– I lived to see the book become number one on the New York Times best seller list and sell more than 1 million copies in hardback. All very gratifying, but best of all was receiving ASJA’s Outstanding Author Award that year for “courageous writing on popular culture.”

Publication of the Frank Sinatra biography was a triumph for all non-fiction writers who struggle against immense pressure to find their way to examine the public figures who influence our society.

Thirty years ago ASJA made it possible for me to find my way– and for that I am profoundly grateful. I accept your award for Career Achievement because YOU made my career all it has been– and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

by Kitty Kelley

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