October 31, 2014

Scene & Heard

What a royal treat it was for me at the Reflections fundraiser put on by The League Club. I sat next to media queen Tina Brown, onetime editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker and author of the bestselling book The Diana Chronicles. And, of course, she held the crowd spellbound with her inside tales of the late Princess Di. Brown confessed to me that she’s fascinated with Bill and Hillary Clinton and will make them the subject of her next book. I’m sure Brown will have a juicy read for us on this power couple’s romp through American politics.

Pat Frey, chairwoman of the fundraising event, did a great job putting this gathering together and added a delightful twist to the proceedings. She asked local dignitaries to paint teapots to be auctioned off and got nice contributions from the Phil’s Myra Janco Daniels and Naples Mayor Bill Barnett, among others. I ate the delicious lunch very carefully. Peggy Post, great-granddaughter-in-law of etiquette maven Emily Post, was sitting on my right, and I hope I was using the correct fork. She is, by the way, doing an update on the family’s brand-name etiquette book (and then maybe I’ll know if I was Ms. Perfect Manners that day).

POLITICAL EXCHANGE

I had the opportunity to meet another Hillary Clinton fan and confidante, Anna Quindlen, at a private brunch at the home of Jan Harrison in Bay Colony. The popular author and Newsweek columnist was in town to speak at a Planned Parenthood dinner. A lot of the conversation was about this year’s election and the dramatic battle between Clinton and Barack Obama, and—whatever your political leanings—it was stimulating to hear all the opinions and insights.

COURAGEOUS TALKS

Well, here’s the way to respond to a crisis. The folks staging the Mending Broken Hearts with Hope luncheon to benefit the Shelter for Abused Women & Children in Naples learned the night before that keynote speaker Linda Fairstein had to cancel. The sex crimes prosecutor and best-selling author reported that her husband had just suffered a stroke. But the shelter’s program had to go on, and the results proved truly moving for the crowd of 900 people.

First came John Jordan's powerful telling of a long-held family secret. John had built and sold a very successful envelope business before settling here in Naples with his wife, Barbara. For the first time in public, he revealed the horrible abuse his mother had suffered at the hands of his father and how she had escaped with her four children to break the cycle of violence. Many in the crowd wept as he spoke so eloquently from the heart. They stood and applauded him when he finished.

To reinforce the message, organizers at the last minute flew in Kelly Otte, a professor at Florida State University. She grew up in a socially prominent family that hid some of its dirty laundry as well. Kelly told how her mother had been molested and beaten by her grandfather and then, when she married, by her husband. She, too, broke away from the violence and managed to raise her children to be decent, contributing members of society.
It was not exactly your everyday lunch mood, but we all left touched by the courage of the speakers and ever more sensitized to a problem that requires ongoing attention.

WOMEN TO WATCH

The president’s gala to honor Wilson Bradshaw, the new president of Florida Gulf Coast University, brought together many of the big players in Lee and Collier counties. I enjoyed meeting Bradshaw and his wife, Jo Anna. Watch out for her. She is going to be a force to be reckoned with on the nonprofit front. She told me she’s already committed to one, the Harry Chapin Food Bank, and is mulling other opportunities. She said she is ready to "shake things up in this town." Hmmm.

Another woman in attendance, Donna Noce Colaco, the new president of White House/Black Market, may be shaking things up here as well. Chico’s CEO Scott Edmonds recruited her from Ann Taylor Corporation in NYC. She and her husband, Frank, just moved to Fort Myers. Let’s see if she can help the company make a big comeback.

HOME AT LAST

And finally, after three years of searching, my husband and I found our dream home! We had plenty of heartache on the way there. We built a house, went to court over it and finally had to walk away from the deal. Then we tried to buy a house that had gone into foreclosure, but couldn’t jump the legal hurdles to close on it. And now, at last, we’ve found The One. You know when you get that feeling that this is where you are meant to be? That’s what I felt when I entered this home for the first time. I can’t tell you what a pleasant experience it has been dealing with the builder Wyman Stokes and his wife, Pat. They lived in this house for the past three years, and now they are handing over the keys to us! We can’t get over the welcome mat fast enough.