Liz Smith: Summer Fun Among Rhode Island’s Rich

Yes, we’re all nervous about the economy, but the lush life goes on

“I WENT to a mah-velous party…!” as Noel Coward would have opined.

And while 80% of the people in the United States at the end of an uncertain August were worrying about paying their bills, the price of groceries going up and where their mortgage payment was coming from – well, people still partied down, especially in Iowa. The nation was riveted on this carnival-like political event but, I’d say, generally the whole nation was also – nervous.

Except maybe in Newport, R.I., once the old-fashioned play place of the rich. One might say Newport still is – or, at least, a part of it still is – rich and playful. There are many social locals who are worrying about paying more taxes even though their taxes now are lower than at anytime since the Eisenhower decade.

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IN NEWPORT, people were not experimenting with fried butter. There, they had the classic ”little ole Rhode Island” standbys. For instance, under a perfect moon, Maureen Donnell entertained her many house guests at the palatial estate “Ker Arvor”. When they are not eating and drinking, guests here can examine Maureen’s amazing porcelain collection.

Barbeque was served under a big white tent where the centerpieces were sunflowers. In Texas, people consider sunflowers worse than weeds, but in Newport; it’s “down home” chic to use them.

Mrs. Donnell — who is what they refer to as a social “pillar” in Newport and Palm Beach — served a traditional menu – ribs, hamburgers, foot-long hot dogs, baked beans, salads, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for dessert. Oh yes, there was plenty of wine and champagne. The party entered into the history books for keeping on till the wee hours. There were almost 200 guests, lots of Palm Beach types such as Peggy and Rodney Dillard, Hope and Jack Annan, Eles Gillet and James Clarke, Regina and Rainer Greeven from Southampton.

The Greeven’s have a famous son-in-law, Christopher Cuomo. He caught a record large striped bass recently off Montauk in Long Island recently. The ABC-TV star is the brother to the Governor of New York and the son of a former Governor. He is wed to Cristina Greeven who edits the new magazine, Plum.

Back to hostess Donnell; she pampers her guests at breakfast and takes them to Bailey’s Beach for lunch and if there isn’t a picnic going on, she takes them to dinner at The Clambake Club or the New York Yacht Club.

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THEN, up from the rigors of conservatism in Washington, D.C., came Ruth Buchanan who gave one of her annual lunches at her manse “Beaulieu” on Bellevue Avenue. She hasn’t changed the menu in years. You can expect gazpacho, lobster salad, corn salad, Ruth’s famous popovers and Mango Mousse for dessert. Guests eat looking out at the Atlantic Ocean and next door is “Marble House.” (Didn’t they film part of “The Great Gatsby” there? Newport, Southampton; it’s pretty much the same.) Nearby, David Ford was giving a dinner under a tent at his fabulous house “Miramar” for about 200 swells. Again, the lawn goes down to the ocean and most of the guests were antique dealers who had come in for an annual get together at St. George’s School.

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I COULD go on and give you a full paragraph of names of those eating and drinking in Newport. But I see I only know one of these couples – Mr. and Mrs. Freddie Cushing. And I don’t know them that well.

Hey, here’s a name that seems familiar, Doda Hamilton, who is from the Campbell soup family. But she actually lives in Philadelphia. Oh, they are living high on the hog also on the Main Line though there are plenty of people in all these places who need jobs, need food stamps, need food, need health insurance, and like that.

This doesn’t mean I think Les Elegants shouldn’t throw big parties. It helps the minimum wage folks scrape by, so madder music, more waiters/more cooks/more chauffeurs/more ladies maids/more butlers/ and people tending to the lawns that go down to the Atlantic.

If I were invited, I’d probably go to Newport and chow down myself. But at least, I’d be worried.

4 comments so far.

  1. avatar ListeningLady says:

    Liz, You are right. The rich are still vacationing. Only now they justify it by keeping the economy going!
    Perhaps their cocktail chatter will include, “Did you see what the market did today? Crazy! Ah,…what are you buying? Did you get your new yacht yet with the million dollar radar system?”

  2. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    This doesn’t mean I think Les Elegants shouldn’t throw big parties. It helps the minimum wage folks scrape by, so madder music, more waiters/more cooks/more chauffeurs/more ladies maids/more butlers/ and people tending to the lawns that go down to the Atlantic.

    _______________________________________________________________________

    That’s really the attitude of those to the manor bought. Not those to the manor born.

  3. avatar O E says:

    I am a fan of Liz, but as I read this column, I wondered what was the point of it?  Then the reference to the “help” that is helped by these bashes made my skin crawl.  It all sounded like old Marie saying “Let them eat cake…”

  4. avatar LuckyLady n/a says:

    Lis, you are an “artiste” where sarcasm is concerned.  Keep it  up and keep us informed of all the charitable and “help our troops” information you can dig up concerning these people!!!!!!!