Magazine article The Spectator

Manicured Mansions

Magazine article The Spectator

Manicured Mansions

Article excerpt

High life

As everyone knows, Palm Beach is a pristine, immaculate resort north of Miami, a manicured place full of palm trees, great mansions by the sea and some awfully rich people, and a town where law and order reign supreme. There are as many socialists in Palm Beach as there are socialites in Kandahar. It is the most famous resort in America, and deservedly so. It reeks of money and comfort - a toy town for the well-off, a village where one can buy a Rolls or Mercedes or a very large diamond in a jiffy but cannot have one's shirt laundered.

Mind you, the place is not what it used to be, not by a long shot, but then what is? Palm Beach was smaller and friendlier during the Fifties and Sixties. Then came the developers, and high rises replaced the shanty towns and black neighbourhoods of West Palm Beach, across the inland waterway. Now high rises stand out like undulating fingers, reminding those over in Palm Beach that 'progress' stops at nothing. Where once upon a time there were family outings on the beach (by the relatively poor), with volley ball games and children making human chains in the waves, now there are 100mph speedboats racing the sun, SUV baseball-cap-wearing drivers blasting rock music, and city slicker types looking for expensive trinkets on Worth Avenue. Still, it's a hell of a nice place to live in when one considers Brighton, Blackpool or Bournemouth. Or Monte Carlo. Or Marbella, not to mention Vouliagmeni and Glyfada. (The last two are Athenian beach resorts which closely resemble downtown Manila.)

My hostess was Terry Kramer, daughter of legendary Wall Street investor Charlie Allen, as generous and nice a lady as there is, at present involved in a torrid affair with an Englishman, Nick Simunek, an ex-Coldstream guardsman and the only man I know to have wrestled an alligator in a swamp for money. (The alligator quit.) Terry's house is on the ocean and is a marvel. There are great lawns and vistas, SOft ceilings, all in ochre colours and done in very good taste. That did not stop my friend Steven Morris from walking into a glass door and knocking himself out in front of an amused crowd. Oh well, you know what they say about Englishmen abroad.

One of the highlights of my visit was to run into my old (we've been friends for 40 years) buddy Frank Shields, son of the great tennis player of the Thirties. …

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