Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ahoy from the Atlantic aboard "Celebrity Equinox"


10 November 2009 – 6:49am, ship’s time

And now we are truly in the Atlantic: Gibraltar fading away to aft on our starboard quarter. Captain Apostolos was good to his word that Celebrity Equinox would pass through the “Pillars of Hercules” around 6am. Alfredo and I bundled up against the wind, comforted by a cup of coffee and joined by Orion and Mars overhead in a cloudless morning sky. “The Rock” loomed in its perpetual guardianship – a blacker spot against the blacken sky – while passengers exercised a predictable futility of photos. Scurrying to port we caught the tiara of lights around the Spanish towns of NAME and NAME which adorn the crown of Africa. “What’s on the other side,” a woman exhaled between puffos of her pre-breakfast cigarette, here on the port quarter smoking deck. “Gibraltar,” we chimed which elicited an “Oh” and another drag. We all filter our priorities in different ways.

Today, in many ways the cruise truly begins: the first sea day. Marseille, Barcelona, Mallorca and Cartegena are all behind us: lovely ports but merely prelude to our Maiden Crossing – still a ship’s true First Maritime Communion. Now, Equinox is one with the lineage of those ships about which I’ll speak over the next week.


13 November 2009 – 6:56pm Ship’s Time, mid-Atlantic

Just in from walking the decks – the warm (South) North Atlantic breeze making for an un-Novemberly stroll. Today, people were sunning and listening to Salsa music on deck: no bullion in sight nor heavy steamer blankets against the non-existent chill.

Tonight – mid cruise formal, and my tux lays ready for donning to my left on the bed. Outside our port-side port hole, the ocean streams by. Tomorrow – my lecture on the “Golden Age of Liners” (ie, just before ‘til just after WWII) is scheduled for 3pm. Today’s talk on “Titanic’s Sisters” was enthusiastically received: almost a full house. Thank God (Neptune?) for other Trans-Atlanticophiles such as me – perfect audience.

Tonight, another hour back, so another hour to be rocked to sleep by the creak of the hull; the wash of the waves – dreams of “what to do tomorrow between coffee and lunch and strolling the deck, and – what comes next?” Sigh – all too soon, land-based rhythms will return. But for now, I am grateful for the respite.

Event the Internet is down for the moment here in the middle of glorious nothingness: nice to know that’s still possible.

More anon

14 November – At Sea

I have found my spot: deck five promenade, starboard side. Book in hand, steamer rug (ok, pool towel) wrapped around my ankles, and the sound of the Atlantic’s relentless massaging of our keel and my psyche pouring its watery balm. Give me a deck chair and a tome to steer her by and I am a happy sailor.

Now – if I can just resuscitate the tradition of 11am boullion around the decks (maybe with a shot of vodka thrown in to make it a “bull shot”) and the world will have achieved – albeit briefly – a perfection of essence.

I always wax poetic at sea.

Today, my third lecture – “Four Funnels: The Golden Age of Liners” was enthusiastically received. Standing room only and lots of questions. My comments about the S S United States and her deplorable condition at the Philadelphia Navy Yard elicited a spontaneous and patriotic round of applause. Learning can be fun, and I have a captive ocean-bound audience of maritime students. Day after tomorrow – “Liners to Love Boat” complete with video footage from I Love Lucy and an episode shot aboard the S S Constitution.

Working on my book daily – Ship Shape -- and contemplating a day when we can be at sea more (and make it pay) and on land less.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Farewell "SS United States"?

Ahoy Dear Friends -- as Alfredo and I prepare for this year's "Crossing" (November 5 - 20, Rome to Fort Lauderdale aboard the glorious new "Celebrity Equinox") I am reminded of the great "Big U" -- "SS United States" now rusting away at a Pier in Philadelphia.

When I was ten years old, I touched her hull: tied up as she was then (already retired) next to the carrier "John F. Kennedy" in Norfolk, Virginia. The grainy polaroid of that pilgrimage was 38 years ago. She's been moved around from pillar to post to back-water port since then. Sad. Tragic. Unthinkable for the STILL-holder of the "Blue Riband" for the fastest Westbound Atlantic Crossing.

Below - a link to a recent article in the "Wall Street Journal" about the ship's doubtful future. If you feel as I do that this ship -- this national symbol -- must be saved, please join the "United States Conservancy" online:

Below, Jesse Pesta's wonderful article from the September 30, "Wall Street Journal"

More anon,

Sunday, September 13, 2009

David Perry with Bill "Mr. Oceanliner" updates!

Dear Friends: I'm inspired by my dear friend and "Maritime Mentor", Bill "Mr. Oceanliner" Miller. Below -- a repost of his recent travels. For me, sadly, "land-locked" for most of this year, BUT on November 5, Alfredo and I sail from Rome to Fort Lauderdale aboard the fabulous new "Celebrity Equinox!" I can't wait. We'll update you on our travels once we set sail.

Below - enjoy Bill's postings!

Tue Jul 7th: Home now for two months (and after 17 days on the QUEEN MARY 2) --- with not a cruise ship or faraway port or, most especially, packing or a suitcase in sight! Yes, bliss! Free to schedule almost at will & whim! A nice calendar ahead of leisurely, fun pursuits, many with friends and many in the greatest city anywhere.

Mon Jul 13th: Dinner candles! Jim Guedry has exquisite taste. He’s a great friend of Charlie Howland’s and together we have been invited to Jim’s stunning townhouse down on West 10th St in Greenwich Village. Jim has kept two floors and created luxurious, but very homey & inviting interiors --- beautiful furniture, fine art on all walls, brilliant but ever-changing colors & stacks of alluring, oversized books on shelves & tabletops. We dine in the softly lighted garden, exquisitely maintained & done in descending tiers (could this really be Manhattan?). A cold soup with a tray of additives as a starter, cold filet mignon as a main course & then chilled strawberry sundaes for desert. Too wonderful … the evening passed too quickly. Jim, hugely successful & now retired, is one of the great hosts: attentive & caring, but also chatty, warm and relaxed. The perfect balance!

Wed Jul 15th: Tony La Fiorgia is a great new friend, a best friend. From Hoboken like me and the same age (61), we share vivid memories of bygone days along the waterfront: the ships, piers, those charismatic whistles & fog horns. We met for the first time on Jul 1st at the Brooklyn-Red Hook Cruise Terminal (Tony is manager of it and the cruise facility over in Bayonne) and today we lunch together at a small restaurant in Bayonne. The conversation flows, almost endlessly. Warm, wonderful memories, comparisons, indeed two little kids watching the great liners along the Hudson, but now grown-up!

Sat Jul 18th: Trial run! Tom, Brad & I do a walk, from the So St Seaport & then over the famed Brooklyn Bridge and into Brooklyn Heights. The bridge itself is very crowded, including lots of foreign tourists, and has become a top attraction in the City. Brad is endlessly knowledgeable --- from history & details about the 1883-built bridge itself to warehouse-to-condo conversions in the Heights and, then detailing, such as pointing out the brownstone used in film Moonstruck. We spent the afternoon as a trial for next Sat’s official walking tour co-shared with the South St Seaport & the Steamship Historical Society (but which is eventually canceled due to too few advance reservations). A fun, interesting, very enlightening day just the same!

Mon Jul 20th: Lunch visit to another townhouse, this one just below Greenwich Village, on Charlton St. Three floors of more glorious furnishings, well-framed art & magazine-level décor (lots of grand Biedermeier furniture brought over from Germany in the 1930s as a highlight). The owner has just inherited the house and, with a worried look, expects to pay over $3 million in cruel inheritance taxes. Alone, taxes on the property (a 140-yr old building that also needs millions in improvements) are $20,000 a year.

Sat Jul 25th: More decorative splendor! Charlie Howland & I head to Chelsea, to West 22nd St, on this warm afternoon to visit with Tim Deason in his splendid townhouse. Another grand adventure for me! It is truly an English country house, but brought to midtown Manhattan --- opulent décor, the finest furniture, antiques, grand windows, a library or two or maybe three, an exquisite assortment of books and a very fine collection on British royalty that goes back 300 years. Included are the likes of framed, signed portraits as well as handwritten, framed notes from the likes of Edward VIII, Queen Mary and the Duke & Duchess of Windsor. Drinks in the enchanting garden, then lunch & then the grand tour. Indeed, you forget that you are actually in the City. All very Brideshead Revisited, but more Marchmain House.

Tue Jul 28th: Visitors come to stay! Lauren & Ian Wright are dear friends, from Las Vegas, and sometimes shipmates. She is a designer, he is a celebrity photographer (noted for his 1960s portraits of British celebrities like The Beatles, Twiggy & a young, virtually unknown Margaret Thatcher). They are in New York and staying with me to start a project called Cunard Yanks, about the crewmembers aboard the Cunard passenger ships & freighters of the 1950s mostly that brought American products home to the likes of Liverpool, Southampton & London. Along with clothes, housewares & even refrigerators were 45rpm records, which introduced Rock’n Roll to young, emerging British bands that would blossom into the Rolling Stones and Gerry & the Pacemakers. These crewmembers, who even began to look American in their dress & even hairstyles, were dubbed Cunard Yanks. Ian & I and others hope to develop this comparatively unknown trans-Atlantic history, the cultural exchange, as a book, documentary, lectures, etc.

Wed Jul 29th: Day in Soho, visiting galleries & bookshops, with Lauren & Ian. Sweltering summer heat is draining, however, and then followed by long floods of summer of rain, but which do little to cool down things.

Thu Jul 30th: Birthday candles! John Maxtone-Graham, the celebrated author & ocean liner lecturer, turns 80 this summer and so I host a party (in Todd English aboard the QUEEN MARY 2 berthed in Brooklyn) for 50 of his nearest & dearest. It is a precision affair --- everything goes as planned and as smoothly. Drinks first in the Commodore Club & then the three-course luncheon. Happily, Mary Maxtone-Graham has lent a hand, naming the tables by Cunard liners (BERENGARIA, MAURETANIA, LUSITANIA, etc) and very effectively splitting all couples & pairs. Thus, the conversations flow. There’s a minimum of speeches & tributes and, amidst a good contingent of his family, John’s twin brother Michael makes a most fitting toast.

After the grind lunch, Ian & I film “teasers” for Cunard Yanks, using the outbound QUEEN MARY 2 in Brooklyn as a backdrop. Tony La Forgia has been a huge help, clearing away the usual red tape for filming at the Terminal. Afterward, a visit to Charlie Howland’s on West 72nd St, showing Lauren & Ian his world class ocean liner collection.

Fri Jul 31st: Off to Sutton Place! Sir Harry Evans, a good friend of Ian Wright’s, is loaning his very valuable support to the Cunard Yanks project. Harry is, of course, the noted publishing mogul & who is soon to launch his own biography and who is married to equally famous Tina Brown (she did the hugely successful biography on Princess Diana about two years ago). They live in the super-grand triplex just about on the East River, with very, very English décor (lots of books everywhere & very mixed wall hangings) and even an English garden outside double sets of French doors & which includes a trickling fountain. Enchantment! Harry, who is over 80, but just in from a 7-mile run along the River, is warm, personable, very sweet & completely down-to-earth. Martha Stewart had just been over for lunch the day before, he tells us. He also invites us to his gala book launching in November.

Sat Aug 1st: Mike Mervine is the brilliant genius behind miniature skyscraper creations. An inventor and highly skilled man, I drive out to Allentown, Pennsylvania to his home & workshop. For me, it is toyland! The new creations are wonderful & some soon joining my 200-piece collection --- the Hotel Pierre, the Savoy Plaza, the Lincoln Building, 10 East 40th St, Pan Am and others such as the new Conde Nast and Bank America towers. A grand replica of the Brooklyn Bridge also finds it way into my shopping bag!

Sat Aug 8th: More birthday candles! Dick Faber hosts a very pleasant dinner for Abe/Mick’s 83rd birthday, which is actually on the 14th. Presents are lovely, but being together is the best present of all!

Sun Aug 16th: Jim Crosson is my oldest friend (since we were 6, together back in a very different Hoboken) & also the greatest hero. While VA doctors have kept him alive for over 40 yrs ( he was shot no less than 5 times in the winter of 1968, during battle in the then sinister jungles of Viet-Nam), it has been his own spirit, his enormously courageous will, to survive, endure, push on. He has had over 60 operations since then, spent accumulated years in hospitals and, in the unending ordeal, lost half of his right leg. Today, with his stumped leg infected & well worn (with bone damages), I visit him at the VA Hospital in East Orange. While the doctors may have to amputate the rest of the damaged half-leg, Jim remains optimistic & even cheerful. “Staying alive is the most important thing,” he says several times. Complicating matters, Jim has had several falls recently & the stump, already red and raw, has become infected with particles of asphalt. Jim has had, according to his wife Lindy, immense pain from the resulting infections, etc.

Mon Aug 17th: Scott McBee is a superb designer & artist and he has now completed yet another of his 10-ft long profiles of the great ocean liners. He is a fine, new friend --- every inch a delightful person. We meet tonight & have dinner over on the West Side, on 44th St.

Tue Aug 18th: Heading east! Marilynn, Janice & I become the traveling trio as we board the infamous Long Island Railroad and, with a few toots on the whistle, we head out to Westbury on Long Island to see Fred Chernow, good friend & fellow lecturer (“Dr Memory” on cruise liners as he speaks on memory improvement & assets such as name recollection). Fred has a PhD in psychology & has just sold his wonderful house (a rather big notation these days with the very depressed economy) and, afterward, is moving into luxurious North Shore Towers. Recently widowed, Fred has a new ladyfriend (no, not girlfriend) named Claire, who has a very warm, “we’ve known one another for years” manner about her. Homebound, the train has glitch & we are stalled near Mineola for 20 mins. Tension mounts quickly --- a warm evening & no air-conditioning & then of course the sheer delay of it all.

Wed Aug 19th: Bob Marshall is another new best friend & an actor, producer & director. Together, we are doing the documentary Mr Ocean Liner, which will run about 55 mins & include a series of interviews reflecting my life & times and also being blessed with having a passion for something. Bob is in town & today we are filming in the City: at South St Seaport, we do Mary Pelzer & Carol Rauscher, who are just terrific & so very professional as always; then to the high-rise “palace” of 90-yr old Bernice Heller (the most traveled woman in all of Manhattan according to the invincible New York Times) and then at home, in Secaucus, for Tony La Forgia, who is also quite wonderful & adds much to the Hoboken story, that sort of On the Waterfront touch.

Tue Aug 25th: We might as well have been on a small French passenger ship, say in the 1930s, heading rather exotically for Algeria or Morocco, steaming from Marseilles. The Café Luxembourg, up on West 70th St, is done in French Deco, smallish and as if on a side street somewhere in Paris. The décor is almost minimalist, but cozy & inviting. The waiter wears 1940s tortoise shell glasses & tells me of a shop down on 14th St that specializes in vintage eyewear. Marilynn Klein & I do lunch. I use the bus to & from the Port Authority Terminal and the City seems awash in people: the locals, tourists, groups being towed about by signing & umbrella carrying guides. The mood, despite the bleak financial news each day, is buoyant & optimistic & even distracting.

Thu Aug 27th: Trip downtown! Great cranes --- with the background buzz of throbbing machinery --- fill the vast, open site of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. The first girders of orange-red steel are now poking-up above sea level for the 1776-ft tall replacement for the original Towers. Dick Faber & Capt Jim McNamara have lunch together and, within our many combined years and shared interests, we reminisce about the bygone days of “Shipping Row” along Lower Broadway.

Fri Aug 28th: Once again, and like fine china, life is so fragile. My dear friend Bob Pelletier has died very suddenly down in Fort Lauderdale. The news is like a strong electric shock with lingering feelings that sting. Bob was in fine health on Monday, entered the local hospital on Tuesday for an otherwise simple heart procedure, contacted one of those mysterious, but sinister hospital infections on Wednesday and then slipped into a coma on Thursday & was dead by midnight. He was 66. Bob was a dear friend of 25 yrs & was long employed in the cruise industry (Cunard, Costa, Delta Queen Steamboat & others). We had lunch together just last January. Wounded, I feel I have been robbed.

Sun Aug 30th: Des (Kirkpatrick) & I take in a new Manhattan attraction: the High Line. A former rail freight line in Chelsea, it once fed box cars into big factories & warehouses, but has been revamped as an intriguing, elevated park (complete with gardens, benches, even a small amphitheater). We climb up on West 20th St and walk south, in breezy, bright weather, to the Meat Packing District, blow West 14th St at Gansevoort St. The crowds are thick, restaurants & bars crammed and the mood seemingly cheerful, even energetic (but again, despite the otherwise dire financial situation & sluggish job market).

Mon Aug 31st: After lunch at a Spanish restaurant in Ironbound, in Newark, Tony La Forgia & I visit his home, in Rutherford, to see his collection of miniature ships & Lionel trains. Joyously, little boys together again, playing on a carefree summer afternoon!

Tue Sep 1st: Midday meeting at Mario Pulice’s sumptuous West Side apartment in Manhattan, filled with a treasury of NORMANDIE & other prized ocean liner collectibles, to further discuss & plan for our exhibition on that great French linert at the South St Seaport Museum. Opening is tentatively set for February of next year. Immensely knowledgeable, Mario is also wonderfully generous in loaning (and for as long as 9-10 months) his glorious pieces, including the blonde wood piano from the ship’s Deauville Suite & often used by another great icon of the glamorous 1930s, Marlene Dietrich.

The City is ablaze with tourists & I watch from along Central Park. Dinner over on East 82nd St in another temple of style & décor: Christine Roussel’s lavish, but very comfortable apartment. Christine is the archivist for Rockefeller Center, an author of several very grand books (one is on the artworks of Rockefeller Center) & is herself now lecturing onboard the QUEEN MARY 2). She’s also a great friend of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. A gorgeous meal (filet mignon as the main course) is served in the splendor of her wood-paneled, book-lined dining room (with antique silver pieces, stunning deep blue porcelain & fine crystal). The food was enhanced by the varied guests, including Jamie Gibb, a noted designer & decorator. He regales us with stories, tales, the sheer gossip of some celebrated clients.

Wed Sep 2nd: Steve Rivellino is the former manager of Radio City & a noted Broadway producer. We lunch together in a small Italian restaurant over on Tenth Avenue. He too is a lecturer onboard cruise ships & is also a periscope into the lives of the rich & talented. Steve is also too busy to catch a full breath and, among other things, is writing two diverse books --- one on his many theater experiences & the other on the nuclear-powered merchant ship SAVANNAH.

Thu Sep 3rd: A relaxing drive on an idyllic day to New Hope, to visit a friend but who lives in the nearby Pennsylvania countryside. We lunch first in intimately charming Lambertville (which is actually just across the river in New Jersey) and then to his home, another wonderful home of the finest décor, color, precision, great taste and altogether in a most massive house of seemingly countless rooms. Along with the most magnificent carpets (he collects Persian & Turkish rugs), everything was shining, gleaming in high perfection.

Fri Sep 4th: Alain Dayan has made over 100 films about passenger ships, cruising & also cruise itineraries. Based in Paris, all are scene and often more than once on French as well as European television. He has just completed two series: one on sailing the Far East on a Costa cruise ship and another on a trans-Pacific voyage, but aboard a large, French-owned containership. He has arrived in New York today (and aboard the QUEEN MARY 2) to prepare his next title: New York & the great liners. We have worked together before, in the ‘90s, on a film about the QUEEN ELIZABETH 2. But today, we meet in Lower Manhattan --- the bygone “Shipping Row” along Lower Broadway --- and, with his crew of 5, we film at the Customs House, Battery Park, along the bottom end of Broadway and then amidst the Monarchs of the Sea exhibition at the South St Seaport Museum. Release is scheduled for November.

Sat Sep 5th: Day in the country! The trees in Bob Allan & Rob Rothstein’s backyard must be over 100-ft tall. The late afternoon sun shimmers through the branches & creates a magical, poetic effect. We do dinner outdoors, even as the light fades, on grilled shrimp, barbecue chicken & salads. Dessert is, however, done indoors and includes some kind of pink fudge cake. Lots of other friends around the table & so lively conversation throughout. A most relaxing time!

Sun Sep 6th: While I have 5 new books in the works (3 of them due out before Christmas), I receive contracts for no less than 10 more, 5 each in two series (one on passenger ships by decade, the other by nationality). Tom Cassidy, soon to relocate from Long Island to the west coast of Florida, is over for lunch. Despite the 1000 miles in between, we want the friendship to stay afloat, to stay healthy & lively.

Tue Sep 8th: Another crossing of the Atlantic, another trip to dear England. Departed promptly at 5 aboard the ever-wonderful QUEEN MARY 2. Just like coming home --- the staff especially is so welcoming, friendly, helpful. Did the commentary from the bridge & spoke up until that tight, 14ft clearance of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Commodore Warner, an old friend, is in command. Busy day in New York harbor as it is the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s first visit and discovery, and so Dutch warships & sailing vessels on parade, the Crown Prince & Princess in town for a week of celebrations & even the Empire State Bldg will be redone in bright orange tonight (for the Dutch royal House of Orange). Having just completed a sell-out 4-night cruise over the Labor Day weekend up to Canada & back, the QUEEN is tonight returning to the 6-day crossings for which she was created --- 2,500 passengers aboard (just short of capacity and divided largely between 1,100 UK travelers and 900 from the US) and, up in the kennels, 8 dogs & a cat.

Meet Paul O’Loughlin, the new cruise director here, but coming over to Cunard after 30 yrs at sea with the Fred Olsen Line and then mostly with Princess Cruises. Also meet with dear friend Bob Marshall, who is a fellow lecturer & now producing a documentary on my life & times and called Mr Ocean Liner. We will film several shipboard personalities as well as general scenes and my lectures during this crossing.

Wed Sep 9th: Long, but very busy day. 10am lecture by Bob Marshall on The Year of the Three Cunard Queens and which includes bits of his wonderful video footage that is part of a high-selling DVD series. Afternoon lecture by John Guare, the famed playwright & a most charming man, and then to the ship’s TV studio, to do the next morning’s TV show with Paul O’Loughlin. But the big stars today are Doris & Irma, now 95 and 80 respectively and the “queens” of travel on Cunarders. Doris has logged 1,800 days while Irma has 1,700. Charming & chatty, they are like Lucy & Ethel in ways! They are making the full 24-day trip (a 12-night cruise to the Med from Southampton & then connecting to the 6-day return, all on the QM2) and then, with a mere 2 weeks at home, they join the CRYSTAL SYMPHONY for a four-week cruise between New York, Eastern Canada & back again. Doris is, of course, well known as “Dancing Doris” and takes to that polished floor in the Queens Room each night. Some say that she has her own rating system of the dance hosts!

Pre-dinner party in the Queens Room, which is jammed, chatter-filled & beautifully attired. The Commodore ably does the officer introductions. After dinner (we are at a table for two just off the grand entrance to the Britannia Restaurant & have two excellent servers), Craig Dahn gives another wonderful show: piano, great pieces of music & his trademark glittering outfits (including bejeweled blue shoes!). Met a sweet couple afterward, from Maryland and nearing their 60th wedding anniversary, who said: “What a handsomer son I had!” They were, of course, referring to Michael, who has joined me for this eastbound crossing (and then heads to Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava & other Eastern spots after we land in the UK).

A day today that is, by the way, 9-9-09

Thu Sep 10th: 10am lecture by Michael Dann, who was a vice president for programming at CBS-TV in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and very much involved with such memorable shows as I Love Lucy. As with many 88-yr olds, he is often quite open, unabashedly honest, even outspoken. “Lucille Ball & Carol Burnett were the nicest stars,” he reported to an attentive audience, “while some of the men were not. Milton Berle & Red Skelton were mean, often difficult & sometimes very nasty. But the absolute worst of all was Jackie Gleason, a huge star but also a huge alcoholic. He would never rehearse, was especially mean & even abusive to women and had the most volatile temper.” Michael is headed to London, visiting his old friend David Frost. Myself, I speak at 11:15, a book-signing at 2 (nice comments from fellow passengers and, as always, someone pops up from Hoboken) and then Bob Marshall’s talk on the history of newsreels at 3:30 (his grandfather was in the business and his work includes the only color footage of the likes of the Normandy Landings of 1944, the liberation of Paris & then Allied invasion & destruction of Berlin). A very busy day altogether, then rushing to make the officers’ party at 6:45 & then dinner with Commodore Warner at 8:30.

High winds on the outside & so a bouncy night for the 1132-ft long QUEEN.

Fri Sep 11th: The eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the US, especially the hideous attacks on the World Trade Center. Cmdr Warner conducts a 10:30am memorial service. Bob Marshall continues his superb work on Mr Ocean Liner, the documentary on my life & times and which now has over a dozen filmed interviews in the hopper. More interviews today, including Amanda Reid, the asst cruise director.

Playwright John Guare lectures this morning & tells us of the “critical importance of place” in writing, in plays. He also tells us that writing everyday is valuable to improve one’s craft, but even more so that it becomes an integral part of one’s existence. Later, we chat privately & expectedly he is filled with anecdotes about actors & actresses, the theater & of course other playwrights. “Gloria Swanson invited us to dinner one evening in the 1970s, to her grand apartment on Fifth Avenue,” he recalled. “She had an idea, a great & interesting one she thought, but wanted to wait until after dessert. Finally, over coffee, she called the butler & together they unveiled a master plan on long, rolled paper. It was to make Sunset Boulevard, her own unforgettable movie of 1950, into a Broadway play and, as she added, maybe even into a musical. She herself would be very willing to appear!” (Swanson died in the early ‘80s and so missed Andrew Lloyd Webber’s version of the mid ‘90s.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"USS Potomac" Hosts Election Night Party!

Ahoy! Dear "Friends of the Sea" -- I thought you would enjoy hearing about our at-sea party for Election Night!

very best,


And, more info here!
Dory - hope you're doing well. I thought y'all might get a kick out of this, or find it of interest.

here you go !

* * *

Election Night Party aboard Franklin Roosevelt’s Presidential Yacht “Potomac”
Raises Funds for Historic Ships

100 People to View Presidential Coverage for Dinner & Wine Cruise on San Francisco Bay

16 October 2008 – San Francisco, CA: It’s the definition of bipartisanship – a real bipartisan ship. On Tuesday, November 4, 100 political partiers of both parties will board the National Historic Landmark presidential yacht Potomac to view the election from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “floating White House.” The first-of-its kind election night fete will begin at 5pm when the Potomac sails from her home berth in Oakland’s Jack London Square just as the polls are closing on the East Coast. After crossing the Bay, the historic vessel will pick up additional political partiers at San Francisco’s Pier 40 in the City’s South Beach Marina at 5:45pm. During the three hour cruise, guests will be treated to fine wines courtesy of Foggy Bridge Winery, spirits courtesy of Brown-Forman and food provided by Kincaid’s Restaurant of Oakland and Palomino Restaurant of San Francisco. Also making a special onboard appearance that night will be four-time elected president, “Franklin Delano Roosevelt” joined by his faithful dog “Fala.” The cruise will debark passengers at 8:45pm in San Francisco, and 9:45pm in Oakland, just as the evening’s winner will be making his acceptance speech. Tickets are $195 per person, tax deductible and may be purchased by calling (510) 627-1667. Payments are also accepted by check payable to: “USS Potomac Foundation” / P.O. Box 2064 / Oakland, CA 94604. Proceeds from the evening benefit the preservation efforts of the Potomac and another vintage vessel, the WWII “Liberty Ship” Jeremiah O’Brien home-ported in San Francisco.

“What better place to enjoy an historic election than aboard FDR’s historic home-away-from home,” said maritime historian David Perry, 46, who conceived the idea for the benefit party. “No matter who wins, the wine will flow and the food will comfort our guests on both sides of the aisle, port or starboard.”

“Preserving our maritime heritage was a passion of President Roosevelt,” said Potomac Executive Director Marti Burchell. “This historic party is a way to raise awareness – and funds – for FDR’s own historic ship and that of another veteran vessel, the WWII Liberty Ship Jeremiah O’Brien moored in San Francisco.”

The USS Potomac was built in 1934 as the Coast Guard cutter Electra. The 165-foot vessel, weighing 376 gross tons and cruising at speeds of 10 to 13 knots, was commissioned as a U.S. Navy vessel in 1936, renamed the USS Potomac, and served as Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidential yacht until his death in 1945. As former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, FDR had a deep love of the sea and the Navy tradition. He hated to fly and preferred to travel by train or ship throughout his presidency.

During the sultry summer days in Washington, D.C., he preferred to cruise on the USS Potomac rather than stay in the White House. The USS Potomac gave the nation’s 32nd president much-needed respite from the cares of governing the United States throughout the Great Depression and World War II.

After FDR’s death in April 1945, the Potomac began a long and ignominious decline from her former role in world affairs. After many adventures and many owners – including Elvis Presley at one point – she was seized in 1980 in San Francisco by U.S. Customs for her role as a front for drug smugglers. Towed to Treasure Island, the proud vessel’s hull was pierced one night and she sank.
After several years, Potomac was re-floated by the Navy and sold to the Port of Oakland for just $15,000. The Port of Oakland spearheaded a cooperative effort with organized labor, maritime corporations and dedicated volunteers to complete a $5 million restoration. Opened to the public in 1995, the Association for the Preservation of the Presidential Yacht Potomac now operates this National Historic Landmark as an active memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the momentous times through which he led our nation.

# # #

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Luncheon of the "Boating Party"

Today, had a fabulous catch up lunch with my dear friend Gene Ramey: artist, scholar, consultant AND musician ( quite the Renaissance man). Gene, whom I met when I was on the board of "Visual AID" ( a charity offering assistance to artists living with AIDS / HIV) came into the City today to help me hang our next show: maritime art by Matt Southard, famed photographer of the San Francisco Examiner. Southard, who passed away a couple of years back, left a legacy of incredible paintings which his daughter, Donna, found -- literally -- in the attic. The image (to the left) shows his incredible painting called "Quarantine" which shows the classic Normandie and Bremen together. Wonderful!

"David, would you take a look at these?" she queried one fine day. Of course -- hearing the subject matter -- I concurred. What I saw would fill a maritime curator with glee: original, never-before-seen paintings of ships ( military and passenger) from years past. I was hooked, and forthwith scheduled a party and showing. For all of you in the vicinity of our offices tomorrow night -- swing by!

Last week, had a wonderful "last minute" jaunt to New York City to visit Alfredo's aunt & uncle visiting from Brazil. Luckily, my martime mentor and treasured friend, Bill Miller, was in town. We spent three glorious days in his guest room, surrounded by paintings of ships; 946 models of ships; and dozens-and-dozens of bookshelves groaning under the weight of ship memorabilia -- you get the picture. Our thanks to Bill for his kindness and hospitality. Having now visited "Casa Miller" I understand how he earned the moniker of "Mr. Ocean Liner."

More anon -- will report tomorrow after the party on the response to Matt Southard's wonderful paintings.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

27 January 2007 -- Home from the Sea -- for a bit

Just off the phone with dear "Mary Mea Culpa" ( inside joke) -- a friend along with her hubby Bill from Constellation's Trans-Atlantic last May. Note to Mary: thanks for the proof-reading, it is ALWAYS appreciated. And, most importantly -- Happy (belated) Birthday!

Talking with another ship lover always spurs me to jot a few notes. And, since this is a blog, I will do my best to be a faithful correspondent. To that end, upcoming bits of news from out here on the edge of the Pacific: next Sunday, the Queen Mary 2 will sail under the Golden Gate -- the largest passenger vessel ever to visit our fair city. Needless to say, I am full of excitement, having never seen her before. Luckily, through excessive pleading ( and a few drinks) I was able to secure passage aboard the Jeremiah O'Brien for her special "greet the Queen" sail-in party. That will be a blog entry for sure ( with photos). Can't wait! Also, Bill "Mr. Ocean Liner" Miller will be sailing with the QM2 so I'll be able to chat with my "maritime mentor" for a bit.

And when next to sea? I'm happy to say we'll be back aboard Celebrity Constellation for her September crossing from Dover to Port Liberty. Along the way, stops in Ireland and Halifax will allow me to pick up even more Titanic and White Star memorabilia. My book-shelves are already groaning in anticipation.

To my left on the piano: a stack of maritime prints and photos to scan for our next lecture. To my right: a stack of PR work ( how I hate when "land life" intrudes on "ship life"). It's the weekend, so I think ships may win this round. A few miles away, Titanic is getting ready to "sail" away from her exhibit berth at the downtown Metreon Center. It's been a good run, having now completed its second extension. Having seen the Titanic artifact exhibit in two other incarnations ( Atlantic City and Las Vegas) I can fairly say this one was the best. During the run, I met and befriended Lee Merideth, authore of "1912 Facts About Titanic" -- a must-have for any buff. We gleefully bent each others' ears chatting about all-things-ships-and-Titanic last weekend. What fun! Also, Lee shared with me some wonderful photos of the Titanic museum in Branson, Missouri. I have never been, but after seeing these pix ( above) -- I'm ready for a road trip!

More anon,
D of the Sea.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Homeward Bound: 3 January 2007, At Sea

“Hump Day” at Sea: The Wednesday before Saturday docking in Los Angeles. It’s that strange, pre-melancholy time of a round-trip cruise: too early for packing but not too late for tanning. Passengers wander like zombies with their “pre-paid gratuities forms” trying to figure out if this is a too-generous or too-stingy way to facilitate the age-old conundrum of tipping at sea ( myself included). By 6:30pm tonight, the decision will have to be made: the first deadline of arrival mode. Many will miss the demarcation and heave a secret sigh of relief. “Oh well, they can’t take the tips out of my account so I’ll have to distribute cash ( usually 20s) around the deck.”

And certainly, if any are deserving of tips for services rendered, it is those who minister to passengers afloat. Crew leans against bulkheads in exhaustion. I saw one steward standing up asleep, his head cradled on a pile of towels atop a companion way service cart. They’re tired, and tired of us: the constant state of any/everyone who has ever worked at sea.

John Maxtone-Graham once wrote that “every cruise is exactly the right length, except on the final day when everyone is ready to go home.” For the passengers, that is certainly a wisdom-filled truism. For crew – they are home. And, no matter how friendly or accommodating they may be, all crew ( especially officers) are vaguely resentful of all these people “in their house.” From first-hand experience, I know it. Having first gone to sea aboard Crystal Harmony for a brief stint in the early 90s, and then for two-and-a-half World Cruises, 45 countries and almost 16 full months aboard Crystal Symphony I can assure you: working at sea is as hard as it gets. A friend so employed for several years called it “ship tired”: a unique combination of exhaustion, sleep-deprivation, time-change-confusion and not knowing-or-caring what day it is or into what port one is pulling.

The computer room assistant ( a paragon whose patience would rival a saint’s) spends his first days at sea listening to passenger complaints about “how slow the Internet” is and the rest of the cruise running to the printer to retrieve documents for guests that will then get left behind or discarded. He rarely gets thanked and is looked upon as a liar when he explains the simple fact that “we are at sea” which should alert most passengers as to why their precious download speed might be a wee-bit slower than one secured on land via cables. ( Sigh). How I do feel for the crew. At about this point in the cruise, their smiles are a bit droopy, their “my I help you sirs” a little less crisp and their attitudes a bit more sanguine: they know us now. The standard response to all our “how are you todays” sent their way is almost always a variation of “Excellent!” but now rendered with an even more robotic Stepford Wives quality.

And, of course, they are emotionally tired as well. Many, especially those from Southeast Asia or the Philippines, are working aboard ship to support families at home: families they sometimes don’t see for months at a stretch. Contracts of eight months long are not uncommon, certainly for the most menial of crew occupations. Privacy is a luxury they never have, as – except for officers – most cabins are shared. Plus, of course, there are dozens of new customs and languages to hear and process. When I sailed, I was one of only seven American crew (U.S. citizens making splendidly spoiled passengers but splendidly awful crew) among 800 comrades from 35 countries. Aboard Celebrity Summit¸ 65 nationalities are represented – a United Nations afloat if ever there was one. For a young man from Goa or a young woman from Manila it is hard work indeed, and a long, long way from home.

They make our coffee and our beds; wash our clothes and our toilets. Our food trays they carry and our ash trays they empty. They pour and they prod, preen and pretend to love it and all to refrains of “it is my pleasure sir” and “how may I assist you” and in general without most passengers understanding the extreme amount of work that is accomplished to get us coming back.

However, most love it – love it in ways incomprehensible to those who labor ashore. A magazine writer who crewed briefly entitled his chronicle of the experience as “the greatest thing I’ll never do again.” Crew works their aft off, but gets to see the world in the process. Sadly, however, because of the work load, sometimes whole ports – whole countries – drift away to stern as those in ‘tween decks servitude are just so: stuck between decks serving or sleeping and too busy-or-tired to even poke a head on deck to see the sites sailing by. It was for just this reason that after going round the world once, I signed up again. I wanted to see all the places I had barely glimpsed the first time.

The crew is tired, and never more so than now: poised in mid-stream, literally, for that most-exhausting but anticipated of days, embark/debark, when one load of human freight leaves and another takes its place. But, also for a few hours that day the crew can breathe more freely. For a few hours, the ship is empty of those whose spoiled and unknowing vacations make their employment possible. For a few hours, the only people onboard are those who call it home. For a few hours, the ship belongs to the crew. That is the greatest gratuity of all.

More anon.