Midsummer. Paris. Several hours south, by train, awaits the verdant Loire Valley with its favorable year-’round climate.
Cherry orchards. Vegetable gardens growing prized artichokes and asparagus. Renowned vineyards producing popular, award-winning wines, Sancerre and Pouilly Fume.
Chateaux, of course. Castles, too. And for various summers running, we were the guests of Carole and Bill Haber at their luxuriously updated chateau, La Roche D’Amboille, on their estate of many acres not far from Tours.
We’re looking at decades past, and yet the memories are warm and as vivid as moments from yesterday.
Bill’s one of the three founding partners of the Creative Artists Agency that included Ron Meyer, now “Mr. Universal,” and Michael Ovitz, a high-end player in the contemporary art community and a mate of shoe designer Tamara Mellon.
The young Turks at CAA became the new blood representing galaxies of stars, directors, writers, producers, etc.
For years now, Bill Haber is a jump-for-joy success on Broadway, producing hits (Monte Python, The Iceman Cometh, etc.). He and his soigné Carole also resided in Manhattan, Westport, and at their townhouse in Paris. Carole, we discovered in the long ago, taught at the Foundation For the Blind, and was a French teacher at our California academies. She and Bill were adventurously well-traveled, and major philanthropists, focusing on Save The Children.
Their Loire Valley invitations delivered fascinating guests that you wanted to know better.
Shubert Theaters’ top gun Gerald Schoenfeld with wife Pat, worldly doctors, lawyers, financiers, charming chums from Paris.
We dined on the chateau’s breezy terrace and in the grand dining room from memorable menus.
One summer, Bill arranged for the illustrious chef from the Elysee Palace to take over the chateau’s kitchen for two weeks. A surprise, indeed, to be treated to the best tastes savored by the President of France.
Luncheons on occasion at cozy cafes that Bill and Carole hosted. Excellent.
Days at the chateau were spent napping in the afternoons, walking the forested pathways. Playing bocce ball. Strolling through the colorful produce markets in Tours. Museum and historical sightseeing.
Hot air ballooning overlooking the sweeping vistas of the Loire Valley’s terrain, and light-up-the-sky fireworks after dark.
In truth, we remain in awe of beautiful Carole Haber, who we lost in 2014. Her style, her refined wardrobe, the elegant yet shoes-off-comfortable décor of the chateau, her tablescapes and menus. A born-to-be-there chatelaine – calm and cool and adored by all. And let’s love a lady who schedules cosmetic surgery for her pet pig. Whose drooping eyelids blinded him. How much, how much the cost (we asked rudely). “Same as for you or me – or anybody’s.”
We read a lot during our five-day stay at the guest house. About the warrior heroine Joan of Arc burned at the stake, which the French called a “beatification.” We call it a cremation.
Also re-read Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast describing his engaging hither-and-yons within the Left Bank of Paris.
And a biography of Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini (La Dolce Vita, 8 l/2, Juliet Of The Spirits).
“Why do they bother me to move to Hollywood?” Fellini asked the author.
“The producers say, ‘come! Yes, come, we’ll take good care of you.’
“I live in Rome. I know my Rome. Where I go for my espresso. My pastas.
“My lunches with old friends like Marcello (Mastroianni), I like my barber, who knows more about crazy Italian politics than I ever will. My shoe shine friend, another political expert. And I love all of our lovely Roman ladies. With their bellisima smiles and charms.
“Who needs anything more … Why go anywhere?”