Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Cousin, the Carlyle Hotel Barkeeper or It's All Relative, Relatively Speaking . . .

"Why do you write a scene at Bemelman's Bar in every book?" my agent asked. "You got stock in the joint ?"

"Well, relatively speaking, it's sort of a signature, like Stuart Woods and his scenes at Elaine's."

Truth be told, I've felt like kin to the place ever since the Carlyle Hotel became part of the Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, of which group Caroline Rose Hunt is the elegant Chairperson. Yes, THAT Caroline, with the rose-red lipstick and HER signature, double strand of pearls. The lovely but tough grande dame of the Dallas Hunt clan. One of the richest ladies on the planet, but a frugal boss, who has been known to press used pieces of soap together for re-use.

I never met her, but we're kind of related. My great uncle's daughter, Rose Mary, married Caroline's brother, Lamar Hunt. ( Before they split and he married Norma.) I met Rose Mary once, a few years ago, but figured it was not kosher to ask, "Say, Cuz, why'd you split with the golden boy?"

I've always figured Caroline and I are kin, she being the blood sister of my second cousin's Ex. Kind of like all in the family.

So, since she took over the Carlyle and its famous Bemelman's Bar, thus becoming, so to speak, the head barkeeper, I feel duty-bound loyalty to said bar. Like it became part of me too.

This all started with my maternal great-grandfather, Ransom D. Whittle, of Knoxville and his pretty bride, Sarah Elizabeth of Byington, TN, who loved pretty things and cats. They owned the famous Whittle Trunk and Bag Co., that made trunks for people and early automobiles. Alas, the trunks went the way of the Carolina hosiery mills – but Ransom, Sarah and their family of ten did okay.

Their youngest, Ralph, was a whiz at building things. Big things – like bridges and tunnels and army camps. He moved to Dallas and built spillways - Iron Bridge, Forney Dam, Cedar Creek and Lake Livingston.

He met up with a rich guy named Huntington Lafayette Hunt, better known as ole H.L., the Texas oil tycoon who they say built a fortune by trading poker winnings for oil rights. H.L. had two wives, one mistress and about 14 children.

Gossip has it the TV series DALLAS was inspired by his familia!

Meanwhile, I guess Uncle Ralph and H.L. must have shared a drink or two, a game of cards and maybe a pew at the University Park Methodist Church. Maybe Sunday dinners. Maybe that's how Rose Mary and Lamar got together.

Lamar was no slouch either. He created the American Football League and was known as a big sportsman. After attending Culver Military Academy, he graduated from the Hill School in Pennsylvania, then became a geologist with a B.A. from Southern Methodist University. Owner of the Dallas Texans, connected with the Dallas Cowboys and sports teams in Kansas City and Chicago, he is credited with inventing the term "Super Bowl." He was a triple inductee – the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the National Soccer Hall of Fame, and the International Tennis Hall of Fame. (Maybe Rose Mary wasn't into sports!)

That and a few billion silver dollars entitles you to a long OBIT whe you leave the planet!

One of the few business ideas Lamar had that did NOT materialize was to buy the island of Alcatraz and develop it into a tourist park.

H. L's kids did pretty well in carrying on the family name, wealth and fame. His youngest, Swanee Hunt, served as Bill Clinton's Ambassador to Austria and founded the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

But back to the Caroline-cousin-Bemelman's-connection. By the way, she wrote a book on Pumpkins – so we have one thing in common, being fellow writers!

I haven't picked up her soap habit yet, but I also wear pearls and rose-red lipstick!

I sometimes think what fun it would be to sashay up to the bartender at "my" bar on Madison and 76th and order a double dry martini, and say, "Just charge it to Ms. Caroline Hunt. We're distant cousins, you see!"

Thelma Jacqueline Straw ( who also writes as Ransom D. Whittle )


  1. Thelma!!! What a fun read!!! Delightful and filled with great historical energy of a special type!!! You and I have got to sashay up to that local bartender and ask for two double dry martinis. I'll let you pull that great line, "Just...." and I'll smile knowingly!!!

  2. I totally love this place and have to visit again this coming December for holiday season with my family.

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