The one antique at A Butler’s Manor to which I can trace the entire provenance is our 1912 Chase & Baker player piano, which has been in my mother’s family since the year it was built. It spent its first forty years in the Chicago area where my mother grew up, journeyed to Los Angeles when she married and dominated our family room there for the next forty years before coming to me in 1999. I worried originally that its elderly parts, perhaps desiccated by arid California climate, would crumble amidst the seasonal changes and frequent humidity of the East End. Instead, I found to my delight that the old girl obviously relished the change of scenery; her tone only grew rounder and more mellow once transplanted to the Hamptons.
We’re back from our annual sojourn to Southern California and are already welcoming guests for our ninth season. And right off the bat, I’m reminded about why we so love this business — the extraordinary people we meet at A Butler’s Manor.
Back in June 2005, a journalist named Aimee Fitzgerald Martin wrote a series of light pieces titled My Favorite Things for Long Island’s Newsday in which she profiled me and my piano. The piano, a Chase & Baker player) is one antique that has been in my family since it was built in 1912. Originally manufactured in Buffalo, NY, my mother learned to play as a child, and had it shipped it from her native Chicagoland to southern California in 1960. I grew up pumping the pedals to power the piano rolls which create the music, and following my father’s death in 1999, shipped the piano back East, where it now anchors the front parlor of A Butler’s Manor. I have close to 100 original piano rolls, many with words, and occasionally, we have impromptu piano bar nights here at the B&B. Fun!
A gentleman named Bill Grimaldi saw that Newsday article. He’d never had a player piano himself, but years before he had come across four piano rolls which had once been part of a decorator setting, probably at someplace like TGIFridays. Bill lives midway up Long Island, and he said he’d been meaning to drive out to the Hamptons and look us up so that he could give them to me. And so on this sunny March morning, he arrived at our door, boxes in hand. Four titles, perfect for my collection which centers on old jazz, including Pennies From Heaven and All By Myself. I invited him in, spooled one of the rolls and played it, and we were both thrilled. To me, it is so extraordinary to have someone drop in out of the blue to give you a gift, but still I know what he meant when he said it had made HIS day, because there is a certain satisfaction in seeing something go to exactly the right home.
A toast to Bill, whose simple act of kindness reminded me once again how wonderful human beings can be to one another.
Quote of the Day: You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. –Mahatma Gandhi