Pines People- Peggy Fears.
Peggy Fears (June 1, 1903 – August 24, 1994) was an American actress, who appeared in Broadway musical comedies during the 1920s and 1930s before becoming a Broadway producer. Leaving New Orleans at the age of 16, she attended the Semple School. Yale University student Jock Whitney took her to the Richman Club where vocalist Helen Morgan heard her singing and encouraged her to attend auditions being conducted by Florenz Ziegfeld.
Beginning with Have a Heart (1917). Fears performed in ten Broadway productions, including the Ziegfeld Follies of 1925. In Ziegfeld’s No Foolin (1926) she appeared with Edna Leedom and the Yacht Club Boys plus a chorus line with Paulette Goddard, Susan Fleming, Clare Luce and Baby Vogt. By 1932, with Child of Manhattan (written by Preston Sturges), Fears became a Broadway producer. Her only motion picture appearance is the role of Gaby Aimee in The Lottery Lover (1935).
On June 19, 1927, she married Alfred Cleveland Blumenthal . As Broadway producers during the early 1930s, they co-produced Music in the Air, written byJerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. The show had a run of 342 performances in 1932-33.Blumenthal earned $15 million during the first three years of their marriage. Fears purchased five Rolls Royce autos and a $65,000 chinchilla coat, retaining only $300 in her bank account. The couple fought and split up. Eventually, they reunited and renewed their vows during three different marriage ceremonies. In 1950 Fears and Blumenthal separated permanently. Fears entertained in night clubs, and Blumenthal lived in Mexico.
Although she had been married, Fears is described by those who knew her as being bisexual or lesbian, primarily preferring the company of women in her private life. According to actress Louise Brooks, she and Fears were involved with one another, but Brooks never allowed herself to let the affair develop into a serious relationship.
Peggy Fears in her own words:
“Actually I loathe sand and I hate the ocean. Anyway, I was very happy sunbathing on my terrace in New York. ( I had the most marvelous penthouse.) Fire Island was so far to go for one day, but one weekend in 1952 I went with friends to Point O Woods. So Dull. You cant drink, and you must put on a dress for dinner, but who wants to be in Ocean Beach in the middle of the season? Well we climbed through the barbed wire fence and went down the beach and had dinner at Flynn’s.
Later I hired a jeep and Donald Cook, who was staying in Cherry Grove and I drove to the Pines. In those days it didn’t have that name. Some people called it Lone Hill. There was nothing there but boardwalks and a little Real Estate office.
I ended up buying property on the bay and the ocean. Well I went on singing in London and Paris for three years. When I got back I heard that everything at Fire Island had changed. “Peggy,” They said , “ you simply have to build a place.” Well I didn’t know whether to build or sell. So I went back to Fire Island to have a look. “oh don’t sell said a friend of mine.””I’ll be your partner and we’ll build a charming sweet little club on that beautiful little harbor, and I’ll bring over my yacht from Monte Carlo. It will be a darling place.” Well, she and I never became partners, but I built what I thought was adequate and it was charming. It was to be a little place where I could have friends when I wanted. Oh, I was going to have a ball!
And It had such beautiful trees. I made them build around the trees, so that it all looked as though my place had grown right with those trees. I had six guest rooms and a suite of rooms for myself and servants quarters.
Well the opening weekend I invited a few close friends, Luis and Betty Estevez, Zachary and Ruth Scott, Joan McCracken, oh a small group. I drove out from town with another car full. There was a boy who was being trained to play the Prince of Wales for Paramount, and Burt Martinson (Martinsons Coffee) and several others. When we got there we found that 55 people had shown up! Betty got a speed boat and tore across the bay to get me a piano (the boy who was going to be the Prince of Wales said he would play), and Zachary began taking drink orders.
Of course, I never even thought of getting a liquor license, so naturally we couldn’t sell the stuff. Well it seems that word had gotten out that I was opening the place, and just everyone showed up. So the place was jammed packed all summer.
I was exhausted. The next year I built my own house on the bay. You know, I almost never had a guest who didn’t end up buying their own property? My place brought a fun, younger crowd to the Pines. Iv’e always liked having young people around me.
Oh there were lots of theatrical people. Boys and girls who were decorators (you know like Yale Burge and Susan Fonda).
Well that opening weekend we were packed. Saturday night- oh it was gala, and wonderful and heavenly. It was one of my nicest productions. You know I’ve produced six or seven Broadway shows? Oh we got people from the stage and movies. Fashion models, producers, stock brokers,, writers, and many, many names: Jerome Robbins, Stephen Sondheim, Judy Holiday, Marilyn Monroe, and Tennessee Williams.
1956. Pines pioneer and resident Doris Tausigg at the Yacht club.
“As you probably have heard I have a dreadful fear of fire. Nobody knows how it started that decoration day in 59″… It completely destroyed the place. It had been a glorious night, and we went to bed at about 3:00 am. Suddenly there was a knock on the door, and my manager was calling “the bars on fire.” In less than an hour and a half there was nothing left. Not even my beautiful trees. Thank God no one was hurt. Yes, and that Sunday morning was my birthday. Naturally all those beautiful presents everyone brought were gone; but they all said immediately that I must build something new, and right then my designer friend Luis Estevez did this marvelous sketch. Modern as could be. He never left my side through all of it.
Without a formalized Fire Department a 100 man bucket brigade was formed by local residents. To no avail the club and Botel were burned to the ground. All 50 guests who’s boats were moored nearby were safely evacuated. Damage totaling $100,000 dollars.
Immediately Peggy began her rebuilding plans. Her friend designer Estevez sketched out a simple design on a napkin. Most important. It had to be fireproof so Peggy found the perfect material, aluminum! She found a local company called Reynolds Aluminum. Asking for her aluminum structure to be built in 30 days they told her it could not be done. Undaunted she decided to go to their company headquarters in Kentucky to plead her case. There she appealed to the top brass, and won. She got the officials to transfer prefabricated aluminum structural members from a skyscraper project in Manhattan. She hired their architect Edward Tangredi to rush through (almost overnight) a complete new design and set of building plans.Cajoled contractors,and union leaders into waiving the rules and proceeding at an unprecedented pace with the job. The actual construction was launched June 6; by the 14th the curtain walls were in place; by the 23rd the roof had been raised; by the 28th, decorators were busy with the interior of the building- and, lo it was completed in record time and on the required due date.
1950’s. At 5-foot-7, with sea-blue eyes, flowing red hair, chiseled cheeks and a shapely figure, Tedi Thurman was a stunner. But it was her breathy, alluring voice that brought her fame. The “weather girl” on the long-running NBC radio show “Monitor” in the late 1950s and early ’60s, Ms. Thurman would take over the mike and in soft, sultry tones – with lush music in the background – virtually drawl, “Cleveland, 34, snow; Boston, 41, cloudy; Phoenix, 62, fair; New York City, 43, sunny; Paris, 38, cloudy.”
Tedi was the companion of Peggy Fears during the years on Fire Island. Their relationship was often rocky, and loud. She gave the Botel it’s name. She passed in 2012.
Peggy Fears opened the new Yacht Club on July 4th weekend 1959. Fire Island News headline declared: “Bucket brigade toasts new one story skyscraper.” Peggy christened it “Alumarina.” Broadway star Frank Hilan was at the head of the line to congratulate her.
Peggy sells to model John Whyte and partners with John eventually buying all out to become sole owner.