From The Editor
International Opulence Spring 2018
By Robin Jay
Staying MSD Strong
At dusk on February 15, my family loaded the car with 17 teddy bears and drove to Pine Trails Park. We arrived to find candles aglow, people meandering with golden retrievers as children nuzzled them, and hot-air lanterns gently drifting. Angel decorations lined the pavilion. I wish I could say this was a post-Valentine’s Day celebration. Quite the contrary. What should have been laughter were tears.
You see, Pine Trails Park is in Parkland, Florida, and the teddy bears were for my children to place at the white crosses and Stars of David that marked the symbolic memorials of 17 students and teachers who died in the unthinkable, tragic school shooting on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School. My son Austin is a senior at MSD – he made it out safely, but the terror of hearing those shots, running for his life in what the FBI revealed was essentially the same fleeing path as the killer, seeing videos sent to him by fellow students in those bloody rooms, and then attending funerals of friends and a beloved coach have haunted him – and our family and community. Those agonizing minutes when I couldn’t get Austin on the phone after learning of an active school shooter felt like an endless, breathless, slow-motion horror film.
Added salt in the deep wounds of Valentine’s Day were law enforcement’s repeated TV-camera statements: “See Something, Say Something!” Austin told me, sobbing, “Mom! I did see something and say something” – to his biology teacher in the past when the suspect was in his class bragging about his gun obsession and shooting live things. As the world now knows, so many people did see something and say something – but somehow it seems flaws in Broward County’s system protocol failed to act on dozens of calls about the violent, short-fused teenager – acts that should have placed him in a database to prevent his gun purchase the year prior…and that later should have, in my opinion, resulted in law enforcement Baker Acting the violent teen for mandatory mental healthcare and justified weapon removal.
We’re so proud of the students who spoke up even louder for change – and for Florida’s legislators and governor who listened and enacted new laws in an unprecedented three weeks. So much more still needs to be done to protect our schools – including state-of-the-art security system technology. International Opulence tracked down the CEO of a first-of-its kind artificial intelligence security system that very well could have identified and flagged the intruder before he made it anywhere near a student. Special thanks to Golf Channel for allowing us to republish its interview with two stoic MSD golf team students at the Honda Classic about their appreciation for professional golfers who wore MSD Strong ribbons and bracelets. One of those students is senior Amanda Okulanis, MSD girls’ golf team captain (and the girlfriend of my son Austin). I close with the words another MSD student, Amanda Lee, posted on Valentine’s Day: A day that altered the course of our lives forever. A day now burned into memory with every last detail. Not from the copious amounts of love from Saint Valentine. But from the utter fear of not living to see another day. Almost every kid dreams about being on TV. Recognized by people all across the nation. But never did we wish for it to be because a shooter decided to open fire, in the place where so many memories were made. In the place where we grew up. In the place we called our home away from home. The media tries to shape all our stories to fit a mold that they deem most appealing. One that will sell and boost ratings to the general public. But there are 3,300 different experiences on that day. 3,300 lives changed forever. And now 17 lives cut short. Creating a hole in our hearts that will never be filled.
– Robin Jay, Editor in Chief
International Opulence Winter 2017-18
By Robin Jay
A Heartfelt Farewell To A Pioneer
He was known as a modern-day Renaissance man. In 2010, Geoff Hammond (a Citadel scholar, engineer, songwriter, Air Force Top Gun pilot, author and businessman) listened intently as we presented the idea of launching South Florida Opulence magazine.
To many, the idea of starting a print magazine – one published on custom-milled stock with unprecedented cover embellishments and intensely researched content – would have sounded preposterous in an era in which paperless and postage-free digital media gained market share at lightning speed. But not to Geoff. At the end of the presentation, the Chairman and Co-Founder of CSI International (a firm providing facilities services to Fortune 500 headquarters, buildings, universities and at that time property management to luxury condominiums), stood, raised his eyebrow and paused. The silence was deafening. But then, the tall, shrewd and dashing Hammond stood and said, ‘Yes! Let’s do this. Let’s publish a magazine so thoughtful in design and rich in content that readers will savor and collect it.’ Music to my ears.
Nearly eight years later, the publication has not only persevered, it has grown beyond the borders of South Florida, becoming International Opulence magazine, with direct-mail distribution to high-net-worth homes in multi-markets across the country.
Then, this past summer the unthinkable happened. The call came in from Mr. Hammond’s wife Jayne, President of CSI, that Geoff had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. No words can adequately express our sadness and dismay.
Geoff was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, colleague and mentor. He made a lasting impression on all who met him. I am personally grateful for the trusted opportunity he graciously gave to me and my staff to build this magazine from the ground up – and we proudly look forward to carrying on his legacy of publishing the finest lifestyle magazine we know how.
Robin Jay- Editor in Chief
International Opulence Fall 2017
By Robin Jay
As I prepare to introduce you to this 2017 art edition of International Opulence, it’s the evening of September 7 and keeping me company is the Weather Channel host telling of an approaching category 5 hurricane – the strongest, he says, in modern recorded history. Today, the storm plowed over Barbados and is making its way toward South Florida. I’m thinking, ‘What could I possibly write about that compellingly ties together the seemingly unrelated topics of fine art and a buzz-saw-shaped monster storm named IRMA?’ The answer feels a bit uncanny.
You see, in September 1944, nearly the exact same quandary was on the mind of American painter John Marin. But instead of ‘what to write?’ he was thinking ‘what to paint?’ Like me, Marin got his answer from Mother Nature.
His 1944 painting called ‘Hurricane’ hangs in a gallery called IMA (not IRMA, but close enough to notice the coincidence), the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It’s a thickly daubed oil painting Marin created to depict the turbulent storm history books recorded as the ‘Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944.’ It hit the artist’s hometown in Maine with brut force. Yes, precisely 73 years ago to this very day, on September 7, 1944, that storm formed through a tropical wave adjacent to – get this – Barbados. Could it be that an islander who experienced IRMA’s wrath today was a child who went through Marin’s painted storm three-quarters of a century ago?
It’s too early to predict as I write this the impact IRMA will have on my hometown in the coming days, but I wonder if 73 years from now a painting depicting its path may hang in an art gallery, making certain the historical events this storm fetches never go forgotten.
It’s true what they say about art being a pictorial history book of civilizations. In this issue, we bring you stories of artists who have already been – or surely will be – recorded in art history archives. Our cover story is about Steven Kenny, a surreal artist who masters the juxtaposition of man and nature. Then, fittingly, we tell you about Jack Storms, an artisan who has re-mastered the age-old art of cold glass sculpture. Our columnist Edwina Sandys takes you on a tour of the paintings by her grandfather Winston Churchill. You’ll read of the recent exhumation of Salvador Dalí in Spain; a Sotheby’s executive’s tale of how Vincent van Gogh may have traded places with a lookalike; and the story of the lifelong control the Florence Medici family had on Michelangelo – and so much more! If this issue reaches you in inclement weather, don’t fret. Grab a cup of coffee, find a quiet nook and dig into what this issue has to offer.
Editor in Chief
International Opulence Summer 2017
By Robin Jay
As the Earth’s axial tilt causes sun rays to beam at a steeper angle, summertime in our Northern Hemisphere brings uncanny seasonal miracles. Fireflies synchronize their flashing lights at dusk, twinkling star patterns appear after a winter of concealment, flame-shaped rainbow clouds emerge during daylight, while bluish night-shining clouds materialize after sundown. Whales perform aerial stunts as they feed on northern coastlines, salmon swim upriver to spawn in their birthplace, and baby turtles hatch from their shells and scurry to the seashore.
In 2017, a first-time miracle happened: Extremely premature lambs were born healthy thanks to advance medical technology that allowed them to develop in an artificial womb. This medical innovation may one day prove especially inspiring for human babies given that, currently, premature birth in the U.S. remains the leading cause of infant mortality.
News of this research reminded me of another summertime story I once heard. In the pre-dawn hours of early July 1965, in a rural farmhouse in Raymore, Missouri, 22-year-old Mary Janice awoke in discomfort. The 110-pound elementary school teacher made her way downstairs for a drink of water. By 7 a.m., the sun had risen to a beautiful dawn, but the young woman was doubled over in pain. Her mother-in-law entered the kitchen to start breakfast, took one look at her, and said, “My goodness, you’re in labor!”
“What?” said the bewildered young woman who was barely showing a baby bump, “the baby isn’t due for months.” Minutes later, she was helped into the couple’s car and they sped off to Research Hospital in Kansas City, the longest 30-minute drive of their lives.
An hour later, in the delivery room, Dr. Marian Lambert made the announcement, “It’s a girl!” She hid her look of worry. The baby, weighing about 1100 grams (just over two pounds), was whisked away. Back then, according to Centers for Disease Control statistics, only one in eight premature babies born at 1000 grams survived because their lungs weren’t fully developed. The young mother wouldn’t be allowed the first touch of her newborn for many weeks, if ever. And in the unlikely chance the baby did survive, she’d likely be retarded, have cerebral palsy or lead a sickly life.
Fast-forward 51 years when the previously mentioned fetal medical technology is now emerging. Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have developed a remarkable womb-like device that provides an external amniotic-fluid-filled environment to bridge critical time from mother’s womb to the outside world. Premature lambs, which have prenatal lung development very similar to human babies, thrived in the artificial womb – showing normal breathing and swallowing, opening their eyes, growing wool, and developing with normal growth, neurological function and organ maturation. (To see a video of the lambs, go to www.internationalopulence.com.)
P.S. In case you were wondering, back in 1965, Mary Janice did get to hold her baby six weeks after birth. Dr. Lambert gave the young mother strict infant care advice – including a 5-year prescription for special vitamins and instructions to teach the little girl to love every vegetable possible. The child grew up strong and healthy, graduated from college and now has four children of her own. I know for sure this story is true. That premature baby was me.
May the stories in our summer issue inspire you and remind you that hope never ceases and miracles can, and do, happen.
Editor in Chief
International Opulence Spring 2017
By Robin Jay
It’s 3 a.m. on a Friday morning, just hours before my 21-year-old son departs on a flight to California en route to start his career as a chef at the Ritz-Carlton near Palm Springs.
Ryan completed his last final exam yesterday as a college student and before it seems the ink could even be dry, he’s already preparing to launch. Right now, I can hear the bass of his stereo thumping as he packs his last bag in his bedroom. This time tomorrow, his room will be silent. A very surreal moment for a mother indeed.
Seems like just yesterday when he was born – on the night of the Academy Awards in 1995. At the time, I was perplexed at how the nurses and my husband couldn’t take their gaze off the television screen, sipping their warm and sweet coffee, anticipating who would win the Oscar for Best Actor or Best Actress. I remember thinking, “Hello! I’m about to have a baby over here – can you please put down your delicious creamy coffee for a second and go get me something more thirst quenching than ice chips?!”
Nearly 22 years later, I now understand the captivating anticipation of an Academy Award being announced. For me, however, I daydream about what it would be like to anticipate the announcement of a different kind of Oscar – the sort awarded to American star chefs in the culinary world – the James Beard Awards. The mere nomination of a James Beard Award can forever change the trajectory of a budding culinary entrepreneur.
Ryan has aspired to be a great chef since before he could drive a car. I laugh to myself that maybe he went into the culinary field out of necessity – because his mother, yours truly, has literally burned water, melted metal teapots to the stove, and caught the inside guts of two (no, three!) microwaves on fire by attempting to pop corn in a dry paper bag or forgetting to put water in the oatmeal bowl before pressing start.
I sit here quietly thinking about what Ryan’s future may hold for him as he prepares to move about as far from his childhood home as the United States is wide. I wonder if maybe – just maybe – my husband and I might some day be sitting at the Lyric Opera House in Chicago on an early May evening, decked out in our Sunday best, sipping sweet coffee and anticipating at the edge of our seats the announcement of the next James Beard Awardee. A mother of a budding young culinary professional can only dream of such a day!
Our cover story for this issue is about a very special chef, Mr. Curtis Duffy, who as the co-proprietor of his first fine dining restaurant in Chicago – Grace – has achieved the pinnacle of culinary success, earning a very rare and coveted 3 Michelin stars and a 2016 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes. Don’t miss our compelling, heartfelt interview with Curtis on page 48 – but grab a tissue first. As a member of the James Beard Foundation, International Opulence is pleased to welcome Chef Curtis Duffy as our special guest of honor at this issue’s launch party. Stay tuned for details!
Editor in Chief