My brother Hunt and I have loads of friends in common and usually talk every day. So when Anita Antonini at PMc magazine called and asked me to write a story about him, I thought I’d just type while we talked (believe me, I asked if it was okay ahead of time). I think this should offer some rare insight, as I was kind of born into his extreme world.
We were both born in Kittery, Maine (where my parents summered at the beach when my dad was at MIT Graduate School in nautical architecture). When I was six weeks old, we moved to Hawaii, and Hunt had hundreds of birds even at that time. In our family, we were always taught about sex in avian terms (for real).
Few people really stay at Hunt’s houses as often as I do with my wife and kids, so people don’t really realize how extreme it all really is . . . how, like an unfinished canvas, the houses are magically reworked and channel history and lost worlds and beauty. Of course, he’s known for this, but he really does have a sensational eye.
There is a giant alligator that lives out in back of Albania plantation. Hunt’s exceedingly charming caretaker is named Butch. One time we took a boat out into the bayou, and the driver’s husband was named Butch, and there was another Butch in our group. And Hunt’s caretaker Butch was with us. So we were never really sure which Butch anyone was talking about. Very Butch trip. Lots of gators. And we also visited one of his antiques dealers, who lives in a tower with a moat, surrounded by alligators. I wish I was kidding.
Apparently, when Jude Law was shooting ”All the King’s Men”at Albania, he and Butch really had it out. The house, circa 1835, is entirely made of cypress, and Law kept smoking on the porch. And Butch made it clear if Law smoked one more cigarette on the porch, Butch would start shouting during his takes. This was back when he and the nanny and the kids were also playing soccer on the back lawn. I don’t think they knew about the gator and how fast he is.
Hunt never told us that Lakeside plantation had been a hospital during the Civil War. We found out after our last visit. And in the morning, at these houses, he’s always asking, ”Did you see anything?” And then you ask why he is asking, and he just says, ”Oh, nothing.”
A door swung open hard and hit me once when I was taking a scouting shot of a red bedroom at the Cordts Mansion for Elle Decor. I didn’t think anything of it until I saw Nicole Kidman in ”The Others.” And then I got chills down my spine. When our son Finbarr was 4, he shrieked in the downriver parlor at Cordts. And when we asked him what happened, he said he saw flesh tones flashing by his eyes. Yeesh.
At Albania there is a house for peacocks that is nearly the size of my house in East Hampton. The kids loved feeding them. Lakeside plantation has tons and tons of cute, friendly lizards outside. And at every restaurant within a half-hour drive, everything is fried, except, maybe, if you’re lucky, a salad or beer.
True Great | PMC Magazine
Personality snapshots of truly great individuals by Jeffrey Slonim