Monday, November 21, 2011

Ted Forstmann (grandson of Julius) has died

from the New York Times, November 19, 2011:

Theodore J. Forstmann, a colorful financier and philanthropist who helped pioneer leveraged buyouts, died on Sunday at his home in Manhattan. He was 71.

The cause was brain cancer, his spokesman said. Mr. Forstmann had been found to have a malignant glioma earlier this year.

Mr. Forstmann was among the first executives to use debt to acquire companies, fix them and then sell them for millions — and sometimes billions — of dollars in profit.

Beginning in the late 1970s, he pooled money from wealthy investors and large pension funds to back his acquisitions while taking 20 percent of the profits, creating a business model that today is known as the private equity industry.

During the next three decades Mr. Forstmann bought, sold and turned around dozens of companies, including Gulfstream Aerospace, Dr Pepper and General Instrument.

He also coined, if inadvertently, a phrase that set the public image of the leveraged buyout industry. While he was golfing in the late 1980s with Richard L. Gelb, then the chairman of Bristol Myers, the discussion turned to a surge in takeovers by buyout firms. “What does it all mean?” Mr. Gelb asked Mr. Forstmann.

“It means the barbarians are at the gate,” Mr. Forstmann replied. “And they’ll be coming for you next.”

The phrase “barbarians at the gate” was used by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar for the title of their best-selling 1990 book about the $25 billion buyout of RJR Nabisco, which Mr. Forstmann had bid on and lost to a private equity rival, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.

Yet as buyouts grew and more and more debt was used to finance deals, Mr. Forstmann grew more cautious about the business. In an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal in 1988, at the height of the buyout craze, he wrote, “Watching these deals get done is like watching a herd of drunk drivers take to the highway on New Year’s Eve.”

Mr. Forstmann, who gave hundreds of millions of dollars to charity, was also among the first philanthropists to push for voucher programs for education in the 1990s, leading to the movement by financiers to promote charter schools. In 1999 he founded the Children’s Scholarship Fund with John T. Walton, the son of the Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, to offer scholarships allowing underprivileged children to attend private schools using vouchers. He donated $50 million.

The scholarship fund has since given away $443 million to 116,000 children.

Most of Mr. Forstmann’s philanthropy centered on children. In 1992 he founded the Silver Lining Ranch, a camp for terminally ill children in Aspen, Colo., that was first run by Andrea Jaeger, the former professional tennis player.

For 25 years he held a prominent charity tennis tournament, known as “Huggy Bear,” at his summer home in Southampton, N.Y., raising over $20 million for children’s charities by bringing tennis pros like Martina Navratilova and Boris Becker to play against amateur donors.

An influential donor to Republican candidates and causes, Mr. Forstmann was co-chairman of George H. W. Bush’s re-election campaign in 1992. He named Republican allies to run the companies his firm owned, appointing Donald H. Rumsfeld as chief executive of General Instrument in 1990 and adding Colin L. Powell to the board of Gulfstream.

Unusual for a financier, Mr. Forstmann was also a regular boldface name in the gossip pages. He had a brief romantic relationship with Diana, Princess of Wales, which he said later turned into a long-term friendship.

He was often photographed arm in arm with a model or actress, including Elizabeth Hurley. (He was later the godfather of her son.) Over the last several years he dated Padma Lakshmi, the celebrity host of “Top Chef” and a model and the former wife of Salman Rushdie.

Mr. Forstmann never married and had a complicated view of the single life. In 1995 he told The Washington Post: “I find the prospect of being married more difficult than most people. I would be a difficult husband.” He added: “Maybe I’ll adopt some children. I’m not going to do nothing about this.”

Two years later Mr. Forstmann became the guardian of an orphaned child from South Africa, Everest, now 30. Mr. Forstmann was invited to South Africa in 1996 by Nelson Mandela to address the Parliament on democratic capitalism. He was so moved by the work Mr. Mandela was doing with orphaned children that he made a $1 million donation. It was on a subsequent visit to Africa to see the orphanage that he had paid for that he met Everest.

“This kid is for me, that’s it,” he recalled in an interview about the moment they met. In another visit two years later, he met another boy, Siya, who had become close to Everest. He brought them both to live with him in New York and became their guardian.

In addition to Siya and Everest, his survivors include two brothers, J. Anthony and John, and two sisters, Marina Forstmann Day and Elissa Forstmann Moran.

Theodore Joseph Forstmann, Ted or Teddy to his friends, was born on Feb. 13, 1940, and grew up in Greenwich, Conn., one of six children. He played ice hockey at Yale and put himself through Columbia Law School with proceeds from gambling on bridge.

In 1978 he started his leveraged buyout fund, Forstmann Little & Company, with his brother Nicholas and Brian Little, an investment banker. While other firms relied on the public debt markets, Forstmann Little raised its own special subordinated debt fund.

His firm had a long stretch of beating his rivals, with an annual average rate of return of over 55 percent a year on its equity funds through 2001.

But that winning streak came to an end that year when two telecommunications investments made at the height of the industry bubble, XO Communications and McLeodUSA, failed. He later said that he should not have made the investments and blamed himself for delegating investing to a younger generation enchanted by the Internet.

Over the last seven years he worked steadily on his last big investment: IMG, the sports, fashion and media company that represented the likes of Tiger Woods and Roger Federer. He bought the company in 2004 for $750 million and became its chairman.

It encompassed everything he loved: deal-making and sports.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

the wall at old Arts & Crafts

We'll soon be taking down the old Arts & Crafts shop. For those who go back many years, they will remember it as the old maintenance shop. Later it served as a bike shop, and on and off as an extra Out-trip storage area. For a few years it was the staff gym, with weights and a few machines. Anyway, this old building, built against the Castle hill wall, will come down in deference to a new Pigeon Lodge. More on that later. Meantime: I walked through the old place today and took some photos. This one is one of the original stone walls, covered by the creative spatterings of many many summers of campers and staff at Arts & Crafts.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tison house

Tison house (usually called "Red Lodge," I believe) is a Japanese-style building with lots of touches of the Adirondack style too. It sits on a gorgeous piece of property at the very end of the road that follows the East Branch of the Neversink River - through Claryville and miles beyond. It's past Frost Valley's farm, and past Straus/East Valley Ranch. Since the 1970s, Frost Valley has had an arrangement with the Tison family. As I say, the road ends here, beyond which is the trail that heads up Slide (Table, Peekamoose, etc. on the way to Slide) the "back way." It's a gorgeous hike, and much nicer than the wide-trail hike you take up to the top of Slide from the Frost Valley Road/West Branch Neversink road (route 47). The photo here was taken this past July.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Biscut Creek's new path

During the Irene deluge, Biscuit Creek found a new path. Photo by Bill Abbott.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

organizational structure and trustee committees, 1959

Click on the image for a larger view.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

when Lake Cole was brand new

The article here was published in a local New Jersey newspaper in 1959--probably the Westfield paper. It marks the completion of the construction of what we now call "Lake Cole" at Frost Valley. The article refers to it as "Wawayanda Lake." The camp had moved from New Jersey to Frost Valley the summer before. During that first summer, campers swam in a rectangular muddy pond built by Forstmann in the field across from the Castle, and also in Biscuit Creek Falls, Devil's Hole, and various swimming spots. At the time of this article - presumably late spring - what was a marshy field was bulldozed and fed by an inlet diverted from the Neversink River (near where the boathouse is now) and by a creek (which still has no name) coming across the Deus property across the bottom of what is now the hill leading up to cabins 31-35. Three Westfield boys posted for the newspaper's cameraman - allegedly the first people ever to go boating in our lake. Two of them became Frost Valley legends - Jim Ewen and John Ketcham.

Dave King remembers as follows: "As I remember it, the 'pool' across from the Castle was dug prior to opening Wawayanda in 1958. Thus, the VERY MUDDY pool. The pool was made in order to say that we had a "water program". Hal Russmeyer did as much as he could with it. The Board attempted to build a lake during 1959, but the builder was not able to stop the water from flowing out. The builder went bankrupt, and Harry Cole, the property manager, repaired the earthen dam and controlled the exit flow so that the lake levels could be stabilized. Thus, the lake was named for him. Also, 1959 was an arid summer. Biscuit Creek was about 2 feet wide and 4 inches deep. Somewhere, I have a picture of me standing on both sides of the lake (actually, it was more like a drainage ditch)."

Thanks to Ellen Rutan, who found the old article among the files of Liz Ewen, Jim's mom.

Monday, September 5, 2011

dedication to the point of tattoo

Nick Lomauro was one of our CIT Coordinators this summer--an extremely devoted fellow. The job clearly meant everything to him and he did remarkably good work with his CITs and the other coordinators. Near the very end of fourth session, as we all stood around between acts at Hirdstock, someone heard a rumor about a new tattoo under his t-shirt. So he took off said shirt and revealed his then-new expression of commitment to the Y. He asked me not to post this blog entry until he'd had a chance to get his parents (Y people themselves) and sister (Lauren, former VC, etc.--and herself a great FV staffer) a chance to get used to it. Well, I have to say that we're not necessarily recommending such displays of dedication, but we have to admit we admire the depth of Nick's feelings. May those feelings remain in him exactly as long as the tattoo lasts!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Totem Village having fun!

A cabin of boys in Totem Village, summer of 1962. We don't know which cabin (it would have been 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5) and we can't identify any of the boys. If you can help, please email me at afilreis [at] Jim Wilkes thinks that the village chief of Totem that year was Mike DeVita. Dave King believes that Mike was the counselor of this cabin (and VC of the village). Dave was the Program Director in '62. When Wawayanda moved to Frost Valley in 1958, Mike DeVita was the VC of Forest that first summer.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pigeon Lodge today

Photos by Dan Weir.

okay, now's the time to help

Dear former and current staff of Frost Valley:

This past weekend Hurricane Irene slammed into Frost Valley. While media attention focused mostly on the coastlines, Frost Valley was hit hard. Through the alertness and skill of our staff, everyone at camp is safe. But the damage to roads, paths, trails, bridges, and Pigeon Lodge was extensive. Although the winds were not strong, driving rains caused water to cascade violently down the creeks and streams, wreaking havoc to every part of the valley.

As the staff work hard, day and night, to re-open the camp and get us back up and running, the executive leadership and the board are now focusing on financial issues that must quickly be addressed—processing insurance claims, reaching out for state and federal support, taking stock of all available resources—and will immediately plan the rebuilding of Frost Valley.

So this is a call to action. We ask all friends of Frost Valley—everyone who has enjoyed this place, learned here and played here, celebrated milestones here, and whose children have grown up here—to step up now and help us quickly repair the damage done by this hurricane. With your support, we can fund reconstruction priorities quickly. Roads, trails, and bridges need to be rebuilt, and plans for rebuilding Pigeon Lodge must commence. Please help Frost Valley as soon as you possibly can with a donation to the Hurricane Irene Frost Valley Relief Fund. An online gift will help us most expeditiously:

--but we welcome donations in any form. Mail a check to Frost Valley YMCA, 2000 Frost Valley Road, Claryville, NY 12725, or call us at (845) 985-2291 to discuss other arrangements.

Thank you!

- Al Filreis

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pigeon Brook Lodge, 1928-2011

the day after

Forking to the left is the county road (route 47) heading away from camp. Forking to the right is the road going past Lake Cole and up the hill toward Hird Lodge.

The road coming down from the dining hall toward Big Tree Field.

Gail on the '72 flood & Pigeon Lodge

Gail McNeill writes: "In ’72, I was late getting to FV for my first summer because the bridges were washed out on the road, and we were kayaking on Big Tree Field that year. I remember the waters lapping at Pigeon many times. . . but gone? Wow. Memories. . . doing linens on Sunday afternoons, and many a root beer float (and budding romance) at the staff lounge. I can believe there is much work to do."

Yes, it's true: Pigeon Lodge was for many years the summertime staff lounge, open in the evenings with a full kitchen (cheesburgers, root beer floats, etc.).

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rick Wormeli speaks for many of us when he says...

Here's Rick Wormeli, responding to the news of Irene's impact on Frost Valley:

Thanks for this, Al. I worried about FV all weekend. We came through fine here in northern Virginia, but other places in Virginia did not fare as well. I watched the Outpost singing that you captured on video as they prepared for Hirdstock -- Wow, was that wonderful and Intensely moving, especially after just viewing the pictures of the end of Pigeon Lodge. I spent a summer in Pigeon Lodge back in ‘82 or ‘83 with Iscusfa, the Performing Arts Camp, with David Sunshine, Carrie Fiedler, and PR McCollum, among others. We also stayed there for some off-season planning weekends for the Directors throughout the 80’s. ‘So many memories of Pigeon and Biscuit Creek….and the music in cabin 37 pulled at every counselor heartstring.

What an amazing emanci- pation, what a conduit for serious connection, Frost Valley is! The powerful messages and the lifting of humanity found in Hirdstock, the Olympics, closing campfires, and just being with one another -- wow. ‘Nostalgia, yes, but none of it superficial. The best of those times are who we are today, contributing to the world. Looking at all your posts renews the fire to re-create a Frost Valley connection and experience with others beyond the Catskills. I need to weave FV sentiments and virtues more purposefully into my work with schools, when sharing the journey with friends and family, and even with strangers sitting with me in airport lounges waiting for delayed flights or when debating those with different politics than my own. Something’s right with the world when Frost Valley has such a positive impact on those who walked its paths.

With so many worthy organizations and positive experiences for children and adults in our society running out of steam or crippled by the economy, it’s refreshing and hopeful to see Frost Valley still maintaining its vision and growing strong. And you’re right: FV is a reminder of the ethical/compassionate/courageous things we do today and pass on to our children. It’s hard to know where FV ends and I begin, and that’s a really nice feeling.

Thanks again, Al, for taking the time to post the observations and photos. They all mean a lot to those of us who can’t get back for the summer.

For more about Rick, go here. In the photo above, taken at the 2001 reunion, Rick is in the middle, third from left. Left to right: Dave King, Digger Shortt, Rick Wormeli, Al Filreis, David Allen.

Irene hits FV: everyone is safe but Pigeon Lodge is gone

The timing of Irene's arrival at Frost Valley was in many ways lucky. Summer camp campers and almost all the staff had just left. Family Camp campers had not yet arrived. The staff currently on the property are waiting out the storm in the dining hall. Everyone is safe.

But Biscuit Creek rose and flooded just at the waterfall by Smith Lodge and Pigeon Lodge. Its waters eroded the bank next to Pigeon Lodge and the building--built in the early 1920s by Forstmann--collapsed and slid into the creek. From what I hear, big chunks of the building are jammed against the little bridge that crosses Biscuit between the Olympic Circle/Ad Office and the road heading up to the Castle. That in turn forced more water up and into the field going one way toward the Neversink River and the other way across the road to Reflection Pond. Hemlock Brook or Trickle Creek (the stream that flows between cabins 21-25 and the dining hall) has overflowed also.

Everyone is safe. Family Camp is cancelled but there is a great deal of clean-up to be done once the storm passes.

There were similar floods in 1937, 1969, and 1972. The latter two happened in June.

Photos above taken by Dan Weir on Sunday early afternoon.

Outpost harmonizes

One night recently I was looking for a lighter or book of matches, so I could start up a CQ fire at Lakota and grill for them. I wandered through Outpost (home of many fires) and heard some good sounds coming from cabin 37. I walked in and encountered a preparatory jam session. It was the night before Hirdstock.

Friday, August 26, 2011

that's all she wrote

Another Frost Valley summer - done. The staff parking lot is nearly empty; the cars are parked next to cabins and lodges, trunks open, duffles being loaded. Other staff are on buses heading to Newark, Montclair, Brooklyn - and the intrepid loyalists (which is most of them) will come back in vans and cars in time to attend the annual last-night-of-camp banquet. Rain clobbered us on Thursday (thus closing campfires were indoors--but they were good, with fabulous musical goodbyes of various genres), and a hurricane will hit here on Sunday, but today began warm and blue-skied.By breakfast the tearful joyous goodbyes were well underway. Three of the CIT Coordinators fiercely hugged in a whirling circle for many minutes.By 9:30 a flotilla of same-colored buses were already parked in front of Margetts Lodge and the pavilion, being loaded by tired and emotionally drained but nonetheless dutiful CITs and program staff.By 10 AM somehow already the program directors were nearly done emptying out the program office of its myriad dodge balls, hoola hoops, megaphones, Hirdstock hippie paraphrenalia, clipboards, radio recharging units, laptops, village schedules, pencils and rolls of duct tape. It didn't look very pretty but it was nearly ready for the next phase (Family Camp).At the dining hall, by 10:30, parents began to arrive and the familial reunions began. These are wonderful to see. There's nothing quite like the emotion of parents seeing their child for the first time in two or even four weeks. This gets me every time. Then in walks Peter Boyd and daughter Elizabeth. Peter was an LIT with me in '72 and a few more summers after that, and his brother David was on the staff here too. As I've mentioned, daughters Elizabeth and Sarah came as young girls and later joined the staff. Elizabeth was visiting (having been away this summer for the first time) and they were here to get Sarah, a 2011 Susky counselor.Sarah might have been ready to go. But a Lakota girl, Emily, was not. She'd been crying at the thought of leaving her friends since during the closing campfire the night before, and she was still a happy mess. She told her mom she'll be coming here every summer forever. Her counselors joined the circle and Emily was able to say a final goodbye. See ya next summer. I'll be back, will you be back? Yes, I'll be back. Okay, see you then. Remember how good it was for us. Don't worry. I'll remember. And off she went, holding mom's hand and sure to hold on tight during the slow drive along the Neversink River, winding, winding, eight nostalgic miles to Claryville. We've been down this road before. Oh yes we have.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

another Ernst

That's Katie Ernst on the left, a two-week camper here for fourth session this summer. Next to her is her aunt, Lisa Ernst - our very own Lisa Ernst. Katie is the daughter of Lisa's brother Scott, also himself, once upon a time, a Frost Valley guy. In any given session, if we gathered together all the campers and staff who are connected somehow (sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandchildren, etc.), it could be as many as 20%-25% of them all.

Hirdstock 2011

In all my years of witnessing, organizing, singing along at, MC'ing and just plain grooving to Hirdstock, always fourth session, always late late late summer, always with a tinge of relaxed pre-nostalgia, I cannot remember a nicer day and night for it than this past Tuesday in 2011. A perfect day. Temperatures daytime were in the low 70s. For the evening concert, it got quite cold (low 50s by the end, maybe even upper 40s) but it was surely time for the blankets, wool ponchos, flannel shirts, big socks, arms around shoulders, groups huddled together to sing along with the music.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

why you should donate money to Frost Valley to help send a kid to camp

In response to this, Sue Geller wrote: "I was just down at FV for the start of fourth session, and donated to Project 332. I was inspired by my visit there, hearing Sacky and Susky campers singing cheers from back in the day (one or two of which I helped create- how wild is that!) and hiking to high falls... and seeing the MAC campers, and Advil... and just generally appreciating the memories of such an inspirational place. I hope that even those of you who have not made a recent trip back to FV to be re-energized by it in person, will be moved to give to this important fund based on the shared years of incredible, life-changing experiences, teachable moments, and hopefully joy, you reaped from your association to Frost Valley."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

go away from FV and find....more FV'ers

Took some days away from FV to do some vacationing in the Berkshires of Western Mass., but FV never seems to be very far away from anywhere. My niece Danielle Pancoast (daughter of my sister Liane, herself a long FV'er) has been spending her first non-FV summer (first time in 11 or 12 years) working for a summer stock theater company near Lenox, Mass. Naturally my wife Jane and I wanted to see Dani, so we picked her up and treated her to a few hours off from her internship/job by driving to lovely Great Barrington. I had Facebooked our ascent of a nearby mountain a day earlier, and who should pop up in response but Robin Helfand, mom of the Glicker trio (previously mentioned and photographed in this blog). Robin says she runs a candy store in downtown Great Barrington, and since candy coincided with Dani's day-off intentions, we went there, saw Robin and discovered that all the Helfands and most Glickers were converging on that very spot. So we saw Dawn Helfand (and husband Jim--they met at a camp in Michigan, by the way, after Dawn's numerous FV summers--and son Eli) and Russ Helfand, and then, the next day, Jesse Glicker too (daughter of Robin who finished her 2011 summer a week early after having been a CIT Coordinator and all-around supporter of Adventure Village). Frost Valley in the Berkshires! No wonder the mountain around there always seem to me to be much like the Catskills. It's in the bones, and in the eyes, and in the heart.

Photo above: Danielle Pancoast, left, with Robin Helfand, right. Below: Robin, Dawn and Russ.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hemlock in the mud, 1960

Two of these muddy lads are campers of Jim Wilkes: Les Blane and Paul Achinapura. The year is 1960. The village is Hemlock, cabins 21-25. I'm fairly certain that cabin 23 is behind Jim (who took the photo) and that that's cabin 24in the background.

Jim Wilkes remembers: "They had been throwing mud pies at each other on the cabin porch. So I said, 'Okay, men, there is a mud hole over younder on the other side of the ferns, filled with fresh rain water. Go empty it with your hands and feet!'"

Upon seeing this entry, Dave King remembered Paul as follows: "I remember Paul when he was in Lenape in 1959. Paul was truly one of the great characters in the village. Paul's father was in charge of all personnel (not diplomats) for the United Nations property in New York. I took several 9th-grade class field trips to NY to see the Statue of Liberty, and to visit the UN. Paul's dad arranged visits which were truly memorable. On one visit, my kids met the Secretary General, Uh Thant, who was most gracious."

Eric Wechter's son

Eric Wechter, who was himself in Hemlock 26 years ago, brought his son Benjamin back to camp--to be in Hemlock!--along with his mother, whom I hadn't seen in the same 26 years (or so).

former directors show up to help with luggage

Sorry the photo isn't very good; these people were moving fast. Yes, a corps of former directors descended upon us this weekend and stayed for today's Session 4 check-in. They wanted to do "manual labor," they said - and so luggage it was. From left to right: Matt Buzcek, Jeff Daly, Joe Elliott, Steve Purkis, and Eric Blum.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

improvements at Out-trip

There are improvements over at Out-trip (where all adventures trips and overnights are outfitted). From the moment the new Wellness Center opened up near the dining hall, the former dialysis unit in Smith Lodge and the treatment room of the old Health Center (or "infirmary") has been used as Out-trip. Not a bad spot for it. Mark Gottdenker once again has done a great job getting all the equipment organized. And then--surprise!--we sprung for a new washer and dryer so that tarps and other washables can be cleaned well right there. What a different this makes. For those who remember the way Smith Lodge used to be arranged, the washer and dryer are now installed in the old treatment room, right there where the old treatment table once stood.

more from Battle of the Themes Day

More photos from Battle of the Themes Day, our all-camp program this session. You see people from the Avatar and Harry Potter and Ninja Turtles teams. That Harry Potter-ish/Hermione-ish young woman calling roll for the Harry Potter team is none other than my daughter Hannah, who was tapped to be a "producer" (head coach)!