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My August 1987 Weekend at the Rockefeller Estate in Tarrytown, New York with Nelson Jr

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I will never forget this summer. It was a very hot summer of 1987 back home in Brooklyn Heights, New York. In June, I had graduated high school from a prep school, and for the earlier part of the Summer vacation, I was working in the upper east side of New York City at a business called Norton Blumenthal. It was more of a ‘summer job’ than anything really that serious.

My job was quite simple: I answered phones, and did some ‘handy work’, at a place that dealt with ‘patches’ of cloth for designing within an apartment and such. Again, it was ‘not’ so exciting, but I did like who I worked with. Although, the only thing I really didn’t care for with this job, was that I had to answer the phones a certain way, with saying the name of the employer of where I worked. And for someone like me, a person who stutters (due to all the emotional abuse I have received as a kid while at school and such etc…) I do remember purposely ‘not’ answering the phones. Why?  Well, because I would stutter sometimes so bad, that I couldn’t even get the word “hello” out. Man oh man, I really can’t stand having that. But hey, this is me, and well I move forward and have for years with this frustration bad habit I have.

During this particular summer, I remember I wasn’t so happy being in the hot, sticky city and I was thinking about trying something new and different.  Plus, I would be mistreated by a sibling and I really had no other social life, although I was working at this place on the upper East side for the main reason to meet people. Yet, it wasn’t so successful in this sense, for the only people I really ‘met’ and knew were my 2-3 co-workers and that was it.

By the time July ended, I had decided to move to Hawaii and live with my Uncle and Aunt and cousins. So, I stopped working on the upper east side and took few weeks off in August as I prepared for my move to Hawaii. During this time period, was when an amazing opportunity came to play.

Apparently, my ‘sibling’ was a “Frat Brother” of none other, Nelson Rockefeller Jr. Yes, I am speaking about the Son of the former Vice President of the United States during the Ford Years and his Mom, Happy Rockefeller.

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Nelson Rockefeller Jr on far right. Picture taken by me from Scotts Wedding in NYC at the Pierre Hotel. 

I was invited to spend an entire weekend with Nelson and few other college friends who also were there for the weekend. I remember my Dad saying: “it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it really is an amazing place” my Dad said. So, I decided to go!

So on one Friday night, we drove to Tarrytown, New York, and eventually made it to the “Rockefeller Estate”. I will never forget as we arrived, it was night time and we drove up to the gate where the guard at the guard watch had to ‘let us in’. I forget who was driving, but I remember that as we drove up to the guard, we rolled down our windows, and the guard asked us who we were, and we said: “We are here to see Nelson”. The guard said something like; “he is waiting for you” as he pushed the button to open the gate to allow us in. I remember that inside the car, it was already quite rowdy and such.  Yes, it was still early and it was ‘rowdy’ but we had not been drinking as of yet – and well, maybe there were some people in the car who had been drinking, but they were ‘not’ driving, so it was ok.(and of course I was too young to drink, so I had no interest in drinking)

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If memory serves me correctly:  this is the “Playhouse”!  🙂

By the time we arrived, we pulled up to the main part of the estate, which was later on found out to be considered the “playhouse”. By the time we got out of the car and walked inside the “playhouse”, it was almost like a museum. From what I can remember, it had huge high ceilings, and I remember music was blaring, what sounded to be at “30” on the ‘volume knob’!( or so it ‘sounded like’. 🙂   We all hung out there for a little while, and then shortly Nelson or someone took us out to show us where we would be staying for the first night. It was just a ‘small house’ in effect, within this huge estate/landscape. If memory serves me correctly, I believe they were called the “China Guesthouses”.

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Once we entered this ‘guest house’, we immediately realized that this place is just like a normal small home, but with ‘extras’! 🙂  How do I mean? Well, when we walked in the house…we then came into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, and then incredibly the re-fridge was stocked!   Tons of eggs, tons of Tropicana OJ, many packs of bacon, many cartons of donuts, many plates, silverware, 6-8 loaves of fresh bread etc… It was mind-boggling. Maybe 8 boxes of Eggo Waffles, etc.. Yet, of course, this was all done by the staff they have who work on the estate 24/7.

This estate is truly amazing – I remember walking around here too –

I remember also as we walked around the estate, we came to the ‘snack bar’ & ‘bar’ area.  Where it was fully stocked with drinks, and alcohol and then yes, as if your own personal ‘Friendly’s’ Ice-Cream Place (Well, I do not mean that  was the brand of ice-cream they had, I’m just saying that this is how it came across) – I was in heaven , especially since I was able to make my own ice-cream sundaes and or have as much as I wanted and or have seconds…all for FREE!!!

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If memory serves me correctly, I remember walking along that walkway between the columns, where the indoor pool is, and or towards.

Then another part of the Estate is where all the action is, where I mentioned earlier in this article: The Playhouse.  The playhouse inside; had Indoor pool, 2 bowling lanes, or {maybe one} – gymnasium had a sauna, also had an indoor Tennis Court, and had a ballroom, and ……umm??? I can’t remember what else – but, I think what I mentioned is quite a bit already – and well, I do remember thinking to myself saying: “So, this is what it is like to live as a rich elite person in today’s society”!   🙂 I even remember bowling for about 2 hours with this girl, who I met later on during the weekend. It was the kind of bowling with the ‘large/big’ balls. The real deal, as I like to consider it.  But also, lets ‘not’ forget, that outside the playhouse you had another swimming pool, and another set of tennis courts, of course, we can never forget the 18 hole golf course. Yeah, this place is truly living like the richest of the rich, and to think I was only 19 years old, when I had this once in a lifetime opportunity – it did make a mark on me, and yes, I know I was privileged to have this chance, knowing that no other person on the globe will or would ever have this, but I did!!!  🙂

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Eventually, as the second night progressed, this is where all the drinking for everyone else who was there, was going on, but not for me.  First, it began with a nice bar-b-q with hamburgers and hot dogs and chicken and such all made by the servants who worked there. Now, remember, the only people who were there at the estate were: me, a sibling, Nelson Jr, and about 3-5 close friends from Dartmouth College, but then about 15-30 other people who were locals, who were there to drink, but then left by the end of the night. However, just because the ‘locals’ left by the end of the night of drinking, didn’t mean that all was over. No, Not even close.

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I remember walking around here and to the end, in front of that statue looking at it from the front – and then looking past the gate at the entire estate – such a magnificent place! I had a once in a lifetime chance that no other will ever have!  🙂

In fact, the other thing I remember the most was when I was inside the playhouse at one time about or around 2 in the morning, the stereo was blaring and I’m talking like it was some huge concert – but one catch: there was no one in the room!!!!  Talk about a nice ‘spoiled rich’ way to live!  🙂 I’m saying that in fun.  🙂  And yes the thought of ‘wait,…we might wake up the neighbors’,  Yes, I do remember actually saying this to myself back then. But that’s just it, there were no neighbors to even worry about.

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Nelson Rockefeller Jr on far left in back. Taken outside of the church in NYC before the wedding. I took this picture too. Be sure to check out  the ‘collage’ picture where one of those pictures is of the group, and way in the back, Nelson and I are barely seen, and it looks like our heads are just about leaning up against each other. 

I also remember in the early part of the night, while all the others were drinking, I went to the gym to shoot some hoops. I was alone – shooting hoops and all of a sudden I remember a nice looking woman came in, walking ever so slowly – and looking so pretty. She was staring towards my direction, looking my way, but I had trouble believing she was looking at me?  But, I was the only one there! She called me over and I walked to her and decided to sit on the bench next to her, and we began to talk.  Then before I knew it, her hands were going thru my hair!  I was stunned!!!  I really was nervous. Sadly, in the end, nothing more than that happened – but, It was something I will never forget.

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The entire Rockefeller Estate

Then…just when you think everything was about to come to an end as it was getting even later, or more like really early in the morning – I find out that my sibling and Nelson and all the rest of us -about 5 other people, now jump into the golf  karts and now start speeding/driving all around the Rockefeller Estate’s 18 hole course! We began this escapade around midnight, and we drove all over the estate. Come to think of it, I remember some of the guys who were drunk, would crash their golf karts into garbage cans or something and then one of the guys did such a sharp turn, that the golf cart tipped over.  I guess one could say in this example, that we all were truly ‘living the elitist, spoiled lifestyle’ or better known in laymen terms: spoiled brats! 🙂

Then someone decided to play ‘war’. Here it was way after midnight. By now just about all of us had our own golf karts as we would make up teams. At one point it was me, Nelson, and this other guy named Dale Lattanzio, who now lives in the United Kingdom and someone else versus Scott and two or three other people. And the point of this ‘war game’ was to use our golf carts and drive all over the estate golf course, and when you came into view of the opposing team, you would have to throw your “big seeds” or whatever the heck they were. ??? Some kind of animal-like food that would grow on trees, that wildlife would eat, but not humans, but was very hard when you held it in your hand and would certainly hurt you when it would be thrown at you too!  And we were having this ‘war’ with these kinds of ‘green/but really hard’ things that fell off the trees and you would feel it and be in pain if it hit you hard enough.  Well, we did this starting around mid-afternoon as we did play some golf – but, we did not take it as serious until after midnight or something if my memory serves me correctly. But the night time fun and early morning fun after midnight was from about 10pm until 545 in the morning!  Yes, that is right, you heard me correctly! Eventually, I had gone into the back of the one golf cart I was in and slept during their charades – and I remember the sun rising at about or nearing 6am, along with a morning chill in the air etc… and then finally we were heading back to the main part of the mansion, where we were now going to head to bed as it was just about or not far from 6 in the morning.

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For what was our last night, we did not sleep in the ‘china house’ but we stayed in another part of the mansion – where in this one huge room, there was a king size bed and then 2 or possibly 3 other queen size or double beds on the other side of this huge room.

I was in one king bed with one other person and the other guys were with their friends in the same room, but way on the other side of this one huge room – and if memory serves me properly, I think this one friend Scott or Jeffrey was with their girlfriend on one end of the room. I forget who.??

So as we go to bed at 6am –  by about 8  in the morning as we are sleeping I sort of wake up and feel the bed moving as if someone is ‘coming in’. Well, I was right. Sure enough, it was Nelson. He had been up for something, maybe to use the bathroom or something, and then he decided to come into our bed – there sure was a lot of room.  So, Nelson decided to crawl directly in the middle! So, now it was me on one side, nearer to the door and Nelson in the middle and the other person on the other far end and then at one time the room door had a gentle knock.  ‘Who is it’? someone yelled quietly.  “It’s Happy,” a voice said.  Nelson’s mom! She opened the door quietly and said: “Where is Nelson”?  The other person in my bed said: “He’s in the middle here sleeping” with the covers seemingly over his head. So his mom left a message for something then we went back to sleep after.

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Walking around the Rockefeller Estate…I remember walking around here
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Top left: Nelson Jr with a friend at a college friend’s wedding. Far right, I am in the back row with my right hand on the guy who is in front on left, and my head is almost touching Nelson’s in the back… Then the second row left: Happy Rockefeller and President Gerald Ford at some gala… The Far right is Nelson Rockefeller Senior and former Vice President of the USA.  And the other pictures of  the buildings are from the Rockefeller Estate in Tarrytown, New York

By the time we had to leave this wonderful weekend, I was so sad to leave this place. I will never forget this place – I only wish I had taken video or something of this amazing place – but at least, I had the chance to go and spend couple nights and live as how the  rich and elite live, and this pleasure was all mine and no one, ever can take this away from me!

Let me note..with regards to the picture of the collage – the top two corner pictures were taken from a Wedding that I went to in NYC, that Nelson was also at. If my memory serves me correctly, it was at  the Pierre Hotel – here is the link to that hotel:

It was a wedding for a friend Scott Schroeder – please excuse me if I misspelled your name. We all hung out together in NYC the night before the wedding, and then in this incredible, ritzy hotel, was where the wedding took place. Of course, we all had to wear tuxedos. The one interesting thing, a memory that I will never forget was what happened the night before. During our ‘night before the wedding’ party, we were at one bar and we were there for couple hours. By the time we all left to go some other place, I remember I had just stepped out of this bar, walked up the stairs to the sidewalk, and this black homeless man was there.   😦   I felt bad for him. Then this other person walked up behind me and also to come to wait on the sidewalk.  Then as we both waited for the other guys to come out from this bar, the black homeless man went up to the other person and said these exact words: “Hey my brother,….I’m just a fella, ‘not’ a Rockefella…any chance you could help me out some”.   😦  I kid you not.  This actually happened, with this homeless man saying those exact words – 😦

So this person took out their wallet and gave the poor man a $100 bill, and told him to: “not buy drugs or alcohol, and go get a nice dinner” – and then he said; “thank you ever so much sir”. 😦

I remember I had commented how amazed I was that this poor black person, a homeless person actually said those words that he did mention “Rockefeller”, all the while Nelson was with us.   😦  And we were living ‘his life’ for that weekend.     😦

The one last bit of information I will share is something sort of coincidental. Nelson Jr and I have something in common. Well, sort of… Nelson’s birthday is May 30, 1964.  Mine is on May 31. Another friend of ours is on May 24. (Dale Lattanzio, if I’m not off by a day or so…) And another friend of ours his birthday is on May 28 or something?  I’m thinking Jeffrey Brighton – and to add on to this, Jeff’s kid/son, his  birthday is on May 30 too! So, as you see, we all have a lot in common, of which has nothing to do with just knowing eachother. Pretty neat if you ask me!