The problem is that Americans are so unpractised at the civilized ways of using the outdoors. There they go, galumphing through the bush in their boots and checked shirts, looking for a single deer or single quail or lone pheasant before they blast away, often hitting one another. It is all so uncouth. The Brits have a much more sophisticated tradition of blood sports, one that enables them to wear sports jackets and ties while indulging in it and never working up a sweat.
“Beaters” (being from the lower classes) drive the frightened birds toward the tweedy line of “hunters” who then blast them out of the sky with ease. How convenient.
We are into this crosscultural discussion because of a punch-up in stately Charlottesville, Va., where southern gentlemen are bred and manners still mean something. A jury trial has just found Sir Richard Musgrave and two English gamekeepers guilty of killing hundreds of hawks and owls and some dogs to protect the “tame” game birds they raise so somebody can kill them. During the six-day trial, one courtroom observer said the defendants had called “everyone but Lady Chatterley herself.” Clearly, we have a problem here. Can’t the Yanks see that the Brits like to kill too, only they want to be comfortable at it? Obviously, there is a communications gap. It all starts with a German immigrant, as a matter of fact, by the name of John W. Kluge. He is now the second-richest man in the United States, thanks to a $3-billion communications empire.
Three years ago, he bought up 5,000 acres of the lush rolling hillside of the Virginia Piedmont to build the type of estate that only vulgarity could enjoy. It has a golf course designed by Arnold Palmer, a disco, a chapel and what Town and Country magazine called “the grandest house built in America since the 1920s.” Included in the plan was the stocking of 9,000 pheasants,
Allan Fotheringham is a columnist for Southam News.
2,900 ducks and 1,000 partridges so the weekend guests would have something to blast at with their hand-tooled shotguns with the silver inlays.
Mr. Kluge is encouraged in all this excess by Mrs. Kluge. Mr. Kluge is 73. Mrs. Kluge is 39, born in Baghdad of a British father and an Iraqi mother. They have been married eight years. Mrs. Kluge is five-foot-nine. Mr. Kluge is five-foot-four. Does height matter when you’ve got $3 bill.? Of course not. The lady has taste.
So much taste, in fact, that she— certified philanthropist and socialite-
muscled in last year as hostess of a Palm Beach $50,000-a-ticket charity ball starring Prince Chuck and Lady Di. The only problem was that nasty Fleet Street. The London tabloids uncovered the sad news that Patricia Kluge, the new flower of Palm Beach, used to earn a buck posing for softporn “how-to” sexual spreads in a British magazine called Knave.
She was discovered as a belly dancer by Knave’s proprietor, the delightfully named Russell Gay, who became her husband. And here she was now, trustee of the United World Colleges, Prince Charles’s favorite charity. Alas, by the time of the charity ball—thanks to Fleet Street—Mr. and Mrs. Kluge found themselves with diplomatic illnesses.
The good work, however, marches on. There are 150 horse-drawn carriages on the estate, sorely needed one would think, for weekend guests such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Barbara Walters, former king Con-
stantine lí of Greece and assorted Arab princes. I digress.
The birds were the problems. Not the tame pheasants and partridges bred for slaughter, but the damned local predators who were fouling up the plan. Sir Richard, an Irish baronet who waved his cane in court, and the most famous gamekeeper since Mr. Mellors simply shot the intruders. Plus any dogs that wandered over from neighboring farms. Plunked them in a pit. Bob’s your uncle.
The locals were not amused. Charlottesville is almost sacred ground, being the home of Thomas Jefferson, the most gifted of the men who created the nation. His home, Monticello, on a mountaintop outside the city, is a tourist shrine. He designed the renowned campus of the University of Virginia. He spent much time in Paris, became an expert on wines, started his own vineyard and tried to import many European customs to this rough countryside.
Now, five farms have been swallowed by the Kluges’ money to form the Albemarle Estate, with some 800 of its 5,000 acres devoted to the English-style game-shooting operation. The Kluges give lavishly to local charities, in hopes of buying popularity, but the good ole boys who’ve lost their dogs won’t give in.
The artillery barrage echoing over the hills on weekends indicates the “sport” has begun, with the houseguests reclining on their shooting sticks, merrily bringing down on their heads the confused birds sent aloft just above them by the faithful beaters. The former porn queen, banished from Palm Beach, is trying to organize a local film festival, which the locals have dubbed the “film flam.” Five prominent residents are suing after being persuaded to invest in a “lean beef” scheme at the estate, involving breeding and marketing an exotic brand of cattle from Europe. It was, as it turned out, just an elaborate attempt at a tax dodge.
It really doesn’t seem to be what Jefferson had in mind when he encouraged the importation of European culture into the backwoods.
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