Lockdown has given me a chance to connect to some very inspiring women and patrons of the arts and hospitality industry. During the lockdown, I have been reading some books from the Reese Witherspoon Bookclub which I have really enjoyed. Whilst researching for recommendations I came across Deborah’s book, Finding Mrs. Ford, and realized Deborah is also a hotelier! Deborah wears many hats and a living example of the fact that you can change your career or find a passion at any age, there are no limits.
When did you decide to get involved with the Ocean House?
We took over the Ocean House project in 2004. In the 1800s large hotels were a part of the American Plan. People used to live in them and that was a lifestyle and became ingrained in the culture. The hotel has a lot of history and amazing stories behind it. People have been coming for years to vacation here and spend time with families.
When the hotel was closed in 2003 we came in to work on the restoration and reopen it.
What is your story?
I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and went to a Public School where the emphasis was on the arts and I grew up being involved in plays and also being involved in projects as a background dancer. I moved to New York and spent a year pursuing dance and I was close to all the Broadway shows. I ventured into acting and had a key role in All My Children for many years. Soap operas are intense! I then got approached for a role from Paramount Pictures which took me to L.A. and realized there was much more work and opportunity there.
After a few years of building a family, I went down the route of working as a reader in Paris with Le Studio Canal Plus. Writing and editing work of writers gave me a strong insight into thrillers and understanding the psyche of people. On returning to the US, I With my husband, I worked on the restoration of the Avon Theatre, and Gene Wilder was a regular at the theatre read my initial writing and encouraged me to pursue it further.
Gene Wilder asked me to send him some of my writing which was a screenplay I had worked on and he critiqued it for me.
Where does the inspiration for your restoration projects come from?
We love creating and preserving communities hence our work with the theatre, bookstore, and hotels give us immense pleasure in supporting thriving communities.
This is also why we enjoy the hotels being a part of the Relais & Chateaux as it is a community of independently-owned businesses.
How would you describe your relation to the New York Botanical Garden?
I am a member of the Board of Trustees of the New York Botanical Garden. For quite a few years now, I have also served as one of the co-chairs of the Conservatory Ball, the main fundraising event for the Garden which takes place in the gardens and in the Enid Haupt Conservatory each spring.
What is your favorite spot in New York City?
Oh my! So so many. Well, I must start with the New York Botanical Garden and one of the most glorious spots in the city. NYBG is 250 pristine and gorgeous green acres in the middle of New York. After that, where do I begin?
- I love Lexington Avenue starting in about the mid-60s and going up through the 80s. There, you find small shops and florists and bakeries and old-fashioned pharmacies and all of the tiny stores that evoke New York as it once was.
- I love the area facing Lincoln Center with the broad sidewalks that allow outdoor cafés as deep as those you find in Paris.
- I love Grand Central Station. Just taking the train in and out from Connecticut makes me feel that I am in another era. In fact, before this pandemic, my habit was to ask my New York friends to meet me for dinner in a small radius around Grand Central so that I could take the train in and out and never even have to consider another mode of transportation.
- New York Public Library—the main branch at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. You can sit in any room and read and work. You can wander and look at the art, the plaques, the collections. It is a respite and a haven from the noise outside.
- Broadway. It breaks my heart that the theatres are closed.
- Central Park Zoo. I took my daughters there. I have a fourteen-month-old granddaughter, Annabelle, and cannot wait to take her there.
- The boat pond in Central Park for the same reason.
- The Frick Museum. It is one of the most gloriously private-public spots in the city. Just like Mr. Frick, you feel at home looking at his collections in his house.
- The Metropolitan Museum. You can pick any part of it and just wander.
- The Morgan Library. Serene and sublime.
How is the lockdown treating you?
As a writer, it has given me a chance to sit down and focus on my writing and I have learned that once we are out of this I will have the opportunity to tone down my life a little bit.
How should young people take this lockdown?
This is an opportunity to learn to slow down and connect with each other in more personal ways. Socialising was becoming extremely superficial.
Your advice to women on careers?
There is no magical age to either begin a career or change paths. I discovered writing when my youngest daughter was leaving home during my mid-fifties. You never know what stage of life brings what to you so don’t ever live by deadlines.