August 2008

We Knew Them When

The Adirondack Idylls of American Idols

Illustration by Pete Seward

1. Two summers in the Adirondacks don’t equate to much, but it’s all relative. Our theory: the mad-scientist hairstyle was inspired by a trip up a windy High Peak. Nobel Prize–winning physicist Albert Einstein summered in Saranac Lake in 1936 and 1937.
2. Oy! Before he was a world-famous violin virtuoso and klezmer proponent, his playing so impressed another budding musician at Meadowmount School of Music, in Lewis, that she fell instantly in love. Itzhak Perlman attended the camp—where he met his future wife—from 1960 to 1964.
3. Who can take a rainbow, wrap it in a sigh? The Candy Man, of course, although in his days as a kid entertainer, he was known as “Little Sunshine.” In the 1930s Sammy Davis Jr. performed with his father at the Royal Pines nightclub, in Lake George.
4. Adirondack League Clubbers probably spend more time in the woods than at the Little Moose bar playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Still, the Footloose star’s ALC membership means a celeb other than 29th U.S. President Warren G. Harding has chilled out in Old Forge.
5. Happy days abounded for the future Mr. Cunningham in Lake Pleasant. Tom Bosley fine-tuned his acting skills at Malcolm Atterbury’s summer-stock theater, Tamarack Playhouse, in the 1950s.
6. From the miner leagues to the majors, this native of iron-ore–rich Witherbee earned the name Yankee Killer when he pitched the Brooklyn Dodgers to their only World Series win, in 1955. Johnny Podres spent his post-baseball years just outside the Blue Line in Queensbury.
7. Long before she was shouting “Yummo!” and slinging EVOO, Rachael Ray shook her pom-poms for the Warriors. The perky TV personality was a cheerleader at Lake George High School, where she graduated in 1986.
8. Teddy was a bird-watcher, not a Rough Rider, on his first Adirondack foray in the 1870s. While visiting friends near Newcomb in 1901, T.R. discovered that the trip down Mount Marcy led right to the White House. Theodore Roosevelt vacationed at Santanoni Preserve and the Tahawus Club several times before becoming the 26th president.
9. No dogs allowed at killer David Berkowitz’s Adirondack getaway in Dannemora. Son of Sam served time at Clinton Correctional Facility, beginning in 1978.
10. Listen up and stop fiddling around. Violinist Joshua Bell was truly undiscovered (just like in a recent Washington Post Pulitzer Prize–winning story) when he studied at Meadowmount in the summers of 1980 and 1981.
11. Yo, who’s the guy with the cello in Lewis? Yo-Yo Ma likewise bowed out at Meadowmount, in 1971.
12. Would you like coffee with that, Mr. Barrow? In 1960 and ’61 Bonnie and Clyde femme fatale Faye Dunaway played a supporting role as a waitress at Saranac Lake’s Dew Drop Inn.
13. Silent Cal made nary a peep at his summer White House on Osgood Pond; the Secret Service detail was so bored they drove to Gabriels for kicks. Thirtieth president Calvin Coolidge used White Pine Camp as his oval office from July 7 through September 18, 1921.
14. A blue-uniformed entourage, a crib with bars and a view of the High Peaks? Probably not Tupac Shakur’s idea of living the high life. The rapper served almost a year at Dannemora’s Clinton Correctional Facility on a sex-abuse charge, beginning in 1995.
15. You probably couldn’t get anything you wanted on the shore of Raquette Lake, especially a break from a campfire staple like “This Land is Your Land.” Folk legend Arlo Guthrie attended Raquette Lake Boys’ Camp in the 1950s.
16. After a visit to the Adirondacks in 1791, Thomas Jefferson wrote to his daughter: “Lake George is without comparison the most beautiful water I ever saw.” No word on whether he also sent his regards to her maid, Sally.
17. Washington, D.C.’s most famous plumber was spotted in Brant Lake checking out actual water gates. And word is G. Gordon Liddy used bug dope, not bugging devices.
18. Before she sported her trademark peekaboo hairstyle, Veronica Lake played at the Lake, in Saranac Lake, while her stepfather was treated for tuberculosis from 1934 to 1936. The film noir starlet returned to the village in 1973, when her own health was failing.
19. What happens when a country singer and her producer husband tear down an historic house and build a 23,000-square-foot recording studio? A hit record and a pile of Adirondack Park Agency fines. Shania Twain and Mutt Lange owned property on Dexter Lake, in St. Regis Falls, from 1993 through 2005.
20. Rumor is this Saturday Night Live pioneer played a young Canadian tourist at Horicon’s Wakonda Camp in the ’60s. His harmonica riffs probably made Dan Aykroyd a campfire fave.
21. America’s preeminent humorist found his Adirondack sojourn no laughing matter. Mark Twain rented a rustic camp on Lower Saranac Lake in 1901, but the fresh air failed to help his ailing daughter.
22. Swimming in chilly Lake Champlain was great prep for his role as the Penguin in the Batman TV series, but coaching promising young pugilists, as he later did for Rocky Balboa, was not on the program. Emmy Award­–winning actor Burgess Meredith attended Westport’s Camp Dudley around 1920.
23. Sunburn and blackfly bites couldn’t hide the chiseled chin of this Mohawk Valley native son. Though Speculator may have been a Town Without Pity it wasn’t the OK Corral either. Kirk Douglas was a counselor at Camp Agaming in the 1930s.
24. A modest log cabin in the northwest Adirondacks could have been The End of the Trail for this corpulent cowboy chronicler but he found his hunting and fishing trips quite restorative. Artist Frederic Remington spent summers at Cranberry Lake at the end of the 19th century.
25. During his days hanging out by the High Peaks, the other kids didn’t call him Mr. anything—Sex and the City was for summer people and Law and Order was carried out by the Essex County sheriff. Chris Noth’s family lives in Keene.
26. Not quite The Blue Lagoon or a Lipstick Jungle, Chazy Lake was still a lovely backdrop for this Pretty Baby, in or out of her Calvins. Brooke Shields owned a house on Emerald Island, which she sold in 2001.
27. Quoth The Raven, “Nevermore.” He wasn’t a Poe boy until late in his cinema career, but he did enjoy more than one Beach Party on Long Lake. Vincent Price was a counselor at Camp Riverdale, leaving his job as a high-school teacher in West­chester County for the bright lights of Hollywood in the 1930s.
28. From New York Times fashionista to Gap spokesmodel with her furry sidekick, Magic, this savvy styler in super-size spectacles got a Placid start. Carrie Donovan was born in Lake Placid in 1928.
29. Analyze This! The nearest Caddyshack was in Schroon Lake, and Groundhog Day was every day as far as woodchucks were concerned. Ghostbuster and screenwriter Harold Ramis was said to have camped at Wakonda, in Horicon.
30. At St. Regis Lake for many summers, this wild redhead worked on her archery, not her ax—a smokin’ blues guitar, that is. Bonnie Raitt attended Camp Regis–Apple Jack from 1961 to 1969.
31. Did she get her start as The Biggest Loser or a Teenage Witch in Chateaugay? Only fellow Jeanne d’ Arc campers can dish on late-70s gal pal Caroline Rhea.