Several weeks ago I received an invitation from the wonderful Veuve Clicquot champagne people to attend a polo match at Will Rogers State Park. And my friend, Brad Gietter of Moet Hennessy USA, then asked me to help them get a few classic cars from the 1920s and 30s for the event, so I arranged a contact by Ann Walraven of MHUSA with Andrew at the Mullins Automotive Museum in Oxnard and they obliged with several cars. I responded to the VIP invitation and arranged my schedule so that I would leave a Special Olympics event with which I was involved to get there on time.
Only when I arrived at Will Rogers State Park, my name was not on any VIP list, or any press list... or any list. And security was extra-tight... maybe they were expecting a bomb threat to blow up the polo players, which included the world champion Nacho Figueras, Captain of Black Watch, considered the sport's top-rated player. Thanks to Chuck of Chuck's Parking, the veteran of many valet years with me, I was able to valet my car and frantically start dropping names (Brad's and others) to reach the entrance of the VIP tent. There, some nice woman recognized me and waved me in; then Vanessa Kay, President of Veuve Clicquot USA, offered me a glass of champagne, and I patiently awaited the start of the match. A delightful man named Tex McCarthy came over, noted that he was a senior VP of MHUSA and worked with Brad; he told me he had recently relocated to California from Texas. I gave him several copies of my legendary Jay Weston Restaurant Newsletter and told him that I was available any time for restaurant help and recommendations... a valuable service, methinks.
At which point I felt a tap on my shoulder, a very polite man introduced himself as the head of security and escorted me outside. I protested, insisted that he get President Vanessa Kay, which he did. She stonefacedly did not intercede, and I was rather forcefully ejected from the premises. Which is how I almost saw a polo match on Sunday.
Now, you may ask why I would even want to see a polo match on Sunday? Good question, but the answer is that I like polo matches, in small doses. When I was a kid growing up in the thirties in a tough neighborhood in New York, my father told me of a relative who was a lieutenant colonel in the very small, struggling US Army, stationed at Fort Hamilton in Canarsie, Brooklyn. And they played polo there on Sundays, so my dad and I went to many a match in the late 30s, and I acquired a taste for the sport. Not that I would ever want to play it... my experience with horses at that time was confined to seeing every Western movie which came down the pike. To me, the best movie ever made was Red River, and I admit that one of the thrills of my later life was working as a Cinerama producer on How The West Was Won, but that's for another day. When I began coming to Los Angeles in the late fifties, I did get to see several polo matches at the Will Rogers field, today the only polo field in the city. I spent many a long night at The Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel absorbing the legends of the polo players who gathered there in earlier years... 20th's Darryl Zanuck, Spence Tracy, Walt Disney, Clark Gable and, of curse, humorist Will Rogers. Today's park is located on the site of his former residence.
Polo is a fun sport to watch in small doses while drinking Veuve Clicquot in large doses. I look forward to the 2nd annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic... if I'm not ejected again.