In Sunday's Style section, the year the Charlottesville Daily Progress began publication was incorrect. It was 1892. (Published 7/24/ 90)
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- The night air is thick. The wind brings mint and grass and skunk. Trees rustle. The entrance to Patricia Kluge's place -- in the dark middle of nowhere -- says Albemarle Farms on little white stanchions by the gatekeeper's hut. Two little lions face each other with frozen roars. A lone light is burning. A million moths circle around the bulb. Far away, past the "No Trespassing, No Hunting" signs, past her golf course designed by Arnold Palmer, her swimming swans, her three-story stable with big brass chandeliers, past her tournament croquet lawn, is the 45-room mansion, the gothic-style chapel, the crypt, the tennis court, the pool house, the sculpture garden, the outdoor fountains, the helicopter landing pad and the herb garden that John Kluge left in April when he moved to the historic estate he owns next door called Morven Stud Farm.
It's 2.2 miles between them on the country road, but it seems longer in the dark. At Patricia Kluge's gate, there are stone walls and moths. At John Kluge's gate, there's a corral of mailboxes, ivy and a grand painted sign that says Morven, where the neighbors used to line up for the tulip garden tour every spring.
The neighbors wonder, now, if the gardens at Morven will ever be open again, or what will happen to the antique carriage museum that Pat Kluge wanted to build there. Nobody seems to care about whether she's dating Doug Wilder, has ever dated him, or has ever thought about dating him. They ask about the garden.
Pat Kluge laughs and laughs and laughs. "You do get questions like that, which is what makes the place so endearing," she says from Albemarle Farms. "Of course the gardens at Morven will be open in spring."
Passing commentary. Just passing-the-time commentary. Horse people wonder what Pat might to do with all her warmbloods -- her glorious dressage horses -- even though she's gotten the biggest divorce settlement in history. Nearly $2 million a week. The antiques people are thinking deaccession time. The university community wonders whether she'll remain on the University of Virginia Board of Visitors. But most-most-most of all, people in Charlottesville this summer are hoping for rain because their grass is dry.
They care, they don't care. "They created a little English village, you know," shrugs one nearby horse farmer, "with a chapel and a family crypt and everything, but they couldn't even stay married long enough to enjoy it."
The carriage museum project, by the way, has been canned. And Pat Kluge isn't selling her horses, but John Kluge is selling his. Otherwise, "life goes on as usual," she says. "The only thing different is that Morven has an occupant."
And of her friendship with Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder? "When John and I decided to support Doug Wilder for governor, we had a hunch that he was a great man, that he'd make a wonderful governor who'd bring national attention to the state of Virginia. Our hunch was right," she says. "We didn't look on him as a black man. We looked on him as a man who would make a great governor. And so he has."
Passing commentary. "It's kind of like watching a soap opera," says antiques dealer Butch Elder in his Virginia drawl. "But it's not important. There's only a certain fascination for what's going to happen next. That's all. Charlottesville was a great place to live before Kluge got here. And it will be after he leaves."
Gentle Slopes A great place to live. It's where a bad perm and baggy clothes don't stand out. It's where farmhouses aren't air-conditioned, where people don't have call waiting. It's a place that's small enough to have the white and yellow pages bound together in one slim phonebook -- and in big type. It's a place for old and new hippies, where a pair of Birkenstock sandals can show up at a polo match. "The only people I know who still smoke dope," says one observer, "live here."
It's a place where the fox hunting is "more egalitarian" than in Middleburg or Piedmont or Orange, according to Jill Summers, master of Farmington Hunt for 23 years. It's where her father, writer William Faulkner, rode until he dropped off. It's where U-Va. professors fox-hunt with students, with playwright Sam Shepard, with doctor's wives, with Old Virginia Types, with gas station attendants, and with writer Rita Mae Brown, who also plays polo. It's where many blacks have ridden, but none is a member. "None have applied," says Summers -- who's also on the Farmington board. "I don't think there'd be any problem. I don't think so. But I could be mistaken."
It's a place where the roadside boxes for the Charlottesville Daily Progress -- the town paper started in 1982 -- are stuffed with back issues. Nobody seems to care much for news. Or television. It's a place where 7-year-old John Kluge Jr. shouts "They have baseball card shops here!" in the background while his mom's on the phone. It's where small cottages in town have empty porch swings. It's where hundreds of old farms outside of town have white fences and emerald pastures and broken backhoes in the barn.
It's a place for vegetarians, and people who drive Chevy Blazers and four-wheel-drive station wagons powerful enough to lug trailers. It's where, in four days of driving, you can go without seeing one Mercedes-Benz. It's a place of gentle slopes -- you're always driving uphill or downhill -- and where you feel embarrassed to honk even though there's always a sleepy five-second delay before the cars move on a new green light. It's a place where actresses Sissy Spacek and Jessica Lange look just like all the other blond mothers with blond children walking on the mall. It's a place with a junky shopping strip (Route 29) with a pancake house and a view of the Blue Ridge mountains.
It's where people claim that the bones of Redcoats are buried in their back yards. It's where huge boxwoods as old as Earth grow. It's a place with scrub pines and maples, oaks and dogwood, wild cherry and ash. It's a place where you keep your dogs outside because they're covered with ticks. It's a place where a bookstore owner says she sells lots of fiction. It's a place where you can park illegally next to City Hall for three hours and not be ticketed.
It's a place for people who want farms but not rednecks. It's where horse farmer Cindy Schauer, a recent transplant from Minneapolis, says, "I barely run into any Virginians," but Thomas Jefferson probably designed her house. It's where Chuck Beegle, a professor of education at U-Va. who moved here 20 years ago, says, "I have to pinch myself sometimes. I grew up during the Depression and my mother raised us. It was a tough life. I never thought I'd be around anything like this. It's really wonderful." And it's a place where Pat Kluge says, "This is my home. Absolutely. I'm staying here until they carry me out -- in an attractive box, I hope."
It's a place for refugees of glamour too. It's where Peter Taylor and Ann Beattie write their stories, where Steven Soderbergh writes his screenplays, where Lincoln Perry paints. It's where Burt Reynolds and Lee Majors recently fought over a piece of land and where Kate Jackson has bought a farm. It's where members of the Scripps-Howard newspaper family and the Bronfman (Seagrams) family dwell, plus a son of Augie Busch and the Champion spark plugs heiress. It's where John Kluge -- the richest man in America -- still lives, and the "number one" spot in the country for "affluentials," according to the National Demographics & Lifestyles. It's where Art Garfunkel and Muhammad Ali and Martina Navratilova have lived, and where Rita Mae Brown, a lesbian writer with a cult following to rival Hemingway's, has become an absolute pillar of society.
"It's just getting so chic," Brown gripes, "I'm moving to the next county."
Girls' Polo A couple hours away from sundown -- when the birds are still yakking but the crickets have started up -- the Piedmont Polo Team practices. It's women on horses in the arena. All women. It's all women but for the coach, Brian Barquin, who's calling them "you girls." He's either got the guts to do that or he doesn't know to call them "you women." Welcome to Charlottesville, the progressively backward paradise. A blond 10 year-old girl in neon colors wanders around too, with a mammy doll in her hands. The New Old South?
Rita Mae Brown has a red tank top, a tattoo on her back, a tan. Her teammates wear T-shirts that say: In a perfect world, men would ride sidesaddle.
"Go faster, Rita Mae!" the coach shouts.
"If I go faster," Brown shouts back, "I'll get scared and stiffen up and fall off."
"Rita Mae ..."
"I'm better than I was last year, Brian."
"I know you are," he says, "and you're still not fast enough."
If the Witches of Eastwick decided to leave New England, they'd move to this place. Brown puts up her mallet. She's poking at her eye. "Wait a minute, I've got a problem," she shouts. "I've got to take my contact out."
One player has stopped to get a Band-Aid. Someone else has been offered an Advil. "We're really learning the game," says Brown. "We may go slow, but we're being careful. Men aren't careful. I mean, they're over-mounted, usually, and are always being thrown.
"We may go slow," she says, "but at least we stay on."
There are 17 members. It costs the team $10,000 a season to play. They sell parking spots for the matches, and T-shirts with the team motto, and little huggies for drink cans. They started in the summer of 1987. "When people ask me about summer in Charlottesville," says player Beth Seawell, "I say it's just polo and opera."
"Most of us fox-hunt," says Brown, who's lived in the area since 1949, "but that's hardly the same."
In the back of her pickup after the practice, she asks what other people are talking about in Charlottesville. Renovating houses. Development. Route 29. The Kluges.
"Mostly we don't talk about development," she says. "We talk about who's sleeping with whom -- all that stuff. Don't you talk about that in Washington?"
Nobody seems to be sleeping with anybody in Washington, Rita Mae.
"You should move here, then."
How about Pat Kluge, do people talk about her?
"She's one of the most generous, loving people I've ever met," says Brown. "And in the brief time she's been here, she's done more for this town than families who've lived here for six generations. I can't believe anybody complains about her. Everybody I know, who knows her, loves her. She's always helping people, helping friends. She's always looking after people. Always."
Heading off to her truck, a Swedish-looking blond shouts out, "Hey! You didn't ask us anything about Sissy and Jessica."
What's there to know?
"Sissy keeps saying that she wants to join our team," says Brown. "Every year, she says that. Who knows? But she's great. And so is Jessica. They are good people -- not snots."
"There's just more to Charlottesville," says the blond, "than them."
The Happy Stripper More to Charlottesville. A sign on High Street reads "The Happy Stripper," and this turns out to be a furniture refinishing store. Refinishing, renovations -- this part of the world is crowded with people freshening up the past, inhaling history like fumes. "I remember trying to buy furniture in 1969," says one PhD. "If you wanted something that wasn't old reproduction Sheraton or Hepplewhite, forget it. There were only two stores in the whole city that sold anything made in the 20th century."
There's a futon shop now and Scandinavian Interiors, but the focus on old things hasn't changed. "There's a real antiques-oriented market here in Charlottesville," says Butch Elder, who owns 1740 House Antiques with his wife, Mary Ann. The 1740 House is also a Virginia Landmark and on the National Register, since it was a tavern once belonging to John Marshall. The Elders have restored it. They've also sold furniture to "Sissy and Jack" and "Jessica and Sam." They sell "period" pieces. Period. They specialize in 18th-century American. They've got 12 rooms of it. It's spare, simple stuff. Jokes are cracked about Victorian furniture, or about the Empire style that people like in New Orleans.
Butch Elder is wearing a short-sleeved button-down. Polished brown shoes. Navy socks. There's a fan going in his office. "We don't see Sam as much as Jessica," he says. "But they both like horses and period houses, antiques, a ranch-type operation at home. Sissy is much more open about how much she loves it in Charlottesville, but I think they'll all remain here."
Development is the big issue in town, the Elders agree. Then, maybe, the Kluge Divorce and the tackiness of Route 29. "Although I think it's the fox hunters," says Butch, "who gripe about development the most. They are very conservative people. A little too conservative."
Sharing the Wealth Verdant, people always call the Charlottesville countryside. But here and there you see houses and old barns being bulldozed. You see tractors and dirt movers up Barracks Road. You see quarter-acre lots out by Farmington Country Club (separate from the hunt club) with pricey new houses on them. There's traffic at rush hour on Route 29, especially near the pancake house.
In 1980, there were 55,000 people in Albemarle county, according to the Census. There were 40,000 people in the town of Charlottesville. The Visitors Bureau for the county predicts the 1990 figures for Albemarle County will jump to 73,000 and the town figures will remain the same.
"The town's the town," says the bureau spokeswoman. "It can't really grow."
Heading out on Barracks Road, you see small trees and dying grass. There are cookie-cutter attached town houses, Northern Virginia style. The tracts have names. There's "Huntwood" and "Old Salem" on the right. There are apartments that look like brick dorms with green shutters for that Old South feeling, called "Hessian Hills" for the soldiers who were captured and housed near there.
"Much of the land where we once fox-hunted," says Chuck Beegle, "has now become developed. A few years ago we had to move the Farmington Hunt further out of town, but I don't think it was far enough."
The university owns nearly 2,500 acres in the county -- and its University Real Estate Foundation has been at the center of several hotly disputed developments, particularly when it tried to build near Monticello, and when it announced a "research park" on a 500-acre site near the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport.
For $2.45 million, real estate broker Steve McLean's got "Tall Oaks" for sale, a 96-acre farm. Everything has a name -- which usually doesn't change from owner to owner. "Most of the people who buy the larger residences are from out of town," McLean says. "There've been so many articles about what a great place this is to live, some people just show up with their bags packed."
Charles Hurt, with his Virginia Land Co. of Charlottesville, is believed by many to be the biggest landowner in Albemarle County. "I've got about 4,000 or 5,000 acres," says Hurt -- most of being developed. "I'm not the biggest landowner, but I guess I sell the most land," he says. He bought his first bit of land before he graduated from U-Va in 1954.
"I think the community is anti-development," he says. "That's always the way it is. People don't like to see things change. People come to town, buy a developed lot and house from me, then get mad when more are built. They don't really want to share the wealth."
Who is the biggest landowner?
"John Kluge," Hurt says. "John Kluge by far."
Citizen Kluge The place the Kluges bought in 1982, the year after they married, was called "Short Hills Estate" and cost $2.97 million. Just four miles up the road from Monticello, it was an 18-room Georgian-style mansion built in 1948 on 1,000 acres of cattle farm. It had originally been an estate of 9,350 acres -- a 1730 land grant from King George II to John Carter, secretary of the Virginia Colony.
After three years of renovation ending in 1985, the Kluges had demolished Short Hills and built Albemarle Farms. "It's a Kluge creation," says Pat, "and I plan to live here until my son takes over." The creation is a rambling house -- 45 rooms full of new marble and columns, upholstered walls, Portuguese rugs, painted plaster ceilings. They built the glass conservatory, the chapel, the crypt, stables, helicopter pad and golf course. Year by year, they bought neighboring farms -- several of them historic properties. After the acquisition of Morven's 3,000 acres -- for $9 million -- the Kluges were sitting on nearly 9,000 acres.
It became a San Simeon of sorts. And John Kluge, the man who started Metromedia, who once owned the Harlem Globetrotters, the Ice Capades and 35,000 outdoor billboards, became something of a mystery.
People say they like Pat Kluge for sometimes walking around Charlottesville without makeup. Rita Mae Brown says everybody who meets Pat Kluge likes her, but most here, of course, haven't met her.
"I'm very happy that they take me as their own," says Pat Kluge of the locals., "that they scrutinize everything I do, how I must feel, where I go. It's like having a huge, extended family. But it's an invisible involvement, and it doesn't bother me. And I guess if it was gone, I'd miss it.
"I just wish," she says, "I had the time to be so interested in their lives."
Since moving into the area, there's no question that the Kluges -- according to long-timers -- have affected life here. Some good. Some bad. The pluses are the $3 million they've given U-Va. for the Kluge Children's Rehabilitation Center and their initiation and support of the Virginia Festival of American Film -- going on its third year. Pat Kluge has helped out a local sexual assault rehabilitation center, and set up a minority internship at St. Anne's Belfield School in the name of Frances D. Hooks, and has also donated to the restoration fund for the old Paramont Theater downtown.
The Kluges cleared carriage paths and riding trails on their property, and offered use of them to neighbors. They invited friends and their large staff (more than 100) to use their private chapel. Daughters of friends were married there, and receptions were thrown. They raised campaign money for Douglas Wilder, a man who seems extremely popular in town. And they infused the county with glamour -- perhaps unwanted by some. Their dinner parties and weekend house parties brought Frank Sinatra, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Barbara Walters, Tony Bennett, Rupert Murdoch, former king Constantine II of Greece and former attorney general William French Smith, among many others, to Albemarle County.
"It hasn't hurt the town," says Butch Elder. "It says something that the richest man in America would choose to live here."
Early on, Pat Kluge came up with the idea of building the finest English-style shooting preserve in America. She hired a chef d'equipe from Ireland, a baronet called Sir Richard Musgrave, to run it. Friends were asked to shooting parties until it was discovered that Musgrave and his two gameskeepers had been killing perhaps hundreds of federally protected hawks and owls that preyed on game birds. In 1988, the three were charged, convicted, fined. Musgrave returned to Ireland.
It is this and a Town & Country magazine article that local people mention to show their disapproval of the Kluges' lifestyle. In the 1987 article, Albemarle Farms was described as "the grandest estate to have been built in America since the Twenties." There were pictures of Pat Kluge standing in one drawing room -- 36 feet long with a 22-foot ceiling. She sat with John in a rare 1920 Bugatti coach. In her dining room, she posed in a ball gown with two servants. The servants were dressed in period costume. The article said the estate was "decorated with a grandeur previously unknown to the Virginia countryside."
Nothing could have been truer. "The South appreciates shabby genteel," says Farmington Hunt's Jill Summers. "They came to town, expected to be the social kingpins, and it didn't work."
"I saw pictures of those period costumes in Town & Country," says one academic. "I couldn't get them out of my mind." Another horse farmer just put it this way: "Marie Antoinette."
While gas station attendants and U-Va. undergrads ride with the Farmington Hunt, Summers says the Kluges were not accepted. "They attempted to take up fox-hunting, but they went about it the wrong way," she says. "You don't just say 'I'm a fox hunter' because you've got the proper clothes and a $100,000 horse."
William Faulkner said he liked Virginians because they were snobs, and snobs left him alone. Does his daughter still find this true? "Yes," says Summers. "But I think Pappy meant the word 'snob' to mean a self-contained person. A confident group who felt they didn't need to impress people. In Virginia, you don't make a big splash for the neighbors."
"Imagine," says Pat Kluge, "in a little town like Charlottesville, here comes a new family, with new wealth, who make contributions to the arts, to medicine, who build one the largest estates ever built by a family. Of course it makes an impression. We understand the feelings of the town. We can't help it, though. It has happened to the other families of great new money -- to the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers, everybody. We understand and we sympathize."
Southwood Mobile Homes There's some laundry hanging outside to dry. There's a couple hundred mobile homes here, and plenty of speed bumps. The trailers are settled sweetly in the shade of big trees, but still, most of them -- like the $3 million farmhouses up in the hills -- are not air-conditioned, and it's up past 90.
Two women are standing in the Southwood Mobile Home Park office. There's a desk and some filing cabinets. There's a big painting hanging behind them. It's of a thunderstorm with a black horse and a white horse bolting off together. A conversation starts up. Just passing the time.
"I can't imagine why anybody'd move here," says Catherine Minor, 27. Her mom owns the park, where trailers are rented out for $275 to $300 a month. She's wearing a blue print cotton summer dress and pumps. "It's a nice place," she says. "I mean, it's got Monticello and everything, but I don't see the attraction."
"And people aren't so nice here," says Judith Tillman, 28. She was born in Charlottesville. She's got four kids and a husband trying to keep cool in a mobile home down the way. She's wearing the town uniform -- baggy shorts and a huge T-shirt that's not tucked in. "Out in the country they are real nice, though. In Scottsville."
Minor: "It's the U-Va. students who are the worst."
Minor: "They're cocky. They're arrogant and egotistical. They act like the city's supposed to stop when they arrive. They take over the town."
Tillman: "And it's harder to find jobs and homes when they're here."
Minor: "They're no better than us. They're just the same as we are."
Tillman: "John Kluge moved here, and he's just like we are."
Minor: "That's right. So is Pat Kluge."
Tillman: "Yep. She puts pantyhose on just the way we do."
Minor: "Yep. One leg at a time."