Based in Florida, Lee Schrager is the Director of Special Events & Media Relations at Southern Wine & Spirits of America, the largest distributor of alcoholic beverages in the United States, the creator and guiding force behind the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, and, most recently, launched the Food Network New York City Wine and Food Festival.  In 2008 he received the FOODARTS Silver Spoon award in recognition of his unique combination of business acumen, showmanship, enrichment of the wine and culinary milieu and his numerous philanthropic efforts.

 

I was thrilled when he took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to answer questions about his friendship with Little Edie.  He owned Torpedo, one of the hippest clubs on the South Beach scene, and Edie performed there one evening.

     

GG: How did you meet Little Edie and how long was your friendship?

LS:  I met Edie 29 years ago when I was living in East Hampton.  Michael Braverman, a good friend of mine, was friendly with her and introduced me.  I knew her for about 15 years.

GG: I understand that you hosted an AIDS benefit with a “Grey Gardens” theme at your South Beach nightclub Torpedo in 1987.  Edie was 69 years old at the time.  Little Edie attended and played the piano and sang.  What can you tell me about this special evening?

LS: She sang “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” and “Hard Hearted Hannah.”  I recall her liking to sing, not playing the piano.  When she performed at Torpedo, she was very nervous and wanted to cancel.  We wanted to send a car to pick her up, but she wanted me to do it myself.

GG: Edie is often characterized as “reclusive” and “eccentric;” however, she was in fact very outgoing and was definitely in her element when she had a captive audience. What was your impression of Little Edie? What is you most fond memory of her?

LS: Most fond memory: when she moved to Florida she would come to my apartment because she loved the water.  She would sit on my terrace for hours talking.  I also love the letters she used to write to me—her penmanship was beautiful!

GG: Little Edie’s fashion genius has influenced countless designers. You introduced Edie to Gianni Versace.  How did Versace feel about Edie?  And did he ever indicate that Edie inspired any of his work?

LS: He never commented that she inspired any of his work, but he adored her.  He thought she was one of a kind.

GG: How do you think Little Edie would feel about the incredible surge in interest in Grey Gardens over the past few years?

LS: She would be in heaven—she loved attention.  She would just be in heaven!

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