Molitor Paris hotel reopens: Home of the bikini gets new lease on life

The hotel and the summer and winter pools of the Molitor in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, were once the place to be and be seen.
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Opened in 1929 by Olympic swimming champion and Tarzan on the silver screen, Johnny Weissmuller, it was known for its art deco design and avant –garde crowd, theatre and fashion shows.  In winter the outdoor pool doubled as an ice rink.

Most famously in July 1946 it was poolside that the  two-piece swimsuit, the bikini, referencing the detonation of the nuclear bomb in the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific days earlier, was unveiled.

The new swimming costume caused a sensation at a beauty contest at the Molitor swimming pool. Designer Louis Reard was unable to find a ‘respectable’ model for his costume and the job of displaying it went to 19-year-old Micheline Bernardini, a nude dancer from the Casino de Paris.

The bikini, then topless bathing revolution cemented the hotel’s place in history.

Closed in 1989 and listed as an historical monument the dilapidated building also became an urban art venue.

Now the Molitor has a new life with the reopening of the hotel and its requisite pleasure pools.

Rebuilt as architect Lucien Pollet imagined in the ’20s akin to a cruise ship with portholes, the hotel has kept its exterior facade in yellow tango colour and poolside booths.

Rooms meanwhile contain lithographs referencing the time the once derelict hotel walls were a haven for graffiti artists.

The outdoor summer pool is heated year-round to 28 degrees and the enclosed winter pool, covered by a glass roof and wrapped in mosaic walls, is open to hotel and club guests only.

Just don’t forget your bikini.

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Lewis McLeod’s life on hold after Duke University banned him over unproved sex assault claim

Lewis McLeod Elite US college Duke University is being sued by Australian student Lewis Meyer McLeod.
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Student banned from graduating after sex assault claim

From the sandstone grandeur of Sydney Grammar School to the Gothic splendour of an elite US university, Lewis Meyer McLeod was treading a privileged path to his “dream job” as a Wall Street banker.

He had completed a $250,000 psychology degree at Duke University in North Carolina and had been offered a lucrative position as an analyst in the famous New York financial district upon graduation.

But the 23-year-old is facing a long and costly wait to find out if he can stay in the US and take up the job, after the university banned him from graduating last month because of unproven sexual assault allegations.

Mr McLeod’s US lawyer, Rachel Hitch, said an allegation alone should not result “in basically the destruction of somebody’s future”.

The former Sydney Grammar vice-captain and boarder at the all-male St Paul’s College at the University of Sydney is suing Duke University for breach of contract, claiming he did not receive a fair hearing.

Ms Hitch, a partner at law firm Schwartz and Shaw, said it could take “a year or more” for the lawsuit to go to a hearing.

“I think Lewis in in the midst of something that is a huge issue on college campuses across our country and [that] is balancing the seriousness of allegations with the need to be fair to the accused,’’ Ms Hitch said.

In May, the Obama administration took the unprecedented step of releasing the names of 55 universities and colleges under investigation over their handling of sexual assault and harassment allegations.

Duke was not on the list but it was criticised in 2006 over its handling of sexual assault allegations against lacrosse players, who were later found to be innocent.

Police investigated Mr McLeod over an alleged sexual assault of an 18-year old female student in November last year but decided not to lay charges.

Undeterred, Duke University conducted an internal investigation – headed by a student researching gender violence – and decided it was ‘‘more likely than not’’ the pair had non-consensual sex because she was too intoxicated to give consent.

The legal drinking age in North Carolina is 21. Mr McLeod’s lawyers say he did not buy her drinks and saw ‘‘no signs’’ she was drunk.

He claims they had consensual sex after meeting at a popular university bar, Shooters, and taking a cab to his fraternity house.

One of Mr McLeod’s complaints is that the composition of his hearing panel and the training they received was such that the hearing was not fair.

A witness he regarded as ‘‘crucial’’ to his case was told to go home, unbeknown to him, and contrary to his rights he was not told of the identity of a witness giving evidence against him.

Ms Hitch said a student researching gender violence was ‘‘probably not the best person to head what’s supposed to be an impartial hearing panel”.

She said the panel also received a training manual which contained statements to the effect of ‘‘98 per cent of the time the accuser is telling the truth’’.

‘‘I just want to make it clear: it’s not as if Lewis supports violence against women in any way. What we’re saying is that … there still needs to be fairness in process from allegation to decision.’’

A promising soccer player, Mr McLeod has won two preliminary battles before different Superior Court judges in Durham, which restrained the university from expelling him pending the outcome of the case.

Michael Schoenfeld, Duke’s vice president for public affairs and government relations said: “Since this issue is the subject of pending litigation we’ll have to decline comment.”

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Charles Ponzi’s house up for sale in US

This postcard-perfect town near Boston was where the first patriots died in the Revolutionary War.It was also where Charles Ponzi, the financial con artist who pioneered the category of swindle that now bears his name, made his last stand.
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Mr. Ponzi, a hardscrabble Italian immigrant whose fraudulent scheme allowed him to guzzle cash and briefly taste luxury, was only a short-term resident of Lexington, buying a mansion here in 1920 just weeks before his arrest.

The mansion at 19 Slocum Road – a three-story residence in the colonial revival style, with stately balusters and a circular porch, alongside a porte-cochère leading to a carriage house in back – sat privately owned for decades.

But on Sunday, the house opened to the public for the first time in memory, allowing curious neighbors to explore its many rooms and marvel at its Art Deco flourishes. Some who visited were drawn by the legend of Mr. Ponzi, whose particular brand of trickery became known to a wider audience when Bernard L. Madoff admitted in 2009 to perpetrating it on a far larger scale. Others simply wanted a peek inside one of the most distinctive houses in the area.

Rick Friedman for The New York TimesThe current owners of the mansion at 19 Slocum Road are seeking to sell it for $3.3 million.

A dandy and a charmer, Mr. Ponzi enjoyed a glowing media spotlight during the period when his scheme – which paid earlier investors with money gathered from the newer victims – was active. He lived in the house with his mother and his wife, Rose, who decorated it lavishly.

The current owners, Ofer Gneezy and Christine McLaughlin, a husband and wife who bought the property in 2000, are seeking to sell it for $3.3 million. In the future, the only access to the house will be through private showings to interested buyers.

This weekend, however, the Lexington Historical Society was able to bring hundreds of curiosity seekers inside as part of a paid tour of 12 notable homes in the area.

“The thing that surprised me when we bought the house was that he was a real person, with a first name,” said Ms. McLaughlin, 61, a graduate of Harvard Business School who once worked at the Bank of Boston.

Rick Friedman for The New York TimesThe Lexington Historical Society brought hundreds of curiosity seekers inside as part of a paid tour.

Some of the original touches remain. In the living room, two five-armed chandeliers with lusterware art glass, in an ornate expression of Art Deco, still hang from the ceiling, accompanied by matching sconces on the walls. The balusters on the staircase – a variety of turned, fluted and rope designs – are also said to be original, as are the dumb waiter and the zinc sink in the butler’s pantry.

The Ponzi décor that does not survive was a ghostly overlay on Sunday’s tour. A bearskin rug once lay before a black marble fireplace in the living room, which also contained a Victrola above a tiger skin rug, according to the Lexington Historical Society. The only wall-hanging in the room at that time was said to be a portrait of Rose Ponzi that evoked the Mona Lisa.

Upstairs, the original master bedroom is now used as a guest room, with the current master suite situated in a sumptuous addition that was built in the late 1990s. Throughout the house are vintage telephones, an old switchboard and other antiques, which, though they conjure up Mr. Ponzi’s era, were placed there by the current owners.

During tours, much of the chatter on Sunday focused on Mr. Ponzi and his life and times.

“It’s a good conversation piece,” said Mr. Gneezy, 62, the owner, who sold a company he founded, iBasis, which carries voice over the Internet, to the Dutch telecommunications group Royal KPN. He said he would hold business meetings in the house. “I was the C.E.O. of a public company. So it was always a chuckle.”

The house was built roughly a decade before Mr. Ponzi bought it for $39,000 (about $462,300 in today’s dollars). A big part of the payment was in the paper from his fraud. To some visitors on Sunday, the association was chilling.

“I wouldn’t want to live here,” said Joan Galgay, 66, a retired bank worker. “It’s gorgeous, but all this money was stolen from people.”

Others were captivated by Mr. Ponzi’s mystique.

“I grew up in New York City, and I saw people doing three-card monte,” said Haskel Straus, 64, who is retired from teaching business people a communication technique known as neurolinguistic programming. “I don’t know, but for some reason the concept of people who rip people off for a living …” he added, implying that he found those people fascinating.

Mr. Ponzi “was the anti-Madoff,” said Van Seasholes, 81, a former principal of Lexington High School who is on the board of the Lexington Historical Society. “People liked him even when they found out he was a crook.”

One specious rumor seems to refuse to die.

“I still think there’s money buried in the backyard,” said Gerry Boncoddo, 62, a retired state government worker who lives in the area.

“I think it’s in the mantel,” said Ken Nill, 74, a serial entrepreneur with a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “All we have to do is take it apart.”

Mr. Gneezy tried to set the record straight. “I tell them, you still don’t understand what a Ponzi scheme is,” he said. “There is no money.”

After Mr. Ponzi’s arrest, his wife remained in the house until 1923, when it was bought through the Ponzi bankruptcy by John H. Devine, a lawyer. The Devine family owned the house until 1994. During that period, the property included an adjoining acre with tennis courts.

“The Devines were the social set in Lexington,” said Helen Lee, 85, who said she had lived in the neighborhood since 1966. “They did a lot of entertaining.”

To the public, however, the house remained closed. Clare Gillis, 68, who formerly worked in the legal department of SunGard, said her daughter would sometimes stay the night at the Ponzi house. “We’d walk by and say, can’t you imagine playing on a grass tennis court there?”

He was no Samuel Adams or Thomas Paine, heroes of the American Revolution. But Mr. Ponzi does capture the imagination of Lexington’s residents. Because his fraud happened so long ago, “it doesn’t feel as awful as Madoff,” said Ms. McLaughlin, the owner.

“Even though Ponzi was a crook,” she said, “he was Lexington’s crook.”

The New York Times

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Planting fruit trees in Canberra region

Pruning: Correct timing and method will bear fruit.
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As winter approaches, our thoughts in the garden are turning now to reshaping, replanting and perhaps expansion.

The landscape is critical to the success of any planting of fruit trees. You really need to get things right now, before planting takes place. For the Canberra region, the most common problem is poor drainage but sometimes the opposite situation can give you as much trouble.

Most types of fruit trees will not grow well with ‘wet feet’. They need good drainage. So if you have the typical clay based subsoil then you will need to dig out a quantity of subsoil and replace with a quantity of small rubble and top soil, to ensure drainage  This is particularly important if you wish to plant cherries, peaches and nectarines, apricots and apples. Pears and quinces can manage the best with heavy, poorly drained soil.

Adequate access to sunlight is also important. Many suburban gardens have beautiful eucalypt trees growing along their borders. The root systems are aggressive and the spreading branches  block much needed sunshine. So if you are setting up your backyard garden, do check on the final size and height of any eucalypt trees that you are considering planting. Smaller Australian natives can be trimmed back more easily to avoid the problems of too much shade.

Another important aspect with fruit trees is the matter of cross pollination. There are few varieties that are truly self fertile, so if you want to produce a bountiful harvest of a selected fruit you need to consider if you have the space for two or three trees that will cross pollinate each other – whose blossoms open at the same time.

Varieties of any fruit will vary in size quite dramatically. As well, there is a big colour, flavour and texture range for apples. Pears come in many shapes and sizes from the small Corella to the large Howell and Beurre Bosc. Of course the final size of any fruit will also depend greatly on the growing conditions of the season and the volume of other fruit left on the tree.

There can be quite distinctive characteristics of cultivars from specific countries. English folk seek out their famous Cox’s Orange Pippin with its distinctive rich flavour. The French love their Reinette apples with such motley skins but firm and rich tasting flesh inside.

Then you have the question of uses. What do you want to do with your fruit – a very important question for plums and apples. If you want to eat fresh fruit you will choose different varieties than if you mostly want to cook, preserve and bottle.

As well, your preferred timing of your harvest season will influence your choices. Remember that, in general, the early maturing varieties do not keep as well as those that take longer to ripen; the shorter the growing season, the shorter the storage time.

As most fruit trees are harvested over just one or two weeks, the way to extend the fruit eating season is to select and plant out more than one variety that will mature over an extended period. There are apple varieties that can be picked from early January through to the very late season Lady William that does not mature until late June (one parent apple of the Pink Lady).

Where you have space limitations, you can plant fruit trees that have been grafted onto dwarf rootstock, so that the height of the trees will never reach more than 2 metres. And you can consider buying double-grafted trees to get your necessary cross pollination on just one tree. As well, you can plant many fruit trees along your back fence, as espaliered trees, so that they grow quite flat against the wall/fence and so do not take up much of the available space. You may harvest smaller quantities of fruit from each tree but the volume will still be sufficient for most families.

Stone fruit have a shorter winter break, which is why I have encouraged you to prune early. In the same way, it is best to get your stone fruit planted out in June or July so that they are well bedded-in before they begin to flower in late August or early September.

Moor and Trevatt are two reliable apricots. Moorpark originated in England back in 1668 and produces large fruit of excellent flavour. Trevatt is best left to fully mature on the tree (you will need to net apricot trees in Canberra, along with any cherry trees. Rival is a newer variety from Canada, with a very dark orange skin. The fruit is large, sweet and rich.

Santa Rosa and Mariposa are two good dark flesh plum varieties. Coe’s Golden Drop and Green Gage are two lovely yellow-flesh plums.

Bing and Van are two good, mid season cherries producing larger sized fruits and they can cross pollinate. Stella is a good mid season self-pollinating cherry, from Canada. Stella will pollinate the lovely dark Merchant cherry which ripens two weeks earlier than Bing. Lapins is a good late season cherry, also from Canada. It is also self-fertile but can serve to pollinate several other varieties of cherries.

There are many peach and nectarine trees available. I like the older peach varieties including Elberta and O’Henry which produce delicious rich-tasting fruit. Many of the newer varieties have been brought in from a breeding program in California. Local nurseries will have a good range of freestone and clingstone trees over the winter months. Aim to buy trees that have not had their root systems cut back severely just to make them fit onto a small plastic garden pot – this practice by some nurseries sets the tree back two years.

A very good range of fruit trees, both modern and heritage, are offered by a small number of specialist nurseries in Victoria and Tasmania. They have grafted most varieties onto dwarf or semi dwarf rootstocks that are very suitable for backyard gardens. Yalca Fruit Trees and Heritage Fruit Trees are both based in Victoria. Woodbridge Fruit Trees are in Tasmania. They all have very well-designed websites with photos and descriptions of each available variety.

Next week: A detailed discussion on apple, pear and quince varieties. Rhubarb and apple crumble

500 gm rhubarb

4 large Granny Smith apples

½ tsp cinnamon

¾ cup sugar

juice of ½ lemon

Crumble Topping

1½ cups plain flour

¼ cup coconut

½ cup brown sugar

100 gms butter

¼ cup chopped walnuts

Peel, core and slice the apples. Trim off the leaves of the rhubarb and chop the stems into 3cm-long pieces. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the apples, cinnamon, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan and cook at moderate heat for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring regularly. Add in the rhubarb pieces and cook for a further 5 minutes, until the rhubarb and apple pieces are tender. Spread the cooked fruit across the base of an ovenproof dish.

Take a separate bowl and combine the flour, coconut and brown sugar. Rub in the butter with your thumbs and forefingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit base and then scatter the walnut pieces across the top. Bake for 30 minutes until the topping is golden brown.

From Owen Pidgeon’s Loriendale Fruits of the Orchard Cookbook. This week in the garden

• Sow shallots and leek seeds into a propagation tray, and place in a warm, protected sunny spot to ensure good germination.

• Aim to keep up the weeding and mulching of your garlic, peas and broad beans patches. If you have space plant more rows of peas for a delightful Spring treat.

• Prepare a deep, rich bed to plant your rhubarb sets and asparagus in the coming month. If you have well established rhubarb plants, check to see if they are big enough to divide.

• Begin pruning back your berry plants. With brambleberries, remove completely all the second year brambles that produced berries this past summer, then tie up the new season’s canes to your trellis wires. They can be quite long, so loosely wrap small bundles of canes along the horizontal wires.

• Sharpen your secateurs for the winter pruning work. If they are too old, treat yourself to a good quality new pair, such as the Swiss Felco brand as this tool is your companion for three months of each year.

• If you are considering planting out replacement strawberry plants, now is the time to prepare the hilled-up rows in the garden. Add generous quantities of compost as a well developed, deep root system is vital for good production.

Owen Pidgeon runs the Loriendale Organic Orchard near Hall.

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Cooma garden secrets revealed by the Robertsons

Soil toil: Mark and Helen Robertson’s vegetable garden in Cooma. That’s sweet: Sharing Places harvested its first sweet potatoes this year.
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Fair of face, Mark and Helen Robertson and I met in a skin specialist’s rooms in Civic.  They live on a one-acre block in north Cooma, where they have been for 20 years.  The rock in Cooma North is metamorphosed sediments with few nutrients and the topsoil is sandy loam, sometimes hydrophobic, shallow and infertile. So when Mark established the vegetable garden he added imported topsoil and old, dried sheep manure that was a good organic fertiliser but also contained heaps of weeds.

The garden needs regular topping up with rotted down lucerne hay. He says the best is at the bottom of an old haystack, not the fresh bales of lucerne hay that is invaluable for mulching the garden. It keeps the soil warmer and, when the crop is finished, gets dug in if it is the type of crop where Mark would turn the soil over.

Canberra has a balmy climate compared to Cooma where their maximum daily temperatures are only about two degrees cooler but heavy frosts come much earlier, from May 1 this year.  Spring weather starts earlier in Canberra and is more consistent and they fluctuate from summer back to winter until December.

Helen grew up on an apple orchard near Oakdale in NSW, and the taste and flavour of that fruit could not be equalled so they don’t grow fruit in Cooma. The garden near the house is terraced with large rocks from a local building site and Helen has flowerbeds interplanted with lettuces in a microclimate that means things grow better, especially in early spring.

Because of the late spring then the heatwaves, their beans were best in March but not exceptional. You have to get brassicas in by mid-February before frosts slow them down but Mark plants purple garlic in May.  The original cloves came from a friend who was a garlic grower near Berridale.

Mark was raised on a sheep wheat farm between Wagga and Albury.  He has fond memories of having to water the vegetables as a kid and a special treat was to put a wet sack over an apple cucumber in summer then, later in the day, pick the cooled cucumber and walk off down the paddock eating it.

This autumn they had crops gold squash, zucchini, lettuce, pak choi, cabbage, silverbeet, rhubarb, leeks and broccoli. Mark says when eating his tomato, basil and bocconcini  pasta sauce, made with materials straight out of the garden, you know it’s summer.

As many of the varieties grown by Mark are F1 hybrids he doesn’t keep seeds for those but he does seed-save for Tuscan kale. He finds it hard to get seeds for cavolo nero and seedlings can be overpriced but he says persevering is worthwhile when you cook ribollito soup.

For Mark, cooking started as a wet day happening but now it is an interest, particularly savoury dishes, Italian in winter and Asian in summer, and simple techniques.  He likes having good friends round for dinner and wine.  He is not allowed to buy any more cookbooks but does have a collection of recipes from food sections of newspapers.

This year’s Mother’s Day dinner was ‘’by request’’.  Mark cooked roast pork loin with roast kipfler potatoes, sweet potato and Queensland blue pumpkin.  A homegrown steamed cauliflower was served with a classic white sauce into which he added finely grated parmesan.  Dessert was apricot pie and cream. Sweet potato

Last month Roy Priest, who owns the farm on which the Pialligo garden lots have been developed, got in touch to tell me that a group had raised an amazing crop of sweet potatoes.  Two years ago Priest told the growers that he doubted sweet potatoes would grow because the season was not long enough. Last year they got nothing. However, the plants remained in the ground and grew again this summer.

Mary-Ann Kal is program director at Sharing Places Australia that creates opportunities for adults with disabilities.  She says Priest provided a raised garden bed to which they added cow manure.  The teams meet two days a week on-site and their crops of Dutch cream potatoes, zucchini and white summer squashes have been harvested and given to parents and staff at the Pearce Community Centre. Their sweet potatoes are a triumph. A member of the Food and Wine team wonders if anyone has grown dasheen in Canberra.

Susan Parsons is a Canberra writer.

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