Mr. Chatterbox

By Robert Plunket Photography by Rebecca Baxter August 1, 2011

The Look

Brad Goddard

Brad Goddard in “go to hell” pants. If anyone says they’re too loud, you just tell them to go to hell.

Nora Johnson

Nora Johnson: Cool, blond, big sunglasses, coral jewelry

Dottie and Bob Garner

Dottie Garner in cute flowered jacket with matching cuffs on clam diggers

Bob Garner in classic Polo button-down blue shirt—no pocket.

Erin and Charlotte Edmondson

Erin and Charlotte Edmondson “Mommy and me in our Lilly Pulitzer dresses.”

Shop the look

Brooks Brothers

Saks Fifth Avenue

Eileen Fisher



Maus and Hoffman

I was born a WASP, but I didn’t really become one until high school. It was there, in one of the WASPiest towns in the country (Bronxville, N.Y.), that I learned the Code—the rules of behavior and the secrets of taste. Plus I developed the unshakeable confidence that the WASP way was the best way.

WASPs are like rednecks—you really can’t insult them. Criticism runs off their backs. They know they are doing things the right way and they don’t care what other people think. Rednecks know they’re at the bottom of the ladder and always will be. WASPs know they’re at the top, even if they’re not.

You don’t have to be born a WASP. You can, through predilection and hard work, master the way of life. Just look at the Obamas. Those kids are going to be privately schooled for the rest of their lives, and Michelle wears J. Crew. And Barack has the perfect WASP job, a sort of symbolic college professor for the country. He never loses his cool or says hurtful things. But when he has a beer summit, it rings a little false. You can tell he’d rather be downing a gin and tonic, with Cheddar cheese crisps. He’s the WASPiest president since, well, since George W. Bush.

Are there WASPs in Sarasota? You bet, but not as many as you might think. Sarasota has always been acceptable to WASPs, but it’s no Hobe Sound. Here the affluent residents are a little too adventurous, a little too cosmopolitan to get stuck in any one way of life. Still, it’s a great town to be a WASP in. Here’s what you need to know...

Where to live. A WASP doesn’t live in a gated community. Or rather, the gate is a virtual one. Once you’re inside you either know you’re home, or you’re wondering why this supposedly fancy part of town is so. . . discreet and old-fashioned. No McMansions. And some of the houses are nothing special, even if they do have mature landscaping.

The quintessential Sarasota WASP neighborhood is Oyster Bay, with its winding streets and hidden lakes. Harbor Acres is perfectly acceptable, though a little grand. Cherokee Park works, too, along with certain parts of Siesta Key (Hidden Harbor and the very north end).

Very nice but just not WASP-y: Lakewood Ranch, Prestancia and Longboat Key

Education. WASPs don’t believe in public education, at least not for their kids. It’s what sets them apart. During adolescence, when values and lifetime friendships are formed, you certainly don’t want to waste time stewing in the great American melting pot. You want to prepare your children for an Ivy League education, investment banking, and a proper marriage to someone who is slightly richer and a little more socially prominent.

Sarasota isn’t all that great in this regard. The most prestigious private school is the Out-of-Door Academy. Pine View, which is technically public but for “gifted” students, is also a possibility. But frankly, you might want to consider the time honored WASPiest choice of all—boarding school in Connecticut.

Cars. The Lexus has become the Chevrolet of Sarasota and will always be appropriate in any situation—except for the true WASP. He or she will chose a BMW. A Mercedes is allowed, but only if it’s 20 years old.

Cadillacs are out of the question. The image of a WASP in an Escalade is hard to conjure up. But if you need something bigger, for the kids and the dogs, try one of the better quality Ford SUVs. They’re really quite nice and virtually unnoticeable—plus, the company is owned by one of the great WASP families.

Food shopping. The rule of thumb—the more cocktail snacks a store carries, the WASPier it is. In this regard, Morton’s is perfect: aisle after aisle of canned nuts with special seasoning, Stone Wheat Thins, custom-made dips galore. The take-out pretty much defines WASP comfort food, and the prepared salads cannot be improved on. Some say Whole Foods has better gourmet food, but believe me—it’s full of the most unWASP-y things, like strange grains and broccoli rabe and natural sleep aids. I’ll take good old-fashioned sleeping pills, just like Sunny Von Bulow, thank you very much.

Private clubs. They are essential to the WASP way of life. They don’t have to be full-scale country clubs; in fact, the quintessential WASP club usually isn’t. In Sarasota, the one to reckon with is the Field Club. It’s located in—where else?—Oyster Bay, in an old mansion that was built by Stanley Field of the Marshall Field family and offers swimming, boating and tennis. It was founded back in the early 1960s by the cream of Old Sarasota.

We’ve always wanted to do a story on the Field Club but have been met by a stone wall of silence at every turn. The management won’t cooperate with the press, and they apparently make members sign a pledge that they will never discuss the club with anyone who isn’t a member, much less a reporter. Naturally, it’s the hardest club in town to get into.

Restaurants. The more it looks like the grill room at the country club, the better. Sam Snead’s Tavern is my personal favorite. It’s got all the WASP classics: club sandwiches, great burgers, crab Louis and the perfect Bloody Mary. The décor is golf, the seating comfortable, the noise level acceptable, and the fellow patrons have the leathery skin of old geezers who take their golf seriously.

Charities. With WASPs it’s the party, not the cause. The Orchid Ball (for Selby Gardens) wins here—anything in a tent is a plus. Other WASP-y events include fund raisers for New College of Florida, Mote Marine, and the various private schools.

Worst nightmare. Sarah Palin. That accent. That trashy daughter. Alaska! I take comfort that as long as there are WASPs controlling the world, she will never get into the Field Club. 

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