Date: Friday, September 3, 2021
Take a journey to 1992, a heady year with change in the air. The Winter and Summer Olympics loomed large, (it would be the last time both games were held in the same year), silicon valley giants were rolling out revolutionary technological changes as the 'world wide web' (aka the internet) prepared to go public, social unrest reached a new peak in the US, the cold war was officially declared over, the EU opened its horizons to the rest of the continent, pop artists were wearing clothes backwards, and US presidential power was about to change sides. Thus was the year that ushered in the Newport International Polo Series, bearing a striking resemblance to this 30th anniversary season.
The ambitious inaugural schedule for the Newport International Polo Series involved dispatching a number of official letters of invitation from the desk of 26 year old president, Dan Keating to the executve offices of polo powerhouses around the world. An international lineup would not be complete without a match against England, responsible for the sun never setting on the polo empire.
The letter was received by Buff Crisp, Secretary of the Hurlingham Polo Association, the governing body of polo in England and all English provinces, who nominated his son, John William Francis Crisp, age 31, England's highest rated amateur player at the time, to lead the team to America. The invitation was officially accepted, including Crisp, Adrian Cooper, Jimmy Hilston, and a redhead chap, with airfare sponsored by Virgin Atlantic. Four confident, robust English players arrived at the height of summer, when the resort was at maximum capacity with yachtsmen and other sporting enthusiasts, socialites and epicureans enjoying the seasonal haven.
William's recollection begins with a phone call to Dan from Boston's Logan Int'l airport, who said he was rounding up a suitably sized car and on his way shortly. Being Adrian's birthday, celebrations began in the airport bar. Dan eventually turned up and poured the jolly players into the host family Volvo and, determined not to overlook any major attractions on their first visit, led a tour of Boston's best pubs enroute to Newport.
One minor plot twist that would alter the course of history, was the coincidence of Coaching Weekend happening concurrently with the polo match against England on the same weekend in Newport. An astonishing 14 four-in-hand coaches had assembled to participate that summer. The last time that many coaches promenaded on Bellevue Avenue was nearly a century earlier, in the summer 1886 for the Westchester Cup polo tournament, featuring USA against England in an historic international sporting spectacle that predated the modern Olympic games and made headlines around the world.
As the president of the Westchester Polo Club, Keating received an invitation to attend a formal, black tie Coaching dinner, which, in his official capacity as US Polo Association delegate and club representative, was an invitation that he could not turn down. In his absense, a birthday party was hosted by the Hodges family in honor of the English polo team, which included Gertrude Mercer Chapsky Hutton and her sister Bondi, two of Newport's most cosmopolitan ambassadors, of the right vintage, to fill in for Keating and show the team around town.
Late afternoon horse trials on Halston, Portia, Hamlet, Jaguar and other legendary mounts led to strained first impressions at the Hodges party for the fashionably late Brits, as Crisp recalls, but a full recovery was made and the night progressed to the Candy Store at the Clarke Cooke House and breakfast at dawn at the erstwhile Greenhouse Diner at Second Beach. Memorable lunches and dinners continued each day, and the nights would end at the Clarke Cooke House, dancing in the Boom Boom Room. Gameday included a swim at Bailey's Beach Club, to the surprise of the members when the white panted English Polo Team emerged from the changing closets to an awaiting limo. At the polo grounds, wet fields and horse shortages led to a 4 chukker match in which the English brazenly defeated the Americans 15-5 before resuming their celebrations at the Boom Boom Room. Sunday afternoons in that era were predestined for the lawn at Castle Hill until sundown. Vodka and pink lemonade permeated down the concentration gradient to impair the team's limo driver, leaving the English players to drive their limo to Logan airport for their appointed flight home.
Concluding that Newport was an adult Disneyland, and smitten with Hutton (Lowie), Crisp left England to start a new life with Lowie in Newport. He continued to represent England until he acquired his US citizenship and thankfully switched sides for the annual Labor Day weekend rivarly. Since then, Crisp has expertly umpired the matches, hosted English teams with Lowie at their home for decades, and ultimately has become the world's foremost authority on commentating, authoring a book on the subject, and currently presides on the Rules Committee for the United States Polo Association.
Time Machine is a 30th Anniversary retrospective anthology of monthly chapters. We hope you enjoyed the trip in time exploring the Polo Series origins in the summer of 1992, our inaugural year and how legacies came together to create a lasting fundraising effort that set a new record in the 30h anniversary season. To read additional Time Machine chapters published this year, visit Headlines.