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Harbor View Hotel

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Sharks, food fights, and the hotel that saved a town.

"Jaws" was filmed on Martha's Vineyard 40 years ago; the cast, including Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider, stayed at the Harbor View, and reportedly had a food fight in the dining room. — Courtesy Universal Studios

This summer  marks several occasions: The 40th anniversary of the filming of the movie “Jaws;” the 90th birthday of notable Edgartown resident and former owner of the Harbor View, Bob Carroll (who also, 30 years ago this summer, founded the Martha’s Vineyard Times); and the publication, by Vineyard Stories, of a history of the Harbor View Hotel, in time for their 125th anniversary. We were happy to find a way to mark all these anniversaries and birthdays with an excerpt from the book “Harbor View, the Hotel that Saved a Town,” by Nis Kildegaard.

And along comes a big shark.

I’ll catch this bird for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallows you whole. . . And we gotta do it quick, that’ll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin’ basis. But it’s not gonna be pleasant…”
–Captain Quint (Robert Shaw)

Bob Carroll celebrated his 90th birthday at the Harbor View on August 15. Here, Drew Conway, one of the owners of the hotel, speaks about Mr. Carroll's illustrious hospitality career.
Bob Carroll celebrated his 90th birthday at the Harbor View on August 15. Here, Drew Conway, one of the owners of the hotel, speaks about Mr. Carroll’s illustrious hospitality career.

As much as Bob Carroll enjoyed owning the Harbor View, he says it was never a big moneymaker. “I’m not sure the Harbor View Hotel has ever made real money. You keep thinking it’s going to turn around and make money, but I had to borrow each year to make renovations.”

In 1974, with the expenses of buying and expanding the Kelley House weighing heavy on his books, Carroll was closer than ever to violating his personal code of paying every bill on time. But then came financial salvation in the sort of windfall we expect only from Hollywood. A young filmmaker named Steven Spielberg was planning to make a movie on Martha’s Vineyard. Its name was Jaws.

When the director’s advance team contacted Carroll, he had already learned the lesson that no commodity is more perishable than a hotel room for a given night. He’d been burned, and badly, when the national press corps had made reservations for Senator Edward Kennedy’s date in court after the Chappaquiddick accident in which Mary Jo Kopechne had died. That court date was postponed, and the hotel didn’t see a penny.

He says, “One of the things I discovered, early on, was that if you got a bad weather forecast, everyone who had reservations would call and cancel. I started asking for security deposits, nonrefundable.”

When the Jaws team called to reserve 50 rooms, Carroll demanded a $25,000 deposit and got it. He estimates that by the time filming was done, he and his various Edgartown enterprises — which by then included the two hotels; the Seafood Shanty restaurant; Edgartown Marine, which helped outfit the boats shooting scenes on the water; and his Carroll & Vincent Realiy business, which arranged pricey rentals for key members of the movie crew – made more than $1 million from the filming of Jaws. “That,” he says, “was a memorable experience.”

Not exactly wonderful, but certainly memorable, was the food fight that broke out at the Harbor View in that summer of 1974 as director Spielberg and his cast blew off steam from a memorably difficult production session. How exactly it started — who threw the first meatball or handful of mashed potatoes — no one can exactly recall. But bartender George Gamble later said the principals were Spielberg and actors Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss. “The three managed to make a real mess,” he said. “It was a disgusting sight, seeing them covered in ravioli, cake, and diced fruit.” According to one account of the fracas, the combatants rinsed off by jumping into the Harbor View pool.

Nearly four decades after the success of Jaws, the money continues to trickle in. Carroll, who was cast as a selectman in the fictional town of Amity, gets regular residual checks from the blockbuster film, which to date has earned a total of nearly $2 billion.

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mvyradio's Porch Concert at the Harbor View Hotel earlier this July. — Photo by Louisa Gould

Outdoor concerts are a summer staple of virtually every urban area. Currently, the Vineyard boasts many al fresco music events that, here on the Island, where one wants to spend as much time refreshed by the sea air as possible, music lovers can enjoy the casual atmosphere of an outdoor performance just about any evening of the week.

For example, mvyradio is in the midst of a mini concert series taking place on the porch of the Harbor View Hotel. For the second year in a row, the radio station is hosting a mix of local musicians and imported talent for free concerts on the wraparound deck of the Edgartown hotel. All can relax on the porch with a drink or a snack and enjoy acoustic sets from some of the artists from mvy’s playlist. “It’s a way we can get out there and give something to our listeners and have the opportunity to interact with them,” said director Barbara Dacey, who hosts the concerts. “This year we’re doing more than we did last year. We’re hoping it’s something that could build on itself.”

This summer’s lineup so far has included the Vineyard’s Jemima James, Ben Fuller of Lake Tahoe, and Boston-based Will Daley. On Thursday, July 31, local musician Mike Benjamin will perform. Ms. Dacey says that the station will most likely schedule more concerts for this summer as they reach out to other favorite musicians.

The sprawling lawn of Featherstone in Oak Bluffs is a picturesque place for a concert. The bucolic arts campus has hosted Musical Mondays for 19 years — predating even the gallery there. This summer, Featherstone added a Thursday evening jazz series. People bring refreshments, kids frolic, and there’s plenty of socializing and dancing while listening to some of the Island’s most popular artists. The jazz series is the brainchild of Musical Mondays regular John Zeeman, who has curated a summer jazz program to give more musicians a chance to play.

“I always say it’s the best family event on the Island,” said executive director Ann Smith, of Musical Mondays. “The adults can be sitting listening to music while the kids are meeting other kids and playing on the field.” Ms. Smith notes that the jazz Thursdays have attracted a new, somewhat less family oriented crowd, to the campus. She suggested, “Bring a picnic and a lawn chair.”

The Vineyard Haven Band has entertained audiences with a combination of old standards, patriotic favorites, and Broadway tunes for 145 years. The large brass, woodwind, and percussion unit plays every Sunday evening during the summer — alternating between Owen Park in Vineyard Haven and the gazebo in Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs. This summer, filling in the gaps between the bi-weekly Oak Bluffs concerts, Rob Myers, AKA Jellybone Rivers, is offering a free family concert every other Sunday.

Although the first outing of the Jellybone Rivers band was rained out this past Sunday, Mr. Myers said that the concerts will include a mixture of Americana, family music, some soul songs, and some all-time favorites. The multiple piece band includes a full horn section. The bandstand sits right in the center of the ocean-facing park, which gives people the chance to catch the music from all angles.

For the past eight years, Eisenhauer Gallery in Edgartown has hosted Thursday evening concerts. From June through August, the sounds of blues and rock and roll give the busy business area a lively, street fair vibe. Vineyard Square Hotel guests and others sit on the porch sipping drinks from Chesca’s while kids play on the gallery’s outdoor sculpture and people dance in the square.

And, lastly, The Yard in Chilmark will host a first-time event on August 2. An outdoor DJ dance party, billed as “Pride not Prejudice: A Pride Event” will feature tunes by DJs from New York City and Provincetown and entertainment by drag performer Schwa De Vivre. The Yard will provide mixers and water for BYOB drinks. The event is open to people of all ages. Admission is $10.

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Executive Chefs Daniel Kenney and Nathan Gould visited with students at Our lady of Fatima University in the Philippines. — Photo courtesy of the Harbor Vie
A destroyed house on the outskirts of Tacloban on Leyte, the worst affected by the typhoon. Caritas is responding by distributing food, shelter, hygiene kits and cooking utensils.
A destroyed house on the outskirts of Tacloban on Leyte, the worst affected by the typhoon.

In August 2013, when executive chef Nathan Gould of the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown signed on to travel to the Philippines for a two-week culinary intern recruiting trip, he had no idea that the country would be devastated by a super typhoon and a major earthquake.

But by the time of his departure on November 28, the Philippines had weathered two natural disasters. The October 15 earthquake, followed by the November 8 typhoon — the country’s deadliest on record — resulted in the deaths of nearly 6,500 people and the displacement of more than 16 million others. In spite of the calamities, Mr. Gould and fellow executive chef Daniel Kenney of the Sea Crest Beach Hotel in North Falmouth embarked on their mission as planned.

With both resort properties managed by Nantucket-based Scout Hotels, the chefs’ trip was the result of regional director of operations Clark Guinn’s professional vision: an ongoing relationship with the Philippines’ culinary schools that had turned into a formal training program for interns. Mr. Guinn had lived overseas for seven years and developed an affinity for Filipino culture and cuisine.

“I had the pleasure of working with gifted culinarians from different parts of the world,” he explained, “particularly the Philippines. I took such an interest in their culture and way of thinking that I wanted to share my experience with others at home.”

Nathan Gould (left) and Daniel Kenney speak with a student at the International Culinary Arts Academy Cebu.
Nathan Gould (left) and Daniel Kenney speak with a student at the International Culinary Arts Academy Cebu.

Mr. Guinn launched an official program for Scout Hotels in 2011, opening up a cultural exchange between Filipino culinary students and Scout’s U.S. food and beverage professionals. “These young people have a tremendous amount of passion and skill and are an asset to our hotels,” he said.  “Ultimately the program works, and more importantly, it is fun.”

While the late autumn journey would be Mr. Gould’s first, Mr. Kenney had made the recruiting trip on two previous occasions. He would serve as an informal guide to his younger compatriot, introducing him to culinary school administrators and to the rich culture of the country.

Over the past several years, Mr. Kenney explained, the intern program had grown. With culinary school personnel and students expecting them at seven locations across the Philippines, the chefs agreed to adhere to their schedule, understanding that the areas they would visit were not those that had been directly devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. Upon arriving in Manila, however, the chefs discovered a city working feverishly to absorb a large influx of homeless individuals.

“It was a shocking experience,” said Mr. Gould, 27. “There are already 12 million people in Manila, plus the homeless who gathered from both disasters. The population, pollution, and poverty were overwhelming.  But,” he added, “the culture is so strong.”

Nathan-Gould_Daniel-Kenney_Our-Lady-of-Fatima-University-Philipp
Nathan Gould and Daniel Kenney at Our Lady of Fatima University in the Philippines.

Mr. Kenney, 41, the veteran of the duo, looked at his return to the Philippines as an opportunity to strengthen ties with the academic culinary community, with working chefs, and with former interns now working as professionals in their own country. “I knew interns from last year whose families were at the center of the typhoon,” he said. “They lost family members and businesses.”

But with culinary schools growing in attendance throughout the sprawling country, both chefs were eager to build new relationships, experience the varied foods of the culture, and choose a new crop of interns for the 2014 season. Visiting seven culinary schools and universities across the country, Mr. Gould and Mr. Kenney interviewed 100 students for just 32 total positions — 24 for the larger Sea Crest Beach Hotel’s Red’s Restaurant and Lounge, and 8 for Mr. Gould’s Water Street Restaurant and Henry’s Hotel Bar at the Harbor View Hotel. The screening process, according to Mr. Gould, is rigorous. Starting with one-on-one interviews, each candidate is given up to three hours to prepare and present a dish to the chefs.

“We ask five to 10 questions of each student,” Mr. Gould said.  “’Why did you choose to make that dish?’ ‘Why do you want to come to the U.S.?’ We try to get a grasp on who they are and what they hope to gain from the program.” He added that even if a dish comes out poorly, if the student demonstrated great creativity, they’re not demoted. “We look for attitude, passion, and creativity,” he said.

Cantabugon Beach near the town of Aloguinsan, in Cebu province.
Cantabugon Beach near the town of Aloguinsan, in Cebu province.

One of the forays from Manila included a trip to the Cebu Province in the Central Visayas region of the country, an area harder hit by the natural disasters. While in the process of interviewing students, as well as visiting a new restaurant opened by former interns of the Sea Crest and dining with the family of a current intern, Mr. Gould and Mr. Kenney learned of an overcrowded orphanage nearby.

“We spoke with our guides and with the culinary school staff about trying to help in some way,” Mr. Kenney said. “They explained that the orphanage next door normally housed 15 children but that the storm had left thousands without families. They had 70 children living there, many displaced by the typhoon.”

Explaining the institution’s plight to Scout Hotels, the chefs were given the go-ahead to purchase diapers, toys, food and water for the children, aged six months to two years. The potential interns from the neighboring school decided to join Mr. Kenney and Mr. Gould on their visit to deliver the donations.

“We didn’t ask the students to come with us,” Mr. Kenney explained.  “They just volunteered. There’s a culture of helping one another in the Philippines, of staying together. They’re unbelievable people.”

With new toothbrushes and clothing in hand, the entourage visited the orphanage and was treated to lunch and a serenade by the children.  “It was heartbreaking and inspiring,” Mr. Gould said.

“It was the highlight of the trip,” said Mr. Kenney. “It humbles you to go from the U.S., to feel the emotion and happiness of the people. They may not have two cars and a flat screen TV, but with food, faith and family, they seem to be content. It humbled me to be there.”

Students_International-Culinary-Arts-Academy_Cebu-Philippines.JPBy hand-selecting prospective interns for the busy upcoming season, both chefs feel confident that they will be well equipped for the inevitable onslaught of diners. The program seems like a win-win, with Filipino students learning every aspect of running a major food operation, from butchering to preparing desserts, and touring as much of the U.S. as their spare time allows. Returning to the Philippines with a prestigious certificate and personal recommendations, they are poised for success in their native country — or anywhere in the world.

Mr. Kenney is already talking about his next trip. “I plan to return this spring for a major chef event in Manila,” Mr. Kenney said. “It’s an opportunity to gather former interns and help them make new contacts.”

Although the five 50-pound freshly roasted pigs they were given as gifts were memorable, Mr. Gould says it’s the overall impression of the country and its people that has stayed with him. “The experience has challenged me to do more,” he said.