The Events of Bill Bonner’s 60th Birthday Described in a Letter

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Your editor celebrated his 60th birthday on Saturday night. Elizabeth recorded the occasion in a letter to our daughter, now in Hollywood, awaiting her big break:

(Daily Reckoning sufferers are advised that this has nothing to do with money or other trivial matters):

“Dear Maria,

“I thought I would write to you about Daddy’s 60th birthday celebration in Annapolis while it is still fresh in my mind. It was a worthy pendant to the party at Ouzilly, though the setting was less magically beautiful, and though we missed you and Edward very much, and though there was no dancing and Daddy and Jules did not sing. Because of the threatened hurricane, the venue was changed from the boat to Londontown Publick Gardens (where I had a birthday party for Sophia about 18 years ago, when Henry was a little baby.)

“Tout Agora was there – though not quite, as we were only about 115 guests and Agora has about 500 employees worldwide. But the key people had been invited and were there: Mark Ford, Myles Norin, Matt Turner, Porter Stansberry, Addison Wiggin, Julia Guth, Laura Davis, Bob Compton (our financial controller), Daryl Berver, Jenny Thompson (health publications). The up and coming, too: many whom I barely know. There were foreign publishers, like Annabel Koffman from South Africa, Ajit Dayal from India, and Vicki Burrill from Manchester, Toby Bray from London, Dan Denning from Australia, Martina Dunphy from Ireland, Catherine Dourlens from France, Laura Aramburu from Spain and of, course, our foreign associates, like dear Norman Rentrop, who gallantly offered me his arm crossing the paving stones so I would not trip! (I took it, so as not to hurt his feelings), and Helmut Graff. And there were many old friends: Doug Casey, Adrian Day, Lee Euler, Brian Smith, Jim Davidson, Kathy Peddicord, and even John Mauldin (who said he would send a case of barbecue sauce before his next visit!).

“We were supposed to leave for to the party at 6pm; there was a big yellow school bus which took Dad (accompanied by Jean) and the Agora contingents down to Edgewater, and others followed in cars. The party started with mingling on a porch. We were served delicious seafood hors d’oeuvres, including great big fresh shrimp. As you can imagine, I had very little time to really talk to anyone…

“We sat down in due time…Jean, Dad, and I had worked on a seating plan, so everyone had an assigned table, which mostly went well, I think…Daddy and I, naturally, were at the head table, and Dad was wedged in between Mark and Norman, while I got to sit between two charmers, Mark and Doug. Doug and I had a lively theological conversation. I think he was disappointed to find out that I am not much of a Christian dogmatist and his disbelief in the Immaculate Conception and the resurrection does not shock me. He’s been taking a course on the historical Jesus. He is like a big wide-eyed eager student, and despite his mockery of the ‘cannibalistic’ religion, I think he is a seeker of truth, and of God. It is part of what gives him great charm.

“Mark was the masterful master of ceremonies, and gave the whole event un bon ton…amusing, intelligent, sharp and affectionate. He introduced the toasts. The first was Norman’s…long, worthy…a tribute to his German thoroughness and intelligence, and of his affection for Dad. He ended by saying that since the invitation had excluded gifts for Bill, he would like to give me two: one a champagne glass (engraved with the date, etc.) to toast Daddy on Monday on his behalf and the other, an engraved silver photo frame. He ended with the Irish blessing, and many were the voices that joined in: ‘May the road come up to meet you, may the sun shine warm upon your back…’ That toast was followed by the first course and then we had a raft of toasts from Agora people…Addison and then Porter, each speaking of how grateful he was for the opportunity to develop ‘outside the box’ and of Dad’s generous spirit…and of his often absentminded approach to business. Porter gave a great little imitation of Dad ruminating over a crazy idea Porter had announced, turning up his eyes and pressing his lips together and finally responding, ‘What does it mean?’ Julia Guth paid me a sweet little compliment…she credited me for having been hired by Dad, who told her, she said, that he was going to take her on Elizabeth Bonner’s recommendation…because he always listened to me!

“My favorite toasts were those by Uncle Jim, Will, Jim Davidson and Mark. Uncle Jim congratulated Dad on being a good husband and father and a very good son, and, recalling how their mother had advised, ‘Be more like Fezziwig and less like Scrooge,’ concluded that Agora’s success showed how well he had heeded her counsel. Will gave a short toast in which he thanked his father for being such a rock of reliability, and recalled how impressed he had been as a child by the long trips Dad made every other weekend to pick him and Sophia up in Virginia. I was very touched that he should remember that effort.

“Jim, however, gave the most affecting speech. He recalled the early days…youth, starting the National Taxpayers Union together, and then, with a tear in his eye and a tremble of the lips, told how he had called upon Bill to sit with his mother after Dennis died, until Jim could get back from New Zealand. ‘Bill is my family,’ he said, ‘and I love him dearly.’

“Mark’s speech elegantly balanced wit and sincere affection for Dad. I thought it was great…Mark looked very handsome and fit, and spoke with fluidity and spirit. It was upbeat, optimistic, heartfelt.

“And then Dad spoke. He thanked many people and told little anecdotes about them. But his main theme was how lucky he had been in his life, a life in which incompetence and errors seemed to lead to new opportunities, and to work out for the best! As a crowning example, he told the story of how he and I got to know each other so many years ago. He and Jim had bought at auction an old Bentley, an aluminum body on a wood frame which, unbeknownst to them, was irreparably rotten. The car was a disaster from start to finish, and had been sitting on blocks in Hartge’s boatyard for a few years while various ill-starred efforts were made to rescue it. Finally, they decided to sell it at auction in Atlanta, Georgia, and Bill was to drive it down on a flatbed trailer. Jim asked if he would mind taking his girlfriend along so that he could meet her in Atlanta. (An amused chuckle from the audience.) Dad described how he started driving more and more slowly, how he lost his way and drove to Florida instead of turning west for Atlanta, and how finally -thank heavens! – one of the trailer tires went flat in the middle of the night. We never did get to Atlanta, but we spent two whole days together talking and laughing and acting out little sketches and altogether having a wonderful time. And laying the foundations for, later, falling in love. He asked me to stand up so everyone could ‘get a look at you.’

“After the dinner, as you might imagine, there was a continuation of the party at the hotel bar. I stayed until 1am, when I suddenly thought that if I did not lie down, Matt, our lawyer, would have to carry me to my room. Feeling a little woozy, I nevertheless retired with good grace. But I was an exception! After the bar closed, Jean, Sophia, Jules and Henry and many others partied in one of the rooms until the hotel security threw them out at 3 am. Tiffani Mauldin went and bought MacDonald’s meals for the crowd, and Henry told me that he was surprised by so many adults that he had thought were so straight-laced! In conclusion, it would seem that everyone had a good time.

“Well, darling, it was an occasion that I will always remember. And though we all missed you, you were present in our thoughts and in the minds of many guests. You have your own goals and your own life, but you are part of us and your aspirations are also our dreams for you.

With much love,

Mamma

That does it for us today. Until tomorrow,

Bill Bonner
The Daily Reckoning Australia

Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner

Best-selling investment author Bill Bonner is the founder and president of Agora Publishing, one of the world's most successful consumer newsletter companies. Owner of both Fleet Street Publications and MoneyWeek magazine in the UK, he is also author of the free daily e-mail The Daily Reckoning.
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