Live Fast, Love Hard, Own an Island

I have an article busting the myths surrounding Vincent Island, a deserted acre of rock and sand less than half a mile off Connecticut’s shoreline, in today’s Stamford Advocate.

I’m especially proud of this piece because there are so many garbled stories about the island (its Wikipedia entry, for example); even a current co-owner, a nice old lady, insists on believing her well-worn yarns instead of documented evidence to the contrary. I did a fair amount of archival research on the island and uncovered stuff not even the Stamford Historical Society knew about.

The island is best known for its overgrown ruins of a large cottage, which was built by an owner named Paul Smart:

In 1945 the island was bought by Paul Hurlburt Smart, a lawyer and world-class sailor who lived in Darien.

Smart’s 1979 obituary is a laundry list of accolades. Born in Nova Scotia, he was a graduate of Harvard College, Harvard Law and Oxford; was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star and a Purple Heart in World War I; belonged to several yachting clubs and was first commodore of the Noroton Yacht Club; was chairman of the Olympic Yachting Committee, captained and managed the 1972 Olympic Yachting team; and himself won gold sailing in the 1948 Olympics.

Also, Smart enjoyed group sex.

From page 22 of a December 2, 1943 New York Times news story (not online):

Paul H. Smart, a lawyer who is well known in the midtown district as a night club frequenter, was sentenced yesterday in Special Sessions to a nine-month penitentiary term on his guilty plea two weeks ago with two other men and two women to indecently exposing themselves in an East Forty-seventh Street apartment that the police raided on the night of Sept. 29.

The other men, one of whom owned the apartment, received six-month workhouse sentences. The women, both 22 years old, each received three-month workhouse terms. The fact that Smart was given a much harsher sentence in comparison suggests prosecutors perceived him as the ringleader.

To be fair, the article never says what exactly the group was doing; they could have been having an orgy, yes, but they could have been nudists playing charades too. The article ends with this:

The sentences were pronounced after Assistant District Attorney Lawrence J. McKenna had described the five as “moral lepers who should be dealt with severely as a deterrent to others of their kind.” He added that the five were members of a “degenerate clique.”

Some degenerate. Five years later Smart the decorated war vet and island landlord won gold at the Olympics — at the age of 56. As with the Michael Phelps brouhaha last year, authorities then and now seem shocked that folks who work hard, play hard. I’m sure moral finger-waggers everywhere champ at the bit to someday raid an Olympic Village and disrupt the fabled hook-up parties rumored to take place within.

Or is that just another urban legend I must investigate?

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