Wayne James Does It All–With Style!

Wayne James Does It All—With Style!

St. Croix-born fashion designer and former senator Wayne James is, as the saying goes, “Cooking with gas!” And there is nothing on the back-burner:  His sought-after seasonings have been expanded, rebranded, and relaunched as “Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men”; he is directing a film on the Golden Age of Cuba; and he is filing a Rule 2255 against the Federal Public Defender who presented no defense during the August 2018 criminal trial.

5 blends of Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men: all-purpose, salt-free, seafood, vegetarian, and holiday/game.

An iteration or reprise of the two-blend Wayne James’ Carnival Seasoning, which debuted in 1992, was lauded by the Washing Post in 1993 in an article titled “Wayne’s World,” and was sold everywhere from supermarket chains to gift shops to military commissaries, Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men now boasts five all-natural, no-preservatives, kosher-certified blend:  All-Purpose, Salt-Free, Seafood, Vegetarian, and Holiday/Game. And the new brand’s upscale packaging is decidedly and distinctively masculine:  glossy black caps to complement glossy black labels with metallic gold lettering, appearing more like the packaging for chic French colognes, fine  Cuban cigars, or condoms.

“The men’s market is huge but rarely targeted and oftentimes underserved, the presumption being that women do most of the shopping—for everything. But the demographics are rapidly changing, with men, especially because of the convenience of online shopping, packing a huge purchasing-punch. Men account for half of the world’s population and eat half of its food supply.  But very few food products are marketed specifically for men,” James said.  “My seasonings for men are the food-industry equivalent of Just for Men hair dye or Venus razors for women.  You go for a niche. And when the niche is huge, you can corner that huge market.

Marianne Kotubetey and Derek wrapped in white silk dupioni. Photograph by Amr Mounib.

“In addition,” James added, “marketing to men fits well with my overall persona as an influencer of modern men’s lifestyle, which began taking form with the publication of my critically acclaimed Manly Manners books on contemporary male etiquette. There’s no ‘Martha Stewart for Men’ out there.  But there is a need for one. So, I am working on filling that need one product, one concept at a time.”

And responding to modern trend of online shopping, James’ Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men are available exclusively at his online Concepts Store which he launched in July at www.WayneJamesLtd.com 

“Of course, women can use the seasoning!” James responds emphatically. “They’ll love it just as much as men.  It’s the best seasoning in a bottle, bar none.  And women will use it to enhance the flavor of whatever they are cooking too.  And women will purchase it for the men in their lives: brothers, fathers, boyfriends, sons, co-workers.  Based on the early indicators, women are buying the seasonings as gifts for their men. That never was the case before.  The seasoning is now a gift item for Fathers’ Day, birthdays, housewarmings, Christmas, July 4 backyard barbecues, you name it.”

But man does not live by food alone.   James is also in the throes of directing Going…Going…Gone:  The Grandeur of Golden-Age Cuba, a 90-minute docufilm based on his private collection of more than 450 rare photos of 1890-1925 Cuba, the photos issued in 1925 by the Henry Clay and Bock & Co., Ltd., cigar company of Havana, Cuba. 

“The collection was started back in the 1920s when my maternal great-uncle, Alexander Messer, born on St. Croix in 1888 to Andrina Prince Messer [1865-1941] and Christian Messer [1859-1927] migrated to Cuba in 1918 to work as a sugarcane laborer and musician. Messer  would periodically mail home letters containing picture-cards of Cuba to his parents and siblings. Alexander’s younger brother, Alphonso Messer (1896-1973), safeguarded the  photos for a half-century, passing the collection on to me upon his death.  And over the years I have serendipitously added to the collection, my collection now believed to be the world’s largest.  The Cuban Heritage Institute of the University of Miami, for example, one of the world’s foremost repositories of Cuban documents, only has 60 of these photos.  I have more than 450.  And in October of 2009, when I visited Cuba in my capacity of Senator of the United States Virgin Islands, I donated copies of 250 of the photos to the library at the University of Havana, which had no prior archival knowledge of the photos. So, I’ve decided that its time that the images be shared with the world,” James said.

Going…Going…Gone is slated for a December 2021 premier at the Miami Hispanic Cultural Arts Center.  Thereafter, it will be available free of charge on YouTube, Vimeo, etc.  And an eponymously titled book will complement the film.

“I started working on this film back in June of 2020, inspired to take on the project by my dear, dear friend, Luis C. Garcia-Menocal, great-grandson of Mario Garcia-Menocal, Cuba’s third president [1913-1921]. Little did I know that Cuba would become a socio-political hotbed one year later,” James said.  “The timing of the film is at once prophetic and fortuitous.  I look forward to sharing it with the people of Cuba and the world. I hope it will inspire people to preserve the largest pearl of the Caribbean, beautiful Cuba.”

Also simmering—but about to escalate to a rapid boil—is the filing of a Rule 2255, in which James will petition the court to grant him a new trial on the grounds of the ineffectiveness of his defense counsel during his August 13-15, 2018, criminal trial for one count of embezzlement and two counts of wire fraud during his 2009-2011 term in the 28th Legislature.

“What the general public knows is that Wayne James was found guilty and hauled off to prison to serve a 30-month sentence,” James said.  “But what people don’t know is that I received no defense at trial.  My Federal Public Defender, Omodare Jupiter, turned to me in the courtroom after the prosecution had rested its case-in-chief and said that he was not going to present a defense because he didn’t think that the prosecution had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.  So, Jupiter called no witnesses, entered no documents into evidence, nothing.  It would be the equivalent of an O.J. Simpson trial where Marcia Clark says that O.J. Simpson is guilty as sin, but Johnny Cochran never comes on to say, ‘If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.’ My Constitutional rights were trampled upon in a trial that was, at best, a travesty of our criminal justice system.  My Federal Public Defender never intended to defend me.  I remain convinced that he was compromised from the very beginning,” James said. “This was a case that took over two years to finally come to trial. But he was frantically scribbling down his closing arguments on a yellow pad in the courtroom during the trial itself.

“The presumption seems to have been,” James said, “that Wayne James—that tall, slender, elegant man—couldn’t do prison, that the ordeal would break him. And that if, by chance, he happened to make it out alive, he’d be no good to himself—a ‘has-been.’ And in no position to right the wrong done to him at trial.

2003 watercolor by New York artist Suzanne Eisler of Wayne James at home at “Victoria House,” Frederiksted, St. Croix.

“But… Surprise!” James exclaimed.  “You see, they don’t know me.  I come from sturdy Crucian stock. I descend from people who survived the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Did they really think I wouldn’t survive prison? Really?  Survival is in my DNA. Give me a break…. So, not only did I survive prison, I thrived there. They, apparently, mistook my finesse for weakness.  Big mistake. They should have asked people who went to school with me.  I know how to take care of myself.

“For me, prison was a ‘lime’ on the Fed’s dime—a much-needed vacation on-the-cheap. A room without a view.  But I am a creative-type; it is my nature to find beauty everywhere, even in the underworld called prison. So, I hosted invitation-only dinner parties and jumpsuit-required cocktail parties. I outlined my upcoming fiction-based-on-fact novel titled Culo! Culo! Culo! in my cell in Puerto Rico. And I came up with a brilliant food franchise idea while doing time in Pensacola. I invented a cooking-gadget that I’ll patent and call a ‘WayLu,’ and I wrote the synopsis of a book I’m writing on the rapidly emerging Bromosexual subculture. I even wrote the script for the pilot episodes of a cooking-program to be called “Manly Meals:  Recipes for the Modern Man.” And in that program, I’ll have a segment on prison cuisine. It’s fascinating what you can create with the stuff they sell you in the prison commissaries.  I call it ‘Mean Cuisine.’

“I’ve been in seven different prisons—foreign, local, state, and federal—on this journey, and I found each one more interesting and intriguing than the next. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. It’s the stuff books are made of. With me on that journey were mafia men, stranglers, ‘Cho-Mo’s’ [prison lingo for “child molesters”], gang-bangers, rapists, ponzi-specialists, pimps and wimps, alpha-males with their transgender females, political leaders, drug-dealers, you name it.  So, to add to my collection of high and mighty friends, I can now truthfully say that I have friends in ‘low’ places.  Yes, the Bureau of Prisons neglected my glaucoma condition, and I am now blind. Thank God I had seen the known world several times over and the world’s greatest works of art before going blind. Ray Charles was blind. And so is Stevie Wonder. So, I’m in good company.

“I did prison the Wayne James way—with style and elegance. So, I am very much here, and I am very much ready to file a 2255 so that justice can finally be served,” James said. “Once you control the keys to your self-esteem, inner peace, and oneness with God, you can never be confined,” James concluded.

Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men is available exclusively at www.WayneJamesLtd.com  .  Going…Going…Gone:  The Grandeur of Golden-Age Cuba will premier in Miami in December during Art Basel Miami. And James’ deadline for filing the Rule 2255 is October 4, 2021.

Leather Scarves, Seasonings for Men, and Belts with Buckles of 18K Gold and Sterling Silver: Wayne James is “Ba-aaack!”

A Leather Scarf, Seasonings for Men, and Belts with Solid 18K Gold Buckles: Unique Products Rolling Out at Wayne James Ltd.com

An exquisite, buttery-soft leather scarf that drapes like fabric; a line of seasonings formulated for men; and belts adorned with buckles made of solid 18K gold are just a few of the cutting-edge creations rolling out at  www.waynejamesltd.com , the online Concepts Store of fashion designer Wayne James. 

“The mission of the Wayne James Concepts Store is to offer innovative products directly to consumers:  No middlemen, no department stores, no brokers and distributors.  Just a free-flow of ideas between the designer and the ultimate arbiters of trends—the customers,” James said. 

Fashion Model Cameron Alexander in a Wayne James Leather Scarf. (Sold in exquisite, handcrafted pine box for safe storage.)

Leather has been used for practically every fashion accessory—from hats to shoes and everything in between—but never for scarves. Enter: Wayne James’ urban-chic, 18” X 72”, seamless muffler that is turning heads (and necks) even in the über-creative world of fashion.

And who had ever heard of a seasoning for men? No one—until James unveiled his Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men, a five-blend line of all-natural, kosher-certified dry-rubs created for the modern man.

“Of course, the seasonings aren’t off-limits to women; they’ll love them just as men will.  But men need a quick-fix seasoning that they can just sprinkle onto or into whatever they’re preparing and get instantaneous, chef-like results. Men’s cooking has evolved beyond the backyard barbecue. These blends are crafted to make a meal prepared by a novice taste gourmet,” James said. “Men aren’t getting married to pretty, petite home-ec majors right out of college anymore.  The modern man in the Western World is now getting married in his late 20s/early 30s, and he needs to feed himself until—and then during (and perhaps after)—marriage.”

Newly launched Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men. Available in five blends: All-Purpose, Salt-Free, Seafood, Vegetarian, and Holiday/Game.

Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men comes in five blends:  All-Purpose, Salt-Free, Seafood, Vegetarian, and Holiday/Game. The packaging is decidedly masculine:  black labels and caps, gold lettering—a subliminal nod at men’s products such as razors, liquor, and cigars. The seasonings are available as individual bottles, in exquisite natural pine giftboxes, and by the case of 12, exclusively at www.waynejamesltd.com .  

The belts with 18K gold buckles, made in Copenhagen of fine leather imported from Italy, will be unveiled in 2022.

Italian Leather, 18K Gold, Sterling Silver, and Danish Craftmanship. Sold in Mahogany boxes. Coming Soon!

Wayne James is no stranger to causing ripples in the fashion industry.  In 1987, while in his last semester of law school at Georgetown, his debut collection was reviewed in the Washington Post on March 1st; he showed the collection at the Anita Shapolsky Gallery in New York’s SoHo on March 31st; on April 6th Bergdorf Goodman, arguably America’s most discerning retailer of fashion, bought the New York exclusive to James’ collection; and he received his Juris Doctorate on May 28th.  Within three years of his emergence onto the fashion scene, he was being touted as one of the “rising stars” amongst young New York designers by Washington Post fashion editor Nina Hyde and Kathleen Silvassy of United Press International.

But James’ journey has not always been as smooth as silk. In June of 2016, while in Italy writing Manly Manners, his now-critically acclaimed treatise on modern men’s etiquette and lifestyle, he was arrested by Italian authorities at the request of the United States Government for alleged “fiscal inconsistencies” during his 2009-2011 term as Senator of the United States Virgin Islands. At the August 2018 trial, James’ Federal Public Defender offered no defense on James’ behalf, claiming to James in the courtroom at the conclusion of the prosecution’s case-in-chief that he did not believe that the prosecution had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt, thereby necessitating no defense, no calling of witnesses, no presentation of evidence.

“I remain convinced that my Federal Public Defender, an employee of the Federal Government, was compromised.  And I intend to file a Rule 2255 (Ineffective Counsel) by the October 1, 2021 deadline,” James said.  “Even Derek Chauvin, George Floyd’s murderer, received a defense.  I, however, received none. Talk about injustice.”

James served 30 months in Federal prison and was released, ironically, on Juneteenth 2020. But he lost most of his eyesight while in Federal custody. He will request a new trial as part of the Rule 2255 filing and is filing a law suit against the Bureau of Prisons for neglect of his glaucoma condition, causing his loss of vision.  

In the meantime, Wayne James is doing what Wayne James does best:  creating beautiful things, inventing useful things, and re-inventing himself.  Besides launching his online Wayne James Concepts Store less than one year after his release from prison, James has agreed to lend his collect of over 400 historic photos (ca. 1890-1925) of Cuba for a projection-art exhibition that will open in Miami, Florida, in December to coincide with Art Basel Miami 2021. He is also frantically finishing volume three of Manly Manners. Plus, he is penning an academic paper entitled “Mathilda McBean:  The Last Queen,” which chronicles the life of the heroine known for her leading role in the 1878 “Fireburn” labor insurrection on St. Croix. And he is making plans to divide his time between Little Havana and Old San Juan in order to write Culo! Culo! Culo!, a fiction-based-on-fact, tell-all book about life in federal prison in Florida and Puerto Rico.

“The world is bountiful, and life is beautiful. When we surmount the obstacles along the road of life, we get a clearer view of our destination. There are silver linings everywhere,” James concluded.

Fashion Designer Wayne James Directing Film on Golden-Age Cuba

Fashion Designer Wayne James Directing Film on Golden-Age Cuba

 Georgetown University law graduate and former United States Virgin Islands senator Wayne James seems to do it all—from fashion to furniture to food to federal prison.  And now the über-talented, ever-resilient author of the critically acclaimed Manly Manners can add yet another “F-word” to his credentials:  filmmaker.

Going…Going…Gone:  The Grandeur of Golden-Age Cuba is a 90-minte docufilm featuring more than 450 photographs of Cuba during its heyday between 1890 and 1925. The film will premiere in Miami on March 26, 2022, at the Miami Hispanic Cultural Arts Center.

But in many ways, Going…Going…Gone has been coming along for almost a century. In 1918, at age 29, James’ maternal great-uncle Alexander Messer, born on St. Croix in 1888, migrated to Cuba to work as a sugarcane laborer and musician. And while living in Santiago de Cuba, the island-nation’s second-largest city after Havana, Messer would occasionally enclose with his letters to his parents and siblings tobacco cards issued by Henry Clay and Bock & Co., Ltd., manufacturers of fine cigars.  The cards featured beautiful images of Cuba:  churches and cathedrals, municipal building, private mansions, parks, bridges, monuments, casinos, theaters, bays and beaches, plantations, factories, etc.

“This was before the proliferation of the instamatic camera,” James said. “For Uncle Alex, sending picture-cards of Cuba was the best way he knew how to share his adopted homeland with his beloved family.”

Messer’s cards, totaling about 100, remained in the Prince-Messer family’s ancestral home in the town of Frederiksted, St. Croix, until 1973 when Alexander’s younger brother, Alphonso Messer, died, the seminal collection passing to James, who would turn 12 years old in September of that year.

“I was always intrigued by the photos, especially since Cuba had become a ‘forbidden land’ by the time I became conscious of the greater-world,” James said. “Those cards were always very sentimentally precious to me because they connected me to my great-uncles Alex and Richard, both of whom migrated to Cuba, never to return to St. Croix.”

In the late summer of 2005, while visiting a friend in Barcelona and partying on the enchanted isle of Ibiza, James came upon a cache of about 250 of the cards in an antique shop in old Barcelona, not far from the Pablo Picasso Museum, and quickly purchased them.  Then in 2009, while visiting Cuba in his capacity of Senator of the United States Virgin Islands, James donated copies of his collection to the University of Havana, which, at the time, had no archival record of the existence of the photos.

“That’s when I realized how rare the photos were,” James said. “I figured that if the University of Havana had never heard of a series of tobacco cards featuring Cuba in its glory days, I was onto something. And I knew that the photographs had to be officially shared with the people of the world. Also invaluable about the cards is that each photo was produced with an identifying caption, making it easy to recognize the structures, sites, and scenes even if no longer extant.”

In September of 2020, James’ collection again grew fortuitously when he noticed 150 of the photos up for bid in a Spanish auction house.  He won the bid, bringing his collection to approximately 450 distinct images, the collection now believed to be the world’s largest. The esteemed Cuban Heritage Institute of the University of Miami, for example, one of the foremost repositories of Cuban scholarly material, only has 60 of the images.  

Beginning in the 1870s and continuing until the 1920s, tobacco companies routinely inserted cardstock in order to stiffen the packaging of cigars and cigarettes. The cards also doubled as advertising, typically featuring the world’s royalty, famous athletes, celebrated beauties, and general-interest subjects such as exotic animals, churches, or circus characters, for example. Today, some of those cards have become very rare and very valuable.

“Very few of the ‘Cuba Series’ tobacco cards have survived the ravages of time,” James said.  “And little about them is known or documented, even by the great cartophilic publications and societies of the world. And unlike many tobacco card series, which were typically issued in sets of 25 or 50, the Henry Clay and Bock & Co., Ltd., “Cuba Series” contained hundreds of cards, leading me to believe that the cards were never inserted into tobacco packaging but were, instead, presented as giftsets to preferred clients. How Uncle Alex came in possession of the cards has been lost to history. He was not a known smoker, and it is unlikely that he was a preferred client of Henry Clay and Bock & Co., Ltd. In any event, the cards are today exceedingly rare, making it all the more imperative that they be shared with the world. Much of the Cuba depicted in the cards no longer exists or exists in a state of relative decline.

“I was inspired to put the collection on public display by my dear, dear friend, Luis C. Garcia-Menocal, great-grandson of Mario Garcia-Menocal, Cuba’s third president [1913-1921]. I was profoundly affected by Luis’ longing for his beloved homeland, Cuba, and knew that the sentiment was not unique to him. Cuban people need to see this film,” James said.  “Perhaps this docufilm will inspire Cubans in Cuba and those that comprise the diaspora to preserve one of the most precious jewels of the New World.”

Going…Going…Gone masterfully combines the breathtakingly beautiful black-and-white photos of James’ collection with archival film footage, contemporary photos, and television broadcasts that delve into the political landscape that is Cuba. Primarily a visual experience enhanced by the music of Latin American composers such as Cuba’s Ernesto Lecuona and Argentina’s Astor Piazzolla performed by PASO (Pan American Symphony Orchestra) of Washington, DC, the film looks like an exhibition and sounds like a concert.

“The Miami premiere of the Going…Going…Gone will be buttressed by an eponymously titled  exhibition and book,” James said.  “And, of course, the film will be made simultaneously available at no charge online so that people all over the world—especially those in Cuba—can share in the experience. This project has been a labor of love on many levels.  I am thrilled to see it bear fruit,” James concluded.