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.

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