Wayne James Acquires Rare Watercolor by “The Great Gatsby” Cover Artist

Wayne James Acquires Rare Watercolor by Francisco Coradel-Cugat (1893-1981), Painter of the Iconic Cover of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

Circa 1940 watercolor of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas’ Hotel 1829 by Francisco Coradel-Cugat (1893-1981), painter of the iconic cover of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925)

Art collector and filmmaker Wayne James recently acquired a rare watercolor of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas’ Hotel 1829 by celebrated Spanish artist, Francisco Coradel-Cugat, perhaps best known for his famous painting that became the cover-image of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great American novel, The Great Gatsby (1925). Born in Barcelona, Cugat was 12 years old when his father moved the family of six to the Caribbean, residing primarily in Cuba and Puerto Rico. Young Cugat attended an art academy in Havana, where he learned to draw and paint.

Iconic cover of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great American novel, The Great Gatsby (1925) by Spanish artist Francisco Coradel-Cugal (1893-1981)

At age 16, Cugat declared to his family that art would be his profession and was promptly sent off to the French cathedral city of Rheims to live with a maternal aunt in order to study the French language and art. Cugat distinguished himself at school in Rheims, winning the bronze medal before, at age 18, moving to Paris to study at Ecole des Beaux Arts under the tutelage of Cormon.

Art being undoubtedly Cugat’s vocation, travel was arguably his avocation:  He crossed the Atlantic on numerous occasions and cruised between the New World continents, the islands of the Caribbean, and traversed the jungles, mountains, and valleys of Central America.

Regularly exhibited in Spain, Hollywood, and New York in the 1920s, Cugat’s work was well-received by the press. And in July of 1943, his life and art were featured in an article in Esquire Magazine.  Francisco Coradel-Cugat died in Westport, CT, in July of 1981. But his artistic legacy did not.

“A dear friend gave me the Cugat watercolor of Hotel 1829 in celebration of the March 27, 2022, World Premiere of my 3-part Cuba film, Going…Going…Gone:  The Grandeur of Golden-Age Cuba,” James said.  “She knows that the hotel is my favorite on St. Thomas, being situated in the heart of historic Charlotte Amalie, and she surprised me with the gift today. Cugat and I have Cuba and Virgin Islands connections, so it is very special to have one of his works as part of my collection.” 

June 7, 1937, Nationaltidende article announcing the Copenhagen, Denmark, arrival onboard the vessel Amerika of Gustav Alexander James (1919-1983)

Wayne James’ fondness for Hotel 1829 reaches back more than a century.  In 1937, when his father, Gustav Alexander James (1919-1983), was en route to Copenhagen, Denmark, to study, he stayed at Hotel 1829 for almost one month awaiting the arrival of the vessel Amerika upon which he sailed to Scandinavia.  And Gustav’s father, Isaac Gateword James (1893-1978), who, 30 years earlier, in 1907, departed St. Croix to further his studies in Denmark, used to stay at Hotel 1829 in the early decades of the 1900s while in St. Thomas on business.  Likewise, Wayne James has over the decades stayed at the hotel during his visits to St. Thomas for carnival and during his tenure as Senator of the United States Virgin Islands.

A 1907 photo taken in Charlottenlund, Denmark, featuring Isaac Gateword James (1893-1978), along with Gustav Alexander Hagemann (1905-2000) and Grete Hagemann (1907-2012)

Hotel 1829 is like my home on St. Thomas.  I always feel as if I belong there in a special, profound way. And having this painting to grace my walls will forever make me feel at home, wherever I am in the world,” James concluded.

Free Links to Wayne James’ 3-Part Film, “Going…Going…Gone: The Grandeur of Golden-Age Cuba”

Free YouTube Links to Wayne James’ Cuba Film, Going…Going…Gone

Fashion Designer and Former Senator Wayne James’ 3-part film on Cuba, titled, Going…Going…Gone:  The Grandeur of Golden-Age Cuba, officially premiered at the prestigious William V. Musto Cultural Center in Union City, New Jersey, on Sunday, March 27, 2022, and is now available, free of charge, on YouTube. 

The Grandeur of “Golden Age” Cuba (Part 1/3) – YouTube

The Grandeur of “Golden Age” Cuba (Part 2/3) – YouTube

The Grandeur of “Golden Age” Cuba (Part 3/3) – YouTube

Enjoy and Share!

Wayne James

Free Links to Wayne James’ “Going…Going…Gone: The Grandeur of Golden-Age Cuba”

Free YouTube Links to Wayne James’ Cuba Film, Going…Going…Gone

Fashion Designer and Former Senator Wayne James’ 3-part film on Cuba, titled, Going…Going…Gone:  The Grandeur of Golden-Age Cuba, officially premiered at the prestigious William V. Musto Cultural Center in Union City, New Jersey, on Sunday, March 27, 2022, and is now available, free of charge, on YouTube. 

The Grandeur of “Golden Age” Cuba (Part 1/3) – YouTube

The Grandeur of “Golden Age” Cuba (Part 2/3) – YouTube

The Grandeur of “Golden Age” Cuba (Part 3/3) – YouTube

Enjoy and Share!

Wayne James

Blind and Battling Conviction, Fashion Designer Wayne James Directs Cuba Film

                                                                                                       

Fashion Designer and Former Senator Wayne James Makes Movie while Challenging Conviction and Battling Blindness

Havana, Cuba

Going…Going…Gone:  The Grandeur of Golden-Age Cuba, a film by fashion designer and former senator Wayne James, will premiere at Union City, New Jersey’s prestigious Musto Cultural Center on Sunday, March 27, 2022.  The public screening of the three-part docufilm is being officially hosted by Union City’s mayor Brian P. Stack and the city’s Board of Commissioners. Union City is the oldest Cuban enclave in the United States, dating back to the late 1940s, and today boasts one of the nation’s largest urban Cuban populations, second only to Miami.   

The prestigious William V. Musto Cultural Center of Union City, NJ, venue of the World Premiere of Wayne James’ “Going…Going…Gone: The Grandeur of Golden-Age Cuba

Links to the film will be uploaded onto YouTube immediately after the Union City premiere, and a cocktail reception is being planned for Miami.

“The Union City leadership and community at large have welcomed me and the film with open arms,” James said. “They immediately recognized the film’s timeliness, relevance, and power. I have been treated to a classic display of Cuban hospitality.”

A prototype of the emerging “quiltography” genre—films skillfully and artistically pieced-together, quiltlike, from already-existing footage for the purpose of telling a new story—Going…Going…Gone is a gripping, emotionally charged oeuvre about Cuba’s journey from its late-19th-century title of “The Pearl of the Caribbean,” to Castro-era “Bastion of Communism,” to 21st-century “Battleground for Democracy.”

The film’s raison d’être is the display of James’ exceedingly rare collection of more than 500 self-captioned photos of golden-age Cuba, dating from about 1890-1925, taken by the Henry Clay and Bock & Co., Ltd., Havana-based cigar company as picture-album keepsakes for the company’s preferred customers. 

Beginning in the mid-1920s, James’ maternal great-uncle, musician and sugarcane laborer Alexander Messer, born on St. Croix in 1888 to Christian Messer (1859-1927) and Andrina Prince Messer (1865-1941), would enclose the photos in his letters home to his parents and siblings on St. Croix. (Alexander migrated to Cuba in 1918 at the age of 29, settling in Santiago de Cuba, after having lived abroad in the Dominican Republic from 1908. Alexander’s younger brother, Richard Messer, born in 1893, migrated to Cuba in 1915 at the age of 21, settling in Camaguey.)  

Not known by the family to be a smoker, and, given his modest status in Cuba, not likely a preferred customer of the Henry Clay and Bock & Co., Ltd., cigar company, how Alexander came into possession of the picture-cards has been lost to history.  What is known, however, is that Alexander’s younger brother, Alphonso Messer (1896-1973) painstakingly safeguarded the photos at the family’s ancestral home on Hospital Street in the town of Frederiksted from the ravages of time and storm, the nascent collection of approximately 100 photos passing to Wayne James, a schoolboy of 11 years old at the time of the inheritance. 

Over the decades, James has serendipitously augmented the collection by happening upon caches in quaint antique shops and by successfully bidding at international auction houses, his collection of the Henry Clay and Bock & Co., Ltd., “Cuba Series” now totaling more than 550 images and believed to be the world’s largest. 

Approximately 50 of the images are portraits of Cuban political leaders, born circa 1850 to 1900, many of whom contributed to the Cuba that Fidel Castro overthrew on January 1, 1959. 

“Many Cubans who have seen these portraits have been moved to tears,” James said.  “Many present-day Cubans are the descendants of the once-powerful men depicted in the portraits.  And many of these present-day descendants had never seen photos of their forefathers since many of Cuba’s elite hastily left the country with little more than the clothes on their backs in the wake of the 1959 Revolution. For many Cubans, the emotions are as raw as they were 63 years ago, and they are comforted by finally seeing the faces of their forefathers.”

But there is more to Going…Going…Gone than portraits and breathtakingly beautiful photos of Cuba’s palatial architecture, manicured parks, impressive monuments, panoramic bays and roadways, palm-dotted hillsides, impressive stone churches and cathedrals, and bridges and factories, for example.

The plotline of the film is as much unfolded via photos as via music:  Cuba’s greatest, time-honored compositions—such as “Adios a Cuba,” “La Bella Cubana,” and “Barcarola”—of Cuba’s greatest 19th -century symphonic composers, musicians such as Ignacio Cervantes, Jose White, and Nicholas Espadero, seamlessly connect the elements of the film. And to pull on the heart strings, Director James weaves into the panoramic displays of the still photos live orchestral performances of the tango classics of Argentinean great Astor Piazzolla, performed by Washington, DC’s Pan American Symphony Orchestra (PASO). And, of course, the film is studded with Afro-Cuban spirituals, conga rhythms, and comparsas.

Archival film footage—from silent-era films of Cubans harvesting sugarcane and of carnival revelry; to clips of pre-Revolution glamor; to travel films lauding the island-nation’s modern accomplishments; to grainy original footage of Castro’s rebels in their mountaintop hideouts and his triumphant victory parade in Havana; to network broadcasts of Castro’s stirring speeches and interviews; to broadcasts of the Mariel Boatlift of 1980, the 1994 Massacre at Sea, and the 1999-2000 Elian Gonzalez saga; to public domain YouTube posts of today’s Cubans taking to the streets in New Jersey, Miami, and Havana, demanding Democracy—are pieced-together to recount, with authenticity, the Cuban experience.

“When treating a historical subject of this magnitude, there is no point in trying to ‘re-invent the reel’,“ James said.  “The best footage is the real footage—that taken as these great historical events were unfolding. My role was to locate this archival footage, then piece-it together, quiltlike, to tell the story as I see it. I think I have achieved that objective with Going…Going…Gone.”

Fashion Designer Wayne James in Hamburg, Germany. Photo by Alessandro Sonnetti.

And all this—a “tour de force” of sorts, a “magnum opus” in some respects—was accomplished in the few months since James’ release from Federal prison on June 19, 2020, after serving a 30-month sentence—in seven different prisons, foreign and domestic, federal, state, and territorial—for the alleged embezzlement of $78,000 during his 2009-2011 term as Senator of the United States Virgin Islands. James’ Petition to Vacate Conviction, based on 28 USC § 2255 on the grounds of violations of his 6th Amendment Right to effective counsel, his 6th Amendment Right to present witnesses to testify on his behalf, and his 5th Amendment Right to Due Process of Law, is currently being reviewed by the District Court of the U.S. Virgin Islands (Case:  3:15-cr-00042-RAM-RM  Document #:  299 Filed:  02/28/22 ).

Even more remarkable is the fact that James has directed Going…Going…Gone—in addition to launching his Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men and relaunching his signature Wayne James Ltd fashion line at www.WayneJamesLtd.com  while battling blindness caused by the Bureau of Prisons’ neglect of his glaucoma condition during his period of incarceration. 

“I entered federal prison not even needing drugstore readers,” James said. “But I left federal prison blind, deposited by prison personnel at the Pensacola, Florida, Greyhound Bus Station in the dark of night on June 1, 2020, and told to make my way as best I could to the halfway house in Atlanta, Georgia, where I remained until June 19, 2020.

  “But Ray Charles was blind,” James continues. “And Stevie Wonder is blind.  So, Wayne James is not going to let blindness stop him. As long as you are alive, you have to strive to thrive. Fortunately, I didn’t develop myself into a one-trick pony.  God and genetics blessed me with numerous talents, and I have cultivated them over the years.

Going…Going…Gone is simply one of the many things on my plate, a triumphant return to political life included. Plus, I have more books to write, including finishing volume three of my critically acclaimed Manly Manners treatise on modern men’s comportment and lifestyle,” James said. “And, as you can imagine, in that list of books to be written are books about life in federal prison, the first of which will be Culo! Culo! Culo!, a tell-all about life at MDC Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, and federal prison in Florida,” James added.

Haute couture model Janice Joyce in a 1990 “little black dress” by fashion designer Wayne James. Photo by Amr Mounib.

Wayne James is no stranger to multi-tasking and artist achievement under adverse circumstances.  In 1987, while in his last semester of law school at Georgetown, he presented his first collection of fashion at the Anita Shapolsky Gallery in SoHo, the esteemed Bergdorf Goodman purchasing the exclusive New York rights to that first collection, and the Washington Post lauding his launch.  James went on to graduate two months later and within two years was declared “one of the rising stars among young New York designers” by celebrated fashion editor Nina Hyde. 

What would become Going…Going…Gone started out as a simple conversation between two dear, dear friends.  Cuban-born Luis C. Garcia-Menocal, great-grandson of Cuba’s third president, Mario Garcia-Menocal (1913-1921), and James were sitting, talking about their mutual love for Cuba when James informed Garcia-Menocal of his rare collection of golden-age Cuba photos.

“Cubans would love to see those photos,” Garcia-Menocal said.  “Cuba is a great island.  And people need to see what the island looked like before the revolution.”

“Luis’ nostalgia for Cuba was palpable,” James recalls.  “I decided then and there to share the photos with him, Cubans, and the world. It started out as an exhibition accompanied by a coffee table book and organically morphed into a three-part, six-hour film.  Love is a powerful thing.  It brings out the best in us if we follow its lead,” James concluded.

Lloyd “Dove” Braffith–The Crucian Painter

Dove—A Crucian Painter

Dove’s “Overview of Frederiksted” Private Collection of Wayne James

[Written by St. Croix-born historian Wayne James in 2002, this article was published in the St. Croix Avis in 2002; included in the Dove Exhibition catalog in conjunction with the 2003 St. Croix Foundation-sponsored Dove Retrospective; and re-printed in 2012 in the St. Croix Avis in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Dove’s death. The article is re-published herein in recognition of the 82nd anniversary of his birth and the upcoming 20th anniversary of his death. In the 2012 St. Croix Landmarks Society Auction, Dove’s painting, “Under the Christmas Lights,” { Lot No. 136; 48″ X 36″} sold for $17,000.]

At Dove’s funeral at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on the morning of Friday, November 15, 2002, there were, surprisingly, only about 100 mourners. The local intelligentsia were in absentia, the politicians were not present, and the media were missing. His east end clients did not venture west for the service.  Some people said that the four-day interval between the death and the funeral (as opposed to the now-customary seven or eight) was insufficient time for them to prepare.  Others said that they simply had not heard of the painter’s death until after the funeral.  Who were there, however, were his family members, representatives of some of Frederiksted’s oldest families—Brady, Harrison, Belardo, Lucas, Messer, McIntosh, Christian, Henderson, Joseph, Petersen, Milligan, James, Thomas, Prince, Thompson, Wilson—and a handful of artist-friends. Street-artist A. J. Simmonds, cousin to renowned local painter El’Roy Simmonds, was there in a fuchsia shirt in tribute to Dove’s penchant for bold tones. Neo-Impressionist painter Leo Carty, whose canvases are coveted by some of the island’s most discriminating collectors, was there. Photographer-Historian Robert Vaughn was there. Crucian poet Richard Schraeder, Sr., who just two months later would celebrate Dove’s genius in his poem commissioned for the Turnbull-Richards inauguration, was there.  Longtime Dove admirers Angeline Henry and Sybil Francis Joshua made their way down from Christiansted for the service.  Educator Audrey Clendinen Abbot was there. Mary Abbot, who has collected several Doves over the years, said it was her honor to be there.

In his coffin Dove looked ten years younger than he had during his final days on the corner of Company and Market Streets in Christiansted—he looked satisfied and at peace.  Placed with him were some of his prized possessions:  a few half-empty tubes of acrylic paint; his palette, dabbed with seemingly countless hues of the Caribbean; and in his pigment-stained right hand, with its long, tapered fingers, he held three sable brushes.  Dove was the consummate artist to the very end.

In the Virgin Island during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and its aftermath, Black people, regardless of their God-given talents and gifts, were, for the most part, relegated to a life of hard labor in sugarcane fields.  Consequently, people who—had they been permitted to fully participate in society—might have written great works of literature, contributed to cures of mankind’s most debilitating diseases, set and broken athletic records, and delivered spiritually uplifting sermons, for example, went to their graves unfulfilled. But while slave societies did not offer many opportunities for Black people in general, they did provide some alternative outlets for the artistically inclined enslaved population through the practical and performing arts. Creative personalities who under normal circumstances might have developed into fine-art sculptors and painters and poets, for example, were placed in or instinctively gravitated towards the only arts that were available to them—arts such as cooking, sewing, cabinet-making, jewelry-making, and folk music. It is in this historical context and its legacy, then, that Dove’s genius as the first Crucian painter must be understood and celebrated. 

Lloyd “Dove” Braffith’s “Quadrille Dance at Cumberland Castle” Private Collection of Wayne James.

Baptized Lloyd Alphonso Braffith [believed to be a corruption of Brathwaite], Dove was born on February 26, 1940, in “Bailey Yard,” located on Prince Street in Frederiksted, between the Catholic convent and the old Danish Grammar School.  Artistic talent expressed through folk music was in his bloodline. His mother’s father, Charles Harris, was a tinsmith but also an expert scratchband flautist on the side.  His maternal uncle, Willie Harris, was a master flautist, and Ira Samuel and David Heyliger, Dove’s brothers, are locally renown musicians. As for Dove, he sang calypso with the Vibratones, a local band during his early twenties.

But Dove had exhibited an interest in painting from his school days. At St. Patrick’s School, where he studied until the sixth grade; then at the Frederiksted Junior High, located in what is today the Athalie McFarlane Petersen Library; and, finally, during his two-and-one-half years of high school at the Christiansted High School, Dove’s talent as a painter was evident.

“When Dove was at C.H.S., I used to work in the office,” said his brother, Ira Samuel.  “I remember one day when his teacher, Phillip Gerard, came into the office, all excited, with a sheet of paper in his hand.  ‘Miss Christian, Miss Christian,’ he said, speaking to Mrs. Elena Christian, ‘Look at this drawing!’ Mrs. Christian took one look at the pencil-drawing and said:  ‘That’s John David Brady!’

Dove’s “Victoria House” Private Collection of Wayne James.

“My brother Dove never took art lessons,” continued Samuel, “but he could draw anybody, and you would recognize the person whom he had drawn. He had a gift. He never studied art. That day, I told Mrs. Christian:  ‘That’s my brother!’ I was so proud of him that day.”

“I could draw and paint from a small boy in school,” Dove said, in his deliberate, almost-reticent manner. “My teachers, from the nuns at St. Patrick’s to the teachers in public school, always used to talk about my talent. Then one day, when I was on my way back home from Christiansted High School, I stopped off at Schade’s Drug Store—the old Apothecary Hall on the corner in Frederiksted—and bought a watercolor paint set. It was displayed in the window.  I went straight home and painted Lana Turner from a picture of her that I used to keep.”  He paused for a while, as if amazed at himself for speaking so openly, this being, according to him, the first [and only] interview he had ever granted. Then he continued. “That was really the first thing I painted outside of school. I also had pencil-drawings of Elizabeth Taylor and some of the other movie stars. I kept those things for a while, but they are all gone now.”  He paused again, then proceeded.  “I am going to tell you everything. People need to know what I have to say.  Life can be short sometimes.”

After dropping out of high school, Dove had to find paying-work.  And he found it in the places where young men from Frederiksted usually found work in the 1950s and ‘60s:  with the Department of Public Works, digging ditches for the town’s sewer lines; and loading and unloading ships for Merwin at the Frederiksted dock.  Dove, ever the artist, sang calypso on the side.

“Dove had a unique voice,” said Elmer James, former bandleader of the 1950s’ and ‘60s’ group Sonora Santa Cruz.  “He used to sing for Vibratones. He sang in an ‘off-ish’ minor key; so, as a musician, you had to catch him just right. His voice was frig-up, but it was good. It was unique.” 

For many Frederiksteders old enough to vividly recall the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, Dove was the town’s strongman.  He was very tall, very muscular, and very friendly.  And children admired him. But it was the day that Dove decided to put down his barbells and pick up his paintbrushes that he made his strongest impact on Frederiksted and on St. Croix. 

“I was in a yard on Prince Street—the yard across from Peter Christian,” Dove said, “when a white lady that I used to call ‘Miss Morning Glory’ saw me lifting weights and asked me if I could paint a sign for her. I guess she had heard that I could paint. Or maybe I had told her. Anyway, she wanted the sign painted in oil paint, and it was to have some pictures on it. That was my first painting-job.”

“The first time I saw Dove, he was painting a sign under the gallery of what is now the Virgin Islands Community Bank, on the corner of Strand and Market Streets in Frederiksted,” said his ex-wife Sherill Jackson Richardson. “That must have been some time in the late ‘50s because we got married in 1961.  In those days, he used to supplement his income by painting decorations on cars and bikes.” 

The young couple lived in the Pond Bush neighborhood of Frederiksted, during which period their first two children, Eugenie and Earl, were born.  By 1964, when the couple’s third and last child together, Elvena, was born, the family was living in Marley Homes.  But by 1965, the marriage had ended in divorce. (Dove never remarried, though several years later he lived with Mae Stapleton and bore a son, Alimayo, with her. Stapleton preceded Dove in death.)

“Durant Tower,” Dove’s “muse.” Private Collection of Wayne James

After the divorce, Dove moved to “New Town,” just outside Frederiksted’s town proper. “I moved there to hibernate and paint,” Dove said. “That was a very stressful period of my life. I didn’t feel like singing calypso anymore, so I left the band. But it was during that time that I really become a painter.”   He smiled, looked down, then continued.  “I decided to paint the inside of the house where I was living. And while doing that, I decided to paint myself floating on a flying carpet on one of the walls.  That is when I really realized that I had talent.”  This time, he did not look down.

Many of the major turning points in Dove’s life involved another person.  Even the manner in which he came to be known across all of St. Croix as “Dove” involved another person.  “I got that name because of Carmen Williams.  I must have been 20 or 21 years old when people started calling me ‘Dove,’” he said. “I had a bicycle that I painted black-and-white, and the bike had a little carry-bag that used to hang from the back of the seat. I had painted a white dove on each side of the bag, and Carmen saw it and named my bike ‘Dove.’ It soon stuck as my nickname.  I kept it because I liked it; it was peaceful.”

Why Dove devoted almost half his life painting the historic buildings of Frederiksted and Christiansted is also largely due to another person:  Orin Arnold. 

“Back in the mid-1970s, when I was still working for Highway Safety, I saw Dove in town [Frederiksted] and asked him to paint Durant’s Castle for me,” said Arnold. “He told me that he couldn’t paint houses—that he only painted signs.  So, I told him that if he could paint a sign, he could paint a house.  So, he agreed.  Months went by. Then one day I saw him, and he said: ‘Arnold, ah have a draft of dih paintin’ fo’ yoh. But ah gon need about thirty dollars to buy dih rest of the supplies to finish it.’ I gave him the money. Some more months went by. Then one day, out of the blue, he showed up with the painting. I asked him:  ‘So, how much ah have fo’ yoh?’ He answered, ‘forty-five dollars.’ Between the deposit and the final payment, I paid seventy-five dollars for the painting.”

Dove never signed the piece with his name.  Instead, he had “stamped” the piece with a unique style that would make his work perhaps the most identifiable of all local artists—so much so that even little children would see one of his paintings and describe it as “a Dove.” 

“Before I painted Durant’s Tower for Orin Arnold,” Dove said, “I used to paint at my house.  People would see me in passing and ask me to paint a sign, or they would come by the house to offer me work.  Some people would bring a photograph and ask me to do a portrait.  But a lot of people thought I was lazy since they didn’t see me working a regular job.  Then when I sat on King Street, across from Durant’s Tower to paint the house for Arnold, everyone saw me in the street and stopped to see what I was doing.  Even little children on their way home from school stopped to see my work and to talk to me.  That is when I realized that painting on the street was good advertising.  And I figured that the best reason to be painting on the street was to be painting the houses in town. That is how I became known for painting buildings.” 

Having established a niche, Dove moved back into Frederiksted proper in order to be closer to his subjects—the wonderful historic building of his beloved town.  And from about 1975-1995, he set up apartment-studios in various buildings in town. He lived on King Street, next door to his muse, Durant’s Tower, until the tower, along with is studio (with several paintings inside) caught afire shortly after Hurricane Hugo; he lived on Hill Street, between Queen and Prince Streets, in an upstairs space in the early ‘90s; then he moved to a long-row, just east of the Ann Heyliger Vegetable Market.  During those years, anyone living in town or passing through could see Dove outside, painting—in the park on the waterfront; on the corner, under the gallery of the supermarket, just south of Cumberland Castle; on the corner of the old Brow Soda Factory. 

Dove’s “Mikey and Suzie” Private Collection of Wayne James.

Those years, especially the years from 1985-95, were also the years of Dove’s best work.  His technique had matured, his colors had become more characteristically bold, his perspective more accurate and informed.  And as a diversion from his favorite architectural subjects, he would paint portraits or historical themes such as Emancipation or Fireburn.  In 1989 he painted Hurricane Hugo with a furious Dove-style sky and coconut trees blowing frantically in the gale.

To see a Dove from his “high period” is to know that he painted straight from his soul to the souls of Crucians.  Each gesture of his subjects, whether “thrashing back” down King Street in a j’ouvert tramp; standing, arms akimbo, on a street corner; the precise—almost signature—placement of a D.P.W. trashcan; or the calico-printed skirts of his old ladies all speak on a level that only a Crucian can fully understand and appreciate.  His style is not “touristy.”  Nor are his subjects contrived or glorified. Nonetheless, tourists adore his work, and his native Caribbean people, naturally, love it.  Whether man, woman, or child, black, or white, people are enthralled by Dove’s work because it is uniquely his and authentically Crucian.  And without ever hiring a publicist or encouraging interviews, without ever having a gallery show, Lloyd Dove Braffith emerged as St. Croix’s premiere artist—of all time.  But what is perhaps even more remarkable are the circumstances under which he earned that distinction. 

When Dove started painting for a living in the 1950s, he had no Crucian role models.  No Crucian, prior to Dove, had ever made his living from painting canvases. And not only did Dove make a living for himself, he also assisted in the financial support of his four children by selling his paintings.  In addition, he always found time to teach his self-taught skills to other artists. For a while in the 1980s, he tutored Wayne “Bully” Petersen (like Dove, a musician-painter) but the two men had a falling-out, which never fully reconciled; Phyllis Branch was a Dove “groupie” for a while in the early ‘90s; and 1980s’ Dove protégé Denley “Sutu” Joseph, who would eventually abandon painting altogether for a life on the streets, credits Dove for much of his technique as a sign-painter and canvas-artist. In the early 1980s, in government-sponsored summer youth programs, Dove also taught painting to children from the island’s public housing communities. 

Some time around 1998, Dove moved to the town of Christiansted, again staking out corner-territory to do his work.  Some Frederiksteders assumed he had relocated for inspiration; others simply felt betrayed. 

Lloyd “Dove” Braffith in photo by Roger Thompson.

“I couldn’t believe it when I heard that Dove had moved to Christiansted,” said one lady.  “I vividly recall actually feeling jealous. It was like, ‘wha’ mo’ they want up deh! Yoh mean to tell me that they want Dove now toh?’ “

“I knew Christiansted well from in my high school days,” Dove said.  “And I also used to come up here when I had to sell paintings to pay my bills and pay child support. Luz James—the father—used to buy plenty of my paintings.  And I also had some white customers.”

Just as in Frederiksted, wherever Dove painted, people gathered—and many of them were street people.

“I got a lot of criticism—even from family members—because I live somewhat of a street life and keep company with street people,” Dove said. “But it is the street people who go to buy food for me while I paint on the corners.  It isn’t like I can just walk off and leave my canvases and paints to go looking for a cookshop to buy a meal.  So, the street people get my food for me; and when I eat, they eat.  That’s the way my mother raised me.  ‘Eat you alone, hungry you alone.’ When you break bread with people, you and they bind to one another.”

There was widespread speculation of Dove’s occasional or habitual use of drugs, evidenced, some said, by his deliberate underpricing of his paintings to encourage quick sales.  Others claimed that he would sell commissioned work to support his lifestyle, then have to start all over from scratch just before or upon the arrival of the client to collect the painting.  Still, others complained that Dove would paint the same subject too often, the critics at least somewhat, overlooking the uniqueness of each of the artist’s pieces and the fact that French Impressionist Claude Monet, for example, painted several “Haystacks,” various “Rouen Cathedrals,” and lots of “Lilly Ponds”—all of which are worth millions of dollars today.  What is for certain, however, is that Dove was generally described as a soft-spoken, peaceful man throughout his life, and he is believed to have sold more paintings in his lifetime than any other local artist—Crucian-born or otherwise. 

Dove attributed much of his self-respect and respect for others to the solid moral instruction he acquired from his mother when he was a boy.  He was the son of Cecelia Harris and Hezekiah Braffith of Frederiksted. 

“I knew that my mother was satisfied with me from the day she stopped calling me ‘Lloydy,’ when I was about 14 years old, and started calling me ‘Mr. Braffith,’”  Dove said.  I consider my mother the greatest woman in the world.  Women, because of the influence over their children, can save the world.   My mother saved me. It was because of her that I avoided trouble throughout my life, and it was because of her that I did not give up on painting.   It is also because of her that I took up an interest in writing.” 

Cecelia Harris died in July of 1981; and by the mid-1980s Dove had started carrying around a black-and-white copybook, filled with his essays on his philosophy on life, much of it based on his early experiences with his mother. Increasingly, he said, he felt the burning desire to be recognized for his writing in addition to his painting.  But he felt that because he had not achieved a high level of conventional education, people were not prepared to accept him as a writer.  It was around that time, perhaps 1985, that Dove, almost defiantly, started signing his paintings with the letters “B/T,” an abbreviation for “Best Teacher.”  Dove felt that “The human brain was created by God to learn through watching, studying, and working with nature. But in our world today, humans go to school and lock themselves in a classroom away from nature, where they learn from information without work.” He felt that as a person who has learned how to paint purely from nature, his learning was a true, uncorrupted learning, which he was qualified to teach. He also felt that in the process of closely observing nature, as he was learning how to paint, he had learned other lessons of life, which he believed he was eminently qualified to teach to others. In one of his essays he writes, “I lived in Frederiksted for many years and never got into problems with anyone. I never made a lot of money, but I have always felt proud of myself—not so much as a great artist only, but as a good teacher.”  

By the time Dove moved to Christiansted in 1998, his health was in significant decline.  Ove the years he had contracted high blood pressure and diabetes, thereby jeopardizing his vision and his body’s ability to heal its wounds.  But he had to continue painting since it was the means by which he earned his living.  The work of this period to those who intimately knew his “high period” was more hurriedly executed and lacked some of his characteristic depth and soul.  But on the rare occasion, Dove would rise to the challenge and paint a piece that could almost parallel his best work.  From underneath the gallery across from Holy Cross Catholic Church on Company Street, Christiansted, he would work each day, pushing his canvases and supplies to and from work in a supermarket cart. And his petit entourage of artist groupies and friends would follow him to and fro.  Then, when that building was marked off for renovation, he moved up Company Street to the corner of Market Street, in the heart of a thriving street community.

It was during his Christiansted period that one of Dove’s east end costumers [Mr. Don Weeden] decided to become his official patron.  The deal was this:  Beginning on February 26, 2002—on Dove’s 62nd birthday—in exchange for food, clothing, medical care, painting-supplies, and payment of his other bills, Dove would paint every day, allowing a representative from the St. Croix Foundation to select his best works for a show to be held the following January or February. The proceeds from the sale of his work at the show would then be put into a fund administered by the St. Croix Foundation to take care of Dove’s needs.

“The patron is one of my clients,” Dove said. “He has bought several of my paintings in the past.  Under our agreement, he takes me shopping for clothes, I get money to buy food, and whenever I need to go to the doctor, or to the hospital, he covers the bill.

“This will be my first show,” Dove said.  “Before, I used to have to sell my paintings every day to live. Now, with this man who is helping me, I can afford to put aside my paintings for an exhibit next year.  I was honored by the legislature under Edgar Iles, and I once received a plaque from an organization headed by Willard John.  Now, I have an exhibit.”

The Foundation was able to collect a few of Dove’s better pieces. But Dove was Dove. And if a person walked up to his corner, took out cash, and offered to pay for a piece on the spot, Dove would sell it and eventually start from scratch on another canvas. It was a hard habit to break—after all, he had done it that way just about every day for thirty years.

On Sunday, November 10, 2002, nine months after entering the agreement with his patron, and a little over a year from the date of his first showing, Dove suffered a massive stroke.  He was rushed to the Juan Luis Hospital.  Some hospital staff, knowing of his earlier marriage to Sherill Jackson Richardson, now a registered nurse at the hospital, informed her of his arrival.  She responded.  His children flew in immediately from off-island.  Dove was pronounced dead the following day.  Almost immediately, a makeshift shrine was established at the corner of Company and Market Streets.  A few people brought flowers and simply laid them there.  Someone wrote on one of the walls of the corner:  “Dove Is Above.”

Then all the rumors started circulating:  that people had broken into his studio and stollen his paintings as soon as he was taken to the hospital; that a mysterious man had made off with his writings. Then there were all the stories of people who had supposedly paid cash deposits for paintings just before his untimely death, or people who were just about to buy their first Dove but did not arrive on time.  Then there was all the talk about how much his paintings would increase in value now that there would be no more Doves ‘flying” off the corners.

Some of that same talk ended up in the church yard on the morning of the funeral.  But for the most part, mourners talked about how shocked they were at the sparse turnout.  

“Whe’ pah all dem senator and t’ing deh?” asked Lithia Brady.  “Yoh mean toh tell me that none ah dem so-called leaders of this ya lan’ couldn’ come down ya to west end to sen’ off Lloydy? ‘Tis a cryin’ shame.  Da wah mek we cyan’ mek it. We ain’ got no respect foh we own.” 

During the service, Dove’s first-born, Eugenie, who is completing her Doctor of Philosophy degree in Florida, described how her father’s face would light up whenever she and her siblings would visit him at one of his painting-sites on their way home from school.  His niece, Hollis McIntosh Silvest, talked about his strength and his kind, gentle manner.  The service was simple and dignified.  Then, without much pomp and circumstance, and devoid of the distractions of social intellectuals, public figures, reporters, and ladies who lunch, Lloyd Alphonso Braffith, arguably one of the most significant Virgin Islanders of the 20th Century, was buried in the Kinshill Cemetery—not in a tomb, but like Jessica Tuteiin Moolenaar, in the raw, natural earth of St. Croix. 

As people left the graveyard, some took solace in the thought that when Dove’s century is summarized, and most of his conventional contemporaries have been relegated to names atop filed-away office memos or to leaves on a family tree, Dove’s name will soar high.  They could sense that it is his name, along with that of painter Albert Daniel of St. Thomas, that will open the chapter on fine arts in the Virgin Islands. And they could sense that when the ancestral townhomes of some of the island’s most celebrated families have all but crumbled into obscurity, it is Dove’s paintings of those very buildings that will enable Crucians to recall the former splendor of St. Croix’s historic towns.  And when young men and women who grew up in Frederiksted and Christiansted leave their homeland in pursuit of careers in the arts, they will know of the commitment that is required to ensure success because they will have learned of true commitment to the arts from Dove. 

“I believe I lived a great life,” Dove said during his interview.  “I did everything to the best of my ability. The truth is that I am your most original artist. Your most original person. Your most original new writer. Your best teacher. All this because I’ve learned the most from God.”

It is clear that Dove recognized his impact on St. Croix.  It is clear that he was satisfied and at peace.   

[One of the provisions of Dove’s agreement with the St. Croix Foundation is for the Foundation to erect a tomb to mark his gravesite.  Per Dove’s request, the tombstone should be surmounted by a dove.  As of the date of this blogpost, Dove’s grave remains unmarked and in danger of being lost to the ravages of weathering or reuse.]

Wayne James’ “Going…Going…Gone: The Grandeur of Golden-Age Cuba” Set for World Premiere in Union City, New Jersey and Miami, Florida

Cuba Film Directed by Fashion Designer Wayne James to Premiere in Union City, NJ, on March 27, 2022

Wayne James, the St. Croix-born fashion designer, critically acclaimed author of Manly Manners, and former senator, will unveil Going…Going…Gone:  The Grandeur of Golden-Age Cuba at the William V. Musto Cultural Center (Musto) in Union City, New Jersey, on Sunday, March 27, 2022. Directed by James and produced by Kiwaun Cumberbatch, the film, already being touted a prototype of the emerging “quiltography” genre, is a masterful “piecing together” of photos, music, and archival film footage for the purpose of revealing a new truth or telling an untold story—the way a quiltmaker uses scraps of old fabric to create a new work of textile art.  

“To experience Going…Going…Gone is to attend a photo exhibition at the National Art Gallery, with a live concert in the Rotunda by Washington, DC’s Pan-American Symphony Orchestra (PASO), while receiving a guided tour by an archivist from the Newseum,” James said.  “The film is at once a feast for the eyes, the ears, and the mind.”   

The cornerstone of the three-part docufilm is James’ exceedingly rare collection of approximately 500 self-captioned photos of golden-age Cuba dating from 1890-1925.  Issued in 1925 by the Henry Clay and Bock & Co., Ltd., cigar company of Havana as photo-album collectibles for its preferred customers, James’ collection is believed to be the world’s largest, very few of the “Cuba Series” cards having survived the ravages of time. The University of Miami, for example, one of the world’s foremost repositories of Cuban archival material, only has 60 of the images.

James’ collection was begun by his maternal great-uncle, Alexander Messer, who migrated to Cuba from his homeland of St. Croix (former Danish West Indies) in 1918 at the age of 29.  Messer, a musician and sugarcane laborer, would occasionally enclose the photo-album cards in his letters home to his parents and siblings.  Alexander’s younger brother Alphonso, born in 1896, safeguarded the photos for more than a half century.  In 1973, at the age of 11, Wayne James inherited the nascent collection of approximately 100 photos, augmenting it over the decades.  In October of 2009, while visiting Cuba in his capacity of Senator of the United States Virgin Islands, James donated a copy of his collection—at the time encompassing some 250 images—to the University of Havana, which at the time had no archival knowledge of the photos.  

“The century-old photos take the audience on a panoramic journey of Cuba’s beautiful bays and harbors, its formidable colonial fortresses, the island’s seemingly countless palatial residences and civic buildings, its breathtakingly beautiful churches and cathedrals, as well as its great plantations, palm-flanked roads, picturesque parks and monuments, and impressive bridges and factories.

“The photographic record is a testament to 19th-century Cuba’s position as one of the grandest destinations in the New World,” James said.  “Havana’s broad boulevards rival their European counterparts.”

The visual excursion to bygone Cuba is seamlessly stitched together by the moving music of the island-nation’s esteemed 19th-century symphonic composers—Ignacio Cervantes, Jose White, Nicolas Espadero, Manuel Samuell, and Claudio Brindis de Salas—with masterfully interwoven film footage of live, Covid-era concerts by PASO performing some of the tango classics of Argentinian great Astor Piazzolla. And, of course, the film is audibly punctuated with Afro-Cuban conga rhythms and Santeria spirituals. 

To put the photos and music into a socio-historical context, Director James uses archival footage of Cuba’s great events and achievements of the 20th century:  Pre-Castro Cuba travel films; footage of the 1959 Castro-led Revolution; television broadcasts of the Mariel Boat Lift of 1980; gripping videos of the Elian Gonzalez saga; foreign correspondents’ reports of Cuba’s medical, athletic, and dance diplomacy; and the 2021 “Cubans Demanding Democracy” demonstrations, for example. 

“In this age of technology, with platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo, there is no need to ‘reinvent the reel’,” James said. “When treating historical subjects, the best information is that which is recorded as the events are unfolding, in real time.  And today, because of social media platforms, much of that archival material is readily accessible.  Why reconstruct in a Hollywood studio, for example, a dramatic struggle for freedom when there is authentic footage of that very struggle, oftentimes recorded by objective bystanders with their mobile devices and uploaded onto social media platforms? Today, the art is the reality. The mission of modern-day historical filmmaking is to skillfully quilt together what is already out there, oftentimes in the public domain,” James said.

Director Wayne James in Hamburg, Germany. Photo by Alessandro Sonetti.

Going…Going…Gone, after its March world premieres in Union City and Miami, will be made available to the public free of charge.

“The story of this film is a metaphor for the pursuit of freedom the world over,” James said.  “I was inspired to share my collection of photographs in the form of a film by my dear, dear Cuban friend, Luis C. Garcia-Menocal, great-grandson of Cuba’s third president, Mario Garcia-Menocal.  Luis’ nostalgia for Cuba is palpable, and I knew that my photos would provide solace not only to him, but also to Cubans the world over. This film has the power to ignite change. And the people who need this fillip must be able to receive it free of charge.”

Plans are underway to publish a coffee table book of the photos used in the film.  “It is a rare collection of photographs that should be shared with Cubans of the diaspora and the people of the world,” James concluded.

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.

Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men–Flavor in a Flash!!!

Spices from the far-flung corners of the world are blended to create Wayne James’ award-winning dry-rub.

Fashion designer, former senator, men’s lifestyle influencer, and Manly Manners author Wayne James has unveil his new line of herb-and-spice blends and dry-rubs specifically formulated for the 21st-century man.  Called Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men, the line features five all-natural, no-preservatives, kosher-certified blends:  all-purpose, salt-free, seafood, vegetarian, and game/holiday.

“My aim was to introduce a line of ‘quick-fix’ seasoning-blends that enables the novice as well as the expert to prepare gourmet-flavored meals in a matter of minutes,” James said.  “The modern man is flavor-conscious, but he is also very busy. He therefore needs a product that gives him quick, easy, but excellent results. Today’s man wants a seasoning that allows him to effortlessly expand beyond the backyard grill. And if adding some sex appeal to each meal is part of the deal, then so much the better.”

Blended and bottled in Maryland, spice capital of the United States, James’ packaging is decidedly and distinguishingly masculine:  glossy black caps; minimalistic black labels with gold lettering; detailed ingredients and nutritional listings. “The packaging nods at quintessentially male products such as distilled spirits, shaving creams, cigars, and condoms.  I want men to instinctively reach for the bottles, whether on a supermarket shelf or in a kitchen cabinet.  The packaging looks manly—as if to say, ‘I am more potent than other seasonings,’ ” James said.

But James’ line of seasonings is not off-limits to female customers.  “I definitely see women purchasing the seasonings for the men in their lives—as gifts or to encourage them to demonstrate their masculine prowess in the kitchen.  I also envision women purchasing the products for themselves, perhaps out of curiosity at first, then because of the seasonings’ distinctive flavor-profiles.

All five blends are based on recipes that have been in James’ family since the mid-1700s and feature 18 to 29 ingredients. And the designer, a gourmand in his own right, is no stranger to the food industry:  In 1993, rather than launching a fragrance like most other fashion designers, James introduced the Carnival Seasonings line which sold in outlets such as Fresh Fields (now Whole Foods), Dean and Deluca, and in military commissaries.

Fresh herbs on dark background

“Our business model has now shifted to online marketing to meet the demands of the modern customer,” James said. “Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men will be available in a few key stores around the world; but for the most part, customers will have to purchase the product online on Amazon, eBay, and http://www.waynejamesltd.com ”