10 Most Intriguing People in Maine

November 2009

James Craig

Portland’s new police chief is 3,000 miles from southern California, his home of 28 years, and staring down the barrel of his first Maine winter. “I am concerned about the climate, not having gone through a good Maine winter,” jokes Chief James Craig. “That could be a deciding factor.”

It’s unlikely that anything like snow, ice, sleet, or hail is going to deter the 52-year-old Craig. Certainly the money didn’t. He’s taken a significant pay cut, from the $170,000 he made as a captain in the Los Angeles Police Department to $91,000, but he says, “There is a good, supportive community here. I know together we can make a difference.”

Since you took office, has the situation with respect to crime, the community, and your department been what you anticipated?

Just before I took office, I became aware of the fragile relations between the police and some of the Sudanese. The second day after I arrived, I met with [the late] Angelo Okot [chairman of the Sudanese Community Association] to talk about the kind of things we could work on together to bridge the gap.

Since then, I’ve met with different groups within the African community. It was clear that many of the immigrants—not just the Sudanese—were not familiar with policing in the U.S. We’ve discussed launching a community police academy with a focus on new citizens. We see this as an opportunity to educate the immigrant community about why the police do certain things, with the sole purpose of building better relationships.

What do you see as your department’s top priorities?

First, we’d like to build and further develop our community policing.

Next would be launching our youth initiatives. We’ve had success with a Portland Police Explorer Post [which trains young cadets who are considering a career in law enforcement]. We’re looking at boosting the size of that program. Through the Police Athletic League, we’ll start youth basketball camps and games this fall and winter.

As part of my restructuring process, we’ll be establishing community sectors, each of which will be headed by a Senior Lead Officer (SLO) who’ll be the contact for that community. The purpose is to be able to work more closely with the community to solve concerns and enhance quality-of-life issues.

Some people are convinced Portland is a more violent city than it was a few decades ago. What do you hope to do about it?

Talking to long-time residents and police officers who’ve worked here for many years, I’ve heard that the crime picture has changed and that they’ve seen more incidents of violence and drug dealing. The drug issue is a concern for me. We’re also seeing a slight increase in what we think is gang activity. It’s not to a point where we should live in fear, but it’s certainly a concern. We’re gathering intelligence and working very hard to identify those involved.

Let me say candidly that the old Portland Police Department—and I put the emphasis on old—wasn’t very good about working closely with other agencies. The department has done a phenomenal job in addressing crime, but we could have done a better job of maintaining strong relations with our state and federal partners. That was one or two administrations ago. I’m working on rebuilding those relationships so we can work together as one team instead of separate fiefdoms. The other officers in the department are some of the best and are eager to work on these relationships, so the situation was not a reflection on the rank and file. It was something the old guard embraced, being very territorial.

How is your administration changing the way it addresses crime in the city?

I’ve launched CompStat [computer statistics]. It provides ways of analyzing crimes and seeing trends, and it gives you a benchmark and the ability to hold your management team accountable. Since we launched CompStat in August, we’ve seen a steady reduction in crime—and it’s not even fully up and running. Overall, crime is down 9 percent and, year to date, violent crime is down 13 percent.

But when I’m out there meeting with community groups, I hear, “We still feel that there are areas that aren’t safe.” While it’s nice to be able to say we’ve seen the reduction in crime, what’s equally important is the fear of crime. I can sit here and talk about crime reduction, but if you don’t feel safer, I haven’t done my job. –By Donna Stuart

Patricia Quinn

Patricia Quinn has a need for speed.

By Donna Stuart
It’s a little past 8 a.m., and two Downeaster trains have already left Portland, speeding at 79 miles per hour across Scarborough marsh on their way to Boston’s North Station…

Patricia Quinn has been at her desk for more than an hour.

Quinn is executive director of Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which coordinates passenger rail service for the State of Maine. When, with a staff of just four, you’re overseeing a budget of $15 million a year and a business that transports half a million people annually in three states over two railroads, the hours are long.

“There are days I wonder, ‘How in God’s name did I ever end up in this job?’” says the modest 45-year-old. “I went from making flyers for the pottery shop at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, Connecticut, to being out in a field looking at how many spikes are in a piece of rail–but I love it.”

Quinn moved to Maine in 1987, first working for an escorted tour business in northern Maine, then as the general manager and division manager for Erin Co., a chain-hotel firm with interests including Holiday Inns. By 2000, she was burnt out and looking for something new. That October, she was hired to plan the Downeaster’s inaugural run.

“I’d never even ridden on a train,” she confides, but she says her business background kicked in. “When you think of it, it wasn’t that different from what I’d been doing. In a hotel, you have an inventory of rooms. On a train, it’s an inventory of seats.” When, after a few months, the inaugural run was delayed, Quinn was hired full-time as NNEPRA’s development, marketing, and public relations director. In 2005, she became the executive director. Two years later, she was the recipient of the Amtrak President’s Award for Excellence.

For Quinn, the key to Downeaster’s success has been making the connections with partners, passengers, and railfans. “The service isn’t successful because of me or NNEPRA. It’s because of our partnerships with the host railroad Pan Am; the MBTA [Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, which runs greater Boston’s public transportation system]; Amtrak; our food service partner, Epicurean Feast; Trainriders/NorthEast, whose members serve as volunteer hosts on the train…the list goes on and on. Even though we don’t cover our costs through the fare box, we try to make the services streamlined and customer-focused. If the customers are happy, a lot of things fall into place.”

What Quinn hopes will fall into place soon is Stimulus Fund money to pay for improvements to the Portland to Boston line, as well as expansion north to Brunswick. The goal will be to make the trip to Boston from Portland in just 2 hours and 10 minutes–15 minutes less than the trip currently takes–and add two more round trips a day.”

This will also “allow us to make improvements to the track. The more sidings we add where trains can pass each other, the more flexibility and capacity we have. We won’t be increasing the top speed–the maximum speed will still be 79 miles per hour–but there are places we’ll make improvements, so instead of going 60 miles per hour, we’ll be able to go 75 or 79,” she explains. That’s still slower than the fastest train in North America, Amtrak’s Acela Express, which runs between Boston and Washington, D.C., with a top speed of 135 to 150 mph.

Quinn says expanding service to Brunswick–with a stop in Freeport, the number one tourism destination in the state–is critical to turning the train into a tourism engine for the region. “Every time you connect the dots, it gives you that much more opportunity. Now, 86 percent of travelers who ride the Downeaster are headed to Boston. It’s been a bit of a challenge to get people to use the train to come north to Maine. The State of Maine owns the Brunswick to Rockland branch and spent about $40 million to rehab it several years ago so it can support passenger rail. Right now the Maine Eastern Railroad runs an excursion service between Brunswick and Rockland. Making the connection to Brunswick also provides an additional 15 miles to Rockland.” The result: Riders will be able to go from Boston to Rockland, possibly as early as October 2011.

Quinn, who lives in Scarborough, finally did get her first train ride one month before the Downeaster’s inaugural run. Does she take the train when she vacations? “I really don’t [go on vacation]. I’m a homebody. I have two teenagers and a wonderful man in my life. I love to garden, cook and run.”

As if running the most successful train in the Amtrak system weren’t enough.

ramsay-kick-large-newGordon Ramsay

Yes, but is it a Maine lobster?

Interview by Colin S. Sargent

Gordon Ramsay, dressed in a white chef’s jacket and dark trousers, leans down next to the head chef of the Black Pearl in New York City to have a peek at the struggling lobster shack’s inventory.

“They’re all from Maine?” he asks.

“These are, uh…Maine, some from Canada…”

“These look like Canadian lobsters to me,” says Ramsay.

“Yeah, these are Canadian.”

Ramsay looks over at his harried colleague, fresh from a disappointing dinner service, who has been forced into cost-cutting measures by the restaurant owners he doesn’t believe in.

“So the Canadian lobsters–they’re always a lot cheaper. I use the Canadian lobsters for raviolis and tagliatelles and spaghetti. They’re not Maine lobsters.”

Ramsay, star of Fox’s Kitchen Nightmares and Hell’s Kitchen, as well as British television station Channel 4’s The F Word and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, has been awarded 16 Michelin stars and has created successful restaurants around the world, including Restaurant Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road in London and Gordon Ramsay at The London in New York City. A vocal advocate of fresh ingredients and local sourcing, Ramsay needs to confront one of the Black Pearl’s owners on the mislabeling.

“You told me about the passion for Maine lobster. Are you aware that the lobsters in your fridge are Canadian?” Ramsay stands with his arms folded, disgust beginning to well up in him like the lava under Vesuvius.

“Same waters, North Atlantic waters.”

“You’re telling me now that Canadian lobster, half the price of Maine lobster, has the same taste and flavor? There’s a big difference. I can’t get Maine lobsters!

“That’s right, so they get them from Ca–”

Ramsay interrupts. “I’m using Canadian lobsters!

The owner is back on his heels. “That’s right, that’s what they d–”

“But I don’t advertise them as Maine.”

“Tell me, is it a different animal?” the owner answers.

Ramsay is incredulous. “Maine…is a  Canadian lobster for you?”

Homarus Americanus–same animal, right?”

Ramsay shakes his head. “Holy f#¢&.”

“I’m asking you a question.”

Ramsay slows his voice, as if he’s speaking to a child. “What you’re trying to dictate to me is that you’re selling Maine lobster. They’re not from Maine.”

“Well, it comes from the same vendors.”

“Holy f#¢&.” Gordon draws out the epithet before he explodes, “The award-winning Maine lobster roll…is Canadian!”

We’re always delighted to speak to anyone whose admiration for Maine lobster matches ours. We got a chance to catch Gordon Ramsay in London, in between managing his 6 currently running television shows (not counting specials) and his 25 restaurants.

In Series Two, Episode Four of American Kitchen Nightmares, you visited the Black Pearl and had a spirited conversation with one of the owners, in which we were very pleased to see you share an appreciation for the magic of a Maine lobster worthy of a Mainer. For you, what’s so special about it?

Maine has a great reputation for lobster. Even though the lobster is in the same family as the Canadian lobster, there is something special about getting them from Maine. They are locally sourced and helping to maintain a tradition within the state.

While we Mainers like to think we’d always be able to tell the difference, is there a particular characteristic that tips you off to when you’re being served counterfeit Maine lobster?

Both the Canadian and Maine lobster are in the same family–they are the same animal–but the most obvious difference is the size and quality of the meat.

Nobody would really take a New York Strip when they’d ordered veal either, and that’s the same animal as well. Why would someone use Canadian lobster in restaurant-scale operations?

The price of the lobster varies with the seasons. Most suppliers will substitute with Canadian lobsters when there is a shortage of Maine lobster. During December and January, few lobsters come out of Maine, and there are more available from Canada.

How often have you suspected you might be getting Canadian lobster dressed as Maine?

It is a common practice, as it can be difficult to tell the difference. Using a good supplier that you have a good working relationship with probably helps prevent this!

As a chef who’s clearly shown how passionate he is about real food and real ingredients, what’s your opinion of food fraud? Does it make a difference if the customer never knows?

Of course! When a customer orders a meal, they expect what they see on the menu.  Substituting an ingredient or using a lower-end product is not an option. I use the best ingredients wherever available–it is the basis to a great meal.

We understand you were in Maine for three months in the not-too-distant past. What was the best meal you had in a Maine restaurant while you were here?

It was dinner at a restaurant called One Dock at the Kennebunkport Inn.

Oh, that must have been very recently, since they’ve only had the new menu and the name “One Dock” since the end of June 2009. What were you doing here?

I’d surf, as I love Maine’s coastline. It’s stunning.

Particularly at Gooch’s Beach. What do you think of the lobster advocates who claim it’s morally wrong to put a live lobster into a boiling pot?

Putting a lobster straight into boiling water is one of the fastest and more humane ways of killing it. This may not seem right to some people.

Some ‘lobster virgins’ can be afraid of the appearance of, and the experience of, eating a lobster. Do you have any recommendations for helping them past this?

There are many different ways to cook and eat lobster. Maybe at first not showing them the whole body, encouraging them to help you prepare them, and gradually introducing them to the legs and claws. Avoid the green stuff!

Since I’ve got this opportunity, I’ve got to ask this question. What New England meal would you recommend to cook for a hot date?

You can’t go wrong with a clam bake–with lobster, clams, mussels, and corn on the cob.

Sounds like it would go great with beer and conversation. We’ve seen so many variants on the lobster roll, including lemon juice and curry. Have you got a personal twist on the famous Maine sandwich you’d be willing to share with us?

It has to be simple! Lobster, mayo, celery on grilled hot dog roll with butter…

And the lobster has to be from Maine.

Colin S. Sargent has a Master’s in history and has lived south of London–where he caught the cooking bug–as well as south of Portland. He is continuing his studies toward a Ph.D. at Northeastern University and recently returned from China, where he furthered his exploration of regional cuisine.

Mary Pols

Accidentally on Purpose in Maine

By Donna Stuart

Many women might be reluctant to tell even their closest friends about a one-night stand. Brunswick native Mary Pols not only confessed to family and friends, she wrote a memoir about it: Accidentally on Purpose: A One-Night Stand, My Unplanned Parenthood, and Loving the Best Mistake I Ever Made.

Even before it was published, she sold the story to television. Accidentally on Purpose, starring Jenna Elfman, premiered in September on CBS in the highly coveted time slot between How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men.

Pols and her child’s father opted not to watch the series opener on September 21; instead, they went out for a quiet dinner. A week earlier, she’d been at the taping of the sixth episode. “Even though I prepared myself, watching the show was very, very weird, like something out of The Player [the Robert Altman film] or a Woody Allen movie.”

Pols sees more points of difference than similarities between the show’s main character, Billie, and herself. “She has an apartment that looks pretty nice to me, with an extra room she can turn into a nursery. I didn’t hear her stress about money, but that was really on my mind. It looks like she’s going to have a more active dating life than I did, or than I do. She doesn’t seem at this point to be too concerned with the state of journalism; I no longer have a job at a newspaper. The only similarity is that she–both the character and Jenna, the actress–likes to make people laugh, and that’s me.”

Pols does approve of the casting. She’s blogged, “I liked [Elfman] on Dharma & Greg. I think she’s a gifted comedian, especially when it comes to the physical stuff, and when I met her in person, she was beautiful, graceful, and sweet.”

But Pols doesn’t like the show’s portrayal of Billie as a ‘cougar.’ “I find the whole cougar thing gross, and I want no part of it. I did say to the people at CBS that I hoped they wouldn’t play up the whole cougar thing, because I think society is already over it. It’s now considered a turn-off.”

When Pols got pregnant, she was 39, living in northern California and working as an entertainment writer for the Contra-Costa Times. As one of six siblings born to a Bowdoin College philosophy professor and a stay-at-home mom, Pols had always wanted a baby—but as part of a life with a soul mate. Instead, after 11 months of celibacy and an evening of too much wine, she had a one-night stand with Matt, an unemployed twenty-nine-year-old she’d just met.

Three weeks later, she found she was pregnant and, realizing how much she wanted to keep the baby, told Matt.

“I asked him how he felt about babies, and he replied, ‘Well, everyone wants a child.’” If Matt wasn’t the man of her dreams or life- partner material, at least he’d be devoted to their child.

Over the ensuing months, Pols struggled to balance working, paying the bills, an unemployed baby father (who lived with her sporadically), and the needs of her family in Maine. Her mother, suffering from dementia, was in a nursing home; her father, in failing health, had an Irish Catholic take on out-of-wedlock pregnancies. With humor, startling honesty, and an acerbic wit, Pols recounts in her memoir the story of her pregnancy, son Dolan’s birth, the death of both her parents, and how she and Matt found their way as co-parents.

Birthing the 272-page book wasn’t easy. “My editor, Lee Boudreaux at HarperCollins, is wonderful, but she was a brutal taskmaster. I thought because I was writing a book, I could go on and on. She kept slashing, tightening, and making it move at a really fast pace. There were many, many drafts. She’d read a draft and send me a 12-page, single-spaced letter about what I needed to do.”

For Pols, Maine was always the heart of the story. “There were points in the draft that had me spending so much time going back and forth to Maine. My editor said, ‘This book is supposed to be set in California…’ How do you explain to anyone, if you’re from Maine, how important it is to you? I’ve lived on the West Coast for 20 years, but I’m still a Mainer. The most important story in my life takes place as much in Maine as in California. I had to fight to keep Maine, but it ended up being a slightly smaller part of the book.”

Pols returns each summer to stay at the Boathouse, the waterfront cottage in Phippsburg that her family has rented each summer since she was a child. “We’re already signed up for next year. It’s really trite, but when I come back, I have to eat lobster as much as possible and in as many forms as possible. To get them, we go down to Small Point Fish near Sebasco Lodge [now Sebasco Harbor Resort], where I worked when I was in college. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a better job than when I was a waitress at the Lodge. The other thing I have to do is get in the water. All year I dream of swimming in Maine. I feel like I’m not really myself until I’m in that water. The one line I can remember from sixth-grade poetry is, ‘I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,’ and that’s how I feel.”

Five-year-old Dolan loves it, too. “He’s filled with joy when he’s in Maine. If it weren’t for keeping him close to his father and my work as a movie critic, I’d move back to Maine in a heartbeat.” This past summer, she and Dolan also spent time in Boston and Brunswick. “We went to Fenway. It was amazing—and a little embarrassing because he rooted for the A’s. The A’s lost, and he cried.”

When the conversation turns to Brunswick, it’s clear that Bowdoin was a powerful influence in Pols’s life. “[Growing up], to be so close to a place that is so rich in culture, to be a little girl playing on the steps of the Museum of Art, running in and out of the building and knowing those galleries almost as well as I knew my own house… to be taken to theater at the college, which my mother did from the time we were very young, or to be taken to movies–the fact that it was all there was really essential. I love seeing my nieces and nephews having the
same experience.”

Pols isn’t sure that Maine will be part of the sitcom. “CBS bought it, and they get to do with it what they want. It’s too bad.” Initially Pols wasn’t sure she wanted to sell the television rights. “I considered not selling it—it’s not really that much money. And what if it’s really embarrassing? I’m not a TV snob by any means. I’m devoted to Mad Men and Project Runway. We did some negotiating. Then I asked Ann Packer, who wrote The Dive from Clausen’s Pier, which was turned into a Lifetime movie. She told me selling to television was like found money; you’ve already done the work, so go for it–and I did.”

Selling the television rights and her first book hasn’t made her wealthy. Pols still lives in the same rented duplex she moved into while pregnant. “In March 2008, I took a buy-out from the newspaper and then freelanced. The first six months was really slow. I was just being rejected or not having e-mails even returned.” The money she received has given her the opportunity to focus on writing a novel.

“I have two novels started; I’m waiting to see which takes hold. The one I’m more excited about is set in Maine at a resort; the inspiration is Sebasco. I’ve read so many books set in Maine that are written by people who don’t really know it. The other is set in Italy. It’s important when you’re writing to put yourself in a place geographically that makes you happy.”

Alter Ego

Jenna Elfman

is not a Mainer, but she plays one on TV–in her new  CBS prime time comedy Accidentally on Purpose.

Your show navigates through some interesting territory–“about a single woman, Billie, who finds herself ‘accidentally’ pregnant after a one-night stand” with a 22-year-old man, Zack. It’s full of snappy humor alternating with flashes of real self-awareness. Is that what draws you to the character?

Yes. The situation of what’s happening in this girl’s life–what her friends say, what her reactions are, her ex-boyfriend’s reactions (he’s also her present boss)–and the great scripts are what make this show different. There are big changes in Billie’s life–she’s pregnant, with all this craziness around her, yet she somehow finds a way for her confidence, self-doubt, and sarcasm to coexist. She is able to find joy.

What’s it like knowing the real-life version of your character, Billie, is alive somewhere–in this case in Maine?

Because I’ve gotten to meet Mary Pols [the Phippsburg resident who is the author of the bestselling memoir Accidentally on Purpose, on which the show is based], I’m completely in love with her. She’s so charming and witty and funny and smart, and I think she knows that in order to make this show a comedy we have to take her life situation and run with it a bit to keep it a comedy venue week to week. So there’s always some differences, and her Billie is different from this one.

Meeting Pols must have been like looking through a looking glass–seeing someone who resembles your character as you interpret her but is necessarily different.

She came and visited us on set several episodes in. I’d asked Claudia Lonow, our writer and executive producer, if she thought I should read the book before we started filming. She said, “Let’s read it later, and create what we’re going to create now.” I think that was a good thing. Now that I know ‘where the funny is’ [in terms of the show], I’ve loved reading the book for additional layers of who Billie is. I’m fascinated with how she can express her self-doubt in such a confident way.

You’re from Los Angeles, and originally the book had a split setting of California and Maine. It makes sense to set the show in California–arguably the un-Maine–to simplify things. But do you think of Maine as the alternate world of setting that almost happened, waving to you outside the window?

Reading the book, I just remember thinking, that’s where her family lives. I’m reading it from such a point of view of the show. Wow, we don’t have Maine as part of this. I don’t have heavy family as part of this. This is Mary-specific. This is particular to her. Maine’s so different from San Francisco. The juxtaposition of her family, what that meant to her, is such a different road running beside the San Francisco craziness.

Maybe when Billie needs to be alone for a while she could clear her head in a place like Maine, even if it’s somewhere in California. Practically speaking, where would that be?

(Laughs) We can’t get away from our characters, or there wouldn’t be any story. She’d have to bring her sister and her best friend with her. Maybe…Marin County?

Have you ever been to Maine before?

I toured with Z.Z. Top as a dancer in 1994. I remember just getting out and walking in Portland. We were in a tour bus. I remember walking over a beautiful bridge over a river and really taking the whole feeling of it in. I remember there was this bridge.

You’re really the center of this show. What’s that feeling like, where everyone is keying on the expression on your face after something’s just happened?

It’s more in this show than anything I had in Dharma & Greg. I love reacting. It’s letting whatever happens really land on you and absorbing it. Letting some big moment really land on you and finding an unexpected reaction.

There’s a neat tone in the show that’s rapid-fire-funny and then thoughtful as you transparently examine your own motives.

Even when she gets herself in a pickle, there’s a part of Billie that likes the life experience of the pickle and the craziness. She likes mocking herself. She’s slightly enjoying the craziness because it’s living–it buffers a total neurotic introversion.

What are your secret vices on set? Where do you get your energy?

Usually it’s going to my dressing room and seeing my two-and-a-half-year-old boy, who fills me up with such joy. And I’m usually sipping some kind of tea throughout the show.

When will Billie have her baby?

She’ll have the baby in the season finale.

How do you approach that as an actress?

I am pregnant with my second baby right now. My due date is in March.

Ah, the Stanislavski method! Our readers wouldn’t let us get away without asking you to describe the difference between Billie and Dharma.

Dharma was a brand new Volkswagen with a flower on it, cute, perky, and fun, while Billie is a cool, vintage Mercedes convertible, with style and classic lines and a great curve. You know those small, white Mercedes convertibles from the 1950s that look as though they’re about to start speaking French or something? Billie has experienced life, she loves life, and she doesn’t take it too seriously but is aware of her situation. Because she’s a movie critic, she has this strange exterior view of her experience while exploring her feelings on the inside, too.

Again, some interesting gray areas, made more dramatic by a selective relationship where one moment she can love what she needs to love about Zack and then another moment dismiss him outright.

These scripts have been created with such dimension. You don’t feel one way about someone. You feel multiple ways about someone. I love that he stayed in my life. I love that he stayed with me. But he’s a 22-year-old male. That universe is not her universe. When that whole 22-year-old boy thing comes up, she’s humored by it but feels no need to take it seriously.

If you could pick an actress from the last 100 years–someone who can be accessible or even callous when the situation requires it–to play your part just so you could have the fun of watching her, who would you choose?

Now don’t make it seem like I’m comparing myself to them, because I’m not! But what I’d like to see is…sort of a cross between Rosalind Russell and Katharine Hepburn.  –Interview by Colin Sargent

Emmett Beliveau

Few can keep up with President Obama. It’s Emmett Beliveau’s job to stay ahead of him.

By Donna Stuart

There’s a picture of Emmett Beliveau sitting in President Jimmy Carter’s lap at his maternal grandparents’ house in Wayne, Maine, on February 19, 1978. Just a toddler, Beliveau was already in the thick of political life. Today, the 32-year-old son of former state representative and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Severin Beliveau is the director of advance for President Barack Obama. Having served in that capacity throughout Obama’s candidacy, he’s now responsible for planning and organizing every major event that takes place outside the White House, including the president’s foreign and domestic trips. Since January, Beliveau has traveled ahead of presidential visits to France, Germany, Italy, Canada, the U.K., Czech Republic, Iraq, Russia, and Egypt. His next trip will likely be to Oslo, Norway, in advance of the president’s acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10.

“I grew up around politics in Maine and spent a lot of time at the capitol up and down the corridors of the third floor, so it was something I was exposed to a very young age. My first exposure to advance was when President Clinton and Senator Mitchell visited Deering Oaks Park [in 1993]. Seeing a couple of guys, whom I now understand were advance people, organizing the logistics of the event from the crowd control to the visuals and the program, I said, “I think I want to do that someday.” In the summer of 1996, when President Clinton came back to Maine, I was involved as a volunteer helping the advance team and really caught the bug; after graduating from college, I went on to do it full-time for the Gore campaign.

“I met [then Senator] Obama in the fall of 2006. I was practicing law in D.C. and had taken off a couple of weeks from work to go down to Tennessee to volunteer on Harold Ford’s Senate race. Sen. Obama came to Nashville for a day to campaign for Congressman Ford. I put together the senator’s visit and traveled around with him that day. I was wildly impressed with his message and with him as a person and believed almost instantly that if he decided to run for president, as was speculated at the time, I very much wanted to be part of that campaign. I told him that that day. Several months later, in February 2007, I found myself in Springfield, Illinois, planning his campaign announcement event.

“In the summer of 2008, when I organized the rally in Berlin [attended by a crowd of 250,000], I made two trips to Germany, one by myself to scout out different locations, and then back with a large advance team two weeks prior to when the president came through. We worked with the German officials to organize what was the only public event of the president’s foreign tour that summer. The German people and the officials in Berlin were incredibly gracious hosts, and we couldn’t have done it without them.

“I think the best moment for me was on election night, watching the president-elect of the United States take the stage in Grant Park in downtown Chicago. My daughter was one day old and in the hospital–10 days early and about 10 blocks down the street, at Prentice Women’s Hospital. The plan all along was to have her in Chicago, but Maeve didn’t want to miss the action, so she showed up a day before election day.

“The inauguration was a wonderful American celebration and an incredibly powerful experience for me, for my family, and for my three-month-old baby girl. I was lucky to work with such an incredible team who put that inaugural together.

“Obviously the inauguration is more than just the moment when the president takes the oath of office. There were days of events and of service and celebration around that time. At the Presidential Inaugural Committee, or PIC, which I led, we had a staff of about 425 that started from a dead stop about a week after election day. It took about seven or eight weeks to ramp up, to organize the inaugural events, and then to ramp back down.

“Essentially I now have a desk job in D.C., where I’m managing the advance staff. I don’t travel with the president. We work anywhere from two months to six days ahead of him.”

Asked if there’s a picture of the next generation of Beliveaus sitting on the lap of the president, the proud father replies, “No, Maeve hasn’t met the president yet. We’re looking to do that maybe around her first birthday, if the president is available.”

Deborah Rice

Staring down the chemical lobby

By Donna Stuart

Fall 2009 is hot time for Dr. Deborah Rice. The 62-year-old toxicologist, who works for the Maine CDC, was just about to take a long-planned vacation in Iceland when, out of the blue, she won $100,000.

No, it wasn’t the lottery.

The Heinz Foundation chose Dr. Rice as a Heinz Award recipient for her research into neurotoxicology leading to the conclusion  that “early exposure to major environmental pollutants–lead, methylmercury, and PCBs–can plant the seeds for later deficits in cognitive, sensory, and motor function.”

The award citation continues, “Dr. Rice’s work has also led to national and state policies that regulate exposure to developmental toxicants.”

Dr. Rice’s studies of the flame-retardant chemical, decaBDE “resulted in the 2007 ban of decaBDE by the Maine legislature” which led to other states following suit.

But decaBDE did not go gentle into that good night.

After Dr. Rice, a former risk assessor at the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, testified before the Maine Legislature about decaBDE in 2007 as an independent scientist, she chaired a national five-member peer review panel on the flame retardant, with comments forwarded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for review.

Then the American Chemistry Council, the lobbying group for the chemical industry, wrote a letter to the EPA, asking for her removal from the panel, charging conflict of interest because of her earlier testimony in Maine. The EPA complied, striking her comments from the record, even though it was common to have scientists with ties to industry on such panels.

“Initially it was embarrassing,” says Rice. “Then I realized it was just the industry being the industry. The fact that a Bush appointee would agree with the industry wasn’t surprising. Then I began to enjoy watching what was going on.”

The controversy escalated into a whirlwind of accusations of undue industry influence within EPA, leading Congress to investigate and changes to be made.

“It didn’t make any difference at all whether my comments were there or not. It made no difference that I was chairing the session; all that meant was that I was running the meeting. My comments [held no more weight] anyone else’s.”

So why the kerfluffle?

“The only reason I could come up with was that other states had bills in to ban deca. The industry really wanted to keep deca in production [because] it’s very lucrative. I think their real agenda was to discredit me so they could go to Illinois or any other state and say, ‘You shouldn’t pay any attention to what happened in Maine because the EPA says Rice is a biased scientist.’”

When asked if winning the Heinz Foundation award feels like payback, Rice bursts into laughter. “It’s really the icing on the cake. It was worth it! When the head of the foundation called and said it was an award and it’s $100,000, my first question was: ‘What?’ My second question was, ‘Why?!’ I was just stunned. I feel so honored to be the recipient of this award because I don’t feel like I ever set out to change the world. I guess what I have going for me is that I don’t hesitate to speak my mind, and I don’t back down.”

Carolyn Gage

Greetings from Lesbos, Maine

By Donna Stuart

Who are we, and where have we come from? For some of us, looking at our immediate family provides all the answers we need. Lesbian playwright and activist Carolyn Gage has been searching for her own history for more than 20 years.

“When I realized I was a lesbian, which happened in my early thirties, that was the most compelling story because that was the one that had been kept from me. I really needed to go find my people, and when I found them, it was so fascinating, and our history is so amazing; those were the stories I wanted to tell on the stage,” says the 57-year-old. She tells some of those stories in Greetings from Lesbos, Maine: A Theatrical Journey through Maine’s Lesbian History. Written and directed by Gage and Meghan Brodie, an instructor in USM’s theater department, the production includes stories of famous lesbians who were from Maine or spent time here. Audiences meet Sarah Orne Jewett, author Natalie Barney, poet Renée Vivien, and novelist Marguerite Yourcenar. Gage takes the stage as Cornelia ‘Fly Rod’ Crosby, the first Maine hunting guide, in The Parmachene Belle. The solo show is taken from the collection of plays that won Gage the 2009 Lambda Literary Award for the best LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] drama in the U.S.

“When I started out, a lot of people felt very threatened going to LGBT theater, and most of my audience was lesbian,” explains Gage, a graduate of Portland State University in Oregon. “When I moved to Portland [Maine] and started producing my work, all kinds of folks came to see the shows. There’s a sense here that anything that goes on in Portland is of interest to Portlanders. It’s like, ‘We may not know much about this, we may even be a bit nervous about it, but you’re a neighbor, and we’re going to come.’”

The Dartmouth Street resident has high praise for Portland’s theater community. “As a freelance playwright, occasional producer, and sometime touring artist, I have had so many opportunities. The St. Lawrence Art Center has co-sponsored me, and Mike Levine with Acorn Productions has been hugely supportive.

“When lesbians, who don’t normally grow up in lesbian families, go to find their history, we just keep running into all these locked doors,” she continues. “People say, ‘Oh, of course if she had a husband, she couldn’t be…,’ or ‘There’s no proof she was a lesbian. Just because Fly Rod wore men’s clothes and looked kind of masculine doesn’t mean anything.’ But I think Fly Rod was in my community, and I want to know her history and how she negotiated that identity in 1890-something.

“One thing about Mainers is that we’re incredibly proud of our history. Let’s put the lesbian history on the table because we have such famous women here. If your daughter came home and told you she was a lesbian, and the first thing you thought of was Sarah Jewett or Fly Rod Crosby, that’s a very different thing than if you’re immediately thinking of something pornographic or what you might have heard in church about burning in hell forever.

“During this recent campaign [to repeal marriage equality in Maine], the outsiders, the haters [have been] trying to scare people, saying that if gay marriage is legal in Maine, your children will be taught about homosexuality at a really young age. They’re trying to scare parents, using lies. At this point, all children are assumed to be heterosexual, and everything they learn, even at three years old, is about heterosexuality, like the prince and the princess. And they’re learning it’s the entire world and that anything else is weird or wrong. What we’re doing to the children right now is way scarier than the kind of open examples when same sex people can get married.

“If you sit down to a table full of lesbians my age and ask, ‘Who ever thought of killing yourself?’ most hands will go up. I wrote a play, Ugly Ducklings, about girls in a Maine summer camp and the impact of homophobia on girls. Homophobia is very frightening, especially for children–people calling you queer, and sometimes you’re so young you don’t know what it means, but you know [what they’re saying is that] there’s something really wrong with you. The play deals with the fact that children can and do take their own lives as a result of gay-baiting. Statistically, something like 40 percent of child suicides are related to LGBT issues–and then there’s homelessness, because they’re not able to stay in their homes. To me, it’s high time that kind of childhood went away.”

Arthur Fournier

Tugs of war

By Donna Stuart

The stories flow easily from Arthur Fournier, who’s like a Borscht Belt comedian with a well-rehearsed schtick. He knows how to tell tales and how to move the goods. He’s owned and operated tugboat and barge businesses from New York to Belfast and a short line railroad in Cleveland, and he’s been a tugboat captain and senior docking pilot in Portland Harbor. By turns, the 78-year-old is garrulous, pugnacious, and even charming…but after agreeing to be interviewed, he cautions, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Are tugboat captains known for circumspection and manners?

Granted, the U.S. Coast Guard did give Fournier the Meritorious Public Service Award in May 2001, saying, “His actions have set a standard of excellence in ship-handling and port safety over a period of significant tanker traffic growth in Portland.” But it’s not always been awards or his skills in ship-handling that have put Fournier’s name in the headlines during his 63-year-long career. Most recently it’s been for a family-splitting legal action that pits Fournier against his son, Brian.

The oldest of Fournier’s three living sons (eldest son Billy died in a barge accident in 1985), Brian Fournier used to work with his father. In 2001, the senior Fournier says he sold his Portland tugboat assets for $9 million to McAllister Towing, which operates Portland Tugboat, LLC. He emphasizes that McAllister didn’t buy his business. “It was never the sale of the company. They bought the tugboat assets, which included four tugboats, a barge, and a pick-up truck. That’s what they bought.” At the same time, Brian Fournier was named president of Portland Tugboat, which took over guiding the majority of ship traffic in and out of Portland Harbor.

Earlier this summer, several years after a no-compete clause expired, Arthur and his two younger sons, Patrick and Doug, steamed back into Portland Harbor and began offering lower rates for moving and docking ships. On July 31, Portland Tugboat filed suit against him alleging trademark infringement related to use of what it considers a nearly identical business name, Portland Towing and Ship Service, Inc. Fournier has filed a suit against his son, charging defamation of character for statements he says Brian made to customers. When asked if it’s distressing to be locked in a legal battle with Brian, Fournier replies shortly, “Not in the least. He decided his best interests are with McAllister. So that’s the way it is.”

Arthur Fournier never has been one to back away from a fight, and anyone who would take him on should be warned: He always carries a pistol in his pocket. “I was shot in a hold-up by three pisanos on January 22, 1972, at my office in Charlestown, Massachusetts,” he says. “Three guys were waiting for me in my office trailer, and when I come in, they started shooting. I was shot 12 times in probably 8 seconds. They didn’t know I had a permit to carry and that I will never allow myself to be taken by anybody for any reason, for any thing.” As he’s told the Maine Sunday Telegram, “I die hard.”

He details his injuries: “Three in the center of the chest, center of the belly, and lower right abdomen; three in the right leg; one in the left leg; one in the left arm; one in the left shoulder; three in the right hand; and one in the ass.” He provides photos of himself, skinny and naked except for briefs and bandages, with scars plainly visible.

He apparently is more forgiving of the men who shot him than the son who worked side-by-side with him from a young age. Fournier later encountered one of his assailants at the Massachusetts General Hospital, where they both were undergoing rehabilitation for the injuries they received in the shoot-out. For Fournier, there were no hard feelings. When a blizzard kept the assailant from getting a ride home, Fournier drove him. “It was only a fight. Let sleeping dogs lie. It was over.”

He tells the story of the shoot-out as part of what he calls his gig, a one-hour slide show on his life that he’s given to Propeller Clubs in Boston, Portland, and Providence. “I could do my comedy show right down at the Comedy Connection,” he claims unabashedly. See it, and you’ll see his scars, too. “If you see my comedy show, I have my leopard thong, and that’s how I end it.”

Through the last 20 years, Fournier has kept his South Portland residence at 1 Bay Road, with a stone patio overlooking the shipping channel and Spring Point Light, with private access to Willard Beach. While negotiating for the house early on, he says, “My real estate agent told me, ‘Now you can sit in this house and watch the boats go by,’ and I said, ‘For $850,000, I can sit in my boat and watch the houses go by.’”

Roxanne Quimby

The Burt’s Bees philanthropist drops some sweet honey in Portland

Burt’s Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby’s deft purchase of 658 Congress Street as an artists’ residency and studio center for just $350,000 has everyone buzzing in Longfellow Square. Most recently the site of Zinnia’s Antiques–and before that a haberdashery–the three-story brick and slate Queen Anne landmark across the street from Joe’s Smoke Shop will provide an urban oasis for the downtown arts colony Quimby, 58, hopes to sustain here with the help of incentives from the city, such as a requested $100,000 ceiling on fees related to reduction of housing space.

After restoration, the structure’s Arts & Crafts interior is sure to sparkle with new studio and exhibition opportunities.

It’s yet another signal that Longfellow Square, with its new restaurants and performance spaces, is regaining its long-lost status a tony part of town.

Though 658 Congress Street isn’t quite ready for the First Friday Art Walk.

Via daughter Hannah Quimby, who directs many of Quimby Family Foundation‘s good deeds, Quimby tells us, “At this point [we] are not prepared to discuss the art program [as we] have not cleared the regulatory hurdles presented by the city of Portland. Once [we] have the green light from the city to proceed,” more specifics will emerge “…after a series of meetings with the city council.

We can’t wait to see you turn on the green light, Roxanne.

Felicia  Knight

Knight moves

By Laura Paine

Step 1. Reconsider your career in musical theater. Step 2. As the most respected news anchor in Maine, make on-air glasses cool years before Ashleigh Banfield. Step 3. Head down to Washington for a fun career as Sen. Susan Collins’s spokesperson…just in time for 9/11. Hey, it’s all about timing.

“September 11, 2001, gave me a whole new appreciation for where I was and what I was doing. I remember a reporter in Portland asking me soon after if I was afraid to be working in Washington, specifically in the Capitol. (Security was extremely tight then, no planes were flying, there were armed soldiers on every corner near the Capitol building, outside all the Senate and House office buildings, and all federal agency buildings.) I replied something to the effect that I was not fearful and refused to live in fear because that was precisely the aim of the attacks. I added that two of the terrorists got a plane in Portland, Maine. Should people in Portland live in fear too? Everyone on Capitol Hill felt a firm resolve to keep working and remain strong. An attitude that served us very well, since a month later D.C., and specifically some Senate office buildings, were hit with the anthrax attacks.

“At the time, Sen. Collins was a senior member of the then Governmental Affairs Committee, now the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (of which she is currently the Ranking Member). She immediately grasped the long-term effects these attacks would have on our country and our security. In the intervening years, she’s dealt with everything from co-authoring the most sweeping overhaul of the nation’s intelligence community in more than 50 years on a national scale, to securing more funding for local first responders to have the equipment they need to respond to a terrorist attack on the local level.”

Dreaming of one day returning to Maine and catching a good night’s sleep, Knight left Senator Collins’s office in March of 2003–only to accept a position as Director of Communications for the National Endowment for the Arts. No pressure.

“My first real test of being under fire happened about six months after my arrival. It was announced that we had given a grant to the La Jolla Playhouse, one of the premier incubator theatres in the country, in California, for the commissioning of a new musical, ‘loosely based on the life of Andrew Cunanan.’ Cunanan was the man who, in 1997, killed several people, including fashion designer Gianni Versace. The artistic director for La Jolla at that time was Des McAnuff – a highly respected leader in American theatre with a solid reputation.

“The play had been commissioned but not a word had yet been written. There was, however, an outcry from the right who declared that we were ‘glorifying murder and homosexuality’ (Cunanan was gay) and denunciation from the gay community that we were focusing ‘a spotlight on a gay killer.’ The story was beginning to gain traction in the conservative press–editorials in some newspapers around the country and on the web–and was beginning to get the attention of some conservative members of Congress.

“Understanding how quickly something like this can become a ‘cause’ and fuel for the high octane world of cable shouting matches, we moved on this very quickly to shut the argument down, beginning with the fact that the play hadn’t been written yet. All this vitriol for a play that didn’t exist? I did many interviews, and wrote some op-ed pieces making the point that far from glorifying the life of a troubled and dangerously delusional young man, the play was planned instead as an examination ‘of a culture obsessed with money, power, and fame…an investigation of obsession with celebrity and wealth…with unattainable desires.’ Cunanan himself wasn’t even a character in the proposed play. In one column, I argued that “artistic renderings of actual crime and violence have been the subject of art throughout history, among them the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ. From Socrates to Santayana, we have been warned about unexamined lives and condemnations of repeating the past. Artistic examinations and remembrances of the past have existed throughout civilization, whether interpreting the Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust, or the tragic story of a sociopath who terrorized a nation.

The play eventually was written and workshopped and got generally favorable reviews.

Then there’s the Andy Garcia story.

“While I was with the NEA, I was invited to attend a conference in California held by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. As part of the conference, Andy Garcia was going to be speaking about his Cuban heritage and a new movie he had directed [The Lost City] which was set in Cuba. Because of my journalism background, I was invited to conduct an ‘Interview with Andy Garcia’ in front of the conferees.

“I’m a huge Andy Garcia fan, so I readily accepted this. This was a crowd of major league movers and shakers. This was an assignment that I wanted to hit out of the park.

“It was a conference, and you know how boring things can get when you’re in a big room listening to panels and speakers all day, so I also wanted to bust up the routine a little.

“When it came time to begin, it was announced to the crowd that this discussion was being videotaped for the UCLA archives. So, I began by looking into the camera, out at the crowd and saying, ‘In tenth grade, my boyfriend dumped me for a cheerleader. Well, now I’m on stage with Andy Garcia, and she’s not!’ At that moment, Andy Garcia leaned over and kissed me, and the crowd roared. I really don’t remember much beyond Andy Garcia kissing me.”

What was it like, hanging out at the Kennedy Center and plumbing the mysteries of Foggy Bottom?

“My husband [Towle Tompkins, director of TV operations at Resort Sports Network] and I were there for New Year’s Eve 1999 to see Martin Guerre. It wasn’t very good, but we had a lovely time dancing in the grand foyer greeting the new millennium!

“The most fun, though, is to be in the President’s box, [where I found myself] three or four times over my ten years in D.C.” Even on nights when the president’s not there, [you still] “get the Presidential M&Ms and little bottles of champagne. No one ever eats the candy, though. They bring it home to their kids. Not having kids, I ate the candy and drank the champagne.”

For 8½ years, Knight lived “in Cleveland Park, off Connecticut Avenue on Porter Street, walking distance to the Uptown Theatre and the National Zoo. The last year and a half I lived in Southeast, on New Jersey Avenue in a brand new building about three blocks from the new Nationals’ ballpark and within easy biking distance of Eastern Market and Capitol Hill. Two great neighborhoods.

“I didn’t do much nightclubbing–but I’ll admit to having some favorite bars. In my Capitol Hill days, we frequented a place on the Hill called Bistro Bis, in the Hotel George V. Great martinis.

“I’m also a fan of Bardeo up in Cleveland Park, the bar at Oceanaire downtown. An Arts Endowment colleague and I have had some very late nights at the Oceanaire. Also, Zaytinya and Jaleo, both José Andrés restaurants. A very little known gem is the bar in the Henley Park Hotel on [926 Mass Ave. NW]. The bar at the Mayflower is cozy, as is Le Bar in the Sofitel. I also like Urbana at the Palomar Hotel. If I make this list of bars much longer, it will be incriminating. A great restaurant about 70 miles outside D.C. is The Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Virginia.”

When Knight’s tenure at the NEA ended in April of 2008 she immediately joined Collins for Senator as the Deputy Campaign Manager. After closing the campaign office at the end of November, she decided to take December off before starting on her latest adventure: opening a media consulting company, Knight Vision International.

The elephant in the living room: Why not continue working with Senator Collins? “To everything there is a season. I spent five years on the Senator’s staff six years ago, and also worked on her first re-election campaign.

“When I returned to Maine last year, it was with the idea of starting my own media-consulting firm. But I was invited to work on Senator Collins’s re-election campaign as Deputy Campaign Manager. I have great admiration for her and for her Chief of Staff, Steve Abbott, and so I joined up. I’m grateful she gave me the opportunity to be part of one of the best-executed campaigns in the country in 2008. But it was always with the understanding that after the campaign I was going to start my own firm. And now I’m enjoying this new adventure.

“You can find almost everything you want in Maine. If you want the splendor of the ocean you have it; if you want the solitude of the Maine woods you have it; if you want mountains, go climb a mountain; if you want a lake, it’s there.

“Last winter was my reintroduction to shoveling and running a snow blower. It was fine. Besides, I just told myself to be patient because a nice, long, sunny, summer was coming. Oops.”

When Knight first started studying theater, she never thought her path would change so drastically, taking her everywhere from Washington to Brussels, allowing her to interview everyone from President Clinton to the late Walter Cronkite.

Asked how her abortive pursuit of musical theater and the roles she played might relate to her life today, Knight quickly hones in on one particular experience. “Madame Armfeldt in A Little Night Music at school in New York City. I was 20 at the time, playing a 60-something former courtesan wise in the ways of power and how the world works, and who spent much of her time lamenting an overall decline in society. At that time, I didn’t really understand that world-view.

“What I brought to the role was probably little more than a dead-on impersonation of Hermione Gingold (the actress who originated the role on Broadway) Now, at 52, I’ve seen a lot of the world, spent a good deal of my adult life around powerful people, and am able to appreciate that character’s life experience, views on decorum, and overall nostalgia for the past. I relate it to my life now by appreciating the wisdom and perspective that can come only with a lifetime of varied experiences.

As they say, ‘The story doesn’t always take you where you think it’s going to,’ and I had this fabulous life and career.”

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