The Gardiner-Doing Camp in the Adirondacks

Summer camps for children in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York have been a fixture now for over a century, but perhaps none quite so extraordinary, controversial, and unique as the Gardiner-Doing Camp, founded by its two female proprietors, Gail Gardiner and Ruth Doing.

It began in the early 1920s, shortly after World War I, when Ruth Doing—a former dancer and disciple of the legendary Isadora Duncan—joined forces with her business partner and life partner, Gail Gardiner, to establish a camp for young girls and boys, emphasizing the arts and progressive education.

Upper St. Regis Lake, NY. 1906.

Upper St. Regis Lake, NY. 1906.

Nestled against the tranquil mountains of Upper St. Regis Lake, and surrounded by the affluent, private residential camps of New York’s elite society, the Gardiner-Doing Camp thrived for decades as an oasis of creative expression. Based on the teachings of Isadora, who had established her school for young girls just outside of Paris, Ruth and Gail set out to continue the cause, particularly where dance was concerned.

Isadora Duncan, surrounded by her young students.

Isadora Duncan, surrounded by her young students.

Andrea King’s own mother, Belle McKee, was also a disciple of Isadora Duncan, having danced with her in New York and Paris. Belle knew Ruth Doing from those earlier rewarding days, and she joined in at the camp as a dance instructor every summer for many years. They would teach Isadora’s method of rhythmic exercise, or “rhythms” or “eurythmics,” as they were often called back then.

Andrea, known then as Georgette, would attend the camp each summer. She loved every minute of it, and when her younger sister Anne McKee was old enough, she too attended the camp.

Pictured in the center of the back row: Ruth Doing (holding her dog) and Gail Gardiner. Front row, second from the right: Georgette (Andrea King), approximately age 10, with her arm around her sister Anne, age 3. Circa 1929.

Pictured in the center of the back row: Ruth Doing (holding her dog) and Gail Gardiner. Front row, second from the right: Georgette (Andrea King), approximately age 10, with her arm around her sister Anne, age 3. Circa 1929.

 

Andrea King's mother Belle McKee, pictured in the back row, next to the post. Andrea and her sister Anne are in the front row together on the right. Circa 1929.

Andrea King’s mother Belle McKee, pictured in the back row, next to the post. Andrea and her sister Anne are in the front row together on the right. Circa 1929.

The Gardiner-Doing Camp in the Adirondacks. Upper St. Regis Lake, NY. Circa 1929.

The Gardiner-Doing Camp in the Adirondacks. Upper St. Regis Lake, NY. Circa 1929.

Andrea King, approximately age 7, at the Gardiner-Doing Camp in the Adirondacks. Upper St. Regis Lake, NY. Circa 1926.

Andrea King, approximately age 7, at the Gardiner-Doing Camp in the Adirondacks. Upper St. Regis Lake, NY. Circa 1926.

Decades later, when Gail and Ruth began to sell off sections of their serene waterfront campgrounds, Belle bought her own special part of it, right on Chickadee Creek. Belle’s private camp became her favorite spot in all the world. She held onto it until she was 91 years old.

Belle McKee sits proudly behind the wheel of her jeep at her camp in the Adirondacks, part of the original Gardiner-Doing Camp. Late 1970s.

Belle McKee sits proudly behind the wheel of her jeep at her camp in the Adirondacks, part of the original Gardiner-Doing Camp. Late 1970s.

The Gardiner-Doing Camp as it appears today, now known and operated as Camp Regis-AppleJack:

The Gardiner-Doing Camp today, known as Camp Regis-Applejack.

The Gardiner-Doing Camp today, known as Camp Regis-Applejack.

The Gardiner-Doing Camp today, known as Camp Regis-Applejack.

The Gardiner-Doing Camp today, known as Camp Regis-Applejack.

Read more about the history of the Gardiner-Doing Camp, its controversial yet brilliant proprietors, and Belle’s many summers spent in the Adirondack Mountains of Upper St. Regis Lake in “More Than Tongue Can Tell,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle formats.

 

Growing Up Next Door to Thomas Edison

Lovina Belle Hart (McKee), c. 1900.

Lovina Belle Hart (McKee), c. 1900.

Andrea King’s mother, Belle Hart McKee, was born in Milan, Ohio, in 1885. The Hart’s farmhouse was right next door to the Edison home—the birthplace of inventor Thomas Alva Edison, in a spot called Spears Corners.

Belle Hart McKee's childhood home. Spears Corners. Milan, Ohio. c. 1890.

Belle Hart McKee’s childhood home. Spears Corners. Milan, Ohio. c. 1890.

The two-hundred-fifty-acre farm sat spaciously on the outskirts of Milan, Ohio, in a spot called Spears Corners. Five roads radiated from a single watering trough. They seemed to reach out like fingers, each pointing to a different path in life. One road might be sensible and practical, another unconventional and full of adventure, but even at the age of six, it was clear which road Lovina Belle Hart had chosen.

The three main farmhouses in Spears Corners had been built years earlier. The Harts’ home with the giant elm in the front yard was built by Lovina’s maternal grandfather, Reverend Benjamin Wilcox, a Presbyterian minister. The second house was occupied by Mrs. Hart’s first cousins, Chauncey and Ethel Spears, and the third had been the birthplace of Thomas Alva Edison, who would occasionally pay visits to Milan from his current home in Menlo Park, New Jersey. His sister, Mrs. Page, now occupied the family residence and was a dear friend of Mrs. Hart’s.

This description of the farmhouse and its surrounding area is from the new book “More Than Tongue Can Tell” and took its cue directly from the words found on the back of this photograph, written by Belle herself in the 1960s or ’70s:

The back of this same photograph, with a brief description of Belle's childhood home.

The back of this same photograph, with a brief description of Belle’s childhood home.

The Hart’s farmhouse today has been converted into the Edison Birthplace Museum in Milan, Ohio, right next door to the Edison homestead. This shows just how close the two family homes were. It can be seen in the photographs below. A few modifications have been made in the past 125 years, but it’s still easily recognizable.

The Hart's farmhouse on the left, now the Edison Birthplace Museum, and the Edison homestead itself, on the right.

The Hart’s farmhouse on the left, now the Edison Birthplace Museum, and the Edison homestead itself, on the right.

The Hart’s farmhouse on the left, now the Edison Birthplace Museum, and the Edison homestead itself, on the right.

The Hart’s farmhouse on the left, now the Edison Birthplace Museum, and the Edison homestead itself, on the right.

The Edison home actually fell out of the family’s ownership for a brief time, until it was purchased by Thomas’s sister Marion Edison Page in the early 1890s, and Thomas eventually purchased it himself from his niece, Marion’s daughter, also named Belle.

Thomas Alva Edison. The Wizard of Menlo Park.

Thomas Alva Edison. The Wizard of Menlo Park.

Find out more about Belle’s incredible childhood encounters with Thomas Edison and his sister Mrs. Page by reading “More Than Tongue Can Tell: The Story of Andrea King and Her Mother Belle McKee,” available now, exclusively through Amazon.com in paperback in Kindle formats!

 

The Warner Bros. Still Gallery

Today, February 1, 2014, marks what would have been Andrea King’s 95th birthday! To celebrate this occasion, here is a sample of vintage still gallery photos taken while she was at Warner Bros. Enjoy!

The still gallery was a magic place where “mere mortal” actresses were transformed into celluloid goddesses by expert photographers, art directors, makeup magicians, and fashion designers. Andrea King was no stranger to the still gallery. In fact, Bert Six, head photographer, and his team voted Andrea the “Most Photogenic Actress on the Lot” for 1945. That was no small recognition, considering her competition at the studio that year included Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Ida Lupino, Alexis Smith, Olivia de Havilland, Faye Emerson, Barbara Stanwyck, Jane Wyman, Eleanor Parker, and every other actress under contract at the time! One look at these photos will tell you why.

Andrea King, Warner Bros. still gallery, 1945. This costume and hat were used when she played Lisa Dorn in "Hotel Berlin."

Andrea King, Warner Bros. still gallery, 1945. This costume and hat were used when she played Lisa Dorn in “Hotel Berlin.”

 

Andrea King, Warner Bros. still gallery, 1945.

Andrea King, Warner Bros. still gallery, 1945.

 

Andrea King, Warner Bros. still gallery, 1945.

Andrea King, Warner Bros. still gallery, 1945.

 

Andrea King, Warner Bros. still gallery, 1945.

Andrea King, Warner Bros. still gallery, 1945.

 

Andrea King, Warner Bros. still gallery, 1945.

Andrea King, Warner Bros. still gallery, 1945.

 

Andrea King, Warner Bros. still gallery, 1945.

Andrea King, Warner Bros. still gallery, 1945.

 

Andrea King, Warner Bros. still gallery, 1945.

Andrea King, Warner Bros. still gallery, 1945.

 

Andrea King, Warner Bros. still gallery, 1945.

Andrea King, Warner Bros. still gallery, 1945.

 

Ethel Sackin, part of the public relations team who ran the Warner Bros. still gallery and helped create the unique and magical looks for each star. 1945. Some amusing stories with Andrea and Ethel in the book "More Than Tongue Can Tell."

Ethel Sackin, part of the public relations team who ran the Warner Bros. still gallery and helped create the unique and magical looks for each star. 1945. Some amusing stories with Andrea and Ethel in the book “More Than Tongue Can Tell.”

 

Head photographer, Bert Six, readies Andrea for a pose in the Warner Bros. still gallery. 1945.

Head photographer, Bert Six, readies Andrea for a pose in the Warner Bros. still gallery. 1945.

 

1945 Personal Appearance Tour: New York, Philadelphia, DC

In 1945, just a week after her husband returned from the war, Andrea King was whisked away for a six-week, personal appearance tour with her co-star Helmut Dantine, promoting his film “Escape In the Desert.” It was an incredible experience, both publicly and privately. Andrea was the unwilling participant in a romantic triangle between herself, Helmut, and film star Ida Lupino. Find out what happened in “More Than Tongue Can Tell,” available now exclusively on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats!

1945 personal appearance tour: The press and photographers were ready and waiting when Andrea King arrived at Grand Central Station. So was her co-star Helmut Dantine, who greeted her, ready for the onslaught.

1945 personal appearance tour: The press and photographers were ready and waiting when Andrea King arrived at Grand Central Station. So was her co-star Helmut Dantine, who greeted her, ready for the onslaught.

 

Andrea's co-star and leading man in "Hotel Berlin" and "Shadow of a Woman." Helmut Dantine catapulted to fame after appearing in back-to-back Best Picture winners "Mrs. Miniver," as a wounded German flyer who terrorizes Greer Garson, and "Casablanca," as a man willing to gamble his life savings at Rick's Cafe to to win exit visas for himself and his wife.

Andrea’s co-star and leading man in “Hotel Berlin” and “Shadow of a Woman.” Helmut Dantine catapulted to fame after appearing in back-to-back Best Picture winners “Mrs. Miniver,” as a wounded German flyer who terrorizes Greer Garson, and “Casablanca,” as a man willing to gamble his life savings at Rick’s Cafe in order to win exit visas for himself and his wife.

 

1945 personal appearance tour: Andrea King and Helmut Dantine practice their "romantic movie embraces" backstage for a comedy sketch at the Strand Theatre in Times Square.

1945 personal appearance tour: Andrea King and Helmut Dantine practice their “romantic movie embraces” backstage for a comedy sketch at the Strand Theatre in Times Square.

 

1945 personal appearance tour: the marquee in Times Square at the Strand Theatre.

1945 personal appearance tour: the marquee in Times Square at the Strand Theatre.

 

1945 personal appearance tour: the marquee in Times Square at the Strand Theatre.

1945 personal appearance tour: the marquee in Times Square at the Strand Theatre.

 

1945 personal appearance tour: the marquee in Times Square at the Strand Theatre.

1945 personal appearance tour: the marquee in Times Square at the Strand Theatre.

 

1945 personal appearance tour: the 60-feet-tall marquee in Times Square at the Strand Theatre. This thrilling photo was taken the night the lights on Broadway were illuminated for the first time since World War II began.

1945 personal appearance tour: the 60-feet-tall marquee in Times Square at the Strand Theatre. This thrilling photo was taken the night the lights on Broadway were illuminated for the first time since World War II began.

 

1945 personal appearance tour: Andrea King watches with an amused smile as Helmut Dantine is swarmed by adoring female fans at the stage door.

1945 personal appearance tour: Andrea King watches with an amused smile as Helmut Dantine is swarmed by adoring female fans at the stage door.

 

1945 personal appearance tour: Andrea King signs autographs in the lobby of the Strand Theatre in Times Square, New York.

1945 personal appearance tour: Andrea King signs autographs in the lobby of the Strand Theatre in Times Square, New York.

 

1945 personal appearance tour: Andrea King backstage at the Strand Theatre in New York with Warner Bros VP Charles Einfeld, star Jack Benny, and Warners exec. Mort Blumenstock.

1945 personal appearance tour: Andrea King backstage at the Strand Theatre in New York with Warner Bros VP Charles Einfeld, star Jack Benny, and Warners exec. Mort Blumenstock.

 

1945 personal appearance tour: Andrea King (right) backstage with fellow Warner Bros. film stars Ida Lupino and John Dall.

1945 personal appearance tour: Andrea King (right) backstage with fellow Warner Bros. film stars Ida Lupino and John Dall.

 

1945 personal appearance tour: Ida Lupino and Andrea King have a chat backstage at the Strand Theatre in New York.

1945 personal appearance tour: Ida Lupino and Andrea King have a chat backstage at the Strand Theatre in New York.

 

1945 personal appearance tour: on stage at the Strand Theatre in New York with Helmut Dantine, Andrea King, and comedian Lew Parker.

1945 personal appearance tour: on stage at the Strand Theatre in New York with Helmut Dantine, Andrea King, and comedian Lew Parker.

 

1945 personal appearance tour: on stage at the Strand Theatre in New York with Andrea King and comedian Lew Parker.

1945 personal appearance tour: on stage at the Strand Theatre in New York with Andrea King and comedian Lew Parker.

 

1945 personal appearance tour: the marquee for Warner Bros.' Earle Theatre in Philadelphia. The second stop on the tour.

1945 personal appearance tour: the marquee for Warner Bros.’ Earle Theatre in Philadelphia. The second stop on the tour.

 

1945 personal appearance tour: advertisement (front cover) for Philadelphia's Earle Theatre, the second stop on the tour.

1945 personal appearance tour: advertisement (front cover) for Philadelphia’s Earle Theatre, the second stop on the tour.

 

1945 personal appearance tour: advertisement (back cover) for Philadelphia's Earle Theatre, the second stop on the tour.

1945 personal appearance tour: advertisement (back cover) for Philadelphia’s Earle Theatre, the second stop on the tour.

 

The Front Lines of World War I

These are just some of Belle McKee’s many photographs taken in 1918 while she was a volunteer ambulance driver for the American Red Cross in France. Find out more about Andrea’s mother’s eye-witness account of the front lines in “More Than Tongue Can Tell.” Available now on Amazon.com!

Belle McKee's photographs of World War I in France, 1918. A ravaged windmill on the front lines.

Belle McKee’s photographs of World War I in France, 1918. A ravaged windmill on the front lines.

 

Belle McKee's photographs of World War I in France, 1918. Belle, Guy Meyer, and Winifred White, who entertained the troops on the front lines as "Wee, Gee, and Bee."

Belle McKee’s photographs of World War I in France, 1918. Belle, Guy Meyer, and Winifred White, who entertained the troops on the front lines as “Wee, Gee, and Bee.”

 

Belle McKee's photographs of World War I in France, 1918. A Red Cross hospital tent among the ruins.

Belle McKee’s photographs of World War I in France, 1918. A Red Cross hospital tent among the ruins.

 

Belle McKee's photographs of World War I in France, 1918. The ruins of a village on the front lines.

Belle McKee’s photographs of World War I in France, 1918. The ruins of a village on the front lines.

 

Belle McKee's photographs of World War I in France, 1918. Front-line casualties.

Belle McKee’s photographs of World War I in France, 1918. Front-line casualties.

 

 

Andrea King’s Official Biography Available Now!

“More Than Tongue Can Tell,” Co-Authored by Paul Miles Schneider and Andrea King herself, is now available exclusively through Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle formats. The book includes personal photographs and letters from Andrea’s past! ORDER NOW by CLICKING HERE!

More Than Tongue Can Tell: The Story of Andrea King and Her Mother Belle McKee. Available now.

More Than Tongue Can Tell: The Story of Andrea King and Her Mother Belle McKee. Available now.

 

FORWARD
by Paul Miles Schneider

It’s hard to believe more than two decades have passed since Andrea and I first sat down and talked seriously about writing a book together. First came the interviews, the hours of tape-recorded Q&As where I would race home afterward and write everything down in an outline … in pencil … with real paper—definitely “analog, old-school” back then. I wasn’t starting from scratch with the subject matter, either. From the moment I first met Andrea King in January of 1987, we connected and became the best of friends. I was in my mid-twenties, and Andrea was in her late-sixties. My mother Jo Anna Clift made the introduction, and there was an instant bond between us. Andrea and I shared comparable outlooks, a similar perspective of the arts and creativity, a common curiosity about human nature, and a hopefulness that we could get through life, no matter what. Above all, though, we shared a sense of humor. And that, my friends, is everything. The ultimate survival tool in a world filled with great highs and lows is knowing how to laugh even on the darkest of days.

I think that’s what I remember most about her now. She has been gone since April of 2003, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about her.

We did write our book together. It took us the better part of two years to do it. Andrea’s life was far from ordinary. She had been on Broadway as a teenager in the 1930s and a film star at Warner Bros. in the 1940s. I still see her excellent work on Turner Classic Movies all the time. She also faced darker challenges of a deeply personal nature—alcoholism, rape, and child molestation, to name only a few. Her mother Belle passed away just four months before I met Andrea, and Belle was equally fascinating. She grew up next door to Thomas Edison on a farm in the 1880s, danced with Isadora Duncan in New York, and drove an ambulance on the front lines in World War I. Belle enjoyed her cigars and her scotch, and she lived to be 101 years old. This time span ended up being the framework for our story: a century in the lives of two extraordinary women.

Although Andrea and I gave it a solid shot getting this book published, nothing came from our efforts, and the book never did see the light of day. It was packed away on a shelf, and there it sat, gathering virtual dust, until a few months ago.

I decided to revisit it. After my first two novels were published, I looked for something to do next—a change of course. One day, I thought I would reach into my past instead and read through this story again. It had been a dozen years since I last cracked it open and took the journey with Andrea and Belle. I was surprised at how much I still loved it and how alive Andrea seemed within the pages. She and her mother weren’t perfect people. They made mistakes just like the rest of us, but they persevered, went after their dreams with enormous zeal, and accomplished great things.

So, with that in mind, I dusted off our manuscript, tinkered a little, did another full edit, and now I am releasing it myself, on our behalf. Our book is finally seeing the light of day, thanks to the marvelous developments in self-publishing and this strange new invention called the Internet. Way back in 1990, it was not available to us, but I can now share this incredible story with you. From a sprawling farm in Ohio to the front lines of battle in France to a Hollywood soundstage … it’s all here. And I have to think that Andrea would be thrilled.