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The Colony brought us a generation of memories

GREGORY RUSOVICH
Guest Writer
news@lbknews.com

It’s 4:00 pm on the iconic Colony pier circa 2007, and my 8-year old son, Nick, has just caught a large pompano. He quickly dehooks the fish, wraps it in a towel, and with his

The author and Murf Klauber

gang of fishing friends from the Colony dashes through the pool area, maneuvers around the Monkey Bar tables and throws open the kitchen door to find Chef Jamil’s welcoming laugh.

Now it’s 7:00 pm and my wife, Suzanne, and I enter the always happening Colony dining room. The charismatic, larger-than-life Colony founder, Murf Klauber, welcomes us with his radiant smile. Dressed in casual chic with his signature Etro shirt and white shorts, he regals us with his latest visionary idea with martini in hand- straight from a Sinatra scene.

We have a seat at a beachfront table gazing at a perfect sunset with our own martinis promptly delivered. Tableside Caesar salads are prepared with our pompano and fried lobster tails. At the end of this perfect dinner, Suzanne and I follow the sounds of laughter and music to the lively piano bar where guests are singing and dancing the night away. Meanwhile, our 12 year old son, Colin, has organized his gang of Colony friends for a massive water balloon and rubber band gun war until the concierge, Alex, comes to the bar to tell us the kids are on the roof of Beachcomber (a one story beach unit) and he’s getting worried. Even though Murf tells us to “let the kids have fun,” our night ends with rounding up the posse and putting our two to sleep. Another incredible day of fun and memories at the Colony comes to an end.

 

A world together…

Colony was not just another vacation spot, it was a lifestyle. Yes, toward the end it had some physical challenges due to aging, but the staff always held the ship together – reminiscent at times of the Millennium Falcon undergoing hyper speed repair by Han and Chewbacca….

The Colony was the gathering spot for all of Longboat and surrounding keys and the Klaubers welcomed the entire community with open arms. Families from around the globe soon discovered this piece of paradise and would visit year after year. Our annual July vacation was shared with a Saudi and Egyptian family who sat under the thatched huts at the bustling yet intimate pool for their daily game of backgammon. They were joined by the Muellers from Switzerland and the Cohens from New York to name a few. With their tables staked out as beach central, all our kids soon became like family and remain close to this day.

Mornings at the Colony always began with Kids Camp. Hordes of children would run into a converted condo with floor to ceiling bins of toys and crafts. The counselors were always jovial, engaged and seemed to love our kids as their own.

Morning camp would end at noon by the pool as a swarm of kids launched into frenzied cannonballs and can openers much to the dismay of floating adults. And inevitably we would discover that junior had somehow managed to charge some treat to the room at Tastebuds without the counselors “noticing”.  That tiny grocery/deli/wine shop/kid’s treat haven managed to always have everything and anything you could possibly desire.

 

Top Tier Tennis to Presidential visits

And the tennis! Where else in the US could you call at 2:00 and request a match for 4:00 with someone of similar skill, show up, and play in Tennis Magazine’s” Number One Tennis Resort in the US?”

The pro’s at the Colony tennis center were always available, and their teaching techniques were excellent and insightful. The top tennis pros of the world would practice at the Colony. Pete Sampras, Chris Evert, Jim Courier, Martina Navratilova and many other top-ranked stars would be regularly hanging out at the world- renowned Colony.

You just never knew who you might see a slightly disheveled Catherine Deneuve at breakfast, sitting at her favorite table 50 by the beach or Phyllis Diller cracking up the lunch crowd on the patio or Tommy Tune practicing some dance steps on the Beachcomber’s beachfront deck or Bjorn Borg training on the court next to yours…well you get the idea!

Of course, these visits were eclipsed by visiting Presidents. George W. Bush spent the evening of September 10, 2001 at the Colony, only to learn the next morning in a Sarasota school of the attack on our nation.

 

The wild life

Surrounded in the splendid beauty of nature, the area wildlife was on daily display at the Colony. A great blue heron nicknamed “Harold” by the kids was stationed near the pier in case someone dropped a fish his way, diving pelicans, eagles and osprey gliding overhead, skimmers, egrets, and plovers sharing the surf with skimboarding kids, manta ray, dolphin pods and your slow-drifting manatee would seem to play with us in the crystal blue waters. My family even became involved in a turtle rescue. During an after dinner stroll we noticed multiple baby turtles crawling around our cottage walkway. Our kids quickly grabbed a mail crate from the bellmen and the rescue ensued. Those precious turtles spent the night in our bathtub until Mote could pick them up the next day.

Murf and his own Wizard of Oz President/GM and daughter Katie Moulton would always present over-the-top holiday celebrations.

On July 4th, there was a massive firework display for guests and locals. For many years, Murf and Katie somehow convinced the Sarasota Power Boat race to make the loop in front of the Colony adding to the buoyant July 4th celebrations. On Thanksgiving, a circus was held featuring a highwire walk from Murf’s 5th floor main building apartment to the pier. And let’s not forget the Stone Crab and Seafood festival, which attracted seafood lovers from across the globe.

 

A new era unfolds

Now, after over a decade of bitter and destructive litigation, a new era begins.

The developer, Unicorp, and the brand, St. Regis, will have big shoes to fill. There is tremendous economic opportunity for the developer, the hotel and the entire region.  While the St. Regis will likely never meet the “shack elegance” standard and family oriented ambiance of the Colony, it has the prospect of being the most exquisite resort on the West Coast of Florida and offer a splendid family experience. Several past Colony owners (including this writer) plan to remain as shared Unit Owners in the new residential development.

We all yearn for that magical Colony experience once again, and while we know this adventure will be different, a meaningful nod to those beautiful memories could go a long way toward building on the legacy, which that adventuresome orthodontist and his family launched over 50 years ago. While the physical Colony no longer exists, the soul of the Colony lives on. Fatefully, Katie Moulton’s husband and top real estate guru, Michael Moulton recently went to contract on the first St Regis sale- a customized double beachfront unit, and interest and reservations for the Residences are robust.

My Family and I were at Closing night at the Colony, hugging and crying alongside the wonderful staff that had become part of our family. We can’t wait to hug, cheer and toast on opening night as a new era begins.

 

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2 Responses for “The Colony brought us a generation of memories”

  1. Ed Ranoff says:

    About 30 years ago a friend and I rented a catamaran at the Colony. Neither of us ever sailed but we were young, stupid and ready for an adventure. The person renting various equipment on the beach patiently explained how to operate the catamaran, including what I think were detailed instructions on what to do if we capsized. After about 15 minutes of cruising about, sure enough the catamaran capsized. I looked at my friend and asked what we should do to right side the catamaran. He said he didn’t know. I then yelled: “weren’t you listening to the instructions?” He started to laugh and said: “I thought you were listening.” So there we were cracking up and clueless about how to right side the catamaran. After a while we were able to get the catamaran right sided but neglected to realize that you should never right side a catamaran where the wind can catch the sail. Sure enough, the catamaran took off due west. My friend was left in the water. I was able to climb on the back and while struggling to get on the canvas I kicked back the bar used to steer the rudders and it flipped away from my reach. I could not grab the bar. I could not steer. Left with no option, I decided that I had watched enough western movies such that if I only had a rope I could lasso the steering bar and regain control of the catamaran. Unfortunately I had no rope. Then I had an epiphany. I could take off my beach pants and use them as a lasso with the hope I could snag the bar. Like a cowboy, I circled my pants in the air and released them toward the steering bar. As I tossed the pants toward the steering bar I lost my grip and threw my pants right into the Gulf of Mexico. So there I was in nothing but a t-shirt and my tighty whities heading straight to Mexico. After a while I was finally able to stretch my leg just far enough to snag the steering bar with the big toe on my right foot. I headed back toward the Colony with the hope my friend had not drowned. As I got closer to the beach I heard my friend roaring with laughter and pointing at me. Standing next to him were the person who instructed us how to use a catamaran and about 20 other people. All were laughing and pointing. When I hit the beach and got off the catamaran the person who instructed us how to use it handed me a Frisbee and said nothing other than: “you may want to hold this over the front of your wet tighty whities.” To this day, and even as I write this, the adventure I had with my friend makes me laugh. Boy I miss the Colony.

  2. Well you get for you wish for-a new concrete block instead of the very old and homily structure- life goes on BUT NOT for the better- Longboat key will soon be a concrete jungle and for the older residents ITS A MESS!!

    We came nearly 30 years ago to visit this fantastic place that only the lovers of peace and harmony found out about.

    NOW ITS NOT GOOD NEWS!!!!

    ENJOY YOUR NEW CAR PARK JUNGLE.

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