Friday, July 31, 2015

A Palm Beach Legend

How do you want to be remembered? 


Neil Cargile (1928 – 1995) pilot, entrepreneur - Palm Beach Legend.

In the spring of 1994, the same year his best-selling novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was published, writer John Berendt visited Nashville and heard about Neil Cargile Jr. The following August, Berendt called Neil and asked to meet him to learn more about his motivation for dressing in drag. Cargile was open to the idea, and they agreed to meet in New York City when Cargile would be up there with his girlfriend.

Here are a few paragraphs for a very fascinating article:

It is common knowledge in Nashville, especially among the social set of Belle Meade, the lush residential preserve of old Nashville, that Neil Cargile -- twice married, the father of three, and decidedly heterosexual -- likes to "dress up." The first time he ever wore women's clothes in public was at a Halloween party at the Palm Bay Club, in Miami, in the mid-nineteen-seventies; four women had talked him into going to the party as Dolly Parton. They'd dressed him in a blond wig, a red dress, and a pair of Charles Jourdan shoes with four-inch chrome heels. Cargile won first prize that night, and a photograph of him in all his glory was posted on the club's bulletin board, where George and Em Crook, of Nashville, happened to see it some months later. "My God, that's Neil Cargile!" Mrs. Crook exclaimed. 

The Crooks assumed that the episode was nothing more than a party prank, and they held to this view for the next couple of years, even when rumors of other cross-dressing episodes began to circulate in Nashville. The other occasions were costume parties, too, and they were always out of town. 

But then Cargile began to dress up in Nashville. At first, he did it at private parties and with a degree of subtlety. He'd wear a blazer, a shirt and tie -- and a kilt. Instead of the traditional knee-length woolen socks, however, he'd put on black stockings and high heels; or he'd wear the kilt and the heels with a formal dinner jacket. Eventually, he held what he called a Vice-Versa party at his home: guests were required to come dressed as a member of the opposite sex. Cargile was between marriages at the time, and his date that night came as Sir Lancelot; she rode into the house on a pony. 

The Vice-Versa party and other sightings of Neil Cargile in drag caused a great deal of talk around town, but it was not until the 1979 Cumberland Caper that Nashville got a good look at Neil Cargile as a cross-dresser. The Caper is an annual costume party that benefits the Cumberland Science Museum. It has a different theme every year, and in 1979 Nashville's moneyed elite were asked to come as their favorite character in history. They arrived that evening in an assortment of decorous disguises -- as George and Martha Washington, for example, and Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. Neil Cargile showed up in a blue dress and a long blond wig. Given the theme of the evening, his choice was strangely inappropriate. 

"And what historic character have you come as?" someone asked. "As Neil Cargile in a dress," he replied.” 

I asked him what his father would have done if he had seen him in a dress. 

"He'd have killed me," he said. 

"And your mother?" 

"She heard about it and she confronted me. She said, You're the best-looking man in Nashville, Neil. Why on earth would you want to dress up in women's clothes?' " 

And what did you say?" 

"I told her, 'It's fun, Mom.'"


The whole wonderful and positive article is a 13 page look into a fascinating person like us.  Some of the article can be found at http://georpin.chez.com/neil.html and the complete article is at The New Yorker site.

So, how do you want to be remembered?