And Then What Happened?: Fame and how it works


For the Recorder
Published: 3/29/2021 6:23:01 AM

A few years ago I was talking to a 10-year-old friend when I noticed an article in the local paper had been written about me.

“Look!” I exclaimed, “I’m famous!”

“No Nanny,” she said, though I wasn’t sure how she got to call me Nanny. “Famous people have more than three shirts.”

My undistinguished clothing sense aside, I believe I must be famous, and here’s why: I live in Ashfield.

I mentioned to Norm a few weeks ago that former Secretary of State George Schultz had died, and Norm said, “Oh yeah, we used to play golf together.”


“Yeah, he had a house in Cummington and used to come over, and we’d play golf. He was a real nice fella.”

Norm Nye doesn’t lie.

Turns out Mr. Schultz was fond of services at Ashfield’s St. John’s Episcopal Church, and would turn up, particularly on Christmas Eve, to celebrate the season with us. And then, to play golf with Norm in the warmer months.

According to Ashfield writer Susan Todd, Truman Capote, Booker T. Washington, Helen Keller, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Richard Wilbur, Adlai Stevenson and even Richard Nixon all dropped in to say “hey” at various times.

One of my favorite stories tells how William Faulkner was in a bad way at one point in life. His editor lived in Ashfield (oh — add famed Random House Senior Editor Robert Linscott to the list) and he invited Mr. Faulkner up for a visit. On a tour of the grounds, Mr. Linscott invited the author into his chicken coop, where there sat a table and a typewriter, uncommon to most hen houses. Mr. Linscott stepped outside, locked the door and said, “Now, write!” According to my source, he did, producing some outstanding piece of American literature, though I can’t confirm which one.

We’ve got our own Grammy Award-winning musician — who would just as soon I not mention his name in print — wandering among us. Harry Keramidas, editor of the iconic film “Back to the Future,” found his way here from Hollywood. Framer of adolescent psychology G. Stanley Hall and early film pioneer Cecil B DeMille were both born here, and even the man who served hard labor jail time for being recognized as the father of American birth control Dr. Charles Knowlton lived in the house I bought 175 years later and turned into my Inn at Norton Hill. (Norton Hill Road, named for Ashfield resident and distinguished American author Charles Eliot Norton.) Dr. Knowlton’s house was home in the mid-20th century to Ruth Bacon, director of the Office of Regional Affairs in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, at the United States Department of State, the first female officer in a geographic bureau.

I remember when I tried to change the wallpaper in the dining room of that house — you’da thought I was trying to burn the place down. “You can’t change that wallpaper! That was Miss Bacon’s wallpaper!” I did it anyway; I may have revered Miss Bacon’s political skills, but I did not admire her taste in wall coverings. She’d have probably felt the same way about my clothing choices.

According to Ashfield stonemason Jim Vieira, who, with his brother Bill had their own show on the History Channel a few years ago, Ley Lines are energy pathways that run directly through many of the Earth’s sacred sites like Stonehenge, the Great Pyramid at Giza, Machu Picchu, Easter Island and others, connecting them all in straight lines. Jim says that two powerful Ley Lines intersect and run through Shelburne Falls, Buckland, Ashfield and Goshen, which might explain the present Rolling Stone article about the new documentary called, “Fanny: The Right to Rock” that’s just come out about the first, serious, professional all-women rock band of 50 years ago, a band whose co-founder and lead guitarist was June Millington of Goshen. While she was born in the Philippines, Ms. Millington eventually made her way to the hilltowns where she now runs the Institute for the Musical Arts (IMA), lifting other young women into the stratosphere of record-breaking musical careers.

And then, suddenly, a film co-written and directed by Ashfield resident Darius Marder is up for six Academy Awards including Best Picture. To be sure, Mr. Marder only recently moved to Ashfield, but he grew up in Conway, right next door, so that counts double.

See? If I still owned Elmer’s Store, he’d have come in for coffee every day while he worked on his script and I’d be able to call him Darius instead of “Mr. Marder.”

And then we could be famous together! Though, he probably has at least seven or eight shirts in his esteemed closet.

Nan Parati lives and works in Ashfield, where she found home and community following Hurricane Katrina. She can be reached at

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