- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2001

Personality: Vicky Moon, erstwhile chronicler of the lives of "the rich, the not-so-rich, the famous, and the not-so famous" (in the pages of People, Town and Country, House and Garden and other publications) for the past 20 years.
MOST RECENT ACCOMPLISHMENT: "The Middleburg Mystique: A Peek Inside the Gates of Middleburg, Virginia" (Capital Books), an insider's view of the exclusive community that lies a mere 50 miles from Washington in the horse-crazy foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Looking for names? You'll get names: Kennedys, Mellons, Whitneys, Warburgs, Firestones, Randolphs and Harrimans, plus a few movie stars (Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Duvall) and sports titans (Jack Kent Cooke) for off-beat color. Add the odd renegade, as well: Cisco Systems co-founder Sandy Lerner, for example, who hardly epitomized the Middleburg style when she closed off her 800-acre farm to fox hunting (to say nothing of posing nude atop her Clydesdale in Forbes magazine.
THE SCENE: The Coach Stop restaurant on West Washington Street bustles with business at noon on a recent Friday, and the crowd is eclectic to say the least. Former Ambassador to Germany and Turkey George McGhee, master of "Farmer's Delight," shares his usual window booth with other regulars. NFL Hall of Famer Sam Huff passes Irish-born horse trainer Mairead Carr's table to chat as Jimmy Young, former master of the Orange County Hunt, squeezes by. Nary an eyebrow is raised when Clinton administration scandal figure Webster Hubbell walks in and immediately orders some of the famed onion rings to go with his glass of Chablis.
Q. Apart from horses, what gives Middleburg its mystique?
A. Privacy is part of it. There is curiosity about what goes on behind all those stone walls. And the appearance of wealth certainly plays into it, although once you live here and have become a part of the community it's not a factor. People take one another at face value in the way they interact every day. You can go to a party in a four-room house or a 40-room house, and it's always a real collection, with former CIA officials, writers, horse trainers who are just scraping by, and, yes, people who have a gazillion dollars. I don't think you would find that in Georgetown.
Q. So it's the odd, melting-pot, cross-section aspect that interested you?
A. Absolutely. For example, there is a little old lady, Anna Beavers, who waddles to the post office every day to collect clothing for poor children. What most people don't know is that she lives on 300 prime acres in Loudoun County that are worth a fortune. Then Mrs. Gotrocks will come in to get her mail. Everybody is the same here. That's a surprise to visitors.
Q. When did Middleburg become well-known?
A. Jacqueline Kennedy put it on the map in the early '60s. It got another boost when John Warner married Elizabeth Taylor in the '70s.
Q. But its history as a wealthy horsy-set enclave goes back much farther.
A. To the 1920s, when a group of New Yorkers came down to start the Orange County Hunt and bought a lot of land. You have to remember it was warmer here in fox hunting season, which starts about now with what they call 'cubbing' and continues through spring.
Q. How has Middleburg changed since the Jackie days?
A. The only thing that's different is the town's one traffic stop. It used to be a blinking light, and now it's a stop light. And the sidewalks have been updated but with new brick as opposed to cement.
Q. Strict zoning laws help, I suppose.
A. No franchises are allowed. You will never see a McDonald's here. Safeway is it.
Q. Development is certainly discouraged.
A. Oh, yes. Last year, for example, one of the big estates right outside of town, Homewood, was sold and soon it became known that it was probably going to get divided into little farmettes. People came out of the woodwork, had many meetings, and eventually a group bought it back and saved it.
Q. Who are some of the rich and powerful land preservationists who spearhead efforts to thwart projects like the big Disney park?
A. Among others, the late Charles S. Whitehouse, Alice du Pont Mills, Mellon heiress Lavinia Currier, the Ohrstrom family. But those who don't have the big bucks will contribute $20 or pitch in and stuff envelopes.
Q. The Old Guard can't keep all the land in the family forever, so to speak.
A. Some inevitably have to sell it off. Taxes go up or the property must be sold because of inheritance by multiple heirs. It's a dilemma.
Q. Have the newer people been generally receptive to falling in line?
A. Yes, but there are always the exceptions who have to build the big house on top of a hill. The accepted way is to get a specialist in, study the topography, and then tuck it behind a ridge so that it's not some McMansion jumping out at you like in Potomac.
Q. Is Potomac the byword for horror out here?
A. Yes, it is.
Q. What bothers you about Middleburg scene?
A. Only that the last one in wants to burn the bridge. People shouldn't [complain] about the next person building a house unless they want to pony up their own money to buy the land.
Q. What about controversial characters like Sandy Lerner, the high-tech gal who won't let the Piedmont Hunt run through her land?
A. People mutter that she could have bought a big farm anywhere, so why did she want to buy one in the middle of fox hunting country and then close it off?
Q. It sound like a deliberate move of a dedicated animal welfare type.
A. Yes. She also opened a pub in Upperville which many people fought tooth and nail. But she won, and now I think the majority of people accept it. It's called the Hunter's Head, as if she's capturing the hunter.
Q. Hardly the right moves if she cares about high-end social life here.
A. Let's just say she's not going to too many hunt breakfasts.
Q. You're from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. How long did it take before you felt part of the scene?
A. I've always felt part of it, but it was different for me. I started coming to Middleburg in my teens for the summer horse shows. I had horsy friends. I can't imagine what it would be like coming here cold turkey.
Q. It might not be so hard with $50 million.
A. No, but people who move here almost always have a major interest in horses.
Q. There are always some people with fabulous wealth, like Jack Kent Cooke, for example, who might care about horses, yet are never really accepted by the top echelon.
A. There's a story that he rode over to Paul Mellon's house one day hoping to be introduced and was basically told, "See you later, pal."
Q. You had a pretty funny encounter with him yourself.
A. I was visiting his house one day and saw one of those iron jockeys out in front. I couldn't believe that it was painted black. I said, "Mr. Cooke, does Dexter Manley know you have this thing out here?"
Q. What did he say?
A. Nothing, but the next time I went back, it had been painted white.

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