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The Philanthropic Charms Of Frances Hayward, Amigo’s Best Friend

Originally Posted: June 02, 2009

Douglas MacKaye Harrington

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The indomitable Frances Hayward, best friend to man's best friend. Pictured here at the Hollywood Goes Humane event celebrating The Humane Society of the United States, Hollywood. Photo courtesy of Patrick McMullan.com

East Hampton - Of late, philanthropist Frances Hayward, has been on the front burner of Hamptons' media attention thanks to the renewed interest in the home she has rented for the past decade from Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn, the now infamous Grey Gardens. With the eponymous HBO special, thankfully, fading into the On-Demand video archive, Hamptons.com sat down with this brilliant, dedicated and altruistic Hamptionian to see what she's been up to. In truth, Hayward's life's work easily overshadows the legacy of the house she calls home in East Hampton.

Pictured here on the porch of Grey Gardens with Bill Grimmer, Honor Humane Society Of the U.S., President Wayne Pacelle, Ashley Bush, Frances Hayward and Amigo, in East Hampton. Photo courtesy of Patrick McMullan.com

Before we could even pose our first question, Hayward launched the conversation in the direction of her number one philanthropic passion, animal welfare (as she prefers calling it instead of animal rights), referring to a magazine, Abaco Life, sitting on the coffee table that featured a painting of her late dog, Amigo on the cover. "The cover story is part of Amigo's mission. Not only is he the love of my life, other than my other half, he is the inspiration for the magazine's 'potcake' series. He is the inspiration for all my work now."

"Potcake" is the name for Bahamian mongrels, often strays that wander the island malnourished and victims of neglect and abandonment. During the interview the equally elegant and impassioned Hayward elaborated on how she found Amigo, as a four-month-old abandoned puppy, frightened and starving near the airport in the Grand Bahamas, where she divides her time between East Hampton, Manhattan, Palm Beach and, occasionally, London. It took her many days to gain Amigo's trust, but finally her "potcake" leapt into her arms and remained her devoted companion until his death a year and half ago from incurable canine cancer.

Beyond saving her own best friend, Hayward put her money where her heart was and personally financed the island-wide spay/neutering, free to all Bahamians, for all the cats and dogs on the island. "The Bahamas is a funny place, they are getting much better about it, but caring for animals was not the number one priority." She went on to elaborate that, "The Bahamian people, who I adore, have their own struggles." Her work on behalf of animal rights is legendary in the Caribbean and elsewhere. She is the Honorary Chairperson of the Bahamian Humane Society, after serving as its chairperson and number one advocate for over a decade. She also works tirelessly with and is or has been on the boards of the Humane Society of the U. S., the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, who worked with Hayward to rescue threatened animals in the Caribbean during Hurricane Frances. "ARF of the Hamptons is one of the most remarkable organizations in the world," according to Hayward.

Frances Hayward and Russell Simmons at the Rush Philanthropic's Annual ART FOR LIFE GALA, July 19, 2008. Photo courtesy of Patrick McMullan.com

Working with HSUS, she created www.BeKind.org in 2005 and came up with the idea of creating "BeKind Cause Collars," whereas animals, like their human counterparts that wear wristbands, could declare their own support for animal welfare. The collars raised over $200,000 in 2005 alone, a year that Hayward feels was pivotal in regards to animal welfare awareness. It was the year that the hurricanes hit New Orleans and the desperate plight of the animals left behind. "We had planned a fundraiser here at Grey Gardens, it had been in the works for months, then two days before the event, Katrina hit and it turned out to be a rally for the animals. Within three days the HSUS website kept going down because there were pleas for help to rescue these animals, there was mass hysteria over it. To me Katrina was in many ways a turning point, a horrible turning point, however a turning point. It mobilized people around the world to care about animals. People were horrified by the images of these poor animals floating helpless and alone." As a result, the modest BeKind fundraiser at Grey Gardens turned into a rally of 200 Hamptonians expressing their concern and compassion.

Using Amigo as the literal "poster boy" for her world-wide animal welfare campaign, her "potcake superstar" has appeared on posters and pamphlets, as the face on a Bahamian commemorative postage stamp and the star of a music video called "Amigo," written by Hayward herself, that, beyond raising awareness for animal rights, is simply brilliant and thoroughly entertaining. She has also written a children's book about Amigo. She has recently launched a new website called www.amigosfund.org to continue the work her beloved "potcake" inspired. "I want to become the Paul Newman of animal rights. I want to raise lots and lots of money and give it all away in support of animal welfare."

Trying to draw Hayward into a conversation about herself and away from her animal welfare activity was not easy, but she finally relented. She was born Frances Singer in New York City to a musical family, her lineage consisted of numerous composers and musicians, including her uncle the legendary composer Leo Robbin, who, among others works, wrote the score for "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." Her father's work as a composer had the family moving back and forth between California and New York during her youth. "My mother refused to fly so we would take the 20th Century Limited to Chicago and change trains there. Little did I know at the time that Amy Vanderbilt would become one of my life-long friends, as I was riding her family's railroad."

Using Amigo as the literal "poster boy" for her world-wide animal welfare campaign, her "potcake superstar" has appeared on posters and pamphlets, and as the face on a Bahamian commemorative postage stamp. Photos by Douglas Harrington

An artist in her own right, Hayward attended Julliard and studied dance under Anthony Tudor and Martha Graham. Although she did return to Hollywood to pursue a career as a dancer, she only "did a bit of dancing" and ended up pursuing a career as a singer instead. "I ultimately did become a singer. I had a contract with Columbia Records. I sang in affiliation with Dave Brubeck. We had a huge 'turntable hit' called 'Something To Sing About' and the flip side, which I hated because my voice was so high ended up on one of his albums. I was in the company of Carmen McRae on that song under my professional name, Ranny Sinclair. I ended my career when I met Sir Jack."

Her "other half" and the person with which she has "lived as man and wife" for over 30 years is British businessman, Bahamian real estate developer, philanthropist and Wolverhampton Wanderers football club owner, Sir Jack Hayward. "The most fabulous person who has ever walked the face of the earth. He is in his 80s now, he is such a colonial. His favorite writer is Rudyard Kipling. There he was this traditional colonial, and me this American showbiz girl, but we clicked instantly. I took one look at Jack and said, 'He's the man of my dreams.'" Sir Jack is well-known for his own humanitarian efforts in the Bahamas, where there is a high school named after him and to which both he and Hayward lend great support. For over a decade they facilitated a student exchange program between the Bahamian high school and the Hamptons Boys and Girls Harbor program, before its recent demise. "When the kids from Boy's Harbor came down it was the happiest time of my year. It was absolutely one of the high points of my life."

Hayward's altruism is not limited to her efforts on behalf of animal rights but extends itself to humanitarian organizations like Boy's Harbor and other non-profits, along with philanthropy on behalf of the arts, in particular - garnering American support for the British Royal Academy of Arts. I asked if her association with the Academy came out of her relationship with Sir Jack, to my surprise, it did not. "It came out of my friendship with Tony Randall" she informed.

Another dear, but belated, friend was George Plimpton, with whom she shared charitable support for the Manhattan based "New York Philimusica." Hayward related a funny story of one the performance parties they threw at her former Hamptons rental, Lauren Bacall's house on Further Lane. "The second time we did one of these concert parties a monsoon happened. It was the most ludicrous thing. The first time in a 100 years, the lights went out, everything went out. We had the piano and musicians under a tent, but not the audience. So we got all these white umbrellas and everyone sat and listened to this beautiful chamber music in torrential rain. It became one of the most famous, talked about parties of the time."

In the famed Spanish Garden at Grey Gardens, East Hampton.

I asked Hayward what changes she has seen in the Hamptons over the years. "It has just become so popular. For good or for bad it has become so unbelievably famous. I think that sums it up and whatever goes with it." She admitted to loathing the McMansions.

There is an old expression, "Walk with Kings, but have the common touch." No expression could more describe this extraordinary woman. Among her many friends and admirers are royalty, celebrities, artists, impoverished Bahamians and American inner-city children who were able to experience the Caribbean sunshine thanks to her altruism. Although she has indeed walked with kings, she would undoubtedly, prefer one more walk on a Bahamian or Hamptons beach with her beloved Amigo. She will instead settle for and is determined to see that all animals walk in the sunlight of humane care and compassion.

Frequently mistaken for the "Most Interesting Man in the World" from the Dos Equis commercials and the iconic gray-bearded Sean Connery, DMH is the Senior Contributing Editor at Hamptons.com. www.hamptons.com Hamptons HamptonsOnline HamptonsOnline

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Guest (Barbara Knowles) from Freeport G.B. Bahamas says::
I have worked with Frances Hayward for fifteen years and when I started she had about sixteen dogs. It was amazing to see how they all loved her and how much she loved them. When she brought Amigo home I thought he was just another addition to the family, but as he grew I saw how smart he was. With love and the training he got from Bill Grimmer he was destined for greatness. Being selected as "Poster Boy" for the spay and neuter campaign headed by Ms. Hayward was a testimony of how - with love and care - a stray could become a motivator of good things.
Mar 2, 2010 10:16 am

Guest (Jill Gandza) from Ontario, canada says::
I often sit and read many articles on Potcakes and Frances Hayward you are a special person! I too have a very strong passion for all animals! and have rescued, fostered and donated alot of time and money to all these creatures on earth! I became aware of Potcakes 2 years ago and it is now my mission to help as many as i can! I am fortunate to be able to visit the out Island (Exuma) in the Bahahmas quite often and have rescued 16 Potcake puppies in the past 2 years! My friend and I just recently organized a free spay/neuter clinic on the Island that was an absolute success! we spayed and neutered 89 dogs and 29 cats! We are now formig a great network of people and hopefully with more help we can help the dogs and cats in the Bahamas! I own a beautiful Potcake that we love very much! she has the same face as Amigo! And what a wonderful long ife she will have compared to the short hard life she would have had if not rescued! Everyone who helps animals you are all special people! Jill
Feb 6, 2010 3:32 pm

Guest (Toby Lopez) from Knoxville, Tn says::
It always touches my heart when people are really concerned about animal welfare, and put their money where their mouth is. I am a passionate animal advocate and companion rescue owner of four. I must admit that dogs are my favorite. I am very involved in responsible pet ownership education. I also want to end breed specific legislation. I have been working with a local Pit Bull rescue. They are so loving and caring of their rescues. They insure that the adoptees are going to safe and loving forever homes. We need help educating people about pet education, before adoption. I have the passion and the resilience to network and advocate, however I don't have the funding. I would like very much to connect you to The Pit Bull rescue. They are a 501c3 non-profit organization. I am more than sure that they have reputable references available upon request. My email is tobyklopez@bellsouth.net I hope to be able to look forward to our future correspondence. Thank you. Sincerely, Ms.Toby K. Lopez
Nov 5, 2009 12:39 am

Guest (Marcia Horne) from Bristol, VA says::
Like Mrs. Hayward I too want to raise lots of money for animal welfare. I have a siberian husky rescue in SW Virginia that is working on a self sustaining perpetual animal rescue resort that makes money using tourism. After expenses the funds will be divided by application to specialty animal rescue groups who have a hard time getting donations. We and our dogs, are willing to work and EARN the money. I would like Mrs. Hayward to contact me as we can use all the help we can get to get this up and running. www.siberianhuskyassist.com If someone would pass this to her, it would be greatly appreciated. 276-494-3153
Jun 10, 2009 6:40 am

Guest (Loren) from Suffolk County NY says::
I think it's wonderful that Ms. Hayward is dedicating her life to animal welfare. Her actions reveal the more positive aspects of both humanity and celebrity. There's so much that can be done to help these gifts from God. If one isn't in a financial position to contribute to one of Ms. Hayward's charities, then by all means get a credit card that donates a percentage of your spending to the ASPCA. Or order your checks with the ASPCA logo. A portion of that purchase will also be donated. Both these options are readily available through most banks, won't cost a thing, and will save animal lives.
Jun 4, 2009 7:42 pm


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