TRIVIA QUESTION: Why is New Jersey called New Jersey?
undertaking. It’s who I am in my
heart and my bones. So in that way,
knowing that I always have comedy
is redemptive, yes.
You’ve described your father, a
retired surgeon, as bipolar as well
as remote. In the book you say you
enter the little you know about his
early life into your “emotional abacus” and “mov[e] the beads around
trying to figure out who I am.” How
has he responded? It’s tricky. My
father is still around, he’ll be 76 this
year, and he’s pretty angry about the
book. You know, I love the guy, but
he’s got problems. What are you going to do? I don’t know how much he
reflects on it, and I don’t know how
much he sees his own issues with
clarity, but he’s still fighting the good
fight—against what I’m not sure.
You kicked drugs and alcohol in
1999, but when you talk about your
haywire years, you often sound nostalgic for what sounds like a golden
age. Has stand-up itself changed?
No, there are still guys hanging
around with notebooks in the back of
half-empty rooms, eating late, sleeping late, walking around thinking. In
that sense it hasn’t changed. There
does seem to be more comedy than
ever and more options for people to
find their way with their talent. But
it still seems that the people who
really have it will rise up and shine
somehow, and there will always be
people just chipping away and getting by.
So no nostalgia? It was a little easier
to define one’s success when the
industry was more intimate. There
was a set of hoops you had to jump
through when there was just three
or four TV networks. Everybody
was fighting for the same prize. It’s
sort of blown out now. Some of the
integrity of what it means to be a
comic has been a bit watered down.
If there is anything to be nostalgic
for, it’s the specific trajectory of the
comedy career then. I’m not saying
it’s bad that’s gone. But it’s definitely
[ P L A C E S ] BY DEBORAH CARTER
Fit for a King
Those lusting for a luxury getaway where they will be pampered
and rejuvenated may automatically think of the famed desert spas
of the Southwest and West Coast—but that may soon change. The
Natirar estate in Peapack-Gladstone—already one of New Jersey’s
toniest destinations thanks to priceless views of the rolling Somerset County hills and Ninety Acres, a highly-rated farm-to-table
restaurant with a culinary school—plans to ramp up its game with
an exciting spa and hotel expansion: Miraval at Natirar.
Miraval, the award-winning Tucson, Arizona, resort owned by AOL founder and former
chairman Steve Case and his wife, Jean, is partnering with Natirar for the Miraval brand’s first
expansion. The Miraval name is already familiar to many; celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Ellen De-Generes and TV doctor Mehmet Oz have plugged it as a blissful oasis for body, mind and spirit.
In addition to top-notch spa facilities, the resort offers healthy gourmet cuisine and a gamut of
fitness and wellness programs. Since 1995, Miraval has consistently been ranked as one of the
world’s top destinations by Travel + Leisure, SpaFinder and Conde Nast Traveler.
Natirar founder Bob Wojtowicz originally joined with British businessman Sir Richard
Branson in 2001 to develop the Somerset County retreat which, in additon to the restaurant and
cooking school housed in the property’s 101-year-old barn, includes a 12-acre sustainable farm;
a banquet and catering facility; and a private membership club. Branson, who has famously diverse entrepreneurial interests, is no longer involved, but Wojtowicz says his former partner sup-ports Natirar’s new direction. The new partners will seek additional financing for the project; the
projected cost was not revealed. Wojtowicz remains the majority owner.
The partnership with Miraval was a natural for Wojtowicz, a former insurance executive.
“When I met Jean and Steve, I really felt they shared the same vision for the project that we
have,” he said in an exclusive interview first reported at njmonthly.com.
Natirar began life as the 1,000-acre estate of Walter Graeme Ladd and his wife, Kate Macy
Ladd. The Raritan River runs through it, so they reversed the letters and called it Natirar. The
King of Morocco later acquired a chunk of the property, which Somerset County bought in 2003
and turned into parkland. “As soon as I arrived on the grounds of Natirar, I knew this was the
right place for Miraval,” said Miraval CEO Michael G. Tompkins.
The new resort, slated to open in late 2014, will include an 86-room luxury hotel in the
1912 mansion, which once served as the Kate Macy Ladd convalescent home for women; a
20,000-square-foot spa; a wellness pavilion; yoga center; and
an additional restaurant.
Like the Tucson location,
Miraval at Natirar will offer a
wide range of restorative activities—from yoga and meditation
to outdoor challenges and nutrition workshops. Partnerships
are foreseen with a variety of
health and wellness experts.
Plans are also in the works to
plant Natirar’s 12-acre farm with
herbs and flowers from which
to produce spa products.
The new resort’s recreational
offerings will reflect the Garden
State’s seasonal diversity—
includ-ing winter sports and activities on
the Raritan River. ■
COMING SOON: Miraval at Natirar, a new spa and luxury hotel slated to open late 2014, on the site of the historic mansion, below, once owned by the King of Morocco. Above, Bob Wojto- wicz, Natirar founder.