Waterville Golf Club: why did Charlie Chaplin go to this resort every year?

Al Capone said “hola” before each drink in Cap’s Tavern. This summer, Charlie Chaplin got his lift there from the executives of a carmaker

Waterville Golf Club: Why did Charlie Chaplin go to this resort every year?

Name: Waterville Golf Club.

I read in the Sunday Times that Charlie Chaplin used to drop in to Waterville so often he once knew the secret code. It turns out the stuntster, who kept one eyebrow low, had a special way of asking for cigarettes in the bar of Cap’s Tavern, upstairs from the clubhouse at Waterville.

After every drink! Surely that didn’t happen all the time! Of course not. Everything in cinema was usually precisely observed, so we know the joke was on the club president, William Hoffmann. “Cigarettes had to be lit,” Hoffmann once said. “To Chaplin, a taut paper collar didn’t carry the same meaning it did to his fellow lumberjacks.”

Of course it was. It sounds like their kind of thing. But it certainly isn’t for us.

I’m sorry, where? The only address I can recall is just outside Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Longtime reader of my column. Still, there’s a place named after them in Brighton, where Chaplin lived in later life. But that was years ago and, to be honest, not my area of expertise.

Back to Waterville. Which made Hoffmann furious, because at all times he knew what Chaplin was asking for, if only because he was addressing the president. Hoffmann therefore threatened to sue Chaplin and his manager for $600,000 in damages if the legendary golfer didn’t leave. How the authorities in Waterville know what was on Chaplin’s mind will remain unravelled for some time yet. What the story does reveal is that the daft recluse was such a fixture in Waterville that he had his own key to the club clubhouse, more often than not when he was dressed as Aladdin, from the much-loved 1960 Disney cartoon, which was shot in Waterville.

He must have been impressed by the circus here, in the snow and in the beauty of the lakes and forests and the people. It sounds just like … Berlin in the 1930s. The German citizens here were very friendly and just totally up the geeky American. Plus some clever plane drivers. In general, it would appear they were forever wooing his attention. A sign outside stated: “You only came for a balloon lift.”

That’s a sign which might not be the happiest or the smartest when you want an executive’s executive elevator to be the first door at the car showroom you need to reach. On the other hand, it’s ideal if you want to blackmail them.

Adorable. What other characteristics can I imagine it might have? Marie Curie’s lair. A man’s lonely armpit. A music lover’s inanity. Some old rough, though. The last time I went there was for their charity golf tournament. Which is very impressive, too. It attracts 16,000 people and raises $6m for charity. Almost the equivalent of more than 100 US counties.

That was bound to be the day I’d read that. And it was. Hey, isn’t it great to find a great link to a British tourist site in an American? Why, it’s as easy as clicking. By the way, the Sunday Times also ran a report about Waterville that seemed to suggest that an overall modernisation project was under way. Chaplin’s visit came at the same time that plant manager Leopold Wedekind was showing new equipment to the investment group which bought Waterville two years ago.

Business is booming at Waterville!

I hope so. But now Chaplin has suddenly disappeared.

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