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The Devil & Saint Ann's


The lawyer Barry Scheck, who has a daughter at Saint Ann’s and a son who already graduated, says, “The kids all talk about the scandalous stories and how he slept with everyone. But look, we all appreciate the institution he built, and I guess you need an iconoclast to pull that off. There’s an irreverence about Stanley that filters down, and that’s what makes the place work.”

At the high-school dance recital in late April, the audience is shrieking and the dancing is unreal. Forty kids at once pounce and throw their limbs in the air to the beat of African drums in mind-boggling synchronicity. But what is really most startling is seeing a troupe of teenagers—some beautiful and muscular, but most gawky and still humbled by cowlicks and acne—wearing outré, form-fitting leopard-print costumes and polka-dotted hoods and flying across the stage with total abandon, with absolutely no discernible shame. The looks on their faces are so intent, so proud, so utterly unconflicted, you can’t resist wishing you’d ever felt that way for even one moment of your adolescence. You can’t resist wishing you could feel that way for a moment now.

There are four women who work in Stanley’s office, three of them alums, and the day after he returns from his spring vacation, I sit with them for several hours, waiting for his arrival. Diane Gnagnarelli has been here for twenty years as a lower-school teacher and a theater instructor and an administrative assistant, and I ask her what her job is now. “Stanley says that everything is ontological, that it’s about being,” she explains. “Job titles work, but pretty much I’m known as Diane.”

I ask Diane if Stanley has been outrageous for as long as she can remember. “Some days more and some days less outrageous,” she says. “He’ll surprise you when you least expect it. It’s a little bit like the purloined letter: The message is right there for you and it’s so obvious, so he sometimes clouds it a little bit. But if you’re meant to hear it, then you’ll hear it.”

When he finally arrives, he is tan and hungry and crazy as ever. He’s not going gently. He calls one of his secretaries “a fat Jewess cow,” and deems a top administrator a “penis snipper,” and “don’t think I profoundly respect, revere, and worship the pusillanimous sycophants that are teachers,” he says. “Have I shocked you? Because there are two reasons for my saying that, and one is to find out if you know what a sycophant is.”

“I’m a very good fake,” says Stanley Bosworth, “but I’m also very real. I really am the person I’ve pretended to be.”

Then he wants to go back to the Italian restaurant. Once he’s had his single malt and a little wine, he grows quiet, almost whispering, as he talks about his legacy. “I don’t think I’d like to be loved by humanity,” he decides. “Although the kids love me. There’s a moment in Camus’s The Stranger when he’s about to be marched off to be hung. And he says to the executioner, about the mob—what I say to the mob every day!—‘May they greet me with cries of hate.’ ”

He gives a little laugh. “I’m a very good fake,” he continues, “but I’m also very real. I really am the person who I’ve pretended to be. And furthermore, I haven’t invented anything.”

“You invented that school,” I say.

“You’re goddamn right I did,” he hollers, “but it doesn’t know how it got invented! And those little bourgeois animals that I have working there! Those androgynous creatures who are trying to figure out which way is in, no less up!” He takes a sip of wine, a toast to himself. “Nonetheless, I have to go.”


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