New York restaurant, Michael’s, is famous for its popular lunch crowd of famous people. On September 20, however, Michael’s opened its doors for another kind of special event: hosting Tony Cointreau and his newest book, Gift of Love: Lessons Learned from My Work and Friendship with Mother Teresa.
Cointreau’s life has taken many varied turns before having reached this point. He started life as heir to the Cointreau French Liqueur empire, sharing his time between a cavernous apartment on Park Avenue in New York and his elegant chateau in France.
Cointreau’s personal history is both textured and interesting colored by his personal experiences and choices. For many years, Cointreau enjoyed a successful career in show business mentored by the famous French designer Pierre Cardin as well as legendary Broadway idol Ethel Merman who he considered a surrogate mother.
While living this life, Cointreau socialized with international socialites and celebrities. He achieved grand success as an entertainer, and although accomplished and successful, he felt something was missing from his life.
One day he would see a powerful photograph that would change his life and affect him profoundly: it was a picture of a dying man being carried by a volunteer for Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. This affected him so deeply, that he immediately felt called to follow a new and spiritually fulfilling path. Tony Cointreau had had that illuminating “aha” moment and moved to join the forces of those who altruistically help others.
As a result of his spiritual experience with Mother Teresa [newly canonized Saint Teresa] and her charitable works, evolved Cointreau’s current book, Gift of Love: Lessons Learned from My Work and Friendship with Mother Teresa. The book is a reflection of the lessons he learned over the 12 years he spent volunteering for Mother Teresa and her hospice program (A Gift of Love). He served in both Greenwich Village where he cared for indigent men dying of AIDS, as well as in Calcutta where he did everything from scrubbing toilets to singing to patients. No job was too menial for him.
By following Mother Teresa’s divine guidance, he learned how to care for the dying both here and abroad with great love and great compassion. In this book, he records many poignant moments, detailing how over 100 AIDS’ patients had died in his arms.
During Tony Cointreau’s elegant book party, which was coordinated by his publicist and friend, Judy Twersky, he shared a funny story after reading a few passages from his book.
He reminisced about his first experience in India. Arriving in Calcutta and still used to very luxurious living, he checked into a marble palace. After all, what else would a wealthy heir to a liqueur fortune do?
After Mother Teresa visited Tony at his hotel, she asked him how much he was paying for his luxurious suite. When Tony told her the price, Mother Theresa quickly said she wanted to know the day rate not the weekly rate. Cointreau informed her the price he quoted was the day rate.
Mother Teresa then humorously responded, “I can see you took a vow of luxury.” We all laughed and loved Cointreau’s humorous depiction of Mother Teresa’s sense of humor.
Tony Cointreau’s interesting life mosaic was reflected in everyone present at his book party. Some of his closest friends were there to celebrate his success including Joan Benny (Jack Benny’s daughter), Maria Cooper Janis (Gary Cooper’s Daughter), Fran Weissler, Mary Higgins Clark who was escorted by her charming husband. Paul and Cathy Shaffer who were there with their daughter Victoria. The Director of Network Programming for ABC News Wayne Fisk was also in the house. NPR radio host and legendary writer Susan Silver, Legal Commentator Stacy Schneider as well as many others reflecting New York City society; they were all there to celebrate Cointreau’s impressive accomplishments on this happy occasion.
Tony Cointreau is a remarkable man with a remarkable story to tell. He told me that he felt Mother Teresa’s presence and support the entire time he was writing this book. He noted that if he touches just one person’s life who might feel lost when trying to help a loved one towards life’s end, then his goal for this book will be met.
I think you’ll agree that Tony Cointreau achieved this goal as well as much more in his latest book, Gift of Love: Lessons Learned from My Work and Friendship with Mother Teresa. The book is now available nationally everywhere books are sold.