Bringing Music to the Dynasty
By Megan McKinney
Château de la Chèvre d’Or
We’ve had the mining engineer, the explorer, the healer/novelist and soon there will be the saint. But until William and Mary Borden’s daughter, Joyce, there was no musician in the Borden dynasty—not merely a musician, but a diva…and more.
In 1924, opera singer Joyce Borden met another musician, Croatian violinist Zlatko Baloković. The thoroughly exotic Zlatko was a former child prodigy who had toured throughout Europe, performed with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra and won the annual Austrian “Staatspreis.”
Baloković was born in Zagreb, Croatia, which at the time was part of Austria-Hungary. He began studying the violin at age 10 and made such progress that, three years later, he was sent to Prague to continue his studies at the “Meisterschule” under the guidance of Otakar Ševčík. In 1913, he began making artistic tours to Berlin, Vienna and other European cities.
Baloković spent World War I in Trieste, then lived in Britain until 1924, when he accepted an offer for an American tour; it was there that he met Joyce Borden and settled off and on in the United States. He and Joyce married in 1926, and, through the 1930s, they toured the European continent together, performing predominantly for the continent’s royalty.
Zlatko was already subject of a developing legend. It seems that in 1923 he had been guided by a goat with a gilded coat to a villa in Eze on the French Riviera.
The Eze villa to which Zlatko was guided by the Golden Goat.
He bought the property, restored it and gave it the name Château de la Chèvre d’Or, or Castle of the Golden Goat.
Lest the goat legend be forgotten, its effigy was prominently placed at the villa.
The image of the amazing animal in this spectacular location is one that could not be easily forgotten.
With the arrival of World War II, the couple settled at Hillside Farm in Camden, Maine, with children they adopted but of whom little has been written. During those years, the Balokovićs not only became intensely involved in war efforts but also increasingly militant in support of the Slavic people, including acting as advocates of Tito’s Yugoslav cause.
The dramatic Marshal Josip Broz, invariably known as Tito, was president of Yugoslavia from 1953 until his 1980 death.
After World War II, Joyce and Zlatko were sent by the American Committee for Yugoslav Relief to Yugoslavia, where the violinist gave a series of concerts and speeches. Baloković’s involvement with wartime organizations and his ties to the Yugoslav government eventually caused him to be labeled as subversive; however, the pair, who were named as “fellow travelers” by the House Un-American Activities Committee, were later exonerated.
Back to the Golden Goat: After being led to the villa by the extraordinary creature, Baloković rebuilt the estate to serve as his European residence and gave it the name. He sold it in 1953 to a Robert Wolf, who transformed the villa into a restaurant, which was patronized by such varied figures as Prince Rainier of Monaco and Walt Disney; the latter suggested it be made a hotel, which it was.
Initially the hotel into which Château de la Chèvre d’Or was converted had very few rooms. In the late 1980s, its present owner bought the lodge and enlarged the original building to create a luxurious five star hotel with two fine restaurants. Because the property is part of the ancient village of Eze, it was quite a challenge to add more rooms and involved buying surrounding houses to convert them into extensions of the eccentric resort.
The hotel is spectacular at night . . .
. . . And during the day from any angle.
Zlatko died in Venice in 1965; however, Joyce Baloković lived until 1971, when she died of cancer at their Camden, Maine home.
The Baloković bust at Mirogoj Cemetery, where his body lies.
Megan McKinney’s Classic Chicago series on The Bordens will continue next week with Near Sainthood.
Robert F. Carl