Madame Sherri | New Hampshire's Most Eccentric Resident?
In 1916, Antoinette decided she needed a new, flashier name to attract business. She had always been an avid admirer of Otto Hauerbach’s play, “Madame Sherry,” and decided to adopt the moniker for her husband and herself. Accordingly, on November 10th of that year, she marched into the New York City Registry and made arrangements to open a business under the name “Andre-Sherri.”
The next eight years saw the couple realizing tremendous success, as Andre took his dancing revue onto the Vaudeville circuit, complete with magicians, comedians, and a bevy of scantily-clad young ladies. It was during this time that they began their connection with Charles LeMaire, a pianist who decided to pursue a career in costume design. Taking the young man on as a counter assistant, they encouraged him in his new vocation, and he soon found himself working with Flo Zeigfeld. Eventually, his success would take him out to Hollywood, where he was employed by 20th Century Fox.
All of this good fortune would come to a crashing halt in 1924. Plagued with venereal disease, Andre went blind and insane, and was admitted to the Manhattan State Hospital. On October 19, he finally passed away.
To say Sherri was shattered by this turn of events would be an understatement. New York’s night life no longer held the allure it once did, and she began to look elsewhere for solace. It was at this time that she befriended stage actor Jack Henderson, who told her he owned a house on the Gulf Road in West Chesterfield, New Hampshire. He started to invite her along to his parties, which were booze-fueled affairs featuring naked girls jumping out of cakes.
Over the next five years, Sherri was in regular attendance at these celebrations, and by 1929, decided to pull up her New York roots and move to the Granite State for good. Through Henderson, she had met a neighbor, George Furlone, who owned a small farmhouse on a 70-tract. She purchased it, and then began buying adjoining vacant properties, eventually acquiring 600 acres.
It was at this point that she began constructing her infamous “castle.” Employing local handyman Paul Welcome to oversee the construction, she brought in stonecutters from Fitchburg, Mass., and laid out her grandiose plan.
The problem was, she had no blueprints of any kind. She would just traipse along the lot, putting down pegs where she thought each aspect of the house should stand. The workers were baffled, but persevered.
What rose from the forest floor was something the like of which New Hampshire had never seen. The house looked like a cross between a Roman ruin and a French chalet. In the cellar, there was a cozy little bistro, with half a dozen tables, draped with red cloths. The main floor was a huge bar, which one entered between two huge trees, growing through the roof. The third floor held Sherri’s private quarters, accessible by a huge stone staircase that ran up the side of the house.
This was where Sherri held her parties. Although she still lived in the tiny farmhouse across the road, the castle was always available for huge shindigs, as her New York friends drove into town, and celebrated the night away. Sherri was always in the middle of it, holding court in her massive cobra-backed chair. She was constantly chain-smoking, but only lit one match a day; each succeeding cigarette was ignited off its predecessor.
The scandals didn’t stop there. Sherri had purchased a 1927 cream-colored Packard from the State Department, which she used to tool about town — usually in the company of several beautiful young people — attired in a large fur coat, with not a stitch on underneath. On these trips, she was also invariably accompanied by a small monkey on a leash.
Madame Sherri paid for pretty much everything with cash, which she would pull either from her cleavage, or a garter belt strapped to her thigh. As a matter of fact, she seemed to take a perverse delight in shocking as many of the local merchants as possible.
Of course, the party had to eventually come to an end, and Sherri’s long decline into abject poverty began shortly after the end of World War II. It appears that Charles LeMaire had been subsidizing her extravagant lifestyle for decades. Now, however, the checks had stopped coming in, and Sherri had to rely on the very neighbors she had been scandalizing over the years. She also concocted various schemes to recoup her fortune, including turning the castle into a nightclub and selling mineral rights to the property. Unfortunately, all of these attempts came to nothing.
It was about this time that Madame Sherri became a Jehovah’s Witness, and decided to move to the Parker House in Quechee, Vermont, at the invitation of Mr. And Mrs. Wilfred Childs. She spent six months living there, before deciding to return to West Chesterfield, New Hampshire.
When she came back to the castle, in the spring of 1959, she was horrified. The house had been completely trashed. Her priceless porcelain had been used as target practice, the local high school kids had made off with her cobra-backed chair for use in the junior prom, and the front door had been ripped off, utilized as a car jack. Sherri ran from room to room, screaming in French and English. “This was our love nest!” she howled, before fleeing from the house. She was never to enter it again.
Sherri then moved into the Maple Rest Nursing Home, at the invitation of Walter O’Hara, an old acquaintance who had provided her with bootleg liquor during Prohibition. Sadly, she was unable to pay for her keep, and, in 1961, she was sued by the City of Brattleboro on behalf of Mrs. O’Hara, to the tune of $800.