Remembering Beau James

Beau James — member of a noted Westport family; an avid Downshifter; house manager of the Westport Country Playhouse and a longtime area resident — died April 10 at his Weston home after a brave battle with cancer. He was 75.

Born Hal Wells James in New York City on December 22, 1943, he was later called Beau James, the nickname given to colorful New York mayor Jimmy Walker. It stuck.

Beau was the middle child of Hal and Florence James of Wilton Road, who moved to Westport in 1948.

Beau James, Staples High School Class of 1961.

He graduated from Staples High School in 1961. His activities included the 4-H Club, raising bantam chickens and pigeons, and cars. He loved the  Downshifters, a club devoted to building hot rods and driving safety.

He was also a member of the Staples football team, Staples Players and the Hi-Y Club.

He and a group of friends — the Jolly Jazz-Beaus — frequented the Apollo Theater in Harlem for rhythm ‘n’ blues as often as possible.

Beau spent a gap year before college taking Advanced Placement courses at Staples and working at Kerrigan’s Auto Body Shop.

At Lake Forest College Beau majored in art history and arts management. He was managing director for the Ravinia Festival outside of Chicago, and later became house manager for the Westport Country Playhouse.

He worked as an assistant to his father Hal, co-producer of the original Tony Award-winning musical Man of La Mancha. Beau produced the melodrama The Drunkard off Broadway. He enjoyed a long membership in The Players Club in New York, founded by noted 19th-century Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth.

Beau (center) with his brother Michael, mother  Florence, sister Melody and father Hal.

Beau was enrolled in the first masters program for theater/arts administration at NYU when he was drafted during the Vietnam War. Upon return he married Jane. They moved to Vermont and had 2 daughters. He returned to his childhood love of farming.

In 1978 he moved to New York and entered the toy industry. He was vice president of sales and marketing at International Playthings, a New Jersey distributor of prestigious European toy brands. He later married Caren, and had 2 more children.

Beau’s illustrious career in the toy business spanned 40 years. From 2016 until his death he was managing director of KidSource, a Maryland distribution company offering high-quality European products to specialty retailers in North America.

Beau James

He also distributed Sasha dolls, and worked at Madame Alexander, Goetz (the original manufacturing company of the American Girl doll), and Corolle.

Throughout his career Beau was a proponent of the power of play and the value of the partnership between manufacturers and specialty retailers in bringing high-quality, well-designed and developmentally appropriate playthings to children everywhere.

Shortly before his death, Beau was presented with the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association.

In addition to his father, Beau was mentored by Levon West (one of America’s foremost artists of etching), aka Ivan Dmitri, a pioneer in color photography, and the recognition of photography as an art medium. Beau often credited West with teaching him the importance of presentation and details.

Beau was the consummate host.  Having grown up in a home that always welcomed friends and made room for more, Beau hosted business and family gatherings, as well as many Staples alumni reunions for the classes of 1961, 1962 (his post-grad year), and his brother’s class of 1960.

Beau was renowned for his warmth, hospitality, wit, generosity of spirit, and an ability to listen and forge abiding friendship. He loved people, travel (especially France), museums, theater, architecture and opera.

Beau is survived by his children Jessica and her husband Chris Davenport, and their children of Aspen, Colorado; Ashley James of Brooklyn, and her children; Brooke and Travis James,  both of New York City; his brother Michael of Chicago; his sister Melody of Westport, and numerous nieces and nephews.

A memorial celebration of Beau James’ life will be held this Sunday (May 5, 12:30 p.m.) at the Jane Hotel Ballroom in New York City. For further information, email BrookeLJames@gmail.com. The family requests that no flowers be sent to the service.

19 responses to “Remembering Beau James

  1. Sheila Reardon

    Beau was a wonderful friend, penultimate gracious host and a true gentleman. I miss him. xoxo Sheila Reardon

  2. Lesley Anderson

    Beau was charming and a most gracious host! I was in the class of 1960 and was fortunate to attend our reunion he hosted at his lovely home in Weston. He was attentive and so unselfish I was happy to get to know him. He will be missed.

  3. Dan, I believe Beau is in the *center* of the family photo with older brother Michael on the left. Beau was a wonderful, generous, kind man and I will miss him. Linda (Gramatky Smith(

  4. Paul E. Cahill

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    Paul E. Cahill
    305 Lansdowne
    Westport, CT 06880
    (C) 203.856.6506

    Sent from my IPhone

  5. Luke Garvey

    Beau was my neighbor in Weston for 20 years. A finer, nicer man you won’t find. RIP.

  6. What a lovely tribute to an incredible man! Beau had so many interests, talents, and connections to people all over the world. He was always willing to open up and share stories from his life, he was simply wonderful and easy to be around. I met Beau through the toy industry where he became a mentor and confidant. I am forever grateful for the times I spent with Beau and having met his daughter Ashley and adorable grandchildren. My heart goes out to his family.

  7. Arline Gertzoff

    A larger than life individual. Rest In Peace ..Our families span two generations.

  8. Liselotte Kjellme

    Lovely words about this lovely man. So much fun we have had during the 36 years of friendship. I play the theme for Chariots of fire that Beau introduced to me first time we met in New York. Will always miss you, Beau❤️

  9. Charles Taylor

    Beautiful eulogy for Beau. He was one of the first people I met at Staples when we moved from Western Kentucky in 1958. Beau Always hade the welcome mat out. A great loss to Westport, Staples Class of 1961, and his friends. Rest In Peace my brother.

  10. Linda Solway

    A great loss to all who knew Beau.Sincerest condolences to the James family.

  11. Charles Taylor

    Beau was a Prince! Unselfish, kind, generous, the ultimate host and friend. We had been friends since August of 1958. We will all miss the smile, ready laugh and sage advice!
    Love you man.

  12. This is a wonderful and entirely accurate eulogy for a very special man, who lived with style, grace, charm and wit. I had known Beau at Staples, and was lucky to reconnect with with him in 2011 when he hosted the Staples class of ‘61 50th reunion at his home in Weston. We again became good friends, and spent many delightful evenings eating sushi or Mexican food or having drinks. I don’t think I’ve ever know nicer, kinder, more generous man, and I will miss him terribly. Rest in peace, my brother.

  13. Marian Wolfe

    This is such a moving eulogy. The photos are just wonderful for someone like me, who only met Beau within the last ten years as he became our son Robin’s “uncle by marriage.” He graciously provided his home for the venue of Robin and Caitlin’s wedding. I knew about Beau’s involvement with toys, but didn’t know he also liked farming. He had a full life. He will be missed and also remember by us.

  14. Anita Kiesewetter

    Beau was a part of my life as long as I can remember. We went to toy fair together, had road trips, and shared many good times and parties. He was one of my fathers best friends, and always generous and fun. I fondly remember the lobster parties. He will be very missed.

  15. Deb Holliday Kintigh

    Beau was a man who was well loved….and he loved well in return. Keep the rich memories alive!

  16. Chip Platow

    Beau was a classmate, football mate, fellow Downshifter and fellow Westonite. And we shared a wine or two.Our parents were social friends and I have found memories of their Wilton Rd. house. Think Hal directed the Coleytown Capers fund raiser. Happy we reconnected the last few years -may you RIP. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family. Chip Platow- Staples 62

  17. From the wild days at Lake Forest College until his life spent in pleasing the children, Beau lived a life worth living. He will be missed by all of his friends old and new. Sholom my friend.

  18. Russell Hyde

    I will miss this kind and charming man, we have been friends going back to the 50s.Rest in peace you old jazzbo