Epstein Had His Own Lodge at Interlochen’s Prestigious Arts Camp for Kids
Epstein was a big donor at Interlochen, where his cabin was located near the junior girls camp. The mother of a former student once accused him of trying to groom her 13-year-old.
Published 07.11.19 9:03PM ET
Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast / Photos Getty / Interlochen
Since Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest for allegedly trafficking underage girls, authorities have cast a spotlight on his massive wealth and many properties, including his New York and Florida mansions, New Mexico ranch, private isle in the Virgin Islands and apartment in France.
But during the 1990s, Epstein apparently had another getaway at a Michigan cabin. There, the 66-year-old financier was a donor to the revered Interlochen Center for the Arts, a fine arts boarding school and camp, and had bankrolled the “Jeffrey Epstein Scholarship Lodge” on its campus.
Indeed, The Daily Beast has discovered that Epstein listed this rental lodge in his infamous Little Black Book—a veritable rolodex of famous faces, from President Donald Trump and his lawyer Alan Dershowitz, to Harvey Weinstein’s brother, Bob, and even Courtney Love. The address book also contained the names of a pair of students who had attended Interlochen.
Beside the words “Michigan Home” and “Epstein Lodge” in the Little Black Book were the P.O. Box and address for Interlochen, along with three area phone numbers.
And in August 1998, Epstein and his alleged madam, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, took a five-day jaunt to Traverse City, Michigan, which is a short drive from the school, along with two other passengers, according to flight records.
The academy and summer camp, a gem in the quiet woods of northern Michigan, is known for churning out world-famous talent. Interlochen’s star-studded alumni include musicians like Jewel, Josh Groban and Norah Jones, comedian Maria Bamford, “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan, and actors Terry Crews and Felicity Huffman.
Epstein also counted himself as an alumnus. Katharine Laidlaw, Interlochen’s Vice President of Strategic Communications and Engagement, told The Daily Beast he attended Interlochen’s “National Music Camp” in 1967. His course of study was Bassoon/Orchestra/Radio, Laidlaw said.
Laidlaw said Epstein is no longer an Interlochen donor, and that his last gift to the school was in 2003. “After the administration learned of his conviction, Interlochen discontinued contact with Mr. Epstein and removed all donor recognition with his name,” Laidlaw said in an email, referring to Epstein’s 2008 plea to soliciting underage girls in Florida.
She said Interlochen has no record of any complaint lodged against Epstein and that the school’s “policies would not have permitted Mr. Epstein any unsupervised access to students.”
According to records reviewed by The Daily Beast, Epstein not only funded the scholarship lodge, but hosted events for Interlochen alumni at his New York office and his seven-story townhouse—which was raided by the feds over the weekend. It’s also where Epstein is accused of forcibly raping a 15-year-old girl in 2002. Jennifer Araoz, now 32, came forward this week with claims that Epstein began sexually assaulting her there when she was 14.
In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Araoz said she wanted to become a Broadway actress and discussed that dream with Epstein, whose recruiter allegedly targeted Araoz at her performing arts high school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
“Epstein attended Interlochen’s 'National Music Camp' in 1967. His course of study was Bassoon/Orchestra/Radio.”
Araoz was vulnerable, having lost her father to AIDS when she was 12 years old. Epstein talked of donating to AIDS charities and assisting her career with his acting and modeling industry contacts. According to Araoz, Epstein suggested she was “very lucky to have met somebody like him” and “that he could really help me.”
This isn’t the first time Epstein has been accused of preying on an arts student.
The mother of soap opera actress Nadia Bjorlin claimed Epstein targeted her daughter when she was a 13-year-old student at Interlochen in 1994.
“She was at school at the famed Interlochen Music Center in Michigan when she met Epstein,” Fary Bjorlin told The Daily Mail in 2011, adding, “My daughter was a singer. She was a baby. She was a skinny little girl, not mature for her age. She was 13, but everyone thought she was nine or ten.”
Fary said she believed Nadia was an easy target for Epstein because the girl’s father, classical conductor Ulf Bjorlin, died the year before. “Epstein was a big donor and he heard about Nadia and that her father had died, so she was vulnerable, and he contacted her. He said, ‘Here’s my number,’ Fary said, according to The Daily Mail.
Asked about Fary’s claims, Laidlaw said, “I can verify that Nadia Bjorlin is an alumna of Interlochen Arts Camp. We have no information about the events that have been reported in this article. As stated, we have no record of any complaint raised against Mr. Epstein at Interlochen.”
Fary, Nadia and her manager did not return messages left by The Daily Beast. Two of Epstein’s attorneys did not return requests for comment.
Fary said Maxwell got to know her and Nadia, and tried to set up a meeting with Nadia and Epstein, who wanted to mentor her. “I trusted Ghislaine, she was like a mother. She was always calling my house,” Fary told the British tabloid.
“He said he wanted to help her singing career. He said, ‘I’d like to be like a godfather.’ It felt creepy.”
But Fary said she wouldn’t let Nadia get involved with Epstein.“What sort of a man approaches a young girl and asks to meet her?” Fary told the tabloid.
“Ghislaine didn’t want me to meet Epstein, but I did anyway, and asked what he wanted with Nadia,” the mother said. “He said he wanted to help her singing career. He said, ‘I’d like to be like a godfather.’ It felt creepy.”
“I kept Nadia away from him. She never met him alone. She never went anywhere with him.”
Epstein has longed billed himself as a philanthropist to the arts, science and education.
As The Daily Beast first revealed, Epstein’s secret charity funded the Hewitt School, an elite private girls school in Manhattan; Harvard’s theater troupe, The Hasty Pudding Institute; the Film Society of Lincoln Center; and MET Orchestra Musicians. Records show Epstein’s now-defunct nonprofit, the C.O.U.Q. Foundation, donated to a host of arts institutions during the mid-aughts, including the New School, the Tribeca Film Institute, and Ballet Florida.
But well before Epstein issued press releases on his largesse, he was listed as a donor to Interlochen inside school newsletters from 1990 to 1999. (Laidlaw said Epstein’s lifetime giving to the institution was less than $500,000.)
In the spring of 1991, under the headline “New York City Alumni Enjoy Several Successful Events,” an article stated that Interlochen’s New York alumni network held a gala “at the offices of Jeffrey E. Epstein & Company.”
“More than 175 people attended including several members of the Interlochen administration. Chamber music was performed by alumni ensembles and it was an elegant evening enjoyed by all,” the newsletter said. “The event was such a success that Jeffrey E. Epstein has graciously agreed to underwrite a second event…”
The story indicated a future reception would take place at “Jeffrey E. Epstein & Company, 457 Madison Avenue between 50th and 51st.”
Additionally, in February 1992, Epstein hosted a pre-concert reception on Interlochen’s behalf at the Degas Room of New York’s then Radisson-owned Empire Hotel. “Further documentation notes that Mr. Epstein, himself, did not attend the event, though he contributed funds to support it,” Laidlaw noted in an email.
“He was very much into health food at the time ... I remember whole grain bread, plain yogurt, a lot of stuff like that.”
Epstein made Interlochen news again, in the spring of 1994, for his funding of the scholarship lodge, which an article noted was stationed close to a junior girls’ camp.
“The Jeffrey Epstein Scholarship Lodge is nearing completion as the newest rental unit on Campus. Located on Penn Colony Road next to Frohlich Lodge near Junior Girls camp, the Epstein Lodge is a gift to the center from Jeffrey Epstein, a businessman from New York and a former Interlochen camper,” the Interlochen newsletter stated.
“Proceeds from the rental unit will go into a scholarship fund, providing ongoing monies for deserving students,” the article continued.
Timothy Ambrose, Interlochen’s former vice president of institutional advancement, was quoted as saying, “This will be the first new construction of handicap accessible housing on campus. We are extremely grateful that Jeffrey Epstein chose to demonstrate his commitment to Interlochen in such a profound and supportive way.”
Laidlaw told The Daily Beast that Interlochen records show Epstein stayed at this lodge for a week in August 2000.
“Per the funding agreement, he was permitted to use the lodge for up to two weeks per year. Interlochen has no record of any other use by him beyond that one week in August 2000,” Laidlaw said in an email.
The Daily Beast found one mention of Michigan in some of Epstein’s flight records. Epstein and Maxwell traveled from New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport to Traverse City, Michigan, for a five-day trip in August 1998. They left Teterboro on Aug. 7 and returned Aug. 11.
A 25-year-old woman and a fourth passenger only identified by the initials “ET” joined them on the trip. Their return flight only included Maxwell, Epstein and “ET.” Whether Epstein and his crew stayed at Interlochen during that trip is unknown.
Meanwhile, Epstein hosted a reception at his New York mansion for the late CBS broadcaster and Interlochen alumnus Mike Wallace in 1997. (Wallace’s name was also listed in Epstein’s address book, with the title “60 Minutes-CBS.”)
“Held at the luxurious home of alumnus, Jeffrey Epstein, the event included dinner, remarks from [Interlochen Alumni Organization] President Dean Anderson and Wallace, plus entertainment by New York area alumni. Wallace was honored for his distinguished career in broadcasting and, coincidentally, his 79th birthday during the festivities,” an Interlochen newsletter stated.
Guests included former CBS anchor Paula Zahn, along with Interlochen’s former president Rich Odell and his wife and board of trustee members. Betsy Pfau, an alumna who attended the reception and wrote a blog post about it, said Epstein allowed the gala’s organizers to use two floors of his Manhattan townhouse.
Maxwell was Epstein’s representative and supervising the house at the Wallace celebration, Pfau told The Daily Beast. “She was very elegant, very put together,” Pfau said, adding that Maxwell “was in charge” and “a very dominant kind of person.”
Pfau said she set her camera down on a bench at the top of the stairs, and when she went to collect it, the camera was gone. “I couldn’t believe my things disappeared and I found them in the cloak room later that evening,” she said.
“Ghislaine was very protective, she was like the major-domo for him...”
Reached by The Daily Beast, Ambrose, the former Interlochen fundraising executive, said he first courted Epstein as a donor to Interlochen after someone had called him from a New York number, asking to obtain concert tickets for a show at the school in the 1990s.
Ambrose said he arranged a place for Epstein to stay while attending the concert and that he remembers most of his contact was with Maxwell. He would later get Epstein to fund a new log cabin on campus, which was the Epstein Scholarship Lodge.
“My recollection is they [Epstein and Maxwell] came once or twice after the cabin was built. But quite frankly Ghislaine was very protective, she was like the major-domo for him,” Ambrose told The Daily Beast, adding that when Epstein stayed at Interlochen, he made sure there was fresh orange juice and bottles of water stocked in the fridge.
“He was very much into health food at the time,” Ambrose recalled. “I remember whole grain bread, plain yogurt, a lot of stuff like that, because the lodge had a refrigerator and I wanted to make sure they were comfortable.”
“That’s one of the things I remember, healthier food was very important to him.”
Ambrose said that he didn’t see Epstein on campus during his visits to Interlochen.
“He kept to his own schedule,” Ambrose said. “Let’s say you had a major donor, you might say, ‘Why don’t you come over and have lunch with the president’ …. Essentially you would court them. But there wasn’t really any of that.”
“We didn’t have the normal interaction you would have with a major donor,” Ambrose told The Daily Beast. “Other than he had tickets for the concerts.”
Ambrose said he only remembers Epstein staying on campus twice, and both times at the Epstein Lodge. He stressed that there were never any signs of Epstein preying on students.
“If I had to leave you with an impression… it’s that he was generous to Interlochen,” Ambrose told The Daily Beast. “Obviously there was nothing that portended what happened later on. Our interactions were relatively normal in that respect.”
“There was nothing untoward or out of place that we would have foreseen,” Ambrose continued. “He was very generous to us. He was a private person, but so are so many comfortable wealthy people.”
“There was nothing untoward or out of place that we would have foreseen ... He was very generous to us. He was a private person, but so are so many comfortable wealthy people.”
But one 2011 civil court filing pointed to the Little Black Book, which was snatched from Epstein’s home by his former house manager Alfredo Rodriguez, as evidence that Epstein might have molested underage girls in places across the country.
Rodriguez “took a journal from Epstein’s computer that reflected many of the names of underage females Epstein abused across the country and the world, including locations such as Michigan, California, West Palm Beach, New York, New Mexico, and Paris, France,” according to a “statement of undisputed facts” filed in a Florida lawsuit Epstein filed against victims’ lawyer Brad Edwards.
One victims’ attorney, Jack Scarola, recently told The Daily Beast: “Based upon the pattern of criminal activity at a very intense level, it’s highly unlikely that there is anywhere Jeffrey Epstein went that he did not leave victims in his wake.”
In at least one case, Epstein allegedly lured a young woman into his sex-trafficking scheme by promising to pay for her schooling in the arts.
Sarah Ransome, in a 2017 lawsuit, accused Epstein and Maxwell of vowing to fund her education while Epstein continued to sexually abuse her throughout 2006 and 2007. But they broke their promise to help get Ransome into New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology.
According to court papers, one of Epstein’s recruiters said she’d introduce Ransome to “a wealthy philanthropist who regularly used his wealth, influence and connections to help financially poor females like [Ransome] achieve their personal and professional goals and aspirations.”
Epstein settled the suit with Ransome in December 2018. (Ransome also claimed she was forced to have sex with Alan Dershowitz, who has adamantly denied her accusations.)
Maria Farmer, another Epstein accuser who came forward in April, claims she was an artist and grad student in New York in the mid-90s when Epstein and Maxwell attended her art show. “Epstein said that if I sold him one of my paintings for half price, he would help me with my career,” Farmer said in an affidavit. “I sold him the painting that night for half price which was approximately $6,000.”
Farmer said that in 1996, Epstein offered her a job, which involved manning the door at his Manhattan mansion. During that time period, Epstein “arranged for me to work on a special art project at the Ohio mansion of Leslie Wexner,” Farmer added in the court filing.
She claims Maxwell and Epstein sexually assaulted her at Wexner’s estate, and that they sexually abused her underage sister in New Mexico.
Still, Epstein’s promises to aid her career soon faded. After she tried filing police reports on them, Epstein and Maxwell allegedly waged a war on her reputation, contacting her clients and people in the art world. “Maxwell and Epstein worked in concert to make sure that my career and my life was ruined,” Farmer stated.
“Epstein was 'obsessed' with the 'Flashdance' soundtrack, and played it on a loop for five days.”
The financier may have been dangling the prospect of paying tuition and boosting women’s careers as early as the 1980s.
One dancer told The Daily Beast she was attending The Juilliard School in New York in 1983 when Epstein enlisted her to teach him dance.
The woman, who asked not to be named, said Epstein contacted Juilliard in search of a student to teach him dance as a form of exercise.
At the time, Epstein lived in a penthouse apartment on the Upper East Side and was interested in ballet barre lessons and stretching. Epstein flew the woman to Palm Beach to teach exercise to his guests, which included two Swedish models—one of them, she says, was his ex-girlfriend, Eva Andersson-Dubin—for a week. He then ended up hiring the dancer to become his “on-call” personal trainer two to three times a week, for a period of a few months.
“He seemed very serious about the work he was doing with me,” the dancer recalled, adding that Epstein was “obsessed” with the Flashdance soundtrack, and played it on a loop for five days. (The woman noted that Epstein could play classical piano.)
“She wants to go to Juilliard. She wants to get out of the steel mill, out of the strip club,” the ex-employee recalled of Epstein’s obsession with the movie. “Was I the stripper-dancer? Probably not. But that’s what drove” Epstein to Juilliard.
Epstein offered to pay for the woman’s senior year at Juilliard—and to fund new audio-visual equipment for the school—but never followed through, the dancer said.
“He was a guy on the move for his professional business. I never suspected there was some insidious underbelly to this, or red flags” indicating an interest in underage girls, she said.
“What I saw was a playboy lifestyle, drawers full of cash, and a charming but flat, unemotional affect,” she said, adding that Epstein wasn’t “empathetic” and never bothered to see her perform.
“He could have gone into any dance studio but he went to Juilliard,” the woman said, adding that Epstein seemed like a “nouveau riche guy.”
“He wanted the best,” she said.
Looking back now, the dancer says she dodged a bullet. “I maybe wouldn’t be living the life I am now, had I been his prey,” she said.https://www.thedailybeast.com/jeffrey-e ... n-michigan