This is a story of Queen Victoria, her long and varied life, and her love for the Thief of Soul, a.k.a. Ms. Toad’s Wild Ride (though she was not a toad at all, but did like them).
This is not a story of her death at all, but rather the story of a life very well lived.
On the afternoon of Monday, April 8, 2019 our island lost one of the people who loved it the very most. Victoria Anne Kittredge may be out of our sight, but she will live on every time a glass is raised at The Temp, every time a joke or story in poor taste is told at just the wrong time, every time an engine in a choice sports car revs up to about 4,000 rpm and in every sunset from the sea wall.
Tori was born on November 14, 1952 in Norwalk, Connecticut. Her father, Ben Kittredge, was a bit of a mystery. He passed the bar to be an investment lawyer, but ended up as an investor himself. Tori’s mom, Betty, was rumored to have been a showgirl, but mainly she was just “mom” from Canada.
Tori went to Boston University, but in hindsight she was pretty mad she didn’t go to Boston College instead (she was accepted into both). She also went to a fancy prep school in Switzerland, a place where she and a friend escaped from to travel to Morocco, where she sold a Deux Chavaux to a turban-wearing man (the girls were taking a bus across the Sahara Desert so they didn’t need it anymore), only to have it break down just as they boarded a bus to leave. The man who stalked onto the bus was out for the pale girl’s blood, as the story was told, but they made their escape unscathed and the headlines the next day, fortunately, did not read “American tourist beheaded in the town square.”
After school she made a living in many ways. She was a window dresser in New York City in the late 1960s, the only lady amongst all those gay men. She loved going to Studio 54 with her friends. She loved working as a crepier – even went to a fancy school for it – and she worked for an upscale chain of creperies in the 1970s. She was once saved by a covey of bums who protected her from a very unruly and abusive boyfriend at Grand Central Station.
Tori once bought a Triumph Stag in England, then took it on a Russian cargo ship where she ate bad cavier, spaghetti with ketchup and drank vodka all the way back to New York City.
There are blanks in this story … but that’s pretty normal.
Tori was well-known for many years on the International Motor Sports Association circuit, particularly by those who were familiar with Renault Motor Sports. She had an ex-boyfriend who drove a truck for the Renault race team, and she would often travel with him. One day someone asked her if she wanted to help out with hospitality, and she said yes. After working as an event planner for the team (and occasionally as a trophy girl, which she really didn’t like), as well as a ghostwriter for the drivers, within a year’s time her contract was changed to include a clause that said if she started one more food fight in a Renault uniform she would be terminated.
When Renault Racing brought its A game to the USA, Tori squired the Formula One team around the Detroit Grand Prix, right after they started the Cup series. She eventually became the assistant director of the series. Renault eventually got out of that type of racing, and when they did they took their employees to Monte Carlo and fired them all. Tori had fond memories of that trip, as she always thought it was a really nice way to fire someone.
In about 1984 Tori met a dashing up-and-coming photographer named Skip Perry. She didn’t know it, but Skip had been intrigued by the girl with the bright blue eyes since the day he saw her walk into a funeral wearing a trench coat and a beret. He occasionally did photo shoots around the race track, and he would sometimes catch glimpses of the girl he only knew as “The Renault Chick.” He thought she was way out of his league, not to mention he was “in love” with the make-up girl from his photography business. No matter though, his mind always seemed to wander back to the blue-eyed girl.
One day during the Miami Grand Prix he sat sipping a drink at a hotel bar and she walked in with a crowd of friends. He found out her name was Victoria, and that she lived in the same town he did. When he went home days later he called her up for a drink and she accepted … as it turned out she lived right down the street.
Not long after that drink Tori got a job as an ice driving instructor in Colorado, but instead of staying the two months she was supposed to, she stayed only two weeks. Then she went home to “a million boyfriends” and a guy named Skip. When he called her after she got home he said, “Do you want to go …”
She said yes.
Then she busted out the windshield of his Toyota van ( which Tori called the Space Wart) by straightening her legs while she was laughing (no matter what kind of car you drove, Tori would put her feet up on the dashboard).
They were married in 1984, and from that point on they were together for 35 years.
The newlywed couple made Westport, Conn. their home, along with Skip’s two children, Shana and Scott, from his first marriage. Tori worked at the Lime Rock Race Track as the assistant registrar for a time, and in 1985 she was ice racing with the IIRA team in St. Paul, Minnesota on Lake Phalen.
Tori was the kind of lady who loved life and her friends, but never knew quite what to make of children. She held babies at arm’s length, and when she spoke to a child it was quite often in the same way she spoke to adults (swear words included). Having not been around kids during her lifetime, she didn’t understand that small children are often not perfect angels and occasionally need some table etiquette coaching. One time she thought it was a perfectly appropriate gesture to (lightly) stab Scott in the hand with a fork when he jokingly used the same implement to pick up his corn on the cob.
“You can use your fingers for that,” she said.
Eventually the family started splitting their time between Westport and the little Florida village where Tori’s father had a house, Boca Grande. The couple first visited when they were dating, and they would wake up to what sounded like millions of crows screaming in the trees on Banyan Street. It was at the Banyan Street sea wall where Tori told Skip she loved him for the first time. He had wanted to say those words for quite a while, but to be honest she seemed a bit intimidating and he was afraid.
In 1995, after Shana and Scott were both out of high school, the family moved into the little house on Banyan Street full time. They enjoyed island life to the fullest for many years, getting hammered at The Temp with Paula and Snake and Dumplin’, doing a little fishing (Tori created the team “Fishin’ for Remission” to raise money for cancer research) and a lot of socializing. Eventually they both quit drinking, and when they added up how much money they saved that first year without alcohol, they bought a Mini Cooper with the money.
One of Tori’s favorite things to do was to go down to the beach near 1st Street and go to the “shell mines” that would pile up when the tide was right. There were so many things she collected – from shells to shrunken heads to vampire memorabilia. And shoes … so many shoes. Some of her favorite things were Jeff Campbell shoes and vampire movies. She loved big, gaudy feathers, lots of black, silver and gold accents, murder investigation shows and ghost stories. Her combination of glamour and the macabre was celebrated throughout her home.
She also loved to shop online, but without physically seeing the product, unfortunately, her mistakes of scale were often quite grave. Once she bought what she thought was a six-inch horse, only to find out it was a six-foot horse (much to the dismay of the delivery man).
Skip had his neat and orderly little beach cottage next door to Tori’s rambling, gothic home that she decorated with the unique goodies she was always acquiring, and they almost always met in the middle or over at Skip’s each morning for coffee, hugs and conversation. Her cancer and often-broken bones kept her within the confines of their two-home compound for the last few years, but occasionally she would spend a couple of hours getting ready to go out, grab Skip and head up to The Temp … then come home almost right away because that’s simply where she would rather be. Her cats, her collectibles and her crafts kept her company in the end, and her husband’s undying love kept her going far longer than she would have without him.
Queen Victoria was preceded in death by her parents. She is survived by Skip; her stepdaughter Shana, Shana’s wife Brittney and their son, Wilder of Northampton, Massachusetts and many other locations; her stepson, Scott (who has 35 pairs of pants because his dog bites them), his wife Marjorie and their daughter, Marie of Fuquay Varina, North Carolina; her brother Kit and his children Justin, Benji and Benji’s wife Jacquelyn; numerous grand-nephews; and her cats Mattie, Moofert, Frank, Ronnie (as in Weasley), Janie, Dora and Ava.
We hope there are no opossums invading her space now, and that she can drive as fast as she wants with no driver’s license. We hope there are many cats where she is, but that she doesn’t trip over them. We hope one day her hair is blue, the next day pink, and the week following maybe purple. We hope she can complete her collection of Living Dead Dolls and her fireplace mantle memorializing “Black Sails,” and hopefully she will have found the brown alligator Barkin bag her mother used to own.
Tori, please give our regards to Billy White Shoes Johnson (her cat, not the wide receiver), and know that we will never forget those important words of wisdom: “Never wear your best pants when you fight for freedom.”
Note to Amazon, Shop Bop, Stitch Fix: A change of address is in order for Ms. Kittredge, so please hold her packages in the interim.
While no special service is planned at this time, and because Viking funerals are no longer allowed (WHY?), she would be pleased to have you give her a mental shout out when you visit the seawall on the island, when you sit at the bar at The Temp or when you hang upside down in your home’s crawl space with a pitchfork to remove a deceased opossum. Perhaps a small sacrifice might be in order … it’s up to you. If you knew her, you know how to celebrate her. Please feel free to do so at any random time.
“… the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everyone goes, “AWWWWWWW.”
– Jack Kerouac