St. Martin's personality : Oliver Lange
A Man of Vision, The Real Captain Oliver
In the early 80s the son of a French Ambassador, a successful Parisian restaurateur with an engaging smile, a man with a passion for life and the taste of adventure sailed into the safe haven of Oyster Pond and fell in love. This man was Olivier Lange, better known to most as Captain Oliver, and here in Oyster Pond his friends, the extended Captain Oliver’s family, and the love of his life Maggi pay homage to his life in a celebration of his exuberant, albeit too short, 77 years. His Joie de Vivre.
Born in 1933 in Rabbat, Morocco and named after both his father and his mother, Olivier and Maria, Captain Oliver enjoyed a normal childhood playing, amongst other games “cops and robbers” like most youngster do. He once said that he usually preferred to play “the gangster”, the more“romantic” wilder role; and that his best friend, who later became a Police Chief, usually played the policeman.
Although astute and diplomatic like his father, The Captain never envisaged himself in a mundane, office-based administrative career and, at 19 years old, despite a great love and respect for his father, followed his own passion and lust for adventure and opened the first Whiskey-A-Go-Go in Morocco. The enterprise was a great success; he had found the sort of creative outlet he was looking for. His father, on the other hand, was slightly dismayed by this business venture and sent him to serve in the army in the hope of reform.
In the Royal Army in Morocco, instead of reform, Olivier found yet another outlet for his high-spirited love of life. As a very skilful horseman, a natural entertainer and an excellent host, Olivier Lange found himself, under The Prince, in charge of the horses and the military equestrian shows. Yet again the perfect pairing!
After serving his time in the army, and undaunted by his father’s wishes, the inveterate“playboy”, first in Morocco, and soon after in Paris, established a number of successful nightclubs and restaurants where he could indulge in another of his passions. Olivier Lange loved being “on show” and, being surrounded by beautiful showgirls. Simply put, he enjoyed people and entertaining, and always appreciated a pretty girl.
Moreover, he gained his father’s respect and admiration as a discerning businessman who did not compromise on his principles, and followed his dreams.
Alongside his love of life as an entertainer, Olivier Lange had a lust for the sea and the adventures the sea could afford him. In the late 70s, Olivier embarked on a sailing adventure with a good friend and, never looked back.
In 1978, in Florida, he purchased a 50' Gulfstar named Maruva, and it was on Maruva that the then successful Parisian restaurateur set sail for The Caribbean, heading in particular for St. Martin/St. Maarten and Oyster Pond, the place that was to become his forever home.
On entering the lagoon, in those days via the yet unmarked, “dangerous” Oyster Pond channel, Olivier found himself so enchanted by the beauty and tranquility of the perfect, quiet anchorage that an idea was sparked off. He envisioned a waterfront restaurant and small marina where he could spend his winters; winters in Oyster Pond and summers in Paris, what an idea!
A perfect idea, and so it was that he set about the task of developing his vision, a restaurant and a small marina nestled among the cactus and rocks along the waterfront.
It was during this time, and while doing charters on Maruva to supplement his finances, that Captain Oliver’s got its name. One day while chatting with guests, they were discussing whether the restaurant should be called, The Mangrove, Cactus Tree or … and an American guest spoke up, “It’s simple, it just has to be Captain Oliver’s.” Et voilà, the restaurant and the then small marina were named, and became the reality that is now the heartbeat of Captain Oliver’s Resort.
It has been remarked, on more than one occasion, that anything Olivier Lange set his mind to, he achieved. If he said he would do it, he did! Of building a restaurant and developing a marina and resort in Oyster Pond – back in the days when there was no electricity, telephone or water, and no roads to speak of – he remarked “You see, I will get people to come to Oyster Pond”. The thriving community centered around Captain Oliver’s in Oyster Pond today, bears testament to his remarkable determination.
Any story about The Captain is incomplete without the young woman he first met in the mid 80s and who, from the moment they first dated in 1989, he always referred to as his American wife, Maggi. At dinner the night of their first date, it was jokingly said that she “was too tall and he was too old”. At that time, he spoke little English and she no French but they became an inseparable “crew”, The Captain and Maggi – “forever and never” as they always joked between themselves.
As much as Captain Oliver loved being surrounded by people and friends, he also loved getting away from it all, and sailing became one of The Captain’s greatest life pleasures. He would take every opportunity he could, be it a weekend here or a few days there, to take off on his boat and escape with good friends or just with his sweetheart Maggi. They loved savage places and hard to reach anchorages. Maggi recalls The Captain being asked on more than one occasion, “Are you crazy, you live on an island why vacation on an island”. In response he would smile that huge charismatic smile of his that captivated everyone, it was another one of his passions.
Respected among many things as a charming host, an excellent entertainer and accomplished restaurateur; a kind but firm boss – and loved as a person, Captain Oliver will be remembered by all for his charming personality, being the life and soul of the party, for having lived his life to the fullest and for his huge, generous smile with that certain mischievous, je ne sais quoi twinkle in his eye.
Over the years, many a guest at the resort has casually asked if there is a real Captain Oliver. And when introduced, they would reach out to touch the man behind the name, the man who was a legend in his own lifetime.
Captain Oliver would not want this time to be seen as the end of an era in Oyster Pond so much as the beginning of a new chapter in the legacy that he, Olivier Maria Lange, better known as Captain Oliver imagined, created and made a reality. A reality that he has left for all who loved him as he departs on his forever journey, Somewhere Over The Rainbow.