"Baron von Baker"
By Vaughn Baker
I started to book reservations as Baron Von Baker because two things inspired my title 'Baron Von Baker.' First, Europeans and Asians had a terrible time trying to pronounce the name Vaughn. In fact, I’m not that good at it myself. The secondary reason was because at that time socialism in Europe was in full steam, and I could not get anyone at the hotels to send my telexes back to the factory in the USA. For you youngsters, the telex was just after the stamp, but before the fax, email, and text messages. It required a large expensive machine to punch out a ticker tape with your message, and the tape was then fed into a machine and transmitted to another large expensive machine that would print out your message like a telegram. STOP.
In the first hectic years of introducing the Prince Tennis racquet, I was passing through Belgium on a Friday evening from Holland to France and was dead tired. I pulled into a roadside hotel and carefully wrote out a handful of separate drafts of various messages I wanted to be sent to Prince Manufacturing regarding various distributors or potential distributors I had met with the previous week. Afterward, I went out to dinner leaving the drafts in the hotel lobby, which was standard procedure across Europe. The desk clerk would create the tape, transmit the telex, and hopefully leave a copy 'pour moi' or 'voor me.' When I returned that evening, the drafts were untouched, as they were after breakfast, and also when I returned from lunch. At lunch, my good friends Stella Artois and Les Moules had taken the edge off, so I simply asked nicely, as I had at breakfast, for my telexes to be sent as soon as possible. While brainstorming with Stella at lunch, I had come across a unique game plan, and before dinner that evening I began to execute it. I drafted several more telexes, but these I did not sign with my American name Vaughn Baker. Rather, I signed them 'Baron Von Baker,' and of course, they were addressed to 'The Prince' rather than 'Prince Manufacturing.'
When I returned that evening from dinner, I discovered that not only had my telexes been completed and sent, but awaiting me in my room was a bottle of 'Vin de pays des Jardins de Wallonie,' several packages of fantastic Belgium chocolate, and of course, flowers. I remember thinking, 'So this is how to play Socialism.'
From that day forward, every reservation was made in the name 'Baron Von Baker.' If someone asked, I would immediately explain why I used Baron Von Baker like I am doing here today, but no one ever asked! When the army attempted to take over Spain’s Parliament, Baron Von Baker was the only civilian booked at the Palace Hotel. When the Capital hotel in London was overbooked, the other guests were sent off to less luxurious accommodations, while Baron Von Baker was given the manager’s private suite.
Never one to waste a winning game plan, I had 'Baron Von Baker' inscribed on my personal Prince racquets which I freely allowed others to use to demonstrate their performance. One weekend, at an indoor tennis facility, in Switzerland or maybe Austria, I organized a clinic where I could introduce the Prince racquet to a larger group. As folks hit with my racquet samples, I walked up and down the court asking how they liked them. Later, I hit with a group of the better men players, and when I asked how they liked my racquets, one gentleman said, "Very nice," and then he quietly came over and whispered in my ear, "but we can't use our titles in this country." I knowingly acknowledged with a wink, a secret only to be shared between us, and quickly slipped my racquets into a tennis bag.
I continued to travel as 'Baron Von Baker' for years and noted that when I arrived, the doormen said ‘Welcome Baron,’ reservations were handled efficiently, the front desk staff was much friendlier, wait times for rooms were noticeably shorter, and I seemed to always get the best rooms. My mother always said I was special.
It was during a trip in Salzburg that my Prince distributor, Lorenz, and I passed on the street the then twenty-three-year-old Prince of the Hapsburgs. Lorenz did not introduce me, but I wanted to say to the Prince, "Hey, did I mention I was knighted by the King of Belgium who was dressed in full regalia at his castle with an extra sharp sword?" but he had escaped by the time I could even zip open my racket bag and expose my forbidden racket samples with 'Baron von Baker' inscribed. I wanted to show him the inscription in the event there was a secret handshake required between Princes and Barons. But it is just as well he was out of earshot. Can you imagine that introduction? "Prince Karl Maria Alfred Michael Georg von und zu Liechtenstein, I would like to introduce you to Baron von Baker von Salisbury, eine von der Vorsehung Kreuzung in Maryland. Baron, Prince Karl Maria Alfred Michael Georg von und zu Liechtenstein is the son of Elisabeth Charlotte Alphonsa Christina Theresia Antonia Josepha Roberta Ottonia Hansiska Isabella Pia Marcus d'Aviano von Habsburg-Lothringen, the Archduchess of Austria and her husband Prince Heinrich von und zu Liechtenstein. Baron von Baker von Salisbury is the son of Harry and Kitty Baker." I would have had to take a nap before the introduction was half-finished.
Some folks have asked if using 'Baron Von Baker' was legal, but despite all the rules I have read, in Europe and America, never once have I seen it mentioned in any tennis rule book that the server or receiver could not be called 'Baron.'
Baron von Baker
Vaughn Baker is a retired industry professional. He worked at Wilson Sporting Goods (National Tennis Promotion), Prince (Director Europe) and Wimbledon Rackets (President, CEO).
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