To most people Frances Langford was a glamorous singer and entertainer, appearing alongside the likes of James Cagney, Bob Hope, Perry Como, Don Ameche, Jackie Gleason, and other bold-name stars. To residents of Jensen Beach, Florida, and many a boater who ventured along that eastern shore, however, she was simply one of their own.
For nearly a decade she was a familiar sight aboard the 108-foot Burger cockpit motoryacht she christened Chanticleer. In fact, she enjoyed both cruising and fishing aboard the yacht and a same-named predecessor, a 118-footer built by Defoe. Chanticleer was also the vessel aboard which she welcomed members of the community each year for the blessing of the fleet, and she’d regularly wave at passersby standing on shore and cruising on other boats alike throughout the years. The yacht, by all accounts, was Langford’s pride and joy until her death in summer 2005.
That could have meant the end to Chanticleer as well, the way so many other stories of famous yachts have unfolded. But thankfully Langford’s spirit lives on with the new owners, who not only knew of the Hollywood connection but also have a renewed appreciation for it. Even better, they’re recapturing the yacht’s classic appeal in a way that Langford herself would certainly have approved.
Jon Couch and Liz Dooner knew they had to buy the yacht when an ad for Chanticleer caught their eye in a magazine several months ago. Sure, the classic styling greatly appealed to them, and they knew Langford had been the owner, but it was more than that. Couch, an overall yacht enthusiast, comes from a long line of fans of the late Jack Hargrave, who designed the yacht, and besides, Chanticleer was by far one of the largest yachts around during her time. “It was a significant boat in 1973 and a beautiful boat even now,” he avers.
But he and Dooner gained even more appreciation for the Burger after conversations with Langford’s longtime captain, Karim Haddad. Affectionately called Junior by Langford, Haddad was hired by the actress back in the early days of her ownership, working his way up from dishwasher to captain, according to Julien Elfenbein of Burger Yacht Sales, who sold the yacht to Couch and Dooner. The captain regaled them with tales of trips—”He has an endless array of fantastic stories,” Elfenbein says—as well as his own humorous observations of what life aboard was like. (One such tale involved his take on the heavily pink decor, which he told Langford resembled “a Moroccan whorehouse.” When Langford told him it looked nothing of the sort, Haddad replied, “How would you know what a Moroccan whorehouse looks like?” Without missing a beat, she answered, “I did a movie with Bob Hope in Morocco, and we went to one.”)
This article originally appeared in the November 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.