Waiting for the limo at Hilton Head, with Carling sitting nearby listening to her tape player, Bassett is talking about family, money and the entrepreneurial spirit.
"I don't know what my family thinks of me," he says. "Maybe that I'm bright. Probably that I'm rash and fairly irresponsible because I take big gambles. I'm different." Bassett has two brothers. Doug, 43, wears a suit and tie every day and runs the family enterprises in Canada. David, 41, a freewheeler, lives in Nassau and devotes himself to tennis, swimming and slow breathing after being hospitalized years ago because, by all accounts, the pressure of being a Bassett overwhelmed him. The condition was rectified by medication, rest and a life of complete leisure. David is remembered fondly around Toronto. Once at a stockholders' meeting, someone asked him what his role was with the family corporation. David said cheerfully, "They pay me well never to darken their doorstep."
At a break in her father's conversation, Carling says plaintively, "Dad, do you have to go?"
"Yeah, Car-Car, I have to," answers Bassett.
It's obvious that there is deep affection between Bassett and each of his children; family friends agree that Carling devoted herself to tennis in part to please her father. Carling never leaves a room without first giving him a peck on the cheek. He in turn has been known to rise at 5 a.m. and drive the 100 miles round trip from Tampa to Bradenton just to say goodby to her before leaving on a business trip.
"The good thing about being an entrepreneur is you have your independence," he says, "but it's tough on the family. I'm sure Susan would rather I had a regular job. I don't know what I'll be doing six months from now, much less two years from now." Carling is listening attentively. "Hopefully," says her father with a chuckle, "we won't be broke."
This distresses Carling. Her father tends to exaggerate—last Christmas, for example, he announced the family could lose their Toronto home if the football team, a movie and a condominium project did not work out. The other Bassett kids are pretty blasé about such remarks—Dad always seems to come through in the end—but Carling, who is just discovering money, takes such things seriously. Hearing her father talk about going broke, she says seriously, "Don't worry, Dad, you can have all my money."
"No," he says solemnly. "That goes to your account. You've got the best deal in the world. I do all the paying, and you do all the collecting."
Carling laughs, but she's taken with her own suggestion. Only half kidding, she says, "It'll be great. You can come and live in my house when you get old and wrinkled and can't walk down the steps. It'll be like South Fork in Dallas."
"North Fork" for the Bassetts is in a suburb of Toronto. There are so many athletic trophies around that you might be in a Hall of Fame. The pictures on the walls don't suggest the intensity of the family's affection. They're full of lone men, lone women. A girl sits scrunched up, hugging herself. A hockey player, face unseen, laces up skates. A boy looks through a window. Only in the kitchen are there snapshots of family groups, usually mugging: Susan hugging Carling while Carling sticks out her tongue at the camera. On the refrigerator are decals: SUPERMAN, HAWAII, MONTE CARLO, USFL. And, hardly noticeable, a tiny heart the size of a fingernail. Some nights Bassett goes to sleep while downstairs Vickie plays the piano and Carling picks on a guitar.