Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Authors Night

Summer sky. 7:25 PM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, August 11, 2015. Beautiful mid-summer days: sunny, bright, temps in the low 80s, a strong breeze now and then and no humidity.

Sometimes when I’m lucky these Diaries write themselves. Today’s is an example. Last Saturday night at the East Hampton Library they held the 11th annual Authors Night. A hundred authors attended including many signing their latest books (you read about this in yesterday’s Diary along with a picture of Jesse Kornbluth and his new book “Married Sex”).

This sort of event – casual, writers, artists, readers, collectors, fans, readers – is quintessential Hamptons in my memory.  I first went out there when I was a recent ex-teenager, grown up in 1962 when with three other people, I rented a house in the middle of a potato field in Southampton. Four bedrooms, two kitchens, one up and one down, and all for $1200 for the entire season.
Director of the East Hampton Library Dennis Fabiszak, Alec Baldwin, Hilaria Baldwin, Barbara Goldsmith, and East Hampton Library Board President Sheila Rogers.
The Hamptons were just beginning to attract young singles of Manhattan. Very cool discotheques were sprouting up (L’Oursin, Mitty’s General Store, etc.). Beautiful beaches. Lots of barbecue parties. Main Street in Southampton on a Saturday afternoon was empty with nothing but parking spaces. Day-trippers didn’t exist. Farther East were more of those potato fields and small towns – still small but then quiet small, occupied by farmers, year-round working people, as well as artists and writers.

The artists and writers took to it because it was beautiful, it was quiet, and it was cheap. What we now call undeveloped. Many of the great collections and museums of the world now possess many works created out there at that time.
Outside the Authors Night tent.
There had always been a Society aspect to the real estate from the end of the 19th century. But those inhabitants went there to get-away from it all. It was the anti-Newport but same difference.  The Long Island Expressway was still decades away. The ride from Southampton to East Hampton on a summer weekend afternoon was ten or fifteen minutes with nary a car on the road.

I was reminded of all this by a new book by Dan Rattiner, founder and editor of the local Dan’s Papers: “In the Hamptons 4 EVER; Mostly True Tales from the East End” (with foreward by Barbara L. Goldsmith).

Rattiner has been a fulltime resident of that neck of the woods since God knows when. The book is what it says on the cover – tales, brief chapters on life out there among the hoi-polloi, the farmers and the artistic ones. Small town living on the top of the universe. It’s a book that can actually make you relax because Rattiner focuses on the bigness of small incidents in a village.
Three local authors Dan Rattiner, David S. Reynolds, and Daniel Rose. Click to order Dan Rattiner's “In the Hamptons 4 EVER; Mostly True Tales from the East End.”
His chapter on the Ira Rennert estate in Sagaponack is classic Rattiner. Its building was a milestone in the ongoing transformation of the Hamptons from what it was in those earlier, quieter days, to these times.

Reporter, social commentator, local gadfly, neighbor, a voice to be heard, Dan Rattiner was vocal (and disapproving) when Mr. Rennert was building his “palace” (128,000 square feet of house – or houses on 68 acres). There was all kinds of hoo-hah about “how could he?” and “why would he?” and “what’s he really up to?” (there was speculation that it was going to be a Jewish religious retreat). All of these ideas fell onto fertile minds raring to go with the most extreme – small towns, small neighborhood need adventure to liven things up.

Dan was also signing copies of "In the Hamptons Too: Further Encounters With Farmers, Fishermen, Artists, Billionaires, and Celebrities." Click to order.
However, when the construction was finished and landscaped, Mr. Rattiner wrote about it again – not having seen it (concealed from public view as it was) but having seen the changes that were effected. He was impressed that the house turned out to be what Mr. Rennert said it would be: a summer house for his family: his wife and his three children and their spouses and their grandchildren. At the end of his commentary in the last of several articles he’d written tweaking the project, Dan Rattiner apologized to the Rennerts for having made such much ado about ... well, not nothing.

It so happened after the article appeared in Dan’s Papers, Mr. Rattiner received an invitation to a lawn party at the Rennerts property, so named Fairfield. The invitation was for a Family Fun Day on a Sunday with barbecue.  The party was a fund raiser for a charity in Israel but his invitation clearly stated that it was simply for his company, and that of his family if he’d like to bring them, and his friends.

So he went. The reporter describes the arrival at the sprawling palatial estate with all kinds of security at the gates and grand landscaping (you’ll wish he’d taken pictures). He describes his hostess Inga Rennert descending the marble steps of the mansion to warmly greet him and his family with a handshake and a thanks for his kind words. Mr. Rattiner and his family had a wonderful time, but you need to read his account to learn the truth.
Under the tent.
The Authors night on Maidstone Lane is the premier literary event of the Hamptons, and one of the nation’s leading annual literary celebrations. There were more than 2,000 guests (!) packing the event tent to meet and mingle with the authors. They were there to meet and to buy their books, and to have their own personal copy signed. 

Later there were two dozen private dinner parties, each featuring one or more of the guest authors, hosting 600 dinner guests after the Benefit. All proceeds benefited East Hampton Library.
Fern Mallis, Rory Kennedy, and Mark Bailey.
Martha Gundersen and Jules Feiffer.
Bonnie Comley and Stewart Lane and family.
Dick Cavett.
Nelson DeMille.
Simon Doonan.
Jonathan Adler.
Lynn Sherr.
Wednesday Martin.
Matthew Thomas.
Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
Mimi Sheraton.
Ed Burns and Sheila Rogers.
Jesse Kornbluth.
Bill Dedman.
Florence Fabricant.
Stephanie Smith.
Robert Nederlander and Authors Night Co-Founder Barbara Goldsmith.
Arlene Alda.
Bob Morris.
Bernard L. Schwartz.
Paul Williams and Tracey Jackson.
Kate Betts.
Katie Lee.
Lettie Teague.
Talia Carner.
Christina Baker Kline.
Governor George Pataki with Libby and Allison Pataki.
Ed Burns.
Tom Clavin.
Robert Caro.
Charlotte Moss.
Brian De Palma with Authors Night Dinner Hosts Catherine and Robert Hormats.
Dennis Fabiszak, Jeffrey Lyons, and Alec Baldwin.

Photographs by Richard Lewin and Lisa Tamburini.

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