The Hamptons: In the four months I was gone, four new buildings popped up within a four minute drive. $2 million dollar apartments off Montauk Highway? The East End is practically a suburb.
I jumpstarted the summer season at the Sun River Health gala, for the clinic that services our immigrant population. “Those making sure we have fresh food on our tables to serve and eat, beautifully landscaped yards to enjoy, and wine in our glasses to toast with,” Anne Kauffman Nolon, MPH, Sun River Health Chief Executive Officer for 40 plus years, told the room.
Sun River is also here for the community at large, administering the first Covid tests and vaccinations. Remember, when getting them was like the hunger games? In those days, Joy Pak, helming the local clinics, waited nightly to see if she was getting a delivery, then scheduled through the night.
“Joy helped me get more than 200 indigenous women vaccinated,” former Village Trustee Kimberly Allen, told me. “She was working round the clock, texting me at 11 PM.” Now, Joy had moved over to fundraising. This first effort honored clinic namesakes Patty and George Kraus.
Neighbors Fern Mallis, Jeffrey Banks and Brett Beldock joined me to support Joy. (Fern will interview Jeffrey and Stan Herman at the Southampton Arts Center, June 25, 4 PM.) We found a room filled with philanthropists and elected officials, that included SH Village Trustee Robin Brown, SH Town Councilman John Bouvier, SH Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, NY State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, and SH Mayor Jesse Warren.
Doctors in the house included Amanda Ascher, Carmen Chinea, Temur Chowdhury, Sang Pak, Van Ardsdale. (Dr. Chowdhury, who works in the clinic, now has a fancy concierge practice as well.) Other notables: Cathie Black, Bonnie Cannon, Susan Cushing, Rev & Mrs. Mark Middlekauff, Jean Shafiroff, and Sun River CFO Jim Sinkoff.
Patty told me how the Kraus Family Health Center, now run by Sun River, came to be. In the ’70s, husband George had symptoms that turned out to be from a kidney stone. He went to SH Urologist David Cruickshank. “‘‘Hey George,’ he said, ‘while we’re here, I’ve got this new test for bladder cancer,’” Patty recalled.
“There they were, talking about baseball, when, all of a sudden, he blurts out, ‘George, you’ve got bladder cancer!’ ‘Good bedside manner, David!’ George replied. He ran over to the hospital for the pre-op and the next day David removed the cancerous cells. George was so appreciative, he went to the president of the hospital to repay. He learned they had just been forced to close down their low income facility. So, George built the Kraus Family Clinic.”
Sitting with Patty was longtime friend, Nancy Stone. I asked about the romance she had with Frank Sinatra (before Barbara). “We met on a blind date and dated for four years,” Nancy told me. “It started when a friend of mine, who was going out with one of his business partners, asked me. ‘What are you doing tonight?’ I had a date with Mark Goodson. ‘Break it,’ she said. ‘You have a date with Frank!’ I gave Mark a lame excuse. Earl Wilson wrote us up and I got caught.”
She remembers the crooner fondly, and the way, then boss Anne Klein loved to announce on the loudspeaker, “Nancy, FRANK SINATRA calling!”
“He was the most generous person you’d ever want to meet,” Nancy said. “Every day, Frank would open up the newspaper, find a needy case and send money anonymously. One day, on the way home from visiting Frank in Los Angeles, I saw a teenager who was delivering newspapers, hit by a car that sped away. I made the driver stop and wait with me til the ambulance came. Frank found out who the kid was and picked up the hospital bill.”
Even Frank Sinatra believed in health care for all!
“He took care of all his friends,” Nancy added, “including Sammy Davis Jr., when he lost money.
The man who takes care of me out here, my most committed relationship — is my handyman, George. His is just one immigrant’s story:
George had been a policeman in El Salvador, taking night classes to become a lawyer, when, one by one, the “gangas” assassinated everyone else on his force. They shot them on public buses. Every night he got on for law school he feared would be his last.
So, he paid $5,000 for a luxury bus to drop him an hour walk from a border. Then, he paddled a rubber dingy across a river. There were only two days reserved for “civilians.” The rest of the week was for drug smugglers.
Today, he has a green card, works full time for a high end cabinet maker; nights and weekends for himself. He takes no social services. He supports a mother and two children in El Salvador, whom he hopes to bring here, legally, before the gangas get them.
He, too, is a part of the New Hamptons.
Remember the Old Hamptons? Neither do I. But, the vestiges of that gentility live on behind The Southhampton Fresh Air Home, founded in 1901. Their Fourth of July family fireworks picnic anchors the summer. Their Decorators-Designers-Dealers (D-D-D) Sale and Auction Benefit kicks it off.
The Camp brings physically disabled kids to Southampton. They bond with peers to have fun, feel freer and more deeply understood. “It’s their summer vacation,” Ann Yawney told me, “the parents’ vacation, even more so.”
Yawney who serves, year after year, as D-D-D Design and Decoration Co-Chair with Ann Grimm and Christl Meszkat, was born and raised here. 45 years ago, Yawney and her husband began raising money to light up Southampton’s Main Street for Christmas. Today, it’s a charming signature of holidays in the Hamptons.
“Back in the ’60s, the old Southampton ladies held a rummage sale on a Thursday afternoon in August for the camp,” she remembered. “In the ’70s, my husband had the Ford Lincoln Mercury dealership in town and I drove the children around on Saturdays. Thirteen years ago, I was playing golf with Ann Grimm, when she suggested I help with the sale. I’ve been doing it ever since.”
It’s a high end, low priced treasure trove of home furnishings, that spill out of Hamptons mansions & decorator storage rooms, filling the camp. It’s the only cocktail party with a whiff of anti social behavior: many are too busy bargain hunting to mingle. You gotta (have to?) be fast. Within minutes, there are SOLD stickers everywhere.
These days, our homes are already filled from past sales. So, we just come for the party. Aida Turturro can’t kick the shopping jones. So she searches for friends with new homes. Debbie Bancroft, there with daughter Serena and husband Bill, was “just looking for some new furniture for the old home.”
Volunteers negotiate the madness with cheerful equanimity. There are scores behind the scenes, as well, all year. Starting in September, there are volunteers to collect, curate, clean, polish and much more.
The ladies writing tickets and applauding purchases all seem of a kind: soft-spoken, well-meaning, longtime residents of the Village (i.e. South of the Highway). “Southampton ladies who have either always lived here or gave up another house when their husbands retired,” confirmed Ann Yawney.
Charlotte Bonstrom, Amanda Holmén and Raya Keis Knight were Honorary Chairmen; Marybeth Mullen and Isolde G. O’Hanlon were Chairmen; Madeline Hult Elghanayan and Barbara Hemmerle Gollust were Vice Chairmen; Ann R. Grimm, Christl Meszkat and Ann H. Yawney were Design and Decoration Chairmen; Sheila Comparetto, Traudl Geraghty, Christie Hansen, Ana Maria Holme and Nannette Meyers were Design & Decoration Vice Chairmen; Juliet Glennon Bailey, Maryanne Horwath, Liz Forget, Florence Danforth Meyer, Lynda M.L. Packard were Auction Chairman; Grant Kugler and Isolde G. O’Hanlon were Wine Auction Chairmen; Barbara Page Glatt was the School House Designer.
“I’ve been Co-Chairing — and shopping — this sale for 25 years, ever since I retired and moved here full time,” Ann Grimm told me. “I can’t even think how many years I’ve had houses here.” She’s even shipped things to her Palm Beach home. “For the quality you get, it’s still a bargain.”
Once antique heaven, “there’s less this year of what we used to call the brown furniture,” said Grimm. “The new trend is to mix some important older pieces with the new to make them both stand out. We have some absolutely gorgeous older and younger pieces in mint condition. This year we received a lot of sectionals, perfect for families.”
And perfect to support the second family SFAH creates for the kids, “a place where … you never have to worry about going through hard times alone, ” 17-year-old Josie Ramnanan told the room, “where the real world slips away and you can just be yourself.” She’s been coming since she was ten.
“I was born with rare bone disease. I could break a bone doing something as simple as yawning. I’ve had multiple fractures and overcame multiple major surgeries. So, I never envisioned myself having the opportunity to go to camp. All that changed when I found out about SFAH. I’ll never forget the excitement, finding a place where we could just be ourselves and an environment that did not judge based on our disabilities .… I was nervous to be away from home for the first time and was afraid that my complex care needs would not be met .… When I arrived, I was so happy to realize … not only were my care needs being met, but I found a place that I was just Josie …. More than a summer camp, it is a place where you can learn and grow to be the best version of yourself.”
And so, despite construction and prices soaring, the Hamptons is still there for those who treasure its beauty, including children whom God has challenged and immigrants pursuing the American Dream.
Photographs by Sean Zanni/PMC (Sun River); Rob Rich/SocietyAllure.com (SFAH).