“How was your summer? Good? Good? All good?” You might have been held hostage in your basement by Rabid raccoons throwing road kill down the stairs. There is only one acceptable answer. “It was great!” Down a shot every time someone asks you. You may start to believe it really was.
In the Hamptons — at capacity yet still building — August rage started in July. Cars cut so close, our brakes screeched. Left turns onto 27 were death defying moves. Hunting for parking spaces: a game of luck and chance. Pilates privates? Standby all summer. Cleaning lady? Sorry, your slot was booked. Referrals? Friends were also left to mop their own floors.
The final week? Summer parties on steroids. Here’s how we sashayed out of the season:
The Southampton Arts Center — which filled the void left when the Parrish Art Museum moved to Watermill in 2012 — is evolving into a community force, with interdisciplinary art shows, lectures, movies and more. Their SummerFest, which started as a food festival, is now a full blown gala.
Founding co-chair Simone Levinson presided over the party with obvious pride. It’s her “happy place,” she said. “We’re building community through the arts and in so doing so, enhancing our village, and supporting our shopkeepers and restaurants.”
This year, there was also a Juniors’ SummerFest AfterDark party hosted by Andrew Warren. Tickekt2Events partners Sean Koski and Brian Kelly flew up from Palm Beach to help produce.
Dorothy Lichtenstein didn’t have to travel that far. “This is my village,” she told us. “so, I love to see an organization like this do well.” How was her summer? Good? All good? “I spent it happily ensconced in my house,” she replied. That’s also our solution when August rage starts in July.
Broadway star Jessica Vosk (Elphaba in Wicked) performed. Rob Vahradian, honored with wife Helen, called SAC an anchor for art in Southampton for such institutions as the Peter Marino Art Foundation, the Southampton History and African American Museums, auction houses Christie’s and Phillips and such important galleries as Hauser and Wirth.
We sat next to R. Couri Hay. A social force for decades, he proclaimed, “I still love going out!” He also goes back decades with Elizabeth Strong Cuevas, whose work is showcased at SAC with Deborah Buck and Hal Buckner in a show titled Figures Transformed, until September 24th.
“Strong Cuevas is a remarkable 93-year-old sculptress,” Couri told me. “I met her through our friend the great couturier Charles James, who met her with her parents when she was thirteen. He would give her books to read. Later, she became his muse. She always said she wasn’t a client. But, Charles would give her special gowns she had inspired.
“She’s the daughter of ballet impresario Marquis de Cuevas and art patron Margaret Rockefeller Strong, so art is in her blood. She’s been sculpting all her life, has a studio here in East Hampton, and is a free spirit with a twinkle in her eyes. Recently at a party, she was the first and last on the dance floor.”
Next, party? “Journey Through The Fragrant Fields Of India,” at Madoo gardens to introduce LilaNur parfums to th Hamptons. Fern Mallis, Bibhu Mohapatra, Paul Austin, Madeline Weinrib, and Madoo Director Alejandro Saralegui hosted a flock of original — i.e. before social media — fashion influencers.
“India has never had its own story,” Paul Austin told them. “So our idea here is to tell the stories of their flora species and herbs internationally.” Paul is a longtime branding and perfume industry figure. He created LilaNur Parfums with Indian born Anita Lal, founder of Good Earth, India’s leading design house and wellness brand Paro based on Vedic holistic wisdom.
They had traditional Indian ingredients reimagined by famed French perfumers in Grasse to create seven scents and three Attar Absolu oils. “We used the highest possible quality of pure Indian ingredients,” Paul continued, “macerated for 100 days with sustainable sandalwood oil.” He passed around an Attar oil. “Rub it in the palms of your hands,” he told us. Then he sprayed a scent on top. We were sold. It’s also sold at Bergdorf’s and Harrods.
Austin described some fragrances. The Malli Insolite fragrance, from the Jasmine Sambac and Jasmine Grandiflorum cultivated in South India, has “a salty, woody minerality, like Jasmine by the seaside,” he said. “It has an androgyny to it that people are finding interesting.”
Vettiver Mousson perfume comes from the Indian words to dig and root. “It’s the moment the Monsoon comes.”
Tuberose is the most widely grown loose flower in India; it’s scent, emblematic. “You pick it in the morning but the smell comes out at night. It’s often depicted as being carnal: a woman, they say, should not get too close to a tuberose or she will be unable to control her instincts!”
“Spray it on me!” cried the women in Madoo’s garden, filled with LilaNur’s fragrant delights.
The fragrant delights at the Ellen Hermanson Summer Gala at the Hampton Racquet Club in East Hampton came from the V Cafe’s Vietnamese catering. The reggae music from Winston Irie and the Selective Security Band.
Julie Ratner founded the charity 27 years ago around her kitchen table. It started with a run to honor sister Ellen, who lost her battle with breast cancer at age 42. Its mission: to provide state of the art breast care, for detection, treatment and psychological support for women on Long Island (which has one of the largest rates of breast cancer in the nation). Today, there is an Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital.
This year, it was Julie’s other sister, Emily (or Lee) Levin, who co-founded the charity in their sister’s name, who had lost a battle with cancer. She was being recognized in memoriam. And her entire family flew in for it. Widower Jim Levin spoke. Julie’s two-and-a-half year old only granddaughter Iza ran up to hug Grandma’s legs. The proverbial circle of life, we mused. Iza is Julie’s quarantine treasure, born March 11, 2020. One week later, three generations moved into Julie’s Hamptons’ home.
Julie’s life experience helps her put things into perspective for the rest of us. Complaining about age related problems? “Growing old is a privilege,” she says.
Ingrid Arneberg was honored. Jean Shafiroff chaired.
Proceeds benefit the Ellen Hermanson Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital and the Community Partnership Program to reach underserved women with The Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center, OLA, The Retreat, and The Shinnecock Indian Health Center.
So, goodby Lee Levin. Goodby summer. And goodby LolaBelle, my sweet, fierce, connected, companion. We fought a virulent cancer, diagnosed in May. You were a good girl to the end. You gave me the summer, died with dignity in our backyard. And so, we dedicate this column, as we dedicated these last three months, to you.
Everyone feels their animal is special, the loss, severe. “Grief is the price we all pay for love,” said Queen Elizabeth. The love we share with our pets, the hole in our hearts and homes they leave, is universal. One of the few things everyone can still agree upon.
Now, time for another shot!
Photographs by Sean Zanni/PMC – Getty & Madison Voelkel/BFA (SAC); Patrick McMullan (Madoo & Ellen Hermanson)