In the weeks after 9/11, Charles Gargano recalls working virtually 24/7 without a break (for his candid Q&A, click here). As Chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, his mission was to keep Lower Manhattan’s business community alive, from doling out financial assistance to relocating corporations with offices and lives in ruins. When Gargano finally grabbed one day of escape from the pressure cooker, where did he head? “I went to the very tranquil Hamptons, walked from my home down to the beach a few minutes away, inhaled the salt air of the ocean, and listened to the birds and the wind.”
Like thousands of New Yorkers and year-round Hamptonites, Gargano craved the beauty, serenity, and spirituality of one of the most beautiful patches of earth on this planet. As Alec Baldwin once told me, he loves playing tour guide to his guests in the Hamptons: “They’re blown away by the diversity of the terrain, the dense woods, dunes, seaside preserves, and expansive farm fields—all within a 20-minute radius.” Not to mention the obvious, of course—the Hamptons is a world-class symbol of cachet—glitz, glamour, and affluence. It’s as much about luxurious lifestyle as geographic beauty…
Enjoy The Sheet.
So for those unfortunate enough to catch Barbara Kopple’s recent TV documentary The Hamptons—and to mistake it for the real thing—Sorry, WRONG ISLAND!!! The dismal reviews and poor ratings said it all: Kopple (acclaimed for previous award-winning work like Harlan County, USA) missed the boat, or in her case
the LIRR! As Neal Travis put it in the Post, Kopple “concentrated on a bunch of pitiful strivers living like refugees and looking for a brass ring that isn’t there … Through Kopple’s eyes, the Hamptons seemed without any meaning, purpose, or even sense of joy.”
Bubble-headed bimbos and Survivor-reject swinging singles made her vision of the East End look like a time-share infomercial for cheap condos and condoms. Didn’t anyone tell her the Hamptons are hardly about raging hormonal 20-somethings stalking Mr. or Ms. Right-for-a-Night? You can live eight to a room, down stale beer, skydive, or hot tub it anywhere in the U.S. But to capture the essence of the Real Hamptons??? Where were the internationally renowned artists, musicians, writers, media stars, and mega-moguls that make our little string of villages as intellectually sizzling as any cosmopolitan city on Earth? Where were the glitzy, colorful, and controversial world-famous characters (no Alec? Billy Joel? Puffy? Spielberg? Perelman? Denise Rich? Marty Richards?) that make the Hamptons the most glamorous playground this side of Hollywood? Where were the A-list bashes, private dinners, poolside parties?
Hey Barbara, did you need to shine without any competition from people of substance? Did the TV network demographics—all those Generation X commercials!—skew your view??? Sadly, your biggest injustice may be to your own gender. Why portray women in the Hamptons as Dumb & Dumber Gold Diggers? We’ve come a long way from that, baby—why bring us back?! Christie Brinkley had this to say about it: “I agreed to do the film because my thought was, ‘Wow, here’s an opportunity to get the STAR [Standing for Truth About Radiation] Foundation on ABC primetime TV.’ But I was extremely disappointed. The reviewer in the Wall Street Journal said I was shown simply grinning—as if I show up every now and then at an anti-nuke event grinning.” (To get the genuine Christie Brinkley take on STAR, life, and love, click here.)
There’s the Real Hamptons, where geographical splendor, local celebrity causes, and high society glamour live side by side … anything else is Wrong Island! Oh well. As Travis says, we’re immune to hit-and-run social chroniclers who come out for a summer and profess to tell the rest of the world what’s going on here. They don’t have a clue. Especially to the fact that the Real Hamptons are even more beautiful, glamorous, and precious since 9/11!
We Must Never Forget!
Joan Jedell appears on national and local tv and radio.
Her photographs are syndicated worldwide.