How to Become aHamptonsCelebrity in Your Spare Time
By Warren Strugatch
Over ten years ago, I decided to move from the West End of Long Island to theEast End. As a self-employed writer all I needed was a phone, a computer with an internet connection, and a roof over my head. I could live just about anywhere and I realized what I wanted was to live on the South Fork. I found a great little place inSouthamptonand paid a deposit. I planned to move in by late spring.
I made a point that winter never to tell people I was moving to “The Hamptons.” I always said theEast End. Some people looked puzzled and I’d tell them I was moving toSouthampton. I said the name very matter of fact, like you’d sayOmahaorPoughkeepsie. But some people heard the name as if it carried an exclamation mark.
“What are you going to do in theHamptons! It’s all celebrities out there!” This was my accountant speaking. I heard many variations on this theme over the next few weeks, as I said my goodbyes and finalized my plans.
Of course I knew there were celebrities on theEast End. I just never thought that the region was reserved for their exclusive rambling. I had even met a few boldface names. I spotted Kurt Vonnegut at Elaine Benson’s art gallery one day. The famous author, whose novels enthralled me as an adolescent, had created a series of silk screens which he now wanted to sell. I came over and asked him about his paintings. No one else was talking to Kurt Vonnegut so I guess he didn’t mind me chatting him up even though I didn’t buy a silk screen.
After I moved out here, I learned that parties are important business. There are parties where just about every guest is a celebrity. People who throw such parties compete for the A-list guests. It’s considered a loss of face if you throw an A-list party and pull B-list celebs. It’s very competitive.
Writers are invited to these parties on the theory that somebody ought to document them, or why bother having them? In this way I began getting invitations. At one particular soiree I found myself squeezed in between two celebrated fashion models. The room was packed and nobody could move an inch. Supermodel gridlock! As I stood immobile I began spotting boldface names: Russ Simmons! Martha Stewart! The voice on my left rising above the din belonged to a movie star famous for throwing objects at photographers and expletives at ex-wives. The broad chest of a celebrated ad man, whose goateed face and Brooklyn rasp became even better known than the brands he promoted, prevented movement in the opposite direction,
The movie star spotted the ad man. Shouting above and around my face – they mouthed short sentences, actual conversation being impossible in the din.
So many celebrities, so much white noise. What would their conversations sound like if anyone could hear? I imagined a kind of celebrity roundtable, only conversations would be about regular-person topics. If I were in charge of a program like that, I would ban all celebrity chit-chat, forbid name dropping, and eliminate fawning. Celebrities themselves must be sick of that too, don’t you think?
I forgot about the idea, that is until my next celebrity party a couple of weeks later, where I met Josh Gladstone. Josh was, and is, the program director for theJohnDrewTheaterat Guild Hall. Josh is talented and amiable andJohnDrewTheatreis a wonderful performance venue, offering everything from rock concerts to Shakespeare. I wondered what Josh would think of a series at Guild Hall, where celebrities talk about normal topics with people who are not celebrities. No canned patter. Audiences would take part, too.
Josh threw his head back and laughed.
“Just like a conversation, but in theHamptons!” he roared. “I love it!”
He thought a moment and added, “How about Sunday mornings?”
Everyone knows celebrities sleep late on weekends.
“Thursday nights?” I replied, strategically.
This is how Thursday nights became “Out of the Question: The Hampton Celebrity Roundtable” at Guild Hall. I picked the name because, well, I always started out with a question. We didn’t actually have a round table, but we had chairs. I brought in a CD, a disc of funky mid-sixties jazz and gave it to the sound guys. I had my own walk-on music. Now, I needed to start finding celebrities to go along with all this. I figured I’d need four or five every show.