East Hampton 1970’s No Beach Stickers- by Malorie Barbaria
The old abandoned farmhouse at 911 Fireplace Road in the Springs of East Hampton was riled with a cobweb infested Great Expectations delirium. It was 1975 and what we did for fun in those days was drive around in David and Jason’s International Harvester Scout and look at houses. Not many were for sale because there weren’t many. David and Jason had a habit of uninvitedly inspecting many homes that were not for sale. My boyfriend Joe and I were back seat passengers as they’d drive up driveways, open doors and just walk into peoples houses; they’d look at things, sit on couches, imbibe the essence of the owner and then just be off never leaving a trace of their arrival or taking anything. They were sleuths of style and felt if any artistic expression existed they had a right to it. My boyfriend and I mostly stayed in the car making out while they snooped around. No one had locks in those days and at times I would get hysterical on these jaunts admonishing loudly, “What if the owner shows up, you’ll be arrested?” They would laugh as if they figured life was a museum and if someone showed up they would all have tea. They saw many houses, stood in showers made of stone, inspected pantries, bedrooms, and sat in gardens. David would always elucidate on his interpretation of who lived there and what they did. He was a historical interpreter of everything from what family the house originated from, when it was built, who sold it to whom, and if the past or present owners were authentically special. He came up with some scandalous stories about some of these folks, I always wondered if he made them up. The old rambling farmhouse was different no one lived there- it was for sale. It had views of Accabonac Harbor, a large barn, an overgrown farm field, and an attached one-room schoolhouse. Whisperings of Jackson Pollack blew by. I was twenty and had just become a hairstylist; David Brown and Jason Croy were lovers and my mentors who owned Antenna, an offbeat hidden hair salon in a loft on lower Park Avenue that had a Chamberlain car wreck in the middle of the room. The salon was a meetinghouse for artists as many traded art for haircuts. In those days money was a minimal commodity and eccentricity was a valued belonging. Meeting them changed my life as they taught me everything from viewing art, how to clean, picking good fruit, French pressing espresso, understanding opera, and the necessity of couture. We dined in the finest restaurants that existed, they taught me how to hold the fork, set a table, and give the look. Elegance was mandatory even when having a hysterical breakdown of which there were many. In between haircuts Jason would come to the back room and smoke a joint and have lunch, sometimes an hour would pass while up to ten people sat on couches waiting. If anyone complained they would be asked to leave. Jason was a master trained directly by Vidal Sassoon, his cuts were works of art. I would go out and do forty-five minute long shampoos that sent people to heaven. Outlandish characters waited sometimes up to three hours and sometimes Jason would get lost in a haircut for an hour, the salon would be open till 10pm many nights. Weekends the salon was closed and we arrived to East Hampton to explore, we all stayed at Abby Hoffmans house on Three Mile Harbor. The village of East Hampton had a Post Office, an old movie theatre like the one in Sag Harbor, an Army Navy Store, Dreesen’s grocery store, Nick and Tony’s was called Ma Bergmans and was a funky pizza place that was attached to someone’s house and Main Street was a blip on the radar of beauty. We’d go to the beach by the Maidstone Club and if we saw two other cars there it was crowded. That spring they bought the old Miller Farmstead for $70,000 it was haunted. Every weekend, a group of downtown artists, writers, actors, photographers, model friends, hair and makeup artists, musicians, would show up to work on the house, their house gifts were farm animals. I worked in the gardens in an evening gown while voluminous classical music played to soothe the plants, chickens, cows, a bull, sheep and whippets. We were going to live off the land except in style. The vegetable garden was abundant and the flower gardens with bleeding hearts and peonies were exploding with a frivolous variety that was so divine you could weep there and be healed, which many of us did. Yes, there was always drama, loud screaming fights that David and Jason had when Jason drank too much, which was often. David would stand on the front porch, his nightgown tucked into Levis with suspenders and sob in loud choking gasps; he would have been a great actor. The Bonacker families around were appalled cept for one farmer, George Miller from across the road who would come to offer tidbits of how to farm since he heard the bull howling all night long and knew it was time to remove his testicles. David’s grandmother Peggy was nicknamed Bunny as she climbed up stairs on all fours and had two gray bush pigtails above each ear. She would come every weekend and talk to the ghosts and calm them down. She said the ghosts did not like marijuana being smoked in the birthing room and the ghosts would agree to stop moving around the furniture at night if the guests as we were called would please refrain. Peggy became Farmer Miller’s wife and his farmstead across the street became part of the compound. The Bonacker’s were even more appalled. David could be seen in a Japanese Kimono with rubber boots running through the fields, his long blond Adonis curls flying in the air and Jason who had a gold star embedded in his front tooth was always in overalls, with snakeskin shoes, cutting hair in the kitchen. Elaine De Kooning came for haircuts bringing her friends. Edie Beale was incorporated into the mix, we saw the movie and went and knocked on her door, David bought her furniture before she moved out of Grey Gardens, he adopted her and whisked her off to Reno Sweeneys in the Village to perform. The house was a masterpiece brought back to life; rooms painted Robins Egg Blue, old doors hinged, the country kitchen producing non stop meals accompanied by forever rhubarb pies, a bird’s nest on the dining table, sit down dinners for twenty were normal and we dressed for dinner, Martha Stewart did not exist. Then the house burnt down. Fresh wood in the fireplace, Farmer George said the sap did it. The Bonacker’s arrived saving things, forgetting they were appalled. We arrived to sleep in beds under the stars; the roof was gone. A serious gay porn collection that was stored in the attic blew in 60-mile winds with burnt edges and landed on doorsteps as far as Amagansett, the Bonacker’s were again appalled. No insurance so we camped out. One day David went out scavenging and came back from one of his expeditions with finds thrown in a dumpster, the back seat of the Harvester was full of prints rolled up in rubber bands, they turned out to be original Warhol lithographs, signed. The new roof went on and 911 Fire Place Road was restored once again. David and Jason left the Hampton’s in the late 80’s as they said it got too crowded and was no longer authentic.