Montauk’s Biggest Celebrity

Written By: Renee  Jacobs

Montauk’s Biggest Celebrity Renee Jacobs July, 2014 No, it isn’t Paul Simon or Dick Cavett or Edward Albee although I know they all have homes here. I haven’t seen Edward Albee that I know of, but I have seen Paul Simon and Dick Cavett many times when Montauk hosted the “Back to the Ranch” fundraising concerts here years ago. As a volunteer working in the VIP tent, Simon stood a few feet from me and I was thrilled to see him up close but afraid to act like a fawning fan. When my daughter, Sarah, worked at the Farmers’Market one summer after her freshman year of college, Paul Simon was a frequent appearance The help was advised not to make a fuss over celebrities, just to treat them as any regular customer.. One day as she was ringing up his order, he asked, “Are you planning to attend the concert?” When she replied that she didn’t have a ticket, he generously brought her two the next day. What is it about celebrity sightings that so excites we “ordinary” people? When my husband and I dined at our favorite (sadly former) restaurant, Della Femina’s, we saw Matt Lauer and his wife at a nearby table. We were thrilled to see the morning host we watched most days but unsure what action to take, if any. Do stars want to be noticed, or do they zealously guard their privacy? I ended up writing my appreciation on a napkin and asked our waiter to deliver the message after we left so we wouldn’t disturb them. We felt doubly excited a few years ago when dining at the 1770 House and Howard Stern, Matt Lauer and their wives were seated next to us. We respected their privacy and didn’t try to talk to them, just felt somehow blessed by their presence in our space. One time, though, when our three children and their spouses went out for dinner and spotted Matt Lauer whose car was parked next to theirs, everyone just stared silently except our son-in-law, Jed, who felt no hesitation in saying, “Hey, Matt, how’s it going?” Another time Jed, who is the most laid back yet spunky, spotted Jerry Seinfeld and Ralph Lauren get out of a yellow Ferrari for breakfast at Joni’s in Montauk one morning. He walked up to Jerry and casually asked, “How about those Mets?” It led to a brief conversation between two major Mets fans, no big deal to our son-in-law but an exciting anecdote for the rest of the family. We know they are around, often incognito because they are acting like regular people, often sans makeup and plainly dressed. We read about them in Dan’s Papers South o’ the Highway column and feel somehow our lives are more interesting for being in the same area with famous people. But all these celebrities don’t stir up the kind of crowd and excitement that Montauk’s biggest star receives. We first spotted her one day walking back home from getting our fresh croissants and coffee in town. From a block away, I squinted and stared. “What kind of dog could that be, so long and so close to the ground?” I asked my husband. As we got closer we realized with disbelief it was a gigantic pig, long fat body almost touching the ground, moving every so slowly, sauntering down the street for a stroll. It must be a freak experience, we thought, someone’s lost pet or farm animal despite the fact that the nearest farm was miles away. Over the years we learned that “Oinker” lives nearby in a section of Montauk called Surfside but she, like most celebrities, keeps her exact address a secret. She wobbles into town once or twice a day to feed on cast off food left for her at the Natural Foods Café, then toddles back home. As she slowly wends her way, crowds gather, shake their heads, stare in disbelief just as we once did. Cars stop so passengers can disembark and snap her photo. Unlike other divas, she seems oblivious to the spotlight. One year our daughter had friends visiting with their two children. Spotting Oinker halfway back home, I excitedly drove to our house and asked, “Who wants to see Oinker?” Our granddaughters explained to their friends about the famous pig and they all jumped in the car for a sighting. I took four children ages five to eight down the street and Jacobs p. 2 slowly followed Oinker to a nearby yard (not her home it turns out). We parked the car and boldly walked on to the lawn to get a closer view. A man came out of the house and asked if we wanted to feed the pig. All heads nodded so he went inside and came back with a bag of pretzel sticks which he doled out to the children. One by one the three girls took their turn, bravely marching up to Oinker with her grizzled whiskers and funny grunts, gingerly holding out a hand full of pretzel sticks which she eagerly gobbled up. Then it was the eight year old boy’s turn. I noticed him standing back from the group, his brown eyes large with fear, chin quivering. He shook his head, dropped the pretzels on the grass and ran back to the car. Recently at Bookhampton I attended a reading given by Diane Keaton, one of my favorite actresses. After the reading the audience was allowed to go up one at a time as she signed a copy of her new book. As I got closer, my husband asked if I wanted my picture taken with her. I said no, I didn’t really need a photo to remember this moment and I felt rather silly at my age wanting to pose with a star. But as we inched closer and others were having their picture snapped with Diane, I changed my mind. The young man obligingly took my phone while I had a one minute conversation with this gracious, delightful famous person. When I later went to view the photo, I was shocked to see not one but twelve pictures recording our animated conversation. I didn’t even know my phone could take multiple shots. I must admit, I have enjoyed reliving that moment with friends, feeling the aura of celebrity rub off on me. Still, full disclosure, an Oinker sighting, which happens rarely and erratically, feels almost as wonderful, even though every year she gets older, slower, fatter, and if possible, uglier. But Oinker continues to stir crowds to gather and marvel at this serendipitous encounter. In the famous words of the spider from E.B. White’s classic, Charlotte’s Web, she is “some pig.”