Irreverent view of the Hamptons is a good read

What better time of the year to catch up with the Hamptons and how they came to be the coveted summer and weekend destination of exceptionally moneyed denizens of New York City and far-flung locales?

A year or so ago, I posted my praise of  “The Sky’s the Limit” by Steven Gaines, one accomplished writer.   Now, I once again offer high praise of a book of his,  “Philistines at the Hedgerow,” a 12-year-old bestseller that I just finished.

One of the characteristics of Gaines’ writing is its gracefulness.  The author produces uncommonly stylish prose, and the depth of his research always is impressive.

Truth be told, what I really like about his books is the amount of gossip and, yes, innuendo.  It’s fun!

“Philistines at the Hedgerow” is a savage, incisive, humorous and, it must be said, bitchy indictment of many of the folks who have flocked to the Hamptons (on Long Island’s East End) over the years.

Whether they number their forebears as passengers on the Mayflower or surfboarders on the tidal wave of hedge fund riches, the author dissects the old rich and the new rich with equal helpings of gusto.  I loved it.

Consider these nearly random excerpts:

Allan Schneider was a balding man with a cherubic face and the aristocratic bearing of an Edwardian lord. . . He wore proudly his family crest on his pinkie ring, on the breast pocket of his dinner jacket, and on the vamp of his black velvet evening pumps.


. . . [T]he Goelets scattered in four directions.  [Robert] Gardiner went after them one at a time, trying to pick them off and confront them, but they evaded him.  As though in a Keystone Kops movie, he began to chase them around the house–in one door, out the other.”


Ted Dragon sold The Creeks to Ron Perelman for $12.5 million.  “People ask me, ‘What does Ron Perelman look like?'” Dragon said, “and I always say, ‘He looked like Christ descending from a cloud to me.’  If it wasn’t for Ron Perelman buying The Creeks whole, I would have had to sell it off to developers.”


The first thing Elena [Prohaska] noticed was a large sign in the changing room, No tops, no bottoms.  “A pool is not a Laundromat,” [Evan] Frankel scolded guests who tried to wear swimsuits, “Come on, now, take off your clothes!”


. . . Charlotte McDonnell Harris, 62, the former sister-in-law of Henry Ford II. . . was a small woman of aristocratic bearing, her hair gone gray, at her ears diamond clip-ons.  Her deeply lined face and whiskey-throated voice attested to the cigarettes that seemed to drip, always from the long, bony fingers of her right hand.  She took deep, Tallulah Bankhead drags on her Parliaments, talking sharply as she exhaled through her nostrils, dragon-style.  She talked mostly about Barry Trupin and how Southampton was “going to hell in a handbasket.”


Well, you get the idea.

The book totally engaged me, and I cannot recommend it too strongly as a history that reads almost like a novel.  Buy it and read it.  You’ll thank me, I promise.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

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