“ [Gazing at the surf] Oh, jeez, I wish you could see this... the lights coming up over the water. I've never seen a painting that captures the beauty of the ocean at this moment. I'm going to make you rich, Bud Fox, rich enough, you can afford a girl like Darien. This is your wake up call, pal. Go to work.” - Wall Street, Gordon Gekko
When I watch this scene in Wall Street, I feel Gekko’s overwhelming emotion manifested in the beauty of a perfect Hampton beach at sunrise – the cool sand, the waves hitting the beach, and air perfectly fresh and salty. The Hamptons are a contradiction, a microcosm of New York’s battle between cultural ideals and animalistic materialism, played out over a mix of lobster rolls, sunset beaches, afternoon BBQs, incredibly beautiful houses, and striking natural beauty.
My personal Hamptons story is an interesting one. It has evolved over the years, touching many aspects of the Hampton life. It started when I was just a few days old in June 1979. I came right home from the hospital and within hours, was in the car to the Hamptons and on the beach. My parents scrounged up their savings to purchase a small house in Southampton. I remember the outdoor shower, the neighbors, and a black and white TV with Atari. A couple of years later, they traded up to a larger house in Watermill. That lasted until about 14 when divorce struck and assets were sold and divided.
From there, my Hamptons experience evolved into weekend visits to my father’s or my friend Russell’s house on Dune Road in Bridgehampton. I missed the nightlife scene of M-80 and the original Conscious Point by a couple of years, so my Hamptons nightlife story began with Tavern in Southampton, circa 1996. When we were about seventeen, my friends and I would make a table reservation at Tavern and each throw $100 into the pot. Our $500 plus a few hundred supplemented from Russell’s uncle, and we were in; a table with two bottles in what we were convinced was the VIP section. We were the first ones in the club and the last to leave. Usually one person would puke or pass out in front of the Tavern, or end up waking up in the pool room or sauna with a lady from Dalton, Nightingale, or Great Neck North High. At the Tavern, shots were courtesy of Jon B, then promoter now owner of Greenhouse, who insisted on pouring them down our throats behind the bar. All the elder statesman of nightlife where active in the Hamptons back then – the Von Broocks had the Euros at Tavern, Andrew Sasson (current king of Vegas) had the Financiers and the Yuppies at Jet East, and the young social set were at “Life’s a Beach,” the Manhattan club of the moment, Life’s Hampton outpost. The years after that would bring Conscious Point, the Lizzie Grubman incident, Ted Field’s parties, the Wilzig Castle, and Diddy’s White Party, the original, not the “I am greedy pay me to do it at a Guido club” version. Back then, celebrities didn’t sell their parties… they threw them for actual FUN!
Fast forward a couple of years, let’s say 2002, after college to my first and only “share” house. Located in Quogue, I realized the share thing was not for me after the first weekend. Not only did I miss the best party of the summer because of my then girlfriend’s graduation (who dares to graduate on Memorial Day Weekend), but living in a house with random people and sleeping four people in a room, is for me, the equivalent of being in Guantanamo Bay. After an incredible excessive birthday celebration (see attached flyer), I stopped going and paying attention to that house immediately. Looking back this was probably an error in judgment. In early July, I got a call that the house was being raided by the Southampton Police. The call came at 8 a.m. from one of those animals living in high society squalor, and I decided it was in my best interest to turn off my phone and go back to sleep.
With that, we were swiftly evicted (share-house’s are illegal in the Hamptons) and my partners and I plead guilty to get the charges dropped. In court, we were then forced to read a statement that went something like this, “I, Alan Philips, Josh Shames, (and not to be mentioned Persian partners), plead guilty to selling a share in the downstairs boiler room of 'not to be named' Street, with a lamp, end table, and a mattress…” As I read this statement, my partner Josh chimed in, “your honor, the end table really held the boiler room together!” Needless to say, the judge didn’t find that amusing, and we were asked to leave the town of Southampton indefinitely.
Like the not-so-triumphant return of Tiger to the Masters, this was not the end of Alan Philips in the Hamptons. My friends and I have rented some great houses since these early stumbles. It is usually one person or a couple per bedroom, with pool, tennis, basketball etc. Some of my best memories of the last six years have taken place in these houses – great Friday night dinners, summer playlists, all day BBQs, inevitable late night stupidity, followed by late night debauchery, and afternoons playing sports or at the beach. For me, the Hamptons has evolved from a family escape, to the business of parties and nightclubs, and now back to a place of refuge and escape – less Playstation parties and more time spent chilling with friends.
The Hamptons is now in a transition, as it always is, ebbing and flowing with the economy and availability of disposable income. Sale and rental prices are undeniably down because as people feel less confidence in their net worth, they are less interested in committing to long term financial obligations. This inevitably leads to a slow season, weeding out the weak. That was last season, now this season is one of opportunity. New owners, new businesses, and new concepts will begin to come in this year, but even more next year. This season, there is less competition and I am going to go out on a limb and say it will be a banner year for the Hamptons. Fewer places means more of the people you want to see, consolidated to a couple of locations.
I cannot, in good conscience, recommend any nightclub in the Hamptons. My favorite nightclub over the past five or so seasons has been Pink Elephant. Why? They played groovy summery house music, it was usually easy to park, they had an outside area for lounging, and I invested many twenties in being able to cut the bathroom line. For those of you who don’t know, Pink Elephant is bankrupt and the Capri Hotel is for sale, as it has been for a couple of years. I should have known this was happening when David Waksman, owner of the hotel, tried to sell it to me for $23 million, while acting as the reservationist and housekeeper, during our meeting. Now I am told his whole portfolio can be had for less than half of that. At least for his sake, the Capri is not located in Miami. Then it would be worth 10% of what he was asking.
And then there were three. There are currently three nightclubs left in the Hamptons: Axe at Dune, Lily Pond, and RDV (formerly Tavern). Technically, that leaves only one reliable option for a pure nightclub play, two nights a weekend, and that is Dune. I spent many great nights at this place when it was Jet East, so I know the potential for some fun is still there. The people who run the venue are professionals and I am sure they will deliver on the general things that make a nightclub pleasurable. I have not had a great night there in many years, but if you must go to a “pure” nightclub in the Hamptons this summer, Dune will probably be your best bet.
The other two pure nightclub plays in the Hamptons this summer will be Lily Pond and RDV. Here is what to expect at Lily Pond: occasional, pay-for-play celebrities, mediocre service, great music, lots of good press, some bad press, and definitely some sort of backwards door policy. Not to mention it is only open on Saturday nights. Lily Pond is also in a legal dispute with their landlord who wanted to kick them out of the space, but won’t be able to until next year. If you are in East Hampton and looking for a great night out in the midst of a landlord-tenant dispute, Lily Pond seems like the best bet for you. Maybe one night at 4 a.m. everyone will get evicted. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.
RDV is located in the former Tavern space. Tavern was always one of the best nightspots in the Hamptons, but years ago the Von Broocks leased it to some guy Bruce and his wife. They proceeded to turn it into a Guido club, bury its reputation, rebrand it a couple of times, and carry on operating on fumes. Now we are full circle and the Von Broocks have taken it back and teamed up with the crew behind RDV. They say they are investing heavily in the project in hopes of making a multi-year run, but who doesn’t say that when they are opening a new venue. Additionally, the entire scene has moved east, which is a major concern. On the flip side of this argument, inventory in the nightlife department is very low. Tavern is a great space and the RDV team is professional, so maybe, just maybe, the sun won’t rise in the east, and my compass is off, and RDV will save nightlife in the Hamptons.
Side Note: About an hour prior to publishing this article a “little birdy” told me that the current king of nightlife is strategically making a last minute play for the Capri Hotel. With a few days till summer, it will be interesting to see if it gets done, but this could turn the landscape of the nightclub scene upside down, or right side up for that matter…
For me, when it comes to the Hamptons, the nightlife action and all of the daytime action outside of a beautiful home or beach, lies within the restaurants and hotels…
Restaurants & Hotels:
It is far more fun to eat and drink at the same time in the Hamptons. You will generally, but not always, get more hospitality than at the nightclubs. Once at Suki Zuki Sushi in Watermill, the waiter actually gave my friend’s wife her tip back because it wasn’t sufficient, so it is all relative. In the case of some people in the Hamptons it is drink and look at your food, and in the case of some places, it is drink and wait for your food. At least there is a lot of drinking involved.
The best recommendations for great service and delicious food, are the restaurant holdovers like Bobby Vans, World Pie, The Palm, Della Femina, Nick & Toni’s, Citta Nuova, La Parmagiana, Sen, The American Hotel and a few other standouts I am surely forgetting. Inevitably, each year there are also the scenesters that come on like fire and fizzle out just as quick – for example, Kobe Club. Others are beginning their second or third season, and we watch with hope as they burgeon to create new traditions; Georgica, Trata, Phillipe, and Sag Harbor’s Tutto Il Giorno. There are even a few that charge ridiculously high prices and for some reason are welcomed back again, can you say $36 Patron Shots at Nello Summertime’s. The guy doesn’t even use lube when he is fucking you.
As for hotels, Sunset Beach started it and Surf Lodge took it to Montauk. Sole East then followed, with some nouveau hipsters bussed in to dress the room. Just as in Manhattan or Miami, hotels are the best spots to eat and drink in the Hamptons, day and night. Surf Lodge has a restaurant with celebrity chef Sam Talbot, along a great indoor/outdoor lounge with DJs and live music. Sunset Beach is classic elegance and Riviera style much closer to home, although you will still have to take a yacht or ferry to Shelter Island. You could complain about the trip to either spot, but the truth is they are both well worth it. On another note, coming next season, Sean Macpherson will do his version of a Hamptons Hotel. He recently purchased the Crow’s Nest in Montauk and the proprietor of the Jane, Bowery, and Maritime will be renovating shortly.
On a final note, I would like to present the award for worst restaurateur in the history of the Hamptons (and maybe the world) to Jean Luc aka Ed Kleeflied. There are all types of legal struggles and debt over Jean Luc's Hampton restaurants, except for Grappa which has gone back to the landlord. He owes so much money that no one has figured out yet how to take over his properties because, from what I am told, "it would cost too much." He also managed for years not to make a deal with anyone to take over these spaces and get him out of debt, because of his incredibly large EGO. “None pities him that is in the snare, who warned before, would not beware.” Translation: he was such an asshole and was warned so many times that he deserves everything he gets.
Here are some of this season’s stories in the Hamptons restaurant world…
Last season the old Saracen space was taken over by David Schulman and transformed into Georgica. Despite some bumps in the road, he was able to transform the place into a comfortable restaurant with tasty food and a great nightlife scene. This year is poised to be no different. Schulman is one of nightlife’s great collaborators, a good luck charm. He has brought in Eugene Remm and Marc Birnbaum of Abe & Arthur’s/SL to head up the Saturday nights. On Friday nights he has Benny Grieff and Dave Marino returning to head up the Hamptons’ best Friday promotion. Seth Levine of Hell’s Kitchen returns to the kitchen with his scrumptious Lobster Mac ‘N Cheese.
East Hampton Point
As I reported about a month ago and Page Six reported about a day ago, Derek and Daniel Koch have moved their Hamptons version of Day & Night to East Hampton Point. East Hampton Point has always been an incredible space with a great marina, but mediocre food. If the food is all the boys have to fix in order to make this a reality, East Hampton get prepared, because this is poised to be the hottest party the Hamptons has seen in a long while.
Matt Levine has moved on from Georgica and taken over nightlife marketing by branding the former Botswick’s space in Three Mile Harbor. The restaurant is owned and run by Michael Gluckman from Bamboo. Check out the shot on the right by Jerritt Clark.
Serafina East Hampton
Fabio and Vittorio have finally brought New York’s ultimate trattoria to the Hamptons. East Hampton locals and visitors should welcome their simple and flavorful Italian fare. I am sure it will work fabulously, and seems like it should have happened years ago. They are rumored to be negotiating with the town to have a Capri-style lemon garden, let’s hope they get it.
Fresh out of his split from long time BLT partner Jimmy Haber, the LT in BLT has his sights set on the Hamptons. He has a house in East Hampton and has been negotiating on the Grappa space in Sag Harbor. I personally looked at this space a couple of years ago, it is incredible and the town would be lucky to have Tourondel.
Navy Beach is expected to be Montauk’s newest restaurant hotspot, run by veterans from Sushi Samba, Nick & Toni’s, and Asia de Cuba.
Notable Places in FLUX:
• Prime 103 – Wainscott
• Madame Tongs – Southampton
• The Capri/Pink Elephant – Southampton
• Bamboo – Wainscott
• 75 Main – Southampton
• Pacific East – East Hampton
• The Laundry – East Hampton
Notable People Looking for Spaces:
• Noah Tepperberg & Jason Strauss
• Mark Baker
• Jon B.
• Bagatelle Owners Aymeric Clemente & Remi Laba
• Guiseppe Tuosto of Via dei Mille
• Keith Davis of The Golden Pear
CH Best List:
Coffee: Hampton Coffee Company (it’s like CRACK)
Breakfast: Golden Pear
Blueberry Crumble Toasted with Butter: Golden Pear
Traditional Pizza: La Parmagiana (Try an Italian hero – delicious)
New Style Pizza: World Pie
Shrimp Nachos: World Pie
Afternoon Snack: Panini at Saint Ambroeus
Lobster Roll: Lunch
Lobster Mac & Cheese: Georgica
Afternoon Drink & Raw Bar: Cyril’s
Boutique: Blue & Cream (It’s the Hamptons, save Intermix & Scoop for NYC)
Grocery: Citarella (Heirloom Tomatoes & Citarella brand Hot Dogs are a MUST)
Rainy Day Activity: Movies or Bowling
Food Stop While Driving Out: Kitchen Cabaret
Stay Away From: Lobster Inn, Neptunes, Suki Zuki
Notable Seasonal Events: Bridgehampton Polo, Love Heals, Super Saturday, Hamptons Magazine Clambake, Hamptons Magazine Season Kick Off, Hamptons Classic
“A life without love is like a year without summer.” And so begins the summer of 2010 in the Hamptons.
See you next time at Cocktail Hour, where more often than not one drink turns into ten and no one knows where and when the night will end.