Succulents and Swells
Any writer will tell you the real story lies in what you leave out. It’s the same with parties. Memorial Day weekend is about where you don’t go. That’s what I’ll tell my friends, anyway, when they ask why I didn’t show: Read between the lines, last weekend was about you.
Walking up to the tents covering the East Hampton Garden Club party and plant sale at Mulford Farm on Friday, I fell in next to a smiling Michael Cinque in floral dinner jacket. He’d donated birdcages and wine for the silent auction. “I own Amagansett Wine and Spirits,” he said by way of introduction.
“I don’t drink, but if I fall off the wagon I’ll stop in and say hi,” I said smiling, by way of my own.
I spotted Steve Cookson behind the bar, monogrammed cuffs first, and for a moment worried he’d fallen on hard times. “It’s noble work, bartending,” I said, putting on a brave face. Then Lucy Cookson turned up at my side and explained he was volunteering.
“Monday is weeds,” Lucy said, surveying the night’s colorful slacks. Every other Monday, she and a few club members hit one of a number of local gardens and pull. “Next week, Thomas Moran.”
“Are you a member, too?” I asked the stylish and imposing Dianne Benson, president of the LongHouse Reserve. “How many things can one be a member of?” Dianne sphynxed.
Upstaging the flowers, the actress Jennifer Esposito walked by.
“I love the older bartenders here,” said an accented young woman called Zoë to her designer friend Nathan. “They pour such stiff drinks!”
They’re all tanked, Lucy said later when I caught up to her beside the watercolor seahorse she’d painted and donated. “You should have waited to break off your engagement,” she whispered conspiratorially, referring to my rumored romantic hiccup this past winter. “We didn’t even have a chance to judge him!”
At the Garden Club of East Hampton cocktail party on Friday evening at Mulford Farm Billye Hanan matched the orchids.
I ran into the ever-chic Elena Glinn, whom I hadn’t seen since I read about her fascinating life in Steven Gaines’s dishy history book about “the Hamptons,” and wondered what to say. “I came for the succulents. You?”
Edwina von Gal was holding a plant that looked exactly like her when she told me she and her dog won a look-alike contest again recently: “We have the same hair.” Edwina, a landscape designer and founder of the Perfect Earth Project, is not a garden club member. “It’s actually very hard to get into the Garden Club. You have to be nominated,” she explained, though she hails from two generations of members.
I didn’t buy any plants myself, confessing to a club member my concern over bringing a new plant into the house. “What if he doesn’t get along with my old plant?”
“I understand completely. My sister’s a Hare Krishna and allergic to cats. I have two and she’s supposed to visit next weekend.” I ate a sandwich filled with gray material that had no crusts and commiserated.
“Herbs,” Josh Barry said. His partner, on the other side of the tent, had bought rosemary. I thought longingly of a life filled with fresh herbs and explained about my being single. “Whenever I cook, I end up with all these leftover ingredients, which rot faster than I can eat. When I see fresh vegetables, I see death.”
(A moment of silence for the lettuce.)
Josh and I looked out at the swaying party and wondered if there might not be an under-the-table marijuana trade happening. “It would account for all the finger foods.”
A white-haired woman with a blue streak was telling me about Garden Club president term limits — three years — when Arthur (Tiger) Graham, an East Hampton Village Board member, completed a third lap around the center table. “The silent auction,” he yelled, “is ending in 10 minutes!”
Fashionably early, I arrived at the LongHouse Junior Council’s Salon on the Lawn at 4:59 p.m. on Saturday and made my way to what looked like a stack of cubes next to a pond topped with a TV antenna. In the distance, a man in swimming trunks approached. “Peter Olson. I live here,” he said, before introducing Matthew Drutt, the arts committee chairman. We were walking toward the band when a golf cart operated by a dashing Jack Lenor Larsen in black sunglasses rolled up.
“Jack started this whole thing,” Peter explained. “Have you met Matko? He’s our executive director.”
I felt shy and struggled to make conversation. “Did you always know you wanted to be an executive director?”
Belt first, the artist and engineer Jameson Ellis walked up. I told him my dad’s 80th birthday was upon us and that I wanted to give him one of his multi-tool Sync II belts, signed. We made arrangements before I left for the ARF Designer Showhouse and cocktail party in Sagaponack.
ARF, or the Animal Rescue Fund, is an animal charity, which accounts for the recurrent dog motifs filling its rooms. I was too late to buy a portrait of a dog in necktie, but just in time to nab a bronze doorstopper shaped like a terrier marking its territory on the door he’s holding open.
“What shall I name him?” I asked Meghan Boody, an artist who’d just introduced me to Anna Clejan, a shaman and healer. “She removes things,” Meghan said.
“All the gook,” Anna answered. Her husband, Marc Clejan, the founder of the home design company Modern NetZero, in blue shirt and white pants, explained that just yesterday she’d removed from him a host of knives.
“How’d the knives get in there?”
Meghan suggested I call my doorstop “Rufus,” before we all three agreed we should wait for the doorstop to tell us his name. I held up the little bronze guy, and he looked back at us silently.
Richard Ziegelasch, with Rico Suave, John Bjornen, with Willa, and Cee Brown at the ARF Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons Designer Showhouse preview party.
It was Nathan from Friday’s Garden Party with Tom Samet of Hamptons House Design who’d designed the room in which we were standing. I thanked Nathan (Wold) for the doorstop and, weaving past the many real dogs in attendance, found myself in another room filled with fragrant Irises and a small mummified rhino.
“Abercrombie and Fitch made this leather rhino in the 1960s, which we wrapped in bandages in order to preserve him,” said Arthur Golabek, a florist, at my side, before he complimented me on my name and nodded toward his purple bouquets.
On my way out of Margaret Garrett’s new painting show at the Sara Nightingale Gallery in Sag Harbor I ran into Marty and Michele Cohen (he’s the chairman of Guild Hall’s board of trustees and she, Manhattan’s Museum of Arts and Design chairwoman), who were on their way in. They’d just come from Harper’s Books in East Hampton, where I was expected an hour earlier. But when I arrived back on Newtown Lane, tradition demanded that I stop first at Eric Firestone’s gallery.
Amid the sculptures and paintings of “Different Shapes,” a group exhibition of art from the 1960s and 1970s, I ran into Jasmine Lobe, a sex columnist for The New York Observer, and her venture capitalist fiancé James Altucher. Hitting on her diamond ring, I congratulated Jasmine and wished James good luck, as Emily Post prescribes, then dashed off to Harper’s Books, where an after-opening dinner was being set for the photographer Maryam Eisler.
Arriving at the gates of the afterlife, you’ll be greeted by everyone you ever loved while alive, I’ve heard said. Something similar happens when Harper and Marianna Levine promise lobster rolls. I filled my plate and sat down among Jameson Ellis, Marty and Michele Cohen (who’d returned), the photographer Laurie Lambrecht, and a host of other familiar and unfamiliar faces sipping bubbly water, a few of whom did not remove their hats before sitting down.
“I’d rather wear my hat in hell than serve Emily Post in heaven,” they seemed to say. Laurie explained they were artists. I couldn’t remember if I’d seen any such hats at Friday’s Garden Club party.
Beside me, Marianna chatted with a young art collector about pornography. “Did you know there’s a fetish involving women who get pies thrown in their faces?” she asked.
“Did you know there’s a fetish involving men and women who hold toy soldiers between their toes while their partners watch?” I interjected.
Marianna turned. “I’m so glad you came!”