A serious tone crept into State Democratic Committee chairman Judith Hope’s voice. “Let me point out something that everyone has missed,” she said, referring to the dozens of reporters who had written about President Bill Clinton’s visit to the Hamptons. “This weekend is primarily a weekend of rest and relaxation for a family called Bill and Hillary Clinton and Chelsea if she can come.”
In this very surreal moment of history, Ms. Hope can be permitted an irrational comment. Somehow it has come to this.
A day after the papers carried news of former White House intern Monica Lewinsky meeting with Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s deputies in a Manhattan apartment, Ms. Lewinsky and her lawyers struck a deal with Mr. Starr that granted her full immunity. A deal that almost guaranteed that the headlines in the days to come would make the New York Post ‘s “I Had Sex With Bill” banner, accompanied by a full-lipped photo of Ms. Lewinsky, pristine. The Monica caper was finally peaking.
But who would have guessed that when Mr. Clinton’s moment of resolution came, it would become a roadshow in the plutocracy’s giddiest and most parodic paradise. And the one location in the United States of America-as it is essentially built around one main road-least equipped to accommodate the mass hysteria and frenzy surrounding it.
Making Mr. Clinton’s position appear even more precarious is the increasing prospect that these current events will reach a flash point while the First Family is, as Ms. Hope put it, relaxing in the Hamptons, where every weekend the media elite dons shorts and boat shoes to cohabit and hobnob with the wealthy killers who are paying thousands of dollars to get close to the Clintons.
The First Couple is coming to the Hamptons to raise more than $1 million for the Democratic Party via at least three fund-raisers that will take place over the course of July 31 and Aug. 1.
In light of the events of the last few days, they will now have to devote considerable time to the relaxing prospect of self-preservation. And those who parted with enough dough to get anywhere near the Clintons-from $1,000 to stand on a rope line at Alec Baldwin’s and Kim Basinger’s Amagansett house to $25,000 per couple to dine at the East Hampton home of investment banker Bruce Wasserstein-may find that, more than another form of status, they may have inadvertently acquired ringside seats to watch Mr. Clinton fight for his political life.
Now, Mr. Clinton has proven again and again that he is an excellent fire walker, able to charm impressive sums of soft money out of his supporters while withstanding lethal amounts of humiliation and pain from the hot coals that his political enemies and the press manage to consistently throw at his feet. As he labors to keep his mojo working over the weekend, Mr. Clinton can also take comfort in one thing. The people who populate this string of ocean-kissed hamlets in the summer months have a lot more in common with him than they do with Mr. Starr. Here, allegations of adultery and wonky real-estate deals generate more excitement than outrage.
“This community is very supportive of [Mr. Clinton]. Much more supportive of him than Washington,” said Sally Quinn, who as an author, Washington power-hostess and owner, along with her husband Ben Bradlee, of East Hampton’s Grey Gardens, knows both worlds (although it should be noted that she was speaking generally and not to the issues of adultery or real estate).
Year-round Hamptons resident and sometime Transom contributor Steven Gaines, the author of Philistines at the Hedgerow: Passion and Property in the Hamptons , put it another way. “The people of the Hamptons want desperately for Clinton to be safe. He is the spirit of the bull market,” Mr. Gaines explained, which has enabled many men and women to build huge second homes there and drive around in expensive sports cars. Mr. Gaines added that Mr. Clinton “is a baby boomer, and the heart and the soul of the Hamptons are 50-year-old baby boomers who would love to get a blowjob.”
Hence, the support that Mr. Clinton will find waiting for him when Air Force One lands in eastern Long Island will not necessarily be of the politically ideologic kind. One person closely involved with the fund-raiser that will be held on Mr. Baldwin’s and Ms. Basinger’s home described the Hamptons as “ground zero of all the biggest starfuckers you could ever meet in your life.” Thus, explained the source, the Baldwin fund-raiser would consist of essentially “800 starfuckers [more recent estimates put the crowd at 1,000 attendees] coming to meet the biggest star there is. “Clinton’s a star,” explained the source. “He’s young. He’s vital. He’s interesting. How else is he so popular in the face of all this stuff that is going down?”
When The Transom called Mr. Baldwin to talk about his event, he called back to clarify a few things.
“I am not hosting this event,” Mr. Baldwin said. “The [Democratic National Committee] came to me and said, can we borrow your house. I said, You got a deal.” Mr. Baldwin explained that since he made that agreement, “as things unfold” it has become clear that some inconveniences will be visited upon his neighbors and other Hamptons residents. For them, Mr. Baldwin said he was sorry for any problems that might be caused. Mr. Baldwin’s sympathies do not extend, however, to all who may be inconvenienced this weekend.
“I’m talking about the people who are year-round residents,” he said. “For those people I have endless good will.” For the day-trippers and the “people who go out here there as some part of cultural migration for six or eight weeks because they think that every grain of sand on the beach is some teeny-tiny touchstone of hipness,” Mr. Baldwin said, “God bless them, but I’m not interested.” Referring to the latter group, Mr. Baldwin said: So [they're] going to be inconvenienced for a day. Boohoo. Oh, boohoo. So they can’t go to the Farmers Market. Boohoo. I’m shattered.”
Mr. Clinton can also rest assured that Mr. Baldwin won’t be bringing up Monicagate when he visits. When The Transom asked the actor if he would be asking the President about Mr. Starr, Mr. Baldwin mistakenly thought we were talking about his antinuclear organization Standing for Truth Against Radiation, which has been lobbying for an independent investigation of the Brookhaven National Laboratory. When we explained to Mr. Baldwin that we were talking about Kenneth Starr’s investigation of Mr. Clinton and Ms. Lewinsky, Mr. Baldwin replied, “My attitude about that is, I really don’t care.
“There are rock-ribbed Republicans who are part of the Republican fabric who only have one dream-” Mr. Baldwin said he did not mean rank-and-file, but professional Republicans, the kind he might be battling himself someday, if he enters politics-”that is, in Clinton, they would hope they have found their Nixon. When Clinton beat Bush, they never got over it. They hate him. They will do anything they can to smear him.”
Mr. Baldwin’s passion about his politics may be spread pretty thin at the event at his home. One source close to the event contended that if those attending the Baldwin fund-raiser were given a pop quiz on their way into the event and asked to name two of President Clinton’s cabinet members, “they wouldn’t be able to answer.” Why, The Transom asked. Because, said the source close to the Baldwin fund-raiser, “They don’t know anything about politics. They’re not there as political supporters. They’re starfuckers.”
When we recounted the “starfuckers” quote to Ms. Quinn, she laughed. “That’s a lot of money to pay just to go see somebody. You’ve got to be really desperate if that’s your motive,” she said. “If you’re not just doing it because you care desperately about the Democratic Party.”
Whether fund-raiser ticket sales were politically motivated or not, Mr. Gaines said that the D.N.C.’s $1 million goal seemed low. In happier days, there’s no telling how much money Mr. Clinton could have raised. Mr. Gaines called the Hamptons “the honeypot of the nation. Everyone suffers from affluenza here. They’re just desperate to spend money to buy status. The [D.N.C.] could have taken truckloads of money out of here. I don’t think they understand how rich the Hamptons are.”
Some of the Hamptons’ wealthiest and/or most influential residents won’t be around when the Clintons set foot on East End soil. Billionaire Ronald Perelman has packed his bags and headed to that international capital of hedonism, Ibiza. Mr. Perelman’s spokesman Howard Rubenstein would not confirm Mr. Perelman’s destination, but he said that the Revlon cosmetics company owner had planned this vacation for a long time. Word is that Mr. Perelman did not want to get caught in the gridlock that is reportedly set to grip the area. Then again, Mr. Perelman may just be being politically astute given that Ms. Lewinsky had been slated for a job at Revlon Group Inc.-which was withdrawn when the Monica trouble began in January.
While Maine is usually popular for Hamptonites seeking to avoid the flood of renters and day-trippers who arrive with August, Spain seems to be popular for those power eliters escaping the First Visit. Ms. Quinn told The Transom that she and Mr. Bradlee were heading to Madrid. If they have already not done so, Ms. Quinn’s neighbors on West End Road may want to do the same. If Mr. Clinton does stay at Steven Spielberg’s secure home, Quelle Barn (Mr. Wasserstein’s home has also been mentioned as a possibility), which is also located on West End Road, travel on the street will no doubt be severely hampered by Secret Service checkpoints, as will any water sports on Georgica Cove.
Since news of the Clintons’ visit broke, the chatter at Hamptons cocktail parties has been dominated by nightmarish predictions about the traffic snarls that will result when (and if) sections of the Montauk Highway, the main artery leading from Southampton to Montauk is closed off for security reasons. Asked what might be the best way to deal with the President’s visit, East Hampton Village Police Chief Glen Stonemetz said, “I would pick Honolulu.”
Despite these intimations of roadway paralysis and worse, Frank Newbold, a vice president at Sotheby’s International Realty in East Hampton, said, “Oddly enough, people are looking forward to it. People really want to be in the thick of it.” Mr. Newbold said that he’s already hearing tales of “guys in black suits with earpieces lining up to get doughnuts at Dreesen’s [Excelsior Market]” or “cars with blacked-out windows in front of Steven Spielberg’s” home. “People here are so jaded, so blasé,” he added, “but the power of the office transcends all that.”
Rona Jaffe, author of The Best of Everything , is among those who have forked out $1,000 to attend the Baldwin fund-raiser. Ms. Jaffe explained that she’s going “not just to see Clinton, but to see the people who have come to see Clinton.” She also added, “I’m not looking forward to it. It’s going to be dreadful, but I’m going to make the best of it.”
For those Hamptonites who can’t quite jack into that transcendent mood (Nick & Toni’s will be closed-closed!-on Saturday evening, Aug. 1), the man to blame is venture capitalist Alan Patricof. Mr. Patricof has been one of the President’s staunchest supporters and Ms. Hope and other Clinton camp sources contend that he is largely responsible for suggesting that Mr. Clinton come to the Hamptons and for convincing Mr. Wasserstein to throw the relatively intimate dinner for 60 couples at his home. (The dinner seems modeled after one that Mr. Patricof held at his Upper East Side home in January. The price tag then was $30,000 a couple.)
The Transom hears that Mr. Patricof may also be holding a dinner at his home after the Baldwin event-which would allow Mr. Clinton to eat twice-although it’s unclear whether that would also be a fund-raising event. Ms. Hope said she knew nothing about it. Mr. Patricof did not return calls.
A spokesman for Mr. Wasserstein also declined to comment on her boss’ event, but among those who have paid $25,000 a couple to dine with President Clinton on July 31 are Goldman, Sachs & Company co-chairman Jon Corzine and his wife, Joanne; fashion designer Vera Wang and her husband, Walter Becker; Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein and his wife, Eve; Billy Joel and his current girlfriend Carolyn Beegan; and shoe designer Kenneth Cole and his wife, Maria Cuomo Cole.
On Aug. 1, at least one of the Clintons will attend a reception for approximately 60 people at the home of Eos Foundation founder Jonathan Sheffer and Dr. Christopher Barley. (A rather terse Mr. Sheffer refused to confirm that ticket prices for his event were $5,000.) Then it’s on to Chez Baldwin, where an interesting stratification will take place. Ms. Hope explained that there will be a very brief “meet and greet” with the President for those members of the benefit committee “who met their goals” in selling tickets (said to be at least $5,000). The list of these co-chairs on the invitation reads like a comp list to a Manhattan nightclub or movie premiere (which is perhaps why such Republicans as adman Jerry Della Femina said that they received invitations): There’s Sony Music Entertainment Inc. chief “Thomas D. Mottola,” better known in music circles as Tommy; art dealer Arne Glimcher and his wife, Milly; television producer Robert Morton; actor Robert De Niro; Democratic activist and the former Mrs. Perelman, Patricia Duff; and VH1 chief executive John Sykes. The list is also peppered with young publicists of the moment-publicists who know plenty of people who will spend $250 to stand on the Baldwins’ lawn and watch the President greet the people who bought $1,000 tickets-including Lizzie Grubman, Elizabeth Harrison and Lara Shriftman.
Author and Paris Review editor George Plimpton said that he won’t be in the Hamptons for Mr. Clinton’s visit, but added he was thinking of purchasing a $250 ticket because “I sort of like the idea of standing outside a building in which [Mr. Clinton] is inside.
“This would be a very good story,” said Mr. Plimpton, “talking to the people who are outside and know … that they’re not going to see [Mr. Clinton] because they haven’t paid [for the V.I.P. ticket].” Mr. Plimpton said he thought that Mr. Clinton would eventually have to “come out, to these, these unwashed.”
“I think that’s going to be the ticket, the $250 ticket,” Mr. Plimpton said finally. “You always have the chance of seeing one of the Baldwin children, or a horse! They can see one of the horses,” said Mr. Plimpton. “That’s a very important, very important ticket.”