New Yorkers driving out to East Hampton, L.I., for Thanksgiving may notice that the blue-and-yellow sign for Maya’s restaurant has been taken down from its perch near Ronald Perelman’s house on Route 27 in Wainscott. Whether the local branch of Randy and Maya Gurley’s famous St. Bart’s restaurant will also disappear from the Hamptons landscape is a more complicated question.
Restaurateur Pino Luongo, who owns the property, which borders Georgica Pond, said the Gurleys told him at the end of October “that they could not exercise their option to buy” the site by the deadline of Dec. 1. Mr. Luongo said the Gurleys, who opened their Hamptons outpost in mid-July, “did express a desire to keep the space” and wanted to “get an extension through the spring,” but he deemed the conversation “noncommittal” and said it did not make financial sense for him because he is still paying a mortgage on the property. (Prior to striking a deal with the Gurleys, Mr. Luongo operated Sapore di Mare in the same space for 11 years.) Hence, Mr. Luongo said, the site has been put back on the real estate market, and the Gurleys have lost the deposit they put on the property and any money they sunk into the site. (Perhaps now Mr. Perelman can make good on the rumor that he has long wanted to buy Mr. Luongo’s property, which abuts his summer home, the Creeks, to further insure his already airtight privacy.)
Although repeated attempts to reach the Gurleys by phone and e-mail in St. Barts were unsuccessful (phone service has yet to be restored after Hurricane hit the island), one friend who spoke to the couple on Nov. 22, said, “As far as I know, they’re still in negotiations with Pino, who is notoriously difficult to deal with.” The friend also said the Gurleys aren’t exercising their option on the restaurant site because the current terms are “onerous.”
According to the friend, who requested anonymity, the Gurleys had “an unbelievably great season,” after which they did the math on what they could expect to make in a full Hamptons season, “and it still didn’t cover” the nut that Mr. Luongo is asking. The friend declined to be more specific, but sources familiar with the situation said Mr. Luongo is looking for between $1 million and $1.5 million for the property and the 1910 Tudor mansion that sits on it. “They told him that if he could be a little more flexible, it could work for everyone,” said the friend.
Replied Mr. Luongo: “They were the same terms that they bought into back in May. That’s the price, that’s the deal. If it’s onerous, they should not have taken the deal in the first place.”
The Gurleys apparently are very much interested in returning to the Hamptons next year. Back in July, Mr. Gurley told The Transom that he had been considering the Hamptons as a restaurant site as long as 13 years ago, when he looked at the Wainscott site that Mr. Luongo ended up buying. Friends also said the Gurleys want to keep a foot in the New York metropolitan area because their children go to private schools in the city.
Still, the couple may not have the luxury of spending too much time on their Hamptons dilemma, given the destruction that the hurricane heaped on St. Barts. According to the friend, the winds wiped out the road that ran in front of the restaurant, forcing Maya’s to close for a number of crucial weeks during the season.
The skies certainly seemed cloudless when Maya’s opened in Wainscott on July 18. The Gurleys came to Long Island’s East End with a built-in clientele that winters in St. Barts and summers in the Hamptons. Although Mr. Gurley steadfastly refused to drop his patrons’ names, designer Calvin Klein, recording artist Jimmy Buffett and his wife Jane Buffett, hotelier Ian Schrager, billionaire Ron Perelman, Saturday Night Live executive producer Lorne Michaels and Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner were said to be part of Maya’s loyal clientele. Mr. Wenner’s son, Alexander, even worked as a busboy at the Hamptons branch. Adman and restaurateur Jerry Della Femina, who has his own eponymous restaurant in East Hampton, was said to be tutoring the Gurley’s in the idiosyncrasies of the seasonal Hamptons market. Less than two weeks after the restaurant opened, Women’s Wear Daily declared Maya’s “Nick & Toni’s’ most formidable competition.”
Yet, privately, Hamptonites crabbed that the restaurant never really got its act together. Some placed the blame on the Gurleys’ decision to open halfway through the summer season and at a time when the best wait staff had already been employed by the competition. Moreover, those familiar with both Maya’s branches said the Hamptons version was approximately twice the size of the one on St. Barts, which must have put a lot of pressure on Ms. Gurley, who presides over the Caribbean-influenced kitchen.
Although the Hamptons restaurant has Georgica Pond views, Maya’s regulars said it could not compare to the St. Barts locale, which is right at the water’s edge and, as one person put it, “consists of a terrace, a roof and no walls.” The Hamptons Maya’s meanwhile, was essentially Sapore di Mare with a coat of paint; hardly an exotic locale for those who had spent years dining at Mr. Luongo’s restaurant.
Mr. Luongo’s space is certainly not the only one the Gurleys have considered. The couple briefly looked in Sag Harbor, and back in the mid-1990′s when Saturday Night Live ‘s Mr. Michaels was looking to open a country inn on some property he owns off the Montauk Highway in Amagansett, his plans included having the Gurleys run the inn’s restaurant. Mr. Michaels never got the zoning approval he needed and eventually scrapped the idea. But given the number of powerful, wealthy fans of the Gurleys-such as Mr. Michaels-who reside in the Hamptons, don’t be surprised if the Gurleys eventually find their way back to the Hamptons.
Rim Shot, Please!
The Directors Guild of America apparently didn’t want its first annual honors dinner at the Hilton to be a tedious affair, so they got a standup comedian named Julie Gold to do some shtick (Rudy Giuliani had a “previous engagement,” said Ms. Gold, “to kick a puppy.”) Instead, they should have asked Peter Duchin’s drum to count off the jokes with rim shots.
The need to be humorous extended even to the local head of the Theatrical Teamsters, a union that has inspired a whole genre of jokes (“How do you know when a teamster is dead? The doughnut falls out of his hand.”)
When Thomas O’Donnell, president of Local 817 of the Theatrical Teamsters, arrived at the podium to collect his D.G.A. award-introduced by tough-guy actor Robert De Niro, no less-he explained to the crowd that he had told a joke to the Taxi Driver star with mixed results. “He looked at me like, ‘Jeez, this guy’s nuts ,’” said Mr. O’Donnell, who nonetheless recounted the joke about two young brothers, one 6 years old and one 4, to the audience. It went like this: One day, the older brother informs his sibling, “Today, we’re gonna start cursing. I’m going to say hell, and you’re going to use ass.” So the two boys go down to the breakfast table, and their mother asks them whether they want Rice Krispies or Cheerios.
“What the hell, give me Cheerios,” replies the older brother.
To which, in teamster-like fashion, the mother “knocks him off the chair.”
The mother then turns to her 4-year-old and asks him the same question. The little boy says, “You can bet your ass it’s not Cheerios.”
After the laughter died down, Mr. O’Donnell said he could think of a lot of other people who deserved the award he had received. “However,” he said, “I can find no fault in their choice.” Then, before leaving the stage, he thanked his wife of 48 years for “not butting in.”
Later that evening, the event’s master of ceremonies, Harvey Keitel, recalling his long association with another of the evening’s honorees, director Martin Scorsese, remembered his final audition for the director’s film, Who’s That Knocking at My Door .
Mr. Keitel said he walked into a room and “there’s this guy,” whom he didn’t know, “sitting with his leg up on a desk. He said, ‘Sit down.’”
“I said, ‘Who are you?’” Mr. Keitel recalled. The man replied, “Sit the fuck down.”
Naturally, Mr. Keitel was moved to reply: “Who the fuck are you?”
And then suddenly, according to the actor, Mr. Scorsese emerged from the shadows. “Harvey, it’s an improv,” Mr. Scorsese said.
“Great piece of direction, Marty,” Mr. Keitel said to the audience, which included Mr. Scorsese, actors Kevin Spacey and Nicolas Cage, directors Milos Forman and Jeremy Kagan, and Representative Richard Gephardt. Then Mr. Keitel smiled and said, “It’s true.”
Also true, it seems, is an off-the-cuff comment that New Line Cinema Chairman and D.G.A. honoree Robert Shaye made about director John Waters, who presented him with the award. “John and I go back a long, long way,” said Mr. Shaye. “When was it that [sex club] Hellfire closed?”
Reached at his home in Baltimore, Mr. Waters said, “I am not giving an interview about Bob Shaye and the Hellfire Club!” although he did add, “Certainly, I have been in Hellfire with Bob Shaye and a huge group of people … although we weren’t regulars.” Thinking about the Hellfire seemed to put Mr. Waters in a wistful state. “It was a great club,” he said. “You should tell Mayor Giuliano to reopen it.” Mr. Waters then urged us to call Mr. Shaye. “It was in his speech, not mine,” said the Pink Flamingos director. “He certainly upstaged me with that remark.” Mr. Shaye did not return a phone call to his office.
The Transom Also Hears
… On Nov. 18, publicist Gwen Rivers opened the New York Post and found what amounted to a fashion-police mug shot of herself. There under the heading of “Hip List Tip List” appeared a picture of Ms. Rivers, who is the daughter of artist and musician Larry Rivers, with her eyes obscured by one of those ominous looking identity-concealing black bars. Ms. Rivers had done nothing wrong. Rather, she had posed for a picture wearing a pashmina shawl, which the Post ‘s Libby Callaway was declaring “Last Season’s Fashion Trend.” What left Ms. Rivers a little miffed was that she had taken the picture last season, when pashmina shawls were all the rage. And it was at that time, she said, that the picture was first used to illustrate another Post reporter’s story about the coveted cashmere. Ms. Rivers, who is a publicist at the firm of Dente & Cristina Associates, told The Transom she wasn’t taking the whole thing very seriously, but she said, “Maybe the Post should stock up its photo library.”
Ms. Callaway told The Transom that the picture ended up in the paper by mistake when she typed “pashmina” into the tabloid’s computer system, and the program pulled up Ms. Rivers’ photo. “Her name wasn’t on it, and I had no idea it was her,” said Ms. Callaway, who added that she was “slightly mortified” by the incident.
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