At the beginning of each summer, reporters strap themselves into rented Ford Focuses, drive east, stick their pale forefingers in the air and try to decide whether the Hamptons are still hot, or so over.
On Saturday, June 23, at the after-party of the Southampton premiere of the movie Fierce People, legendary adman Jerry Della Femina offered his assessment. “The Hamptons,” Mr. Della Femina declared grandly, “have become a nation unto themselves.
“We have more planes than most countries,” Mr. Della Femina continued. “And you know the chances are we probably are going to attack another country and declare our statehood. Honestly, we have more planes than Costa Rica, so you know we could take them over. We’re gonna have our pledge of allegiance, we’re gonna have our own flag. It’ll be great.”
He was kidding, of course, and yet ….
Hosted by Andrew Saffir, the founder of Cinema Society, an invitation-only screening series, the Fierce People party was a catered, tented and valet-parked affair at a waterfront mansion—whose, no one was quite sure. Despite the ample grounds, revelers were struggling to mingle comfortably among the multiple bars and buffet tables without falling into the nearby pool. There were actor Kelsey Grammer with his wife, Camille; the golden-haired actress Heather Graham; the 1980’s supermodel Rachel Hunter; actress-socialite Dina Merrill with her husband, Ted Hartley; another adman, Donny Deutsch; Warhol muse “Baby” Jane Holzer; as well as the film’s director, Griffin Dunne.
(It was a good turnout, considering publicist Peggy Siegal had organized a premiere of Michael Moore’s new documentary, Sicko, across town at the East Hampton Cinema, followed by a dinner at Prime 103, a swank steakhouse. Her crowd included Mr. Moore, the film’s producer, Harvey Weinstein, designers Donna Karan and Tommy Hilfiger, and comic actor Chevy Chase.)
Meanwhile, Mr. Della Femina, warming to his topic, was anointing a ruler for his prospective principality. “Some day, you know the entire town will be owned by Ralph Lauren,” he said. “King Kullen”—one of the local grocery stores—“will be King Ralph Lauren.”
Typical adman hyperbole! But it’s true that the main streets of both Southampton and East Hampton have abruptly become a platinum-card paradise. At one point, the Hamptons was supposed to be East Coast Malibu; now it’s more like Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, or Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. And it’s not just the retail. Rich families have managed to transplant their entire mossy ecosystem from Manhattan: private schools, fancy parties, galleries, museums, theater houses.
“It’s become autonomous,” said the writer and general gadabout Jay McInerney, who was standing at the bar wearing crutches—he broke his foot recently—and a flashy madras blazer. “There are people out here who almost think the city is superfluous.”
Exactly when did the Hamptons become the 51st state?