At the Love Heals Benefit on Saturday evening in Sagaponack, Niche Media founder Jason Binn shimmied with abandon to Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” Ensconced in a dancing trio that included stylist-cum-TV personality Mary Alice Stephenson (also the evening’s co-host) and stylist Ann Caruso, the Hamptons magazine publisher buckled his knees and shook his shoulders.
Asked what he thought about the prospect of a casino being built in Southampton by the Shinnecock Indian tribe, Mr. Binn deadpanned, “Why? Are you a high roller? You tired of going to Vegas?”
Shifting gears, the magazine magnate turned professorial: “You know, in Miami I have Ocean Drive magazine, and Philadelphia Style; I’ve seen a lot of times casinos coming to these markets, and it’s always a hot topic, it’s always a challenging discussion. Time will tell.”
Will he patronize the casino?
“I’m not a gambler,” he replied with a suspiciously wry smile.
The benefit for the Alison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education was held under a large tent at the majestic Luna Farm on Parsonage Lane. Unfortunately for frazzled publicists and party planners, a day of intermittent downpours dampened the evening’s preparations, and though the rain ceased by event time, remnants of a tempestuous afternoon remained.
Large swaths of hay lined the muddy driveway into the horse farm, and a spectacular post-storm sunset exploded beyond the white tent peaks, prodding one guest to note in awe, “I can’t believe it, they’re so lucky, it actually turned out to be a beautiful night.”
Cars were corralled and herded into the pasture by a SWAT team of traffic directors, forcing some female partygoers to take lurching, studied steps to keep their sharp stilettos from sinking into the grass like garden stakes; others skated seamlessly by, blessed by their choice of the wiser wedge.
PR underlings signed people in at the tent entrance, their ballpoint pens attached to clipboards with matching Henri Bendel ribbons. Two registration tables, one for prepaid tickets, the other for on-site purchasing, divided guests into Hamptons neophytes desperate to make the scene and society stalwarts forced to attend because they promised a benefit committee member or were one themselves.
Sponsored by the Sony NEX camera, a photo station was set up near the tent’s entrance, where guests waited in line to pose, be lit and shot on a couch by a photographer and his assistant. A bold move by queuing partygoers, considering the general maxim that anyone worth photographing is more likely to make a beeline away from the camera rather than form a line to pose.
Co-host Peter Davis, in a bow tie and rusted rose-colored slacks, told the Transom of his plans to patronize a Shinnecock casino: “I totally will for the thrill of it, so I’m actually pro the casino and the Indian reservation. If I smoked, I would buy my cigarettes there because I think they’re a lot cheaper.” He paused, looking down at his leopard-print Belgian loafers before confessing, “I only know how to do blackjack, but I would learn how to do craps and everything. I’m a drunk gambler.”
Estée Lauder model Hilary Rhoda and her mother perused the silent auction, which included a whitening treatment at the aesthetic dentistry room (starting bid, $400) and an internship with Diane von Furstenberg (starting bid, $3,000).
The 22-year-old, heralded for her all-American allure, very blue eyes and “normal” size (she is 5-foot-10 and a size 4, though she looked like a size 0 or 2 to the Transom), explained, “I have a house in Southampton, so I come here whenever I can.”
Would she be disappointed if a casino was built near Southampton?
“Uh, no. I don’t think so. I actually don’t know anything about it. I don’t really gamble.”
Her skin glinted with an indiscernible blend of shimmer and sweat as she guzzled a Smartwater.
Asked if she had any exciting weekend plans, the model responded, “Not really,” but was cut off by her mother: “She’s hanging out with her mom! That’s exciting!”
Las Vegas actress Molly Sims, who arrived to much fanfare as the biggest name in attendance, left around 9.30 p.m. with an entourage of young blondes, piling into the middle backseat of a chauffeured black Suburban. Her minions danced to Earth, Wind and Fire while the model said her good-byes before hurrying out with her cocktail glass in hand (she had to run back to drop it off).
Ms. Sims was resplendent with a slicked-back beach bun, a simple black jersey dress that plunged at the neck and hemline and two oversize tear-drop diamond pendants that matched jewelled thongs.
“Well, even though I did a show called Las Vegas for five and a half years,” she said when asked by the Transom of a potential Shinnecock casino, “I don’t know. I mean I don’t live near the Shinnecocks so I really can’t make that decision. I really-I, I just don’t know, that’s my honest opinion.”
Love Heals co-founder Dini von Mueffling engaged in a fierce tug-of-war game with a male guest whose loafer-clad foot would not budge from the hem of her flowing silk scarf dress, until Ms. von Mueffling finally said, “You’re on my dress,” at which point the man quickly removed his leather sole.
Gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Cuomo’s brother Chris attended wearing flips-flops with his more elegantly dressed wife, Christina Greeven Cuomo, both of whom are benefit committee members.
After a presentation of Love Heals’ recent AIDS-education work, guests were asked to text donations that were then projected on the inside of the tent. Texted donation messages included, “Where my Upper East Side people at? 1,000k baaaaby” and “I’ll give $50 if DJ Mel DeBarge plays Ice, Ice Baby!” The song soon erupted from the speakers, right after the Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.”