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Peter Jennings Hosts ’Jazz at Jennings’

Originally Posted: June 23, 2004

Debbie Tuma

Peter Jennings, Mr. and Mrs. Steve Kroft

One of the great parties held last Saturday night was at the secluded Bridgehampton home of ABC Anchorman Peter Jennings and his wife Kaycee Freed. It was the annual "Jazz at Jennings" benefit for the Bridgehampton Child Care Center, where the popular anchorman is on the board. This group provides after school programs for the migrant youth and working class families of this area. Jennings always has a prominent crowd of media friends and celebrities, and this year was no exception.

Some of the 150 guests for this $500 per ticket dinner and jazz concert included local authors Tom Wolfe and Ken Auletta, actress Dina Merrill and her husband, Ted Hartley of RKO Pictures, of East Hampton, Steve Kroft of "60 Minutes," author Linda Bird Francke, who is also on the Childcare board, jazz legend Percy Heath, of Montauk, who performed, and Hugh Wyatt, former Daily News music columnist and publisher of the Medical Herald, of Sag Harbor.

Ted Hartley and Dina Merrill

Jennings, whose private chef Mary prepared the lovely hors' doeurves, was explaining to his guests how his brother helped to build his house with wood brought in from his birthplace of Canada. "My house is reminiscent of a Frank Lloyd Wright style, and looks a bit like a motel," he said. Jennings' door was hand-carved as a work of art. Jennings was also talking about his long and grueling day covering the Ronald Reagan funeral, and how he had known the late president personally, covering him at the White House. "I thought he did a good job as president, and he had a lot of personality and guile," said Jennings, who also said he was happy to be back in the Hamptons relaxing with his wife.

Percy Heath, whose great jazz music, has been heard all over the world, as he has toured with The Heath Brothers, has just come out with his new CD, called, A Love Song. He is also involved with the Arts in Montauk, and their Depot Gallery at the former Montauk Railroad Station. When in Montauk, Heath likes to go fishing. His son, Montauk fisherman Stuart Heath, made a splash when he was nominated as one of he Most Eligible Bachelors in People Magazine, two years ago.

Percy and June Heath

Also last Saturday night, over in the farm fields of Bridgehampton, the South Fork Natural History Society (SOFO) celebrated the opening, (which will be sometime this summer) of their new museum and nature center, located on the Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Turnpike. It is in the old Bridgehampton Winery building, and overlooks majestic fields and ponds. Guests had a chance to walk through this $6 million, state of the art facility during the cocktail hour, and see their new interactive exhibits in glass cases, their huge tanks filled with live creatures, and their large back deck complete with exhibits and telescopes.

About 300 guests then attended a sit-down dinner under a big tent on the adjacent lawn to the new South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center, where they danced to the tunes of the fabulous Lone Sharks. Andy Sabin, president and founder of this group, honored John Behler, curator of Herpetology at the Wildlife Conservation Society-Bronx Zoo, who advised the group, and Jim Ash, Executive Director of the group, for all his hard work in organizing this new museum. Noted author Peter Mathiesson, a friend of SOHO, was the honorary chair of the event. Also attending this benefit were NYS Parks Commissioner Bernadette Castro, Southampton Town Supervisor Patrick Heaney, and Suffolk Legislator Jay Schneiderman. This museum, which has taken about five years to be ready, is scheduled to open at a later date this summer.

Tom Wolfe

Over in Sagaponack, another benefit was being held for a worthwhile cause of AIDS research, for the Alison Gertz Foundation, in memory of this young woman who died from AIDS.

Held at the Luna Farm, this event drew several hundred supporters, including Star Jones and Bridgehampton Polo head Neil Hirsch, who will soon be riding in the polo ring when this event starts in July, and continues every Saturday afternoon into August. Hirsch and his polo partner Peter Brandt, who is married to model Stefanie Seymour, also attract a great and fascinating crowd of celebrity spectators to the Hamptons, once this popular sport gets underway this Summer.

Only in the Hamptons, would you go to a yard sale and have it turn out to be the home of a famous actor. Well, last Saturday and Sunday, all the buzz in Sag Harbor was about the fabulous yard sale at Ben Gazzara's historic, bright green house. Apparently, he and his wife, Elke, just left the house and all its contents and flew over to Italy, to their other home, and where they intend to stay, along with their apartment in Manhattan. Gazzara sold his house recently, and left everything inside, including their clothes, kitchen utensils and dishes, beautiful Italian art on the walls (as well as a few signed Peter Max's and Rauschenberg's,) and even their two modern TV and VCR equipment. People were flocking through the house all weekend, dragging home truckloads of wicker furniture, pool furniture, lamps, bureaus, coffee tables--you name it!

Gazzara's estate liquidator, who lives on the South Fork, said the actor is busy touring in his play Yogi, where he plays baseball legend Yogi Berra, and this play ran recently in Palm Beach. But Gazzara, who opened his Yogi play here at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, last year, apparently left town in a hurry to continue his tour, and his busy life, in Italy, where he has roots. He and his wife will be missed in the Sag Harbor community, where they have been seen at polo games, and at local charity benefits over the years.

Try and catch the new play at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, called Rough Crossing, which is a British comedy farce, taking place aboard a cruise ship. It just opened this week, and continues through July 4. Another great comedy, You Can't Take It With You, is running at the Quogue Theater, and stars Hamptons Online's own Robert Florio.





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