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A chilly swim for a good cause and Holiday parties across the East End

Originally Posted: January 10, 2005

Debbie Tuma

Happy New Year to all readers! This has been a whirlwind month of non-stop holiday parties both in the Hamptons and Manhattan, and some were even held on the beach!!

If you thought the ocean beaches of the Hamptons were off-limits in the winter, think again, because over this past month, there have been a total of three different "Polar Bear Swims," from Montauk to Southampton!! Most recently, the annual "Polar Bear Splashdown," was held as it always is on New Year's Day at the end of Beach Lane in Wainscott, with a big crowd of several hundred, and about 75 took the icy plunge for a good cause. This year, Colin Mather, owner of "The Seafood Shop" in Wainscott, who organizes this event, announced he was donating proceeds to the Red Cross for the victims of the devastating Tsunami which struck several countries in Asia.

Colin Mather and staff of seafood shop in wainscott

"It is only fitting, as we look at these waters, to think about and remember those who lost their lives in this terribly sad disaster, and to do whatever we can to help them," he said before running with his friends into the 44-degree water. Luckily this year, the weather on New Year's Day was a balmy 57 degrees, which inspired more people to come out for the plunge. Whole families came out, with their kids and dogs in tow, and at the toot of the whistle, everyone ran into the surf to greet the new year with a brisk tingle. Colin and his staff kicked off the event by jogging from the Seafood Shop on Main Street, Wainscott, down to the beach, and they also handed out caps to participants. Everyone warmed up later with a party following this event, catered by the Seafood Shop, at a private residence in nearby Sagaponack.

Polar Bear plungers

A similar "Polar Bear Plunge" also took place on New Year's Day morning on the beach in front of Gurney's Inn Resort & Spa, with about 500 people watching from the hotel balconies, and about 60 people dunking in the Montauk surf. This is the third year celebrating this tradition at Gurney's. Also on January 23, Gurney's is hosting a dinner buffet, with all proceeds going to the Tsunami victims. For information, call 668-2345.

Earlier in the month, another "Polar Bear Plunge" took place at Cooper's Beach in Southampton, where about 500 people gathered, and 184 jumped in to raise money for the Human Resources of the Hamptons (HRH), which provides services for homeless and needy familes on the East End. This first year, the group raised $53,000 through sponsorships for those braving the frigid waters to help their neighbors. This group's Holiday Outreach Program aided 600 familes and over 2,000 locally this Christmas season.

Jill Brooks and Albert Maysler

Jane Finalborgo, President of the board of HRH, said she was thrilled with the community turnout, which also included Congressman Tim Bishop who lent his support, and Southampton Mayor Romanowsky, who jumped in the water wearing a blonde wig. Plungers and swimmers were later treated to hot dogs, coffee and hot chocolate donated by local businesses.

December was a month of non-stop holiday office parties, private house parties and restaurant celebrations, including Bamboo in East Hampton, which cancelled its usual and popular "Sushi Night" (free sushi with a drink on Thursdays) and held a private Christmas party for the Ross School. One of the most interesting bashes was held on December 20 at the famed Dakota building in New York City. Down the hall from Yoko Ono, (and she was expected to attend but did not make it) was a huge party to celebrate the holidays and also the "moving out" of one 40-year tenant, noted filmmaker Albert Maysles.

Bonni Miller, Liberty George, and John Worgewski

Albert Maysles, 77, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award in the 2002 Hamptons Film Festival for his movies including, "Grey Gardens," about the eccentric Beale family of East Hampton, who were related to Jackie Kennedy. He has remained friends with the Beatles since filming their first arrival in the states in 1964, and he also just celebrated the 40-year anniversary of this film this past year. Maysles, who is also still friendly with his neighbor, Yoko Ono, has decided to sell his huge duplex apartment in the Dakota, and move his whole family to the up and coming Harlem, where each child will have his or her own apartment nearby.

Hearsay in the Dakota building, is that Antonio Banderas and his wife, Melanie Griffith, tried to buy Maysles apartment, but that the co-op board rejected them for a sheik from Kuwait instead. Maysles' parting party was packed with over 200 wall-to-wall guests--including Peter Bennett (cousin of famed singer Tony Bennett, who is in town promoting his new book). Peter Bennett is also working on his autobiography, about his life spent promoting such rock groups as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Animals and Herman's Hermits. Other guests included Howie Silver, owner of Rhona Silver's Huntington Town House, which threw another great big New Year's bash, Anthony Parizzi of North Fork Bank, concert pianist Andrew Worgo, fashion designer and artist Bonni Miller, Miramax Vice-President David Pearson, public relations gurus Ed Callaghan and John Worgewski, Joyce Brooks of "Black Tie" Magazine, photographer Suzanne Poli and her writer husband Bruce Poli.

John Bonci, Patrice Jacobsen & Billy Jett

Guests of honor at Maysles party were the famous artist Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude, who will be creating another major $20 million art project this February, when they wrap Central Park with 7,500 "Gates" of saffron fabric. The whole city is now awaiting this huge event--and this will be the sixth film that Albert Maysles has done on Christo's massive art installations, which also include "wrapping" the Colorado River, the Eiffel Tower, and islands in the Bahamas.

LTV, East Hampton's public access television station, held its Christmas party for staff and friends on December 18, at their Wainscott studios. Executive Director Billy Jett welcomed everyone, along with Jeannie Chips, and Vic Teich, President of the former Public Access Producers Association (PAPA), dedicated a lovely bench to LTV studios. This long-time organization has sadly dispanded as of late, due to a lack of interest. For over 20 years, they raised money to help buy equipment for LTV producers.

Friend, Kimberly Goff, and Dan Rattiner

WordHampton Public Relations, which represents numerous local restaurants, held their holiday bash on December 14 at one of their favorites, Almond Restaurant, in Bridgehampton. Owner Steve Haweeli was ever his charming self, greeting his clients and of course, the media. Speaking of media, Dan's Papers held their holiday party at Jean Luc's Restaurant in East Hampton, on December 9, where about 100 staffers and freinds, and even Dan himself, danced the night away.

During the holidays, it seems that many of the biggest parties were thrown by local artists and architects. Well-known watercolor artist Michelle Murphy and her husband, architect Robert Strada, threw a great holiday party at their lovely 1800's Amagansett farmhouse, for about 100 guests on Christmas Eve. Guests revelled into the night with singing and carols. On December 26, Amagansett architect Eva Growney threw a Sunday brunch for about 30 guests, while later that week, East Hampton artist Michael MacDowell and his wife Judy threw a big bash for about 100 friends.

If you're headed to Tanger Outlet to exchange all those Christmas presents, check out the new Photographer's East Winter Exhibit, at the Riverhead Library, which opened December 1, and runs through January 30. There are great photos of all kinds, by over a dozen of the best local photographers, including Tulla Booth, David Nadal, Michael Knigin, Pat Field, Joan Sorge, John Picker, Pat Lauro, Harvey Hellering and Jan Keo.

Another benefit for the Tsunami victims is being held on Saturday, January 8, at Sagaponack Vineyard on the Wollfer Estate, from 4-6 p.m. They are asking for donations of summer clothing, linens, and cash, which will go to the Red Cross, and a representative will also be there. For information, call 537-5106.




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