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Staking Out The Rich And Famous

Originally Posted: April 04, 2007

Lon S. Cohen

They say that when in Rome do as the Romans do. As I spend my days gawking at the vacant palatial homes of the extremely wealthy, I imagine what it would be like to live like the glitterati of the Hamptons. But with no contacts, no connections and really, let's face it, no couth, there was no way I was going to get myself a weekend pass at some celebrity home. So I did as one famous Roman did: Veni, vidi, vici.

Award-winning novelist E. L. Doctrow

I started my little jaunt in Sag Harbor because award-winning novelist E. L. Doctrow spends time there. Upon arriving, I knocked on the front and back doors, rang the bell, and camped out under his front porch but E.L. never showed up. So quite skillfully, I pried open his back window and stuck my head in to take a look around. How does a famous novelist decorate his home?

He doesn't.

The entire place is vacant except for a chair, a desk, an old typewriter and a gigantic cannon filling up most of the two-story room up to the vaulted ceiling with the open end directed exactly where Mr. Doctrow's head would be were he sitting in said chair, typing away. Obviously this was some sort of memorabilia from his novel, "The March." Was it inspirational facing the business end of a cannon? Or was it some literary agent's cruel way of symbolically telling the venerable author that he was "under the gun" to come up with his next bestseller. The most fascinating part was the trick of getting the gigantic cannon inside the house. It was like one of those ships in a bottle.

Curiously, a full jazz band arrived and set up on the front lawn so I ran like heck. When I finally collapsed hours later, soaked and exhausted from swimming across Peconic Bay, I found myself on the sandy grounds of Steven Spielberg's compound. Fortunately for me the wood clad French doors off the back patio, which afforded a brilliant view of the Atlantic, opened right up without much prodding at all.

Director extraordinaire Steven Spielberg

Inside, everything from the paint on the walls, the window dressing, and the meticulously handcrafted wood furniture was a shade of sepia. Even the rays of sunlight through the windows made streams of sharp orange and yellow to illuminate squares of contrasted slightly tinted designs on the wood floor. Strains of Duke Ellington came from somewhere deeper in the house. It was, literally, the 1940s.

I tread lightly as I searched every room looking for Technicolor. At the center of Spielberg's mansion was a high tower, an Escher-esque type of place where stairs led up, down, sideways, everywhere and nowhere at the same time. There were aliens and circus performers, robots and toy soldiers, fans and gears, churning, whistles, grinding and winding to the big band of the Duke. I was turned round and round, like a ballerina in a music box.

In a swirl I found myself outside again. Night had fallen. My ticket had been punched. I wandered down the beach until a thumping bass line caught my attention coming from a modern stone façade mansion, glowing like white neon. There was no mistaking it. This was P. Diddy's infamous abode.

I had to climb a double high hedge, as scowling, seven foot tall, muscle-bound brutes, guarded the entrance. On the other side was the largest crowd of partiers who ever dared to dress head to toe in white threads that many days east of Memorial Day.

Musical mogul P. Diddy

Dirty, unattractive, uncoordinated, and slightly disheveled, (O.K., I looked like the guy who did it and ran) I was the sore thumb, to say the least. Someone stuffed ten bucks in my pocket and asked me to do something about the porta-potties. There were at least a few of the semi-famous who had been there since the party started in August of 1998. (I wondered what happened to The Hanson Brothers!) But I can't say much for the décor as the guards spotted me right quick and heaved me out the door.

P.Diddy's driveway is made of gravel. Very sharp gravel.

I wandered out into the darkness, promising myself that I would head straight home and take four or five Advil with a Wild Turkey chaser.

But that was before I found myself in front of the gates of Warren Buffet's vacation home. Quaint and unassuming on the outside just like the man himself, inside was a décor of sophisticated and expensive antiques. A bookcase hid a secret vault. Inside was some kind of machine with giant rollers. Casually the operator of the machine explained that this was the room where Mr. Buffet actually "printed" money. Not counterfeit money mind you but real $1000 bills, they just churned out onto a large conveyer belt. The G-Man was extremely generous. He directed me to an exit through the floor.

To my surprise I entered the secret tunnels that connected every celebrity home to every other. It was amazing. Poster-sized maps showed the entire layout of the Hamptons, lines connecting to red dots like a subway map.

I snatched a paper pamphlet with map and directory and followed the directions to all the homes where the rich and famous live their elaborate lifestyles. I saw Jerry Seinfeld in a white terrycloth bathrobe strolling along the corridor eating a bowl of cereal. He asked me through a mouthful of milk and flakes if I had been by Michael Bloomberg's place and was he at home. I told him I didn't know but that since he was already wearing white he might want to check out the party at P. Diddy's.

At Ralph Lauren's house I found a paneled basement with bored but beautiful models hanging around sipping champagne while dipping their toes into Jacuzzi tubs all spiked with Ralph's line of fragrances.

While tromping through Rupert Murdoch's home I was struck by the site of a rather modern home filled with satellite televisions and direct cable feeds glowing in the darkness. There in the middle of it all was a large stone fireplace and above the mantle hung a small, beat-up sled.

Confused I turned to leave only to find myself face-to-face with the biggest, baddest, uniformed officers north of the Mason-Dixie line: The Southampton Police. I knew the drill so I went quietly. They had my old cell all made up for me.

Next episode: I will be critiquing the East End's most exclusive country clubs.

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