Debbie Harry Helps Perfect Earth Turn the Tide

Debbie Harry of Blondie, pictured here with Blondie's keyboardist, Matt Katz-Bohen, was the headliner at the Perfect Earth Project's benefit picnic on Saturday night. David X. Prutting and Griffin Lipson/BFA.com

With a hint of autumn in the air, the pop music stars Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie, Suzanne Vega, Rufus Wainwright, Jenni Muldaur, Teddy Thompson, and a band led by G.E. Smith entertained in Springs on Saturday as residents and visitors of all ages celebrated healthy people, pets, and the environment at the third biennial picnic and concert benefiting the Perfect Earth Project.

With wildlife from the Quogue Wildlife Refuge and adoption-ready pets from the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons on hand, those attending learned about toxin-free landscaping and other practices to promote a healthy environment, while enjoying good food and plentiful hit songs.

“Are you walking across a toxic lawn to get to your organic vegetable garden?” Edwina von Gal, Perfect Earth Project’s founder and a well-known landscape designer, asked the audience gathered at Cindy Sherman's property on Accabonac Harbor. “We’d like to offer you an alternative.” Every year, she said, over a billion pounds of synthetic chemicals are applied to American soil. “If everyone stopped using chemicals on their lawn, we can save 225 million pounds of toxic pesticides going into your bodies and your water every year.” These, she said, cause afflictions including asthma, autism, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cancer, and nervous system disorders. “They are especially dangerous to children and pets,” she said.

Why does use of chemicals in landscaping persist? “Most often because people have been told that chemical-free is more expensive and doesn’t work. This is a myth,” Ms. von Gal said, and it is the Perfect Earth Project’s mission to convince them otherwise. Those who practice toxic-free landscaping are “getting to know something about their landscape, about a natural process,” she said, and “engaging in an amazingly important environmental act.”

With Ms. Muldaur serving as musical director, the on-stage highlights were many, among them “Out of the Game” and “Tired of America” by Mr. Wainwright, who has a house in Montauk. Ms. Vega, who performed at Guild Hall in East Hampton that evening, sang selections from her forthcoming album, “Lover, Beloved: Songs From an Evening with Carson McCullers.” The artist, who has a house in Amagansett, then donned a top hat for a rendition of her early hit, “Tom’s Diner.”

The audience saved their loudest cheers for the headline act. As brilliant, late-summer sunlight shone on Accabonac Harbor to the east, Ms. Harry took the stage as Mr. Stein, her onetime romantic partner and longtime creative collaborator, led the band in the opening riff of Blondie’s “One Way or Another.” The punk-new wave hits of yesteryear continued, including “Call Me,” “Rapture,” and “Heart of Glass.”

Amid the natural beauty of the setting, the performers reached farther back to conjure the day’s note-perfect moment, a rendition of “The Tide is High,” first recorded by the Jamaican group the Paragons and later a worldwide hit for Blondie. In fine, sultry voice and moves belying her 71 years, Ms. Harry enchanted the gathering with a passionate delivery. “The tide is high but I'm holdin' on/I'm gonna be your number one,” she sang. “I'm not the kind of girl who gives up just like that, oh no!”

Nor is Ms. von Gal, whose determination to lead an ecological revolution is equally impassioned. “Every time a person converts” to toxin-free landscaping, Ms. Von Gal told The Star, “they become engaged. It’s not a product, it’s not about finding something different. It’s about really being engaged in the health of your landscape.”

Chris Stein of Blondie, who played with Ms. Harry, with his wife, Barbara Sicuranza, and their daughter Valentina SteinDavid X. Prutting and Griffin Lipson/BFA.com
Among the guests were John Targon, a designer, left, and Martha Stewart with her canine companions. David X. Prutting and Griffin Lipson/BFA.com
East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. chatted with Edwina von Gal, the founder of the Perfect Earth Project.David X. Prutting and Griffin Lipson/BFA.com
Isaac Mizrahi, left, the afternoon’s master of ceremonies, with the musicians Suzanne Vega, Teddy Thompson, G.E. SmithDavid X Prutting & Griffin Lipson/BFA.com
After taking the stage earlier in the afternoon, Rufus Wainwright, left, enjoyed the music with his husband, Jorn Weisbrodt.David X. Prutting and Griffin Lipson/BFA.com
Cindy Sherman, on the right in white, hosted the event at her property on Accabonac Harbor. Edwina von Gal is at left.David X. Prutting and Griffin Lipson/BFA.com