Simply a Great Guy
January 17, 2022
To the Editor:
Thank you, Tom House, for your beautiful words in memory of Brent Newsom (Jan. 13). All who knew him share similar memories of simply a great guy.
I want to share one bit of history that otherwise may slip into the forgotten. One day I was chatting with Brent about something and I mentioned “the” Swamp. Brent looked at me and said, “Brian, it is ‘Swamp,’ not ‘the Swamp.’ “ I must have looked confused as he went on to explain.
When Brent, Bill Higgins, and several other guys were considering a bar and restaurant enterprise serving the gay and lesbian community on the East End, they had plenty of enthusiasm, enough expertise, and not enough money. The venture would require a big, fat mortgage.
As they considered this commitment with trepidation, one of them finally said, “So what’s another mortgage payment?” SWAMP, not “the” Swamp. That broke the ice, and they went ahead. So the name has nothing to do with a place you might find an alligator or politician. It simply codified their venture commitment. The rest is history.
We were all lucky to know Brent and may he rest in peace.
Will Be Missed
January 8, 2022
Richard Barons will be sorely missed. He has been a major force, not only in the East Hampton Historical Society, but he has also been instrumental in preserving and illuminating the history of both our town and village. He has been generous in sharing his knowledge of our past and always in a kind and respectful manner.
Just think of the Mary Nimmo Moran and Thomas Moran House, the Osborn-Jackson House, Home Sweet Home, the Mulford Homestead, the Gardiner Mill Cottage, the Dominy House and Workshops, and the Marine Museum, and you think of the effort and time Richard Barons has put into those buildings to keep them in our memory for now and in the future. And that is not to count the lectures given, exhibits mounted, and tours conducted. And remember, when we had Richard, we also had his wife Rosanne, a behind-the-scenes researcher and exhibit partner. Some will take his place, but he cannot be replaced. I owe so much to him.
HUGH R. KING
January 17, 2022
To the Editor,
I am writing in praise of, and as an addendum to, Regina Weinreich’s “The Divine and the Mundane,” her excellent review of Peter Duchin’s new book, “Face the Music” (Jan. 13).
The divine refers to the book’s tour of Peter’s life as a prince and premier band leader in “high society.” Most chronicles of the rich and famous are plagued by excessive point of view — all too often resentment or condescension or sarcasm, which are all too easy to do. Peter and his co-writer, Patricia Beard, have none of that.
With the death of his mother shortly after his birth, Peter’s father, Eddie Duchin, the nation’s premier band leader, was on the road 300 days a year and so he was “adopted”/raised by Averell Harriman, not exactly Moses in the bulrushes but Averell Harriman was about as close as America gets to a pharaoh. Peter was from the start a prince blessed with “sprezzatura” loosely translated as “tranquil consciousness of effortless superiority.” The book renders the world that he inhabited with warmth, charming anecdotes, and no bitterness. And he became society’s premier bandleader; he set the tone and it was a “gay” one.
He was the life of the party for 40 years — and then in an instant it was gone. He had a stroke. He couldn’t walk; he was partially paralyzed in one hand and could barely play the piano. The party was over. Recovery was slow and difficult, but he recovered thanks to his will, indomitable spirit, and the support of his wife and friends.
But above all it was Peter, who prevailed and then prevailed again, after a severe bout with Covid. He struggled. I see him struggling every day. Every step is a struggle but there are no complaints and no bitterness, only the infectious joy of being alive.
For me all the “divine” glitter in this, his second, memoir obfuscates his current wisdom and transcendent spirit. Like Buddha and St. Francis, he had a privileged, charmed life, which has transitioned into a highly evolved spiritual life.
When I am with him, I can feel my anger and resentments recede. It is the closest thing I know to being in the presence of a saint. I hope his next book is about that. As with St. Francis, that is the chapter that will render him immortal.
Telling the Truth
January 17, 2022
I appreciated Jennifer Landes’s article (Jan. 13) about Amanda Fairbanks’s challenges processing reviews from some sources and locals who knew the families and friends. As one who instantly sensed the honesty in her narrative and found her writing compelling, there’s no way she has peaked yet. I doubt those who provided starred reviews believe it either.
As Amanda noted in her closing to the Columbia Journalism Review essay, telling the truth as she saw it was the only responsible thing to do. Family secrets always seem to come out. My wife discovered a significant one in hers leading to our years of research into East End family connections. That research revealed more family secrets and a few in other East End families, too. It’s probably tougher to find families without any skeletons in closets than with them.
The structure did work for me. I found each chapter a compelling vignette complete but still having an understandable connection to the whole. This led to my initial reaction seeing it as a fantastic book and in the end realizing I could have started on any chapter and would have had the same reaction.
I thought her “Backstory” chapter was very important for providing both context and credibility to the narrative. Her obvious journalism and writing expertise and experience demonstrated credibility that otherwise could have been interpreted as just taking a plunge into self-centered audacity. And it instinctively supported, for me, why this story was best told by a woman, especially one without any obvious bias or agenda. Clearly some of the most powerful storylines involved the surviving women and female family members. I can’t imagine having a similar sense of empathy from a male writer, local or not.
I was struck by the feeling of emotional toll some of the criticism must have taken on Amanda but impressed at the strength it takes to accept the need to live with yourself and do your job. Was 2021 her high point? Don’t bet on it.
January 11, 2022
Quite by accident I tuned to the 88.7 preset I had on my car radio, and, lo and behold, I heard classical music.
The frequency had been dead for three years or more, but now it’s back with a rebroadcast of the classical network from North Carolina. Good thing, since its license would have been canceled by the Federal Communications Commission in June for the station’s mysterious and unexplained absences. So enjoy it for now as an alternative to Block Island’s 95.9 full-time classical offerings, or the occasional program blocks on WSHU. The 88.7 signal may disappear after June’s license renewal, but the others will likely continue.
Summers at Sea Spray
January 16, 2022
I loved your story about the old Sea Spray Inn. Back in the 1960s, to earn money for college, I spent two-plus summers at the Sea Spray as a waiter. We were all college kids, working our butts off serving three meals a day, seven days a week — but heck, we had beach time every afternoon, and our nights were free. Who needed time off? It was a blast.
For our guests, the rooms ran from spartan to great, with rates starting at — get this! — $15 a day, per person, including three meals, elegantly served at white linen-covered tables.
For me, a kid of 20, it was the greatest job in the world. Who knew, back then, I’d ultimately and happily settle down here, almost half a century later. Thanks for the memories.
With best regards,
January 16, 2022
I have been “missing” East Hampton for a long time. Your review of the Sea Spray park at Main Beach struck a chord. I realized that, when I go the beach to see the ocean, I never look to the left, where the inn was located. I miss the Sea Spray very much. It had the most wonderful bar overlooking the beach and ocean, where one could have a civilized drink and snack while watching the ocean while being inside in a quiet place sitting in director’s chairs. Marvelous.
I have been thinking about the larger picture for a while and finally decided to write it down so that maybe the sensibility of East Hampton that drew people here can be returned. The larger picture is composed of many smaller pictures.
The fundamental problem is that the magical light, which was much revered by the 1880 artist members of the Tile Club, was a living presence in East Hampton when I was growing up. We had the delightful awareness that we were 100 miles out at sea wherever we were, not just at the beach.
The proliferation of too-large houses on too-small lots, always pushing setbacks to the limit, with the rampant planting of perimeter hedges, which often grow to 15 to 20 feet, and excessive use of enormous driveway gates have all created the sense we are in Scarsdale — actually worse, because Scarsdale does not have a community labyrinth as a road plan. All of these problems can be addressed through proactive policies and legislation.
We cannot see the ocean or bays anymore on a normal daily basis. Vistas must be restored. Scenic views need to be created and maintained. Bluff Road in Amagansett is a prime example. All of the vegetation seaward of the road between Indian Wells and Atlantic needs to be cut down and removed. Same for parts of the Napeague stretch, Further Lane, Wainscott, areas of Montauk, the Springs and Fireplace, and the Northwest Woods.
New York State, along with some members of the East Hampton community, have written a resource: Scenic areas of statewide significance, East Hampton, can be found on the town website, ehamptonny.gov/295/Plans-Studies. This study should be used as an important starting point.
Review and change building code setbacks, square footage of houses, and the definition of “family.” It would be appropriate to have the different communities have different codes to address their specific situations. In addition to the important tools such as the agriculture overlay or historic district, the communities should have rules appropriate to them.
Street landscaping requires us to regulate perimeter planting. The excessive use of nonnative evergreens has made our streets labyrinthine. This does not make for a friendly community. Height restrictions and vistas are important for a viable experience.
We are surrounded by gates and fencing. Driveway gates should not be more than four feet tall. Remember, the only gates in East Hampton for 300 years were for cows and horses. Openness is a vital part of East Hampton life.
Protected spaces through community preservation funding or other methods need to be prioritized for open space, farmland, and vistas, vistas that we can actually see, not hidden behind hedges. Our woodlands are well protected.
We don’t need more tree farms on protected property; the protected land should be required to remain open. Negligence will allow weeds and volunteer trees to grow, removing the value of having the lands protected.
Grandfathering in all cases should be time-limited out. Hedges and trees on protected land that negate the vistas that the protected lands provided need to be removed.
There is much more, but if we started on this much could be accomplished.
JONATHAN S. FOSTER
January 17, 2022
Hope everybody at The Star is well. Your editorial “The Coming Redevelopment Wave” (Dec. 30) is already here. Your points are well taken and should have anybody who enjoys East Hampton as it was very concerned.
The people have already spoken: No to the beer barn on Toilsome Lane. No to the apartments on Three Mile Harbor Road. No to the helicopters and the expanded use already in place at the airport.
All these problems are at the doorstep of our local elected officials. But what do they do? We haven’t had a dock approval in Three Mile Harbor in 30 years and boom, we got one. Variances are granted to put septics closer to the water than allowed. Large houses are jammed on a postage-size lot. The resort planned for the end of East Lake Drive would be Carl Fisher’s dream.
You see, these investment groups and hospitality groups are nothing but a bunch of pushy people and they are very smart — they only want 12 cottages so they ask for 17. Then, when offered 12, they are happy, and some government bean counter thinks he has saved Lake Montauk. It’s all about negotiating: push hard and then coast.
I mean, I love it when someone clear-cuts a lot (we have many) and then uses the word “revegetate?
You also mention in the editorial that expansion is “largely without government oversight and with questionable legal justification.” I would think as our local newspaper you would and should expose these travesties and help the people see exactly and specifically who the scofflaws are. What do you say, how about a little investigative journalism? Be a hero, if only for a day.
January 13, 2022
To the Editor:
Wi-Fi connectivity at the East Hampton beaches? QR codes to direct beachgoers? Technology is great, but maybe it should stop at the parking lot.
Regaled as among the best beaches in the world, maybe technology is not a welcomed addition. A Frisbee or book and a blanket with an umbrella are the purest form of beach relaxation.
You can’t prevent technology at the dunes, but why promote it? Maybe the next step is a virtual beach and ocean allowing people to just stay home and avoid sand in their suits and sunburns.
JEFFREY LAUTIN, M.D.
January 17, 2022
Congratulations to Peter Van Scoyoc and his fellow town board members for deciding to take East Hampton Airport private. According to The Star, “The transition is expected to begin this winter. . . .” While there is much work to be done, this is truly a landmark decision.
When I first became involved in 2003, the then-town board was in almost complete denial that airport noise was a problem, as were subsequent boards. Only when Larry Cantwell became supervisor did the town board fully acknowledge the noise problem and begin to explore solutions. Kudos to Larry and to Kathee Burke-Gonzalez.
But success has many parents, deservedly so in this case. We would not be where we are today without the tireless efforts of David Gruber, Kathy Cunningham, and Charles Ehren. Nor would a dialogue have been possible with the aviation community without Tom Twomey and Bonnie Krupinski, whom we should recognize in memoriam.
It’s been a long haul. So I encourage all those still involved, especially the continuing critics, to take a victory lap before entering this new phase of airport noise mitigation.
PETER A. WADSWORTH
January 17, 2022
To the Editor,
Thanks to new Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s ridiculously misguided requirement that “dangerous [weapons must] create genuine risk of physical harm” in order to not be downgraded to mere misdemeanors, what Manhattan residents and workers need are three public service “volunteers”: One normally law-abiding citizen to (reluctantly) stick a sharp knife up against Bragg’s wife’s neck but not stab her; another to stick a loaded gun up to Bragg’s daughter’s chest but not pull the trigger and hope it doesn’t go off anyway like Alec Baldwin claims his gun did, plus one to swing a baseball bat at Bragg’s grandmother’s head but miss. Then Bragg would need to interrogate his loved ones about whether or not they felt they were at “genuine” risk when they were being so “non-violently” robbed.
A Year Later
January 17, 2022
I would like to say that the letter written in the Jan. 13 Star by Carol Dray, titled “Most Terrifying Day,” is an excellent description of what really happened on Jan. 6, 2021, and how it should and should not be remembered. At the time, both liberals and conservatives alike condemned the break-in at the Capitol by a group of protesters as a heinous and illegal act. All agreed that the violators should have been charged and punished for breaking the law. It was reasonable to investigate all the circumstances surrounding this in order to prevent something similar from happening again.
However, the highly staged and totally partisan spectacle that was put on a year later was nauseating at best. Showing a video by the cast of “Hamilton,” please! A speaker compared the date this occurred to Sept. 11, 2001, and Dec. 7, 1941. Doing that belittles the sacrifices made when many thousands of Americans were killed.
Undoubtedly the senators and congress members present were scared about what was happening, but to cry about post-traumatic stress disorder insults the military personnel who have experienced real P.T.S.D. from actual combat. One of the things the investigation should look into is why the National Guard was not brought in after it had been authorized by the White House. For some reason the investigating committee is saying that Nancy Pelosi is off limits.
In the June 18, 2020, Star, I wrote a letter titled “Huge Mistake,” where I wrote that the movement by the New York City Council to cut the police budget by $1 billion would lead to big problems and was not the right approach to making things better. I wrote this primarily to the New York City residents who read this paper. Unfortunately this defunding of the police was done by many cities around the country and is part of the reason why crime has spiked as a result. I truly hope that we as a country can come together across partisan lines and get back to better times.
January 16, 2022
Today marks the 20th day in the year of our Lord, 2022. It also marks the end of Joe Biden’s first year as “president” of the United States and what a year it has been. He entered the White House with the wind at his back, a fawning media covering for every faux pas, and his party in control of both the House and the Senate. While the country was gripped with hype over Covid, the prior administration handed him the testing and vaccines needed to combat the issue. Needless to say after the tumultuous four years of the prior administration expectations were quite high . . . and he’s failed quite spectacularly.
We don’t have to go back over the entire year; we can just look at last week alone. The country is experiencing the highest inflation since 1982, 7 percent. Tremendous gains in wage growth during the prior administration have been wiped out by Joe Biden’s inflation and economic policies. There are continued shortages of goods across the nation, and the America of Bare-Shelves Biden is starting to look like Soviet Union circa 1972.
He ran on the promise to “shut down the virus” and has utterly failed at that. More Americans have died under his leadership than his predecessor, over 400,000 people in fact. He’s on record saying any president who had 200,000 die on their watch should resign; he hasn’t. Factor in that he has had tests and vaccines available since day one of his presidency, this failure is inexcusable. Even as you read this we have a shortage of tests; why? He has wasted his time and political capital trying to force mandates onto the country and it was resoundingly struck down in court.
Joe Biden abandoned his principles and supported ending the filibuster. That has failed. He supported the federalization of our elections. That has failed. His “Build Back Better (Broke)” is done, another failure. He’s done nothing to secure our southern border, his unilateral withdrawal from Afghanistan was a disaster, and his weakness abroad has emboldened countries like China, Russia. and North Korea. Failure, failure, failure, failure, failure, and more failure.
Old Joe ran saying he would unite the country yet has done nothing but divide Americans at a critical point in our history. He’s divided us by race, by gender, by wealth, by Covid, by state, by class, by creed, and it keeps going. Last week he gave a speech in which he called half the country racists and compared them to George Wallace (a man he once praised when it was convenient) yet the next day asked for unity. If incompetence was a superpower Joe Biden would be a superman but he is proving he is just a stupid man.
All of this would explain why Joe Biden’s approval numbers are down to just 33 percent and dropping. For context, the lowest his predecessor ever polled was 38 percent and that was with relentless media attacks and two impeachments; Old Joe has beat that in just 12 months. So it is understandable that fear has begun to sweep through the halls of the Democratic National Committee bunker as we move toward the midterms.
Historically the party in power typically suffers a loss in these elections. It happened to Obama, it happened to Trump, and it is going to happen again. As Joe Biden’s presidency collapses (kind of like Afghanistan) and we see him decline in real time, the losses the Democrats face could be historic in scale. Little wonder then that some Democrats suggesting replacing even less-popular Harris for vice president in 2024 or replacing the fading duo altogether with another candidate, none other than Hillary Clinton.
We can conclude that all the reasons that were given why Joe Biden was unfit for office are turning out to be true. He is old, ill, out of touch and has been proven to be on the wrong side of every major issue for the past 49 years of his political life. His mental decline is obvious, his ability to speak coherently is at times pushed to the limit and he ranges from whispering clown to a screaming buffoon. He forgets where he is, who he is with and even basic facts about his own life; he is unwell. America can handle a lot but can it survive three more years of Dementia Joe?
MICHAEL D. BOUKER
January 17, 2022
This past week has been pretty bad for Joe Biden — I believe the worst week in history for any president. Inflation is at a 40-year high and 7 percent over last year. Attempt to federalize elections, hopefully, is dead. The push to get rid of the filibuster has ended. Store shelves are empty. The Supreme Court smacked down Biden’s attempt to unilaterally issue vaccine mandates.
Biden’s approval rating is only 33 percent. Biden never stood for anything; his entire career has been spent on whatever side an issue would help him at the moment. He claims he’s a devout Catholic but he supports taxpayer-funded abortions. He’s now actively pressuring senators to get rid of the filibuster, when he’s spent his life passionately defending it. When a party candidate doesn’t want to be seen with you, there’s a problem. Stacey Abrams passed on a chance to share a stage with the president — that’s a problem.
After his Georgia speech in which he accused anyone holding the position on the filibuster he held until about 15 minutes before, of being some of the worst Democrats ever (George Wallace), even members of his own party are scratching their heads. Joe Biden on his inauguration day promised he would unite the country, yet he declares his opponents traitors and racists. To Joe Biden, if you don’t agree, you’re a racist and totalitarian. He’s dividing this country so far apart it’s unbelievable.
In God and country,
Same Ball of Wax
January 15, 2022
Reading Tom Metz’s response to Francesca was heartwarming. It’s the first time I remember that anyone actually debated and discussed something not local in the paper. Thanks, Tom.
While Tom found Francesca’s reasoning faulty, his own was about 40 years out of date and made little sense in a modern world. There is no struggle between capitalism and socialism and communism. None of them actually exist in real terms. We no longer talk about controlling the means of production. We focus on controlling populations and behavior.
China may be communist politically but its economic growth is substantially capitalist. Social concepts aren’t based on socialism but on straight-up human needs and values (see Christianity). The role of government is to provide the best possible existence for the people, but almost every government’s first priority is itself.
The conversation around socialism, capitalism, is total garbage and is used as a means to motivate people in the wrong way. Biden as a socialist is kinda absurd.
I, and most Dems and Repubs, were shocked by Biden’s Build Back Better program. It’s like he opened his eyes for the first time in 50 years and understood what’s happening in the country. Ten or 20 or 40 years ago he would never have proposed B.B.B. Some people are a little slow on figuring things out.
One aspect of our economic growth as a quasi-capitalist system was that we beat the crap out of the working class and then began on the middle class. It might have been different if there were free markets but they barely, if ever, existed. Controlling and manipulating markets and workers was the same ball of wax. When we moved to globalization, we found a way to grow economically without increasing wages but by increasing debt. Much of the population got screwed and the government permitted it.
B.B.B. is really a function of guilt and shame and repulsion of how we functioned. It is the complete opposite of fabricated history and denial.
The argument about the additional cost is even more facetious than the socialism rift. We have a massive government that spends billions mindlessly that would easily pay for the B.B.B. The real argument is who the beneficiaries of B.B.B. are, not the cost of the bill.
Tom’s position on taxes is also erroneous. Virtually every economist who isn’t in someone’s pocket will tell you that tax benefits for corporations almost always benefit the corporations far more than the public. If everyone actually paid their fair share of taxes, there’s little doubt that our issue of income inequality would disappear. If we wanted it to.
The real discussion is about the role of government: What is best for whom and how to achieve it. Where do we want to be in 10 or 20 or 100 years?