Insider’s Guide to the Haute Hamptons

The Hamptons Power Players

With so many remarkable places to see and be seen, it leaves one to wonder, who will be frequenting these Hamptons haute spots this summer season. Whether in-season or off, there is an ultra-elite group of power players who make the island tick. These Hamptonites are part of what makes the East End so alluring to the rest of us. Their aura of greatness possesses a magnetic force that pulls us in and makes us want to know what they know and go where they go. Though their industries carry over seemingly unrelated categories, from entertainment to investing, their specific areas of expertise are not as important as their impact on the East End, which at the end of the summer, or the end of the year, is undeniable.

Ralph Lauren

The Philanthropic Designer

It’s no secret that some of Manhattan’s most famous mugs are spotted at the various fundraising events on the charity circuit scene, including Kelly Ripa, Martha Stewart, and Sarah Jessica Parker, but for the second year in a row, one famous designer is not just showing up for the parties, he is designing for his favorite philanthropic venture. Once again, Ralph Lauren is lending his artistic hand to support the East Hampton Historical Society by designing EHHS-logoed apparel for the new summer collection. In addition to offering up 100 percent of the proceeds from the sales of the waffle tees, hoodies, ball caps, and beach totes, the demigod designer is also underwriting several renovation projects for the nonprofit, which maintains historic East Hampton buildings as well as hosts exhibitions, tours, and workshops on the social and natural history of the area. In 2008 Polo Ralph Lauren announced plans to fund the restoration of the barns and landscape of Mulford Farm, an English Colonial farmstead listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With boutique venues all across the region, including the East Hampton Country Store, the Children’s store, and the RRL store, Lauren’s presence as a Hamptons power player cannot be questioned.

Donna Karan
The Stylista of Serenity

However prevalent Lauren may be, he does not have sole designer claim on the exclusive island. Donna Karan has been called the hardest-working hostess in the Hamptons as she has her hands in a plethora of projects, many of which are centered around the Sag Harbor locale of Urban Zen. The retail boutique carries women’s apparel designed by Karan, a collection for children and men, as well as accessories, books and lifestyle products for the home. But Urban Zen is not just a store that instills serenity in name alone. It is a concept with which Karan is hoping to inspire a paradigm shift of social change by merging philanthropy with fashion. A portion of the proceeds from the store’s sales support her Urban Zen Foundation, Karan’s nonprofit dedicated to the wellbeing and empowerment of children worldwide, as well as the preservation of the heritage and cultures of the globe. Her East Hampton home is a favorite retreat for such respected divas as Barbara Streisand, perhaps due to the tranquil decorating philosophy that Karan employed, complete with a spa and yoga studio in her garden.

Billy Joel
The Resident Musician

No mention of the famous faces of the Hamptons would be complete without the inclusion of America’s favorite piano man. Billy Joel started showing up on the Hamptons scene decades ago and loved it so much he never left. After spending a month earlier this year touring the great wide countryside and hamming it up on the harmonica alongside Elton John, Joel recently returned to his Sag Harbor home with great elation, calling the East End village his favorite town. So what does a hard working crooner do to settle down after a month-long tour? Launch an exhibition at Christy’s Building Art Centre on Main Street in Sag Harbor, of course. From June 6 to June 20, Joel’s collection of approximately 30 vintage and new motorcycles will be on display in a piece call “The Motorcycle as Art and Icon.” Joel’s collection includes Royal Enfield messenger bikes, a 1976 Italian Moto Guzzi, a 1975 Ducotti 750 Sport, and a 1939 EL Knucklehead Deluxe OHV, as well as more modern versions like a new English Triumph Thruxton, and Harley Davidson Soft Tail and Road King.

Jerry Seinfeld
The Stand-Up Superstar

While one man’s trash may be another man’s treasure, as it relates to this opulent coastal paradise, Hamptons’ hand-me-downs are quite the find. When Billy Joel was done with his East Hampton waterfront estate that he shared in the ’80s with then-wife Christie Brinkley, he sold it to America’s best-loved comedian. Jerry Seinfeld spent $32 million on the East Hampton estate in 2000 and then dropped another $1.4 million in renovations, which included the addition of a regulation-size baseball field and a 22-car garage. The 14-acre property, which consistently appears on “Best Of” lists, has been described as an American Versailles and has housed such headline-garnering stars as Madonna and Alex Rodriguez who spent time, together, in the seven-bedroom mansion last winter. But it’s not just Seinfeld’s home that makes the Hamptons’ headlines. He is touted as one of the most well-liked residents, sponsoring and throwing first pitches for the Hampton Whalers baseball team and supporting local Little League baseball programs and summer-long series of free youth clinics.

Russell Simmons

The Multifaceted Megaproducer

While Seinfeld’s popularity may have been a given, when the hip-hop moguls started rolling into town, residents had their doubts. But then Russell Simmons put many to shame with his untiring philanthropic efforts. His devotion to the charity that he and his brothers founded in 1995, Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, has changed the lives of countless disadvantaged urban children by offering them access to the arts. “It is through art that we see young people learn to value their own unique voices and visions; and it is through art that we see artists transform the minds and eyes of society.” Simmons supports this mission each year at his 6,200-square-foot East Hampton estate with the Art For Life Benefit. While it is a cause for celebration every year, this particular summer it is sure to be quite the blowout as it is the 10th anniversary of the event. Simmons has played host to 750 guests who shell out at least $1,500 for a much-coveted ticket to the fundraiser, which will take place this year on July 18.

Julian Schnabel
The Neo Expressionist

Of course Simmons is not the only supporter of the arts on the island. In fact, the colony of artists inhabiting the East End is as legendary as a summer dinner at Nick & Toni’s. With forefathers like Jackson Pollack, Roy Lichtenstein, and Willem de Kooning paving the way from Manhattan to Montauk, it is not so unusual to find Academy Award-winner Julian Schnabel surfing these same Atlantic shores. While the renowned plate-painter made a name for himself on the New York art scene in the ’80s, his emergence as a well-respected filmmaker in the 21st century took flight with the debut of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly at The Hamptons International Film Festival, which served as the launching pad for his Oscar win for Best International Film. Though film may have taken up a good portion of his time in previous years, the artist is still a painter at heart, breathing in the salty sea air as he practices his craft; his concrete studio, located on his 19th century Montauk estate, bears no roof.

George Soros

The Economic Oracle

Arts and entertainment personalities are a thriving community in the Hamptons, but so too is the pack of big dog billionaires, with George Soros as one of the defined leaders. Thought to be the clairvoyant of economics, years before the rest of America started weeping from financial woes, the hedge-fund guru published multiple books predicting a breakdown of our financial markets. So convinced he was of the truth in his fiscal prophecy that in 2007, at age 77, he ditched the daily life of retirement in order to protect his fortune. While the rest of the playmakers were falling hard and fast, he was one Hamptons hedge funder to come out on top. Serving as more than just an observer and writer, Soros takes the proactive path less traveled and hosts power lunches for power players at his Southampton home. He has used his Hamptons estate as a strategic war room for conceptualizing plans to remove presidents from office (and raised more than $12 million dollars in one night to do so) and to deliberate successful strategies for recovering from the subprime mortgage mess. In 2006 Ben and Linda Lambert redeveloped the staff quarters of his estate into six luxury Spanish Revival condominiums on Old Town Road that are priced from $2.1 million to $4.3 million

Ron Perelman

Simply Put…The Billionaire

Sharing a big dog billionaire title with Soros is the tabloid headliner Ron Perelman, who, in 1985, after a heated bidding war, bought The Revlon Corporation for $58.00 a share. His latest entrepreneurial effort is sure to delight both locals and visitors in the summer of ’09. The beloved Blue Parrot, which has not seen the light of day since 2006, will dust off the tablecloths and reopen its shuddered East Hampton doors thanks to Perelman and his partners Larry Gagosian, Jon Bon Jovi, Renée Zellweger, and restaurateur Andrew Chapman. (Perelman is also a partner with Graydon Carter in the recently reopened Monkey Bar in New York.) Perelman concedes that it was not just his hankering for a Friday night margarita in a fun and funky venue that called to his inner restaurateur, but his desire to give back to the community that has given so much to him. The 55-seat restaurant will cater to the casual, accepting no reservations.

Richard Meier

The King of White

Finally, no Hamptons’ list would be complete without the inclusion of the King of White, although his own East Hampton farmhouse is a stripped shade of natural weathered wood. In 1984 Richard Meier was catapulted into the fame game when he became the youngest architect ever to win the Pritzker Prize. Since then his projects, which have included awe-inspiring structures like The Getty Center and Barcelona’s Museum of Contemporary Art, are usually completed in a minimalistic non-color palette of white. The month of May proved to be quite successful for the longtime Hamptonite as his book Meier: Richard Meier & Partners, Complete Works 1963-2008 hit the shelves to rave reviews. Additionally, the American Institute of Architecture awarded his House at Sagaponac project with one of seventeen “2009 Housing Awards”. Meier conceived of the Wainscott home, while Calvin Tsao of TsAO & McKOWN Archtiects designed the project. Meier’s own Hampton home was built in 1907 and he reportedly enjoys a daily swim right in front of his oceanfront estate.