Skip to comments.The Boys of Summer (Partying in the Hamptons)
Posted on 06/03/2003 8:14:36 AM PDT by Mister Magoo
The Boys of Summer
This summer, a handful of young, ambitious, Manhattan-bred guys has cornered the market on nightlife in the Hamptons. They make sure Tara Reid is in the house, everyones drinking $400 bottles of Perrier-Jouët, and, in return, they get one big payoff: the chance to become boldfaced names themselves.
By Vanessa Grigoriadis & Deborah Schoeneman
Life of the Party: Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss at Jet East, one of the spots they promote, with actress-scenester Tara Reid. (Photo credit: Nathaniel Welch)
Deep in the woods of Southampton, up a steep driveway, a hulking nine-bedroom house rises from a white-painted wraparound deck, complete with a baby-blue pool, clay tennis and pebbly volleyball courts, and, usually, lots and lots of models. Its raining today, the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, and most of the models, shivering in thin cotton shirts, have gone to the movies; some fashion-industry guys in moony trucker hats whove been left behind play a lackadaisical game of basketball on the soggy tennis court. The houses owners, Noah Tepperberg, 27, and Jason Strauss, 29, however, are hard at work. They pace up and down the houses vertiginous staircase, jabbering into cell phones.
How are the tables looking for tonight? Tepperberg asks upstairs.
How are the tables looking for tonight? Strauss asks downstairs.
The tables at issue are cabaret-size and bottle-service only at Jet East, the North Sea Road nightclub Tepperberg and Strauss have been commissioned to run this summer for Andrew Sasson, the headstrong, hyper owner of Jet East and the Light nightclub chain better known as Lizzie Grubmans infamous turncoat ex. Tepperberg and Strauss, former owners of Conscience Point and collaborators on the celebrity-friendly Chelsea nightclub Suite 16, go way back with Sasson; Sassons partner Chris Barish, son of Planet Hollywoods Keith Barish, has long been a friend. They go further back with each otherthe two first met promoting parties at bars amicable to underage crowds as high schoolers in Manhattan, where they attended Stuyvesant and Riverdale, respectively. I went to one of Jasons parties, says Tepperberg, but he wouldnt let me in, said it was Fieldston and Riverdale only. But I talked to him, was a nice guy, you know, and he opened the door. Eventually.
Though Tepperberg has a booming bass voice, a sarcastic edge, and a phone that vibrates rhythmically with sycophantic calls from young clubgoers like Tara Reid and Elisabeth Kieselstein-Cord, you wouldnt say that he was the coolest guy youd ever met; small of stature, he looks tired and rumpled even now, in the early afternoon. Tepperberg was, in fact, a Stuyvesant chess championhe talks excitedly about a game he played a couple years back with former Interscope Records CEO Ted Field, a chess aficionado, at his Goose Creek mansion, and how Field invited Garry Kasparov to one of his renowned Fourth of July parties. To talk to Kasparov, says Tepperberg dreamily: Man.
Tepperberg collects old hand-carved chess boards, too, but thats where his connection to the world of nebbishness ends. In an attic crash pad appended to his airy second-floor bedroom, an n (for Noah) pillow propped neatly on the king-size bed, two Brazilian models in bright pink tank tops huddle under a duvet on a futon. Hi, Noah, they say, giggling.
We got 42 tables for tonight, says Tepperberg.
If Lizzie sold the Hamptons down the river, Tepperberg, Strauss, and a bunch of similarly buttoned-down, Manhattan-reared guys in their mid-twenties are here to buy it back. The economy may be faltering, the summer-housing market self-destructing, and even the weather playing a nasty joke, but the much-maligned Hamptons nightclub scene has never been more robust. Even with the shuttering of Conscience Pointseized by the town of Southampton in a move motivated as much by public relations as by the defaulting of its lessee, notorious exMorgan Stanley broker Christian Currythe hot list this year is extensive. There are the disco mainstaysJet East, Tavern, Roccos, the Star Roomand slick smaller lounges, like Cabana, Haven, and Boutique, plus a rechristening of established spots, like East Hamptons N/V, now Resort, and Japanese restaurantcumlounge Bamboo, perched on Montauk Highway across from Jerry Della Feminas Red Horse Market.
Whether they own the clubs or just work for them, whats imperative for these guys is making sure that the places are packed with models, celebrities, and that elusive quantity commonly referred to in the business as high-end people. A crowded field makes those people harder than ever to catch. Its nuts, complains tiny, wiry Richie Akiva, 26, who co-owns the Star Room with Columbia grad Scott Sartiano, 28. All these guys saw what we were doing out here, and now theyre coming out too.
Ive been in the Hamptons my whole life, counters Jeff Goldstein over a scotch on the rocks in Bamboos black-and-red lounge. My scene is all family.
Until recently a junior associate at Lazard, Goldstein is 26, with light-green eyes and a Pepsodent smile he flashes indiscriminately. Last year, Goldstein was operating partner at the Star Room; this year, hes helming Saturdays at Tavern and Fridays at Roccos, and hoping to convert Bamboo into an after-dinner hipster joint. Goldstein is giddy with anticipation as he details his game plan for the summer, lobbing phrases like maximizing market trends, demographic play, and access to multiple share-house owners.
In this tenacious bid for East End domination, Goldstein has aligned himself with a few friends with a similarly magical ability to send out a mass e-mail announcing a party and deliver a packed nightclub. On Goldsteins team are the ubiquitous Samantha Ronson; Butch Ural, her twin sister Charlottes boyfriend, also known as a longtime pal of Leonardo DiCaprio; and Mike Heller, a friend of Goldsteins from growing up in the city who resembles a very young, very small Michael Douglasthe sexiest five-foot-tall man youll ever meet is how he puts it.
I was the first person to have Mark Ronson as a D.J., at the first party I ever had, for my 14th birthday, boasts Heller.
Party Central: Promoters Andrew Sasson, Noah Tepperberg, and Jason Strauss working the crowd at Jet East. (Photo credit: Nathaniel Welch)
Thats not true, says Goldstein. I had him at my party first.
It is so true, says Heller. (According to Ronson, Its very sweet of them to fight over me, but I think Mike discovered me.)
Far from resting on his Ronson-D.J. laurels, Heller recently passed the bar and joined forces with his dad, Son of Sam lawyer Mark Heller. I hang out in clubs a lot, says Mike, because a lot of people who need lawyers go out a lot, you know? He has personally represented Greg Todtman, the Bachelorette finalist recently arrested at JFK for cocaine possession, and Josh Sagman, the oxygen-bar founder and Hamptons-share-house landlord featured prominently in Barbara Kopples documentary last year; the town looked upon the latter mission none too kindly. I also started the number 1-800-LAWYER-911, cause, you know, there was already a 1-800-LAWYERS, but the 911 is kind of cool because thats how we used to page each other when we were kids, says Heller. One cannot help but notice, however, that there are a couple too many numbers in 1-800-LAWYER-911. Well, says Heller, screwing up his little face, dialing the extra 11 doesnt do anything.
Samantha and Charlotte Ronson show up as an exogamous D.J. starts to spin old-school rap. The lights dim on the lingering diners in Bamboo, heralding a night of Cristal-swilling and sushi-nibbling, but less model-on-banquette dancing than had been hoped for: This guys job is to bring out the girls, which he didnt really do this weekend, says Ural, amicably slinging an arm around a crestfallen guy in an orange velour sweatshirt. Middle-aged patrons flag down waiters for their checks; Jerry Della Femina and Judy Licht gather their belongings and move slowly toward the door. Even they know all about the boys fighting for a piece of the summer-nightclub pie. All the atoms have split off from each other, says Licht, her eyes growing even bigger than their usual saucers. Its the war of the lists.
Its each man for himself in the Hamptons, says Heller, flexing his pecs. Survival of the fittest.
Its each man for himself in the Hamptons, says Mark Heller, who resembles a very young, very small Michael Douglas. He flexes his pecs. Survival of the fittest.
Operating a nightclub in the Hamptons is not a terribly lucrative endeavor. A successful club can make about 75 grand on a warm-weather Saturday night, but the season lasts only sixteen weeks, or, more important, sixteen Saturday nights. The nightly take is, however, secondary to the real prize. Post-Puffy, the Hamptons have increasingly become a playground for downtown hipsters as well as uptown society; a presence at the beach is now essential for those promoters catering to Manhattans high-end. Youve got to maintain your crowd from spring to fall, says Heller. You cant have Nicky Hilton in the Hamptons wondering where to go out at night.
After all, lists with names like Nicky Hilton are what nightclubs these days are all about. Tepperberg and Strauss are famous for welcoming the Hiltons to the nightclub scene long before their 21st birthdays; celebrities they can produce include Britney Spears, Derek Jeter, and Chelsea Clinton. Akiva and Sartianos crowd is a bit, well, cooler: Taye Diggs, Guy Oseary, Jay-Z, and a wide spectrum of English-as-a-second-language models, including Akivas girlfriend Carmen Kass, who stands a head taller than him. (Carmen and I dont even like to go out that much, says Akiva. Theres nothing more fun than staying at home and playing chess.) Goldstein, Ural, and Hellers list is composed almost entirely of city brats: David Lauren, Shoshanna Lonstein, Hard Rock heir Harry Morton. Goldsteins coup last year was bringing Gwyneth Paltrow and Renée Zellweger to the Star Room. Everyone shares Tara Reid.
With this new generation of nightclub promoters, the dream isnt about getting the big names in the door to foster a festive atmosphere, or even simply to secure a star-studded shot for the paparazzi. In fact, these guys would rather not be called promoters at allthey see themselves as entrepreneurs. Promoters have long been considered the bottom of the nightclub food chain, as con men and degenerate modelizers trying to make a quick buck; the conviction of Limelight promoter Michael Alig in the murder of Angel Melendez in 1996 didnt help matters.
These days, thanks for the most part to guys like Tepperberg and Strauss, promoting is much more legit. Noah and Jason are businessmen, not indulgent nighttime people, says Ian Schrager, who hired Tepperberg and Strauss last year to throw New Years Eve parties at the Delano and the Shore Club. Theyve brought originality into the business: promotion, marketing, even the idea of bottle service, which wasnt around when I was in clubs. I can see them building what theyre doing now into something bigger and better in the coming years.
Its a really clean scene now, because everyones about branding, says Resort operating partner Jonathan Cheban, a diamond-studded dog tag hanging low on his shirt as he stands in front of the club on watch for celebs. Earlier, he had called to report last nights appearance of some notables on his list, Ashley Simpson (sister of Jessica!) and Linda Lopez (sister of J.Lo!).
Show business without the business is just a show, says Sartiano, sipping a Coke.
On the Make: Mike Heller and Candice Levy at Bamboo. (Photo credit: Nathaniel Welch)
For Cheban, branding may mean bright-orange Veuve Clicquot buckets on the tables at Resort, but for Tepperberg, Strauss, and a third partner, Tony Berger, clubbing is little more than a front for their marketing arm, Strategic Group. What Strategic sells to companies is access to influencers and high-end people, and to get that access we run the places where those people go, explains Tepperberg. Companies always want to know how to make their product coolwell, we know how to make an old potato barn on North Sea Road cool, so cool that there are tons of celebrities and 1,000 people want to get in.
Like Ural and Resort promoter Alex Wilson, who once ran the Synergy Spaa strange hybrid of product placement and celebrity share house in BridgehamptonTepperberg and Strauss converted their house into the Stuff-magazine house and then into the Playstation 2 house (this year, theyre coordinating the Playstation 2 hotel at the Bentley in Southampton). They also do product seeding for alcohol and tobacco companies, like Allied Domecq and Zino Platinum Cigars (trotted out at the Giuliani-Nathan wedding). Smirnoff was a client, too, and for months Tepperberg could be seen with his beefy hand wrapped around a bottle of Smirnoff Ice, the malternative Strategic positioned at its clubsthe campaign was a success, leading to copycat high-end malternatives like Skyy Blue. Thats going into the marketing textbooks, says Tepperberg proudly.
Last weekend, at Jet East, the Smirnoff Ice campaign has given way to Perrier-Jouëts new champagne, Blanc de Blanc. Tepperberg and Strauss arrive around midnight from Sassons house in Bridgehampton, where they had dinner with Tao owner Marc Packer. Theres a two-to-one ratio of models to men at the table; Packers crowd of older models and Tepperberg and Strausss gaggle of teenage ones wear this summers uniform of neon toga tops and dish-drain-size silver hoop earrings. A half-dozen of them arrived earlier in the day with model wranglerhe prefers entrepreneurÂDanny A, whose Mercedes convertible couldnt hold them all, so they grabbed a ride in the Royal Elastic sneaker van. I dont know how I got here, says a soft-spoken 19-year-old from Iowa, her blond hair cut in a mohawk from a recent shoot. But it is nice.
Inside the low-ceilinged club, full to capacity, with the A/C on the blink, knots of high-end people sit at the coveted bottle-only tables drinking Blanc de Blanc. 50 Cents song In Da Club blasts into the humid, quiet night; Tara Reid is, naturally, dancing on a banquette. She steps down to greet Charlotte Ronson.
I was wearing one of your T-shirts last night! Reid tells Ronson. The shirt in question is belly-baring and white, covered with rhinestones and emblazoned with the word GUINNESS. Guinness was one of Tepperberg and Strausss first clients, and they have it on tap at their house. Guinness, says Tepperberg, is a great brand.
With all the changes to the Hamptons-nightlife scene, its something of a surprise to see Lizzie, buff and supertan, making the rounds at Jason Binns annual Memorial Day party. Shes repping restaurants instead of nightclubs now, like East Hamptons country-cute Farmhouse; tonight, shes organized a dinner there for some high-end friends. Were getting older, she says. Now its more about dinners and staying out until midnight, not 4 a.m. As far as the new guard of the Hamptons goes, shes not terribly optimistic: Theres not enough room for all of them, she says. Its physically impossible to go to five nightclubs in one night. They all want one type of crowd, the high-end celebrity-driven crowd, and in the Hamptons, there arent that many celebs.
With territory so tight, the claws come out. Butch doesnt get out of bed before 11:30 p.m., says Resort organizing partner Wilson, half-jokingly, of his former compatriot Ural. And not for less than $11,000. The scene at the Star Room has been contentious as well, with Goldstein passed over this summer for Akiva and Sartiano, who now are partners in the place with former Swamp owners Scott Storbo and Scott Gray. Claiming responsibility for last years celebrity clientele, Goldstein even tried to trademark the Star Room name (with Hellers legal expertise), but he soon dropped the bid. We had our share of celebrities before Jeff came along, retorts Scott Gray. We had Christie Brinkley.
Then, just before Memorial Day, seven out of eight patio cushions for the Star Rooms outdoor terrace were stolenthe very same cushions that Goldstein purchased for the place last summer. Gray and Starbo say Goldstein had contributed a fifth of the cash for the cushions and they paid the remaining money. In Jeffs contract, it said we would reimburse him for all of the pillows if we were happy with his performance, but we werent so we didnt, and then they were gone, says Gray. Goldstein had no comment, except to say that the pillows have been returned. Indeed, as this story went to press, Gray called to say that the pillows had, miraculously enough, appeared in the Star Rooms parking lot.
Branding and pillow-stealing are exciting stuff, certainly, but theres one other thing that somewhat vertically challenged guys in their mid-twenties tend to enjoy. Its not about the girls, Tepperberg says often and solemnly. Yeah, right! says Sasson, embracing his jeans-clad date, Playmate of the Year Christina Santiago. I dont care about girls at all, he says, nibbling on her ear.
On the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, the thermometer may have dropped below 50, but the tables at the Star Room are full, so full that a series of anxious-looking managers keep approaching Sartianos table for advice on how to accommodate all the reservations. At the bar, two forty-something women in skimpy Dior blouses compare caratsI told him it wasnt big enough, complains one. In the middle of the room, Tepperberg and Strauss sit at a long table for twenty, flanked on either side by the models who seem not to have left their side all weekend. It is all very fabulous, but it does not seem very fun; models and men are hardly talking to each other, and a willowy brunette in riding boots even takes out a pack of cards and starts to play solitaire.
But it seems glamorous, and thats what matters. A night before, in front of the VIP rooms red rope, a group of people whom the unpleasant bouncer wont let in peer over his square shoulders. Thats the one and only girl my boyfriend would ever cheat on me with, says a woman in a tight black pantsuit, pointing at starlet Eliza Dushku, of Buffy and Bring It On fame. I was the Sears baby, you know, she adds. Twenty-four years ago. Called back for a part in Al Pacinos Scent of a Woman, too, but I had to go to my high-school prom.
I love you anyway, slurs her friend, a JCPenney model in tinted sunglasses.
On the soaking-wet terrace, Akiva and Sartiano hang out with their crowd. Carson Daly, in a Yankees cap, bobs up and down to the musics beat. How come everybodys got a chick but me? he asks.
Kass, in response, throws her arms around him. Whys my girlfriend all over Carson? asks Akiva.
Hey, shes not the first, and she wont be the last, jokes Daly, grinning broadly.
Sartiano kisses Dushkus shoulder. The next day he chauffeurs her to LaGuardia in the driving rain, and later that night she calls to tell him about a song she likes. But you never know when there might be a better opportunitybranding or otherwisearound the bend. Elizas a friend, says Sartiano, his lips curling into a smile. Just a friend.
I consider myself lucky. Guess I would have had a whole different perspective on life had I grown up in Iowa?
Yeah, I'm "playa-hating" all right...
Au contraire, Im not that old and I despise cheap cigars.:)
We visited Long Island and stayed in Westhampton Beach for about a week. We had a great time . The Artful Dodger was fun but many of the people we met(not all of course) stuck me as rich snobs, loser sycophants, and trust brats ala Lizzie Grubman. People with their heads lodged in their arses have always been a turn off.
To each his own.
"Dont piss down my back and try to tell me that its raining."
Yeah, at least it was nice to see an article we can all relate to like this.
So that's what they're called these days.
Cripes, these days I'm grateful as all get out when I get a shot of cleavage when the barmaid bends over to get a beer out of the cooler....