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For my first big Hamptons event of the season, so much drew me to the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation gala luncheon and “Beach Glamour” benefit that I simply couldn’t resist.
The invitation informed that both events would be held at the East Hampton estate of Mr. Lewis, “the first black billionaire,” the materials helpfully pointed out—though, sadly, Mr. Lewis died young, at the age of 50, barely having been able to enjoy the fruits of his 10-figure achievement. I always perk up when an invitation mentions a billionaire estate, don’t you?
But even more intriguingly, no address was listed. Instead, guests were told that when (and presumably if) their R.S.V.P. was accepted, an address would be provided. A mystery location! It’s like being invited to a Jennifer Aniston’s birthday party in Cabo or something.
Throw in performances by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and singer Deborah Cox (she was Aida on Broadway for a bit), a lobster buffet, free vodka from sponsor Belvedere, a beachside dance soirée, two gift bags (one of which contained BizBash magazine and both of which contained Reginald’s autobiography, Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun?, which I am simply salivating over), and it was like a complete summer soufflé, all served up at some as-yet-to-be-disclosed billionaire retreat. Who can say no to such an offer? Not I, dear readers, not I.
With just the merest amount of groveling, my R.S.V.P. was accepted to the event in its entirety and the promised address was proffered. I think it would be poor gamesmanship for me to reveal the specifics. Suffice it to say that the estate lay exactly halfway between Steven Spielberg and Martha Stewart, and that the heirs of Reginald F. Lewis could be on cup-of-sugar-borrowing terms with Jerry Della Femina and his lovely wife, Judy Licht. I used to summer on Cove Hollow Road, which I told people was part of Georgica Pond but really wasn’t. I would jog to where my street abutted Georgica Road, and from there to Georgica Beach, and then to this fancy street, where I was always tempted to stop and clip some of the most extravagant hydrangeas I had ever seen.
So when I arrived at my secret location last Saturday, imagine my thrill to learn I was finally invited to peek behind the hydrangeas that I had so ignobly coveted just a few seasons ago.
As I pulled in, I was greeted warmly—that is until the canary yellow Maybach that organizers immediately recognized as belonging to Oprah whisperer Gayle King pulled in right behind me. Then I was encouraged, nicely, to move it along.
This being, after all, a fund-raiser drawing an African-American A-list and honoring entertainment lawyer/agent L. Londell McMillan (he works with Oprah, Prince, Roberta Flack, and Stevie Wonder), having Gayle King as a guest is like having the Vice President come to your function. You have to treat him as if he is Obama, or in this case, Oprah—both of whom were mentioned frequently and fondly from the podium as if they were there. I hope I can say it feels like a good time to be black in America, and I certainly enjoyed mingling with Malcolm X’s daughter Ilyasah Shabazz and Star Jones.
The lunch tent was decorated with giant tangerine lanterns that swayed in the hot breeze. Matching tablecloths had embroidered silk overlays that looked custom. The stage’s matching silkscreen backdrops looked crisp behind the white-clad Alvin Ailey dancers. Event producer Sharon Lopez of Purple Giraffe Productions scurried busily as I watched from afar.
The lobster buffet also deserves a mention, particularly for its simple styling. Long, spindly breadsticks doubled as table arrangements, while bowling ball-sized glass orbs in tortoise shell colors anchored the center of the line. Plus, it helps when the servers are nice.
Part deux was an evening event for the younger benefactors, staged on the estate’s back lawn and beach areas. It had all the bells and whistles of a posh Hamptons dance party—a lounge area with white couches, poolside chaise lounges with aqua accents, a gazebo with the requisite gauzy draping, and a beach valet stand with aqua and white flip flops for the taking and every ointment and lotion you dream of rubbing on your beach party bod.
This is a young event. The luncheon is in its third year (P. Diddy was the first honoree), and the evening dance party was inaugurated this year. I’m always glad to be reminded that when I think the Hamptons are one high-octane season pre-ordained from seasons past, I am just a jaded old partygoer who needs to get out more.