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Philistines at the Hedgerow: Passion and Property in the Hamptons Paperback – May 6, 1999


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Hamptons, that famous string of beachside hamlets in New York State, are not just a quiet vacation spot for New England blue bloods like the duPonts and Vanderbilts. According to Steven Gaines, the author of a spate of "untold" and "true" biographies of such glitterati as Calvin Klein, they're also--surprise!--a sandbox of scandal.

And who exactly has been stirring things up? Gaines centers the book on an eccentric cast of characters in Hamptons history: semicloseted gay men of fabulous wealth and Ralph Lauren taste, half-cracked Mayflower descendants going to seed, and those "Philistines," the nouveau riche, blemishing the scenery with their terrible taste. "The establishment can hold off the newcomers for only so long," explains the author. "There are always more of Them than Us."

Heavily researched, the book is painstakingly detailed and unapologetically voyeuristic, full of "nine-ounce chilled Baccarat crystal stem glasses," "Chippendale sofas upholstered in Scalamandré silks," "Gucci loafers," and "fourteen-karat-gold wallpaper." It's a Champagne truffle: sinful, enticing, and pure froth at its center. --Maria Dolan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Even those who have never heard of Long Island's home to the super-rich and the celebrated (Calvin and Kelly Klein, Steven Spielberg, Martha Stewart, Alec Baldwin and wife Kim Basinger, to name only a few) will find page-turning entertainment in this social history of the Hamptons. In 1635, Lion Gardiner made a pact with Wyandanch, the great sachem of the Montauk, to keep the marauding Connecticut Pequots from infiltrating Long Island, and he received a sack of five Pequot heads to seal the agreement. From that time forward, the Hamptons have hosted a m?lange of old society and new money, often an uneasy blending. At the turn of the century, wealthy artists Albert and Adele Herter built the legendary Mediterranean villa, "The Creeks"; a caretaker poled Adele about Georgica Pond to visit friends in a gondola bought from poet Robert Browning. When operating costs depleted their fortune and Adele, without a laundress, discovered that it took an hour to iron her nightgown, she decided to sleep in her bloomers. In 1990, billionaire Ronald Perlman purchased The Creeks for the bargain price of $12.5 million. In the booming 1980s, to own property in the Hamptons was the signal that one had arrived; it was said that "if you have to work on Fridays in the summer or be back in the office on Monday morning, you're not successful enough to live there." Gaines (Obsession, a biography of Calvin Klein) depicts a fabulous cast of real-life characters, both high and low. More fun than most fiction, this is a terrific summerAor anytimeAread. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; 1st Back Bay Books Ed edition (May 6, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316309079
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316309073
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #539,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Steven Gaines is the best-selling author of twelve books, including Philistines at the Hedgerow: Passion and Property in the Hamptons; The Sky's the Limit: Passion and Property in Manhattan; The Love You Make: An Insider's Story of the Beatles; and Marjoe, the biography of evangelist Marjoe Gortner.

His journalism has appeared in Vanity Fair, the New York Observer, the New York Times, Los Angeles, and Worth, and he is presently a contributing editor at New York magazine. His frequent television appearances include "60 Minutes"; "The Today Show"; "CBS Morning News"; and "Good Morning America."

Mr. Gaines is a co-founder and past vice-chairman of the Hamptons International Film Festival.

He lives in a small hamlet on the East End of Long Island.

Customer Reviews

Very well written book!
Buffy
This book of money, money and money in the Hamptons read like one long glorious gossip column!
Lesley West
I also enjoyed the story of The Creeks, one of the largest estates in the Hamptons.
BeachReader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Anne Lewis on July 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
The best way for me to describe Philistines is as the really good driving tour of the Hamptons. You get history, you get gossip, you get social commentary, you get, in other words, a feel for the Hamptons and how they came to be The Hamptons.
The writing in Philistines (I'm a stickler for good writing) is breezy and smooth, perfect for summer or winter when you want to think about summer. My only quibble with the book is that the publisher could have included a map since I only have the vaguest of idea of where the Hamptons are on Long Island and how all the individual Hamptons fit together.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. The author has written a social history of the Hamptons that's a real page-turner. The characters are fascinating and he evokes a sense of place that makes you feel the author knows every nook and cranny of his subject. The book creates an historical tapestry stretching from pre-Revolutionary days to an end- of-the-millenium July 4th party. It would be easy to take potshots at the rich and richers who live in the Hamptons, but the author, who sees these characters with a clear and discerning eye, never condescends. The book moves so quickly I finished it in one sitting. This is my favorite kind of book-- a non-fiction book that reads like a novel. Because of the subject, some people might consider this a summer read, but I found this to be THE perfect book to read during a recent snowstorm. Enjoy!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By BeachReader on November 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
This was a most enjoyable book....a look at how the super-wealthy denizens of the Hamptons really live. The author tells many gossipy tales, but at the same time, gives the reader a great deal of historical background about the early settlers of the area; those who became wealthy via the real estate of the Hamptons; and the mega-wealthy newcomers who seem to delight in flaunting their wealth even as they try to remain anonymous...or perhaps the right word would be "mysterious".
I think Gaines, an insider who lives in the Hamptons, has done his research and perfectly relates the superficial life led by many of the residents there.
This book read like fiction and I finished it very quickly. Many of the characters who populated the book were very odd people, ones that a reader would expect to meet in a novel.
I found the story of Gardiner's Island fascinating. It was first settled by Lion Gardiner in 1639, and was the first permanent English settlement in New York. Lion bought this from the Indians and it has been owned by his descendents ever since. They allow no trespassing.
I also enjoyed the story of The Creeks, one of the largest estates in the Hamptons. It was created in incredible splendor by Arthur and Adele Herter and recently rebuilt by Ron Perelman. In the intervening years, The Creeks belonged to the artist Alfonso Ossorio and his lover Ted Dragon, an interesting couple. These men befriended Jackson Pollock and their story included interesting information about Pollock's life and tragic death.
This says it all: "The establishment can hold off the newcomers for only so long. There are always more of Them than Us". The "Them" he refers to are the Philistines at the hedgerow.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The beginning of this book places a heavy focus on "property." Just when one is reeling from the plethora of price tags, in comes Ted Dragon, whose stories about Ossorio and the Pollocks give the book its real heart. From Dragon's story onward, the book is engrossing.
The copy editing of this book is appalling. I am sure that the author would be mortified to see the errors that got through. Considering its prestigious publishing house, elegant binding and hefty price tag ($40 up here in Canada with taxes), I expected a much higher quality of editing. The errors were distracting and disappointing.
Overall, though, a satisfying read that kept me up long into the night.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A. P. Larson on June 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
True, this is essentially a high-society romance starring real estate, a West Hamptons Side Story, if you will. Gaines smoothly braids his stories of us, them, and the properties thereof into an engaging soap opera. The cast swings all the way from the old-guard, dullsville entitlement of the folks at the Maidstone Club to polished avant-garde goings-on at The Creeks, in between which Ted Dragon nicks furniture for a hobby. Gaines's adroit telling of these stories will even surprise you into empathy for the neighbors round Barry Trupin's mansion, a poster "child" for matters done with gaucherie and lack of moderation. It's those last which seem to be the ultimate sin against the Hamptons, and its Wodehousian, overprivileged world.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
The author did justice to the combination of story-telling and history in this book. A well written story of the history of and lifestyle in the Hamptons, as well as documenting current problems and personalities. The development of the "characters" was well done. The book is a prime example of the rich, their quirks, and how money plays in that society. Well worth the read, if you can keep a sense of humor about the ridiculousness of some wealthy persons. I'd recommend this!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Gary Ragaglia on January 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As a rule, compassion for swells makes only an occasional, tiny, brief blip on my radar screen. It's a testament to Steven Gaines's skills as a story teller that I found myself engrossed in and sympathetic to the problems of these over-privileged Hamptonites. Obnoxious neighbors, dysfunctional relatives, and inept governing bodies are universal conditions no matter how many or few zeros in your bank account. An elitist book? Maybe. An amusing and entertaining read? Definitely!
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