Sunday 25 September 2016

Orla Healy: Beach playground is first port of call for US tycoons

There's good money in catering to the rich and famous in this ritzy resort, writes Orla Healy from East Hampton, NY

Orla Healy

Published 12/04/2015 | 02:30

Jennifer Oz LeRoy, the granddaughter of film producer-director Mervyn LeRoy
Jennifer Oz LeRoy, the granddaughter of film producer-director Mervyn LeRoy
The Hamptons, Long Island

The ground mist that had been hovering over the east end of Long Island most of last week finally lifted late afternoon on Friday. In spite of the rain and the late hour the sudden break in the fog that had halted work on the hedge-fund mansions that line this mega-wealthy enclave appeared to signal a whistle-call for what locals like to call "the parade of trade".

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A flurry of pick-up trucks packed with Mexican day labourers clutching leaf-blowers created deafening noise as it zipped down the elegant, leafy East Hampton back street of Clover Leaf Lane. None stopped at No 1, the shingled $1.7m luxury house former Goldman Sachs executive Jason Lee occupied for the month of August 2013. On the market to rent this August for $38,000 - the going rate for a house to call your own within stumbling distance of East Hampton town - this desirable four-bed with heated pool stands to lose some of its sparkle in the wake of the publicity sparked last week when Lee went on trial to face charges for the rape of a then-20-year-old Irish student in one of the property's three bathrooms.

Students from all over the world flood the Hamptons each summer to take service industry jobs catering to the rich and sometimes the famous, the titans of industry and all those who come here because they aspire to be one or the other One of the more traditional employers of Irish students in this area is Gurney's Hotel, in nearby Montauk, It used to be the best-knowmn employer of Irish J1 visa holders. But that culrture has changed and there was little discussion of the case on the premises when I called. The resort is now under the leadership of Jennifer Oz LeRoy, the granddaughter of film producer-director Mervyn LeRoy.

Locals out here depend for their livlihood on the "summer boom," which is in great part fuelled by the influx of young men and women - notably from Ireland, Spain and Australia - more than willing to work 10-hour shifts at minimum wage in exchange for the Kardashian dream.

The folks behind the counters at delis and bars between East Hampton and its neighbouring hamlet of Montauk say they all love the Irish students. They say they are more enthusiastic than kids of other nationalities to sign up for waitressing gigs (usually $4.90-$5.56 an hour in a paycheck) that can, at the height of the season in August, see them pocket up to $300-$400 a night in tips.

The girl at the centre of this alleged rape case had not been working in the area. She was based elsewhere and had come down to the Hamptons to visit with her brother.

For some of those who do get jobs in the Hamptons service industry, ot can be as much about networking and making connections as merely getting a sumer wage to see them through.

The Manhatten hipster elite are the main party goers, and when the work is done the social barriers come down easily, allowing staff and customers to mix in a more equal way than would have been traditional in this upmarket mileau.Top of that heap: a tribe of under-40s, Wall St bucks who, in their skinny jeans and fedora hats, flash so the cash and cut a dash. Some of them give off an air of extravagant ostentation and a zealous sense of self-entitlement. Montauk used to be a sleepy fishing village.

Now it's turned surfer haven cum party mecca where last summer everything - from Almond Milk (not stocked by the majority of Hampton grocers, often to the exasperation of the gluten/dairy intolerant Manhattanites) to the coveted paddleboard rental slot at sunset - went to the highest bidder. It's too early to tell how the court case against the former Wall Street bigshot Jason Lee will play out.

It is making national and international headlines as well as filling the pages of the local outlets, like the East Hampton Star and Long Island's Newsday.

Certainly those who are accustomed to spending the summers in the peace and luxury that is the Hamptons, find the current case disconcerting.

The realisation that even with the emphasis almost permanently on fun, sun and good times, the dark side of the world cannot be always kept at bay,

Sunday Independent

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