NEW YORK It’s a long drive to Montauk from the “regular” Hamptons, but the Clam Bar in Napeague makes the perfect pit stop for tuna “bits” and BlackBerrying. I was on my way to see the hotspot Surf Lodge and wanted to check in with the general manager, who had nicely emailed and called me confirming my property tour, when I hit a publicity roadblock by the name of Shelby Meade of Fresh and Clean Media. It had taken us a week to get anyone from the place to even return a message, so I wasn’t surprised by the reverse logic of getting the PR people active after the appointment was booked.
See, they are very busy at the Surf Lodge. Opened last year by the same team behind Cain Luxe nightclub in the city, the place was filled to the rafters every weekend with Montauk hipsters and press-hungry celebrities like Molly Sims and Michelle Trachtenberg. This year, I thought the heat had cooled enough to risk a visit, but I was wrong.
“The problem is we’re too popular,” Shelby began. “We’re at capacity every weekend. Could you write a story suggesting that people do events on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday?” Shelby also wanted to make it known, dear readers, that the Surf Lodge doesn’t “do weddings or anything like that.” So, Shelby, here’s hoping that clears that up.
While Shelby was busy clamping down on coverage from the West Coast, her lovely sister Merritt Meade Loughran was just kicking off a weekend beauty spa for drugstore brands Garnier Fructis and Maybelline. I tried to get a picture, but Shelby was having none of it.
Because the place was crawling with self-promoting types, I got to inspect not one, but two examples of the overnight accommodations.
I guess I should point out now that the Surf Lodge is on the site of the former Old Shebeen, a budget roadside motel and club on the commercial end of Montauk’s Fort Pond, where I once rented for a summer. There, the rolling hills and carefully nestled houses make for a cozy and rustic setting. On this side, hard by the railroad tracks, there’s an industrial park, and barely off the road, Surf Lodge has settled into its parking-lot-dominated site and painted everything white. They've invested in pillows and banquette cushions in batik fabrics, which is attractive (if one-notey).
It looks nice and photographs well, but all the furniture is cheap and uncomfortable, while the old, groaning window AC units remind one this is not the Ritz, providing no relief on a muggy night. Guys, stop the charade; just buy some fans and throw in the towel.
The lobby has two sitting areas, both with surfer movies playing on screens, natch, and a Tracy Feith dress shop. Mr. Feith’s unstructured print sundresses are on all the hotel and shop staff, serving as a reminder that not everyone has a perfect body or should go without a bra. But Surf Lodge doesn’t have waiter service in the lobby areas at dinner time, so dining guests, desperate not to lose their coveted reservations, line up balefully around the chic little sitting area.
It may be because they sense a twinge of incompetence emanating from the restaurant that guests don’t take a seat. I’m there at 9 p.m. on a Thursday in late August, the place is still only half full, yet the hostess takes her sweet time allotting her precious tables. You never know when a celebrity might pop in.
So the harried mothers with strollers, guys with Teva sandals, and heavy-around-the-middle cougars who are the actual customers all stand around making the place seem decidedly un-hip.
Dinner for two took an hour and 45 minutes, despite pleasant and attentive service. They have a celebrity from Top Chef at the stove, Sam Talbot, and Page Six says he’s a cheating heartthrob, all of which rarely bodes well for the food, which as it turns out, is kind of a joke.
A crab ceviche was a large portion of briny, gray flesh topped with stale popcorn. It was the first time I can remember not eating all of a crabmeat appetizer. Sautéed bok choy hadn’t been trimmed properly, so it was a stringy mess. And passable fried oysters sat on a taste-free tomato relish called “chow chow.” Two of my fellow customers, a caterer and a hotel manager, shared my disappointment. As I paid the bill, I wondered if I could still hit the Clam Bar on the way home.
Upon my leaving, it became a scene. More Tracy Feith dresses. I met a television commercial producer who was the leader of his posse and bored me to tears with talk about actors and their fees. Waitresses passing drinks were doing a surprisingly good job—the nightclub expertise showed through. But it was really crowded; they are “too popular,” after all.
Lining Up at the Body Spray Buffet
Rarely has a concept tickled my fancy quite as much as the fascinating announcement that Axe Bodyspray (and its array of supporting scented products, body washes, deodorants, and hair gels) was taking its uniquely misogynist brand positioning and extending into the nightclub business.
Not content to just host a weekend suite in Montauk like its sister mass market toiletries, Axe Bodyspray (and related products) turned to Mike Heller of Talent Resources to bring this concept to life. Heller in turn took over Southampton's Dune nightclub to create the first ever deodorant-themed nightclub.
In case you’re not an Axe man—I’m not, but the bright young man who edits this column, Jesse North, is, and he tells me the body wash smells great—you may not know their message, which is unofficially “Gotta wash that skank right out of my hair.” As depicted in a commercial, our hot Axe guy wakes up to an unremembered, and therefore skanky, woman. After chivalrously sneaking away, he retreats to the safe and (presumably) sanitary embrace of Axe Bodyspray (and related products), literally whisking the shame, guilt and dried body fluids from his sleek and sexy body. Our man is free to swing the Axe another day.
While it is obvious that this backstory would prove irresistible to lady nightclub goers in the Hamptons, Talent Resources went one step further by contacting mid-level talent to perform and appear. The company kicked off the season by hiring Mr. Mariah Carey, Nick Cannon, to DJ and were so pleased with the exciting way he interacted with the brand that they’ve signed him to be a spokesman, which makes sense, considering who he has to rinse and repeat with everyday.
Later they paid 90210 actress AnnaLynne McCord to stop by with her Twilight hunk boyfriend, Kellan Lutz, and despite the fact that she spent most of the night sleeping in the car, Mr. Heller expressed pleasure with her work. He also got actor Seann William Scott to grab the cash for a drive-by at the Axe Lounge (and a quick spray at the fragrance buffet offered in the men’s bathroom, which I think might help producers nickel him down a bit when negotiating for his next role.) Rihanna and Leonardo DiCaprio both dropped by Axe Lounge for no money, the notion of Axe Bodyspray (and related products) just being a natural for both of them, he a serial modelizer and she attracted to, well, you know the story.
I asked Mr. Heller what the highlight of the summer was and he said it was definitely Lindsay Lohan dancing the night away—“She’s a great dancer”—before getting back in her car to the city. I asked if Lindsay was paid for her appearance, but she wasn’t, and I felt bad. It seems like she could use the money, and she certainly seems to fit the brand criteria.
But then I read in Page Six that Mr. Heller is working with Lindsay’s dad, Michael Lohan, on The Divorced Dad’s Club, a reality show that was going to feature top talents K-Fed and Jon Gosselin, but has lowered its sights to steroid spokesperson Jose Canseco and wife-beater Mark Gastineau. So at least there is a Lohan payoff in the works somewhere.
I must confess that I never actually made it to the Axe Lounge, but I’m told that Unilever, owner of Axe Bodyspray (and related products), is thrilled with the results, and that not only might there be a return visit to the Hamptons, there might be satellite Axe Lounges popping up in other markets as early as this fall. Skanks… start your engines!
Drink and Drive? Why Not?
The idea of Lindsay Lohan on the road in the Hamptons made me realize I forgot to clue you guys in on a new service that is helping fuel the high-octane partying of the Hamptons this summer. It is Lilybug Scooters.
I learned about this service when a friend of mine got sent home by his dinner host via Lilybug, because she was suspicious about his sloppy behavior. (I could have told her he’s like that all the time.)
Based in Sag Harbor, these guys tool around the Hamptons, taking inebriated drivers home in their own car for a fee. Their nifty scooters even fold up into a little bag that they put in your trunk to prevent scooter mess (not that in your drunken state you’d even notice). Then for around $150, you get to wake up at home with your car as opposed to without it and in the East Hampton jail. Everybody wins!
Another way that you can drink and drive in the Hamptons is by booze bus. My younger cousin told me one day that she had dressed up like a mermaid and partied like a rock star on a bus to Montauk one Saturday night.
It took me a while to catch up with the Ivy Group (actually, Jesse tracked them down), which is three young guys—Steven Rojas, Jared Flint and Mike Townsend—who started their private bus service from Manhattan to Sole East. Paid for by the hotel’s publicist, the guys take two 30-person buses called “Party Rides,” load them up with gift bags, booze, and catering by Nolita restaurant L’asso, and then laissez le bon temps rouler!
The guys are all in the fashion and magazine business, as are all their friends, meaning that they are all young, skinny, and attractive, according to the photos and footage I’ve seen. Things can get “pretty insane,” Rojas told me. In a video I saw, one guy danced in his black and white houndstooth-checked briefs (or was it a bathing suit?) and a young lady in a pink top showed no reluctance in wrapping her legs around her dance partner. Their anthem is the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place.”
Now the Ivy Group thinks they are onto something, so look for ski weekends next.
The Tasteful Late-Night Alternative: Georgica
I ended my tour of the wild on a civilized note at Georgica. This supper/nightclub is off Route 27 in Wainscott, in the space that was Saracen and Sapore di Mare way before that, right next to Ron Perlman’s historic Creeks estate. The guys at Georgica are locals: David Schulman, the owner, briefed me as a lifelong Hamptoner, and his sister lives down the street from me here. His business partner Matt Levine and chef Robert Hesse both came to Georgica from Quogue’s “Q” restaurant, which was shuttered with bankruptcy and other rumored problems.
Hesse is also a reality contestant. He was on season five of Hell’s Kitchen but he left mid-season due to health problems, and thus has been invited back for the season that is currently airing.
Here though, the food is not a quick-challenge gimmick, but the real thing. A lobster risotto impressed my friend who studied cooking in France with Alain Ducasse. A shrimp dish with bacon and a zillion other things at first appeared to be trying too hard, but then I was trying too hard to sop up every little morsel.
The look is simple and beachy, and they cleverly close the shutters that separate the dancers from the diners, so that late-night dinner doesn’t get blown off the map by the DJ.
There is no cover charge here. It is a doorman place, but Schulman tells me they don’t have a scene. “We’re lower key, so the people who tend to want that are the people we want, and it all works out.” Jon Bon Jovi has hung here, and Dan Aykroyd jumped behind the bar one night.
Unlike a lot of the party palaces out here, Georgica is staying open until October to get the shoulder crowd, and is doing community outreach (there was a breast cancer benefit the weekend I visited), all of which makes me realize that after weeks of toiling in the wild party trenches of the Hamptons, I may have finally found a scene that suits me.