John Leo

So far this summer, though, I haven't heard a single complaint about Rennert. The summers of 1999 and 2000 were devoted to Rennert outrage. This is the summer of Lizzie Grubman. Here in the New York area, the Grubman scandal was as big a story as the saga of Gary Condit. Grubman, a 30-year-old high-powered publicist, got into an argument with a bouncer at a trendy Southampton club, then backed her Mercedes SUV full speed into a crowd of clubgoers, striking 16 people and mangling many of them. It might have been written off as a driving mistake, except that just before her SUV hurtled into the crowd, Grubman was heard to exclaim "(Expletive) you, white trash!"

The incident became an instant flashpoint for most of the tensions in the Hamptons -- the brashness and arrogance of the new money, the Hollywoodization of the area (Grubman comes out of a powerful show-biz background), and the clash between New Yorkers and the people who actually live here year round. Since then we have had a lot of talk about the afflictions of "affluenza" and "Hamptons rage," defined by author Steven Gaines, who has written a history of the modern Hamptons, as "a fit of pique in which newly rich people addicted to instant gratification fly off the handle." Meanwhile, many New Yorkers are clearly nervous about being portrayed as wretchedly overprivileged in a major documentary being filmed now about the Hamptons. The filmmaker is Barbara Kopple, who won two Oscars for pro-union documentaries about coal miners in Kentucky and meat packers in Minnesota.

Despite the city-country tensions and the coming of the hyperrich, the Hamptons remain astonishingly serene and beautiful. We are still awakened by the same roosters and horses, who seem undisturbed by Ira Rennert and Lizzie Grubman. Fresh vegetables and the best-tasting corn in America are right across the street. Great apples, too, in a couple of months, and Amy, the farmer's daughter, still bakes the best pies on Long Island's east end. No "Hamptons rage" here, thank you very much.


John Leo

John Leo is editor of MindingTheCampus.com and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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