Monday, November 22, 2010

Anatomy of a Phony

If this isn't already a saying, I'm officially entering it into the lexicon: "Hollywood is where you go to become famous. The Hamptons is where you go to pretend you already are."

One doesn't need to spend an incredible amount of time in the Hamptons to realize that everybody out here seems to spend half their life creating their own legends, and the other half convincing others it's true. Here's a test. Drive out to East Hampton. Throw a stick. Whomever it hits, approach. Ask them who they are or what they do. Gauranteed they will tell you they're an "artist" or a "writer" or a "something to the stars." Just check out this article in, the essentially useless online publication that still tries to pretend real hard that the Hamptons are still teeming with self-importance after Labor Day.

This item takes the cake, though. Meet Hy Abady. Yeah we're not sure how to pronounce that either. Although according to him, we should already know who he is. A former NYC ad man from the 60s and 70s who bounced around from agency to agency, he finally amassed enough upper-middle class wealth to purchase a home on Further Lane in East Hampton, back when houses on Further Lane were called "duck blinds." Once he got there, he went right to the task of pretending he was more important to the world than he was. Crashing parties, oozing his way into peoples' confidences, and in some cases, sleazily eavesdropping from the cozy cushion of a bar stool, he started submitting a column for the East Hampton Star every week. Now he's taken those articles, threw in a few more that never made it to print, and has put together a slim volume of his work he's calling "Are You Gonna Eat That?: How I Scored Billy Joel's Pizza Crust." (It's called something else, but this title is a little more apt.)

The "book" is published by Antinuous Press, and if you've never heard of this imprint, it's because you're straight. The house publishes "art books" and the like, which amount to a catalogue of nothing more than male gay erotica. Just peep the home page's photo montage. With your hands over your eyes. Squinting through your fingers.

Props have to go out to the East Hampton Star reviewer of this nonsense for keeping a straight face and managing to insert a little objective integrity in the review. But the fact that he even got a review for this gives our friend one more card in the house of cards people of his ilk build for themselves in the Hamptons. A perfectly phony life. A life made possible because he met the right people, schmoozed at the right parties, and exagerrated his own importance whenever those people he schmoozed gave him a platform to do so.

Too harsh? Ask yourself: if I wrote this book of gossip about the town I lived in and pitched it to a publishing house, but didn't know anybody who worked there, would it get published? If I didn't contribute to the East Hampton Star would it have gotten reviewed there? If I found a small, obscure publishing house to actually take my book, would I be modest about it? Or would I pretend it was the headlining title at Simon & Schuster?

If you answered no to most of those questions, you're not doing it right, according to the culture of the Hamptons, because Abady is just one of a whole score of folks out there who have drafted up this fake playbook. And by playbook we mean plop yourself down at the bar at the Maidstone Arms, obsessively scan the crowd for celebrities and then eavesdrop on their private conversations so you can write an article about it as though you know them personally.

Particularly galling is the fact that Abady's celebrity-addled brain distinguishes people in categories like "famous" "faux-famous," and "nobodies," considering the smoke and mirrors people like him create to rise themselves above the dreaded "nobody" category. He's perfectly alright with "faux-famous." This is why celebrity writing in often so poorly done. The writer is too soft-headed to realize that all people are interesting.

So look through the Matrix. What you'll see is a guy who worked for an ad agency and made enough money to buy himself geographic proximity to celebrities. The ad agency was run by another guy with connections in the local newspapers of the Hamptons. Because of this, the first guy, for years, uses his proximity to celebrities to publish his dim-witted celebrity musings in the East Hampton Star. Then he takes these musings and, through his gay contacts, places them with an obscure gay erotica publishing house. The book then gets reviewed by the very newspaper that published his column, which he didn't earn in the first place. Call it "incestuous legitimacy." In fact, that's a new Hamptonyte category from now on.


  1. Just came across this article while searching hopefully for Hy Abady's obituary.The most obnoxious, evil, arrogant ungrateful , envious and ungrateful person.Delighted someone finally caught on to him.Thank you, you have made a lot of people, hurt deeply by him, happy.Your story was incredibly insightful.The other ad man you referred to is extremely talented, witty and all around good guy.
    A fan.

  2. Please excuse the punctuation errors as I wrote without my glasses in a feverish state.


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