Hamptons Elite Parties Are Back, With Grand Hostesses and Money to Burn

Mike Novogratz hosted a Sunday gospel brunch. Kathy Rayner opened her gardens for Guild Hall. Larry Gagosian gathered art collectors, and Lally Weymouth is set to revive her July 4 weekend dinner party.

The Hamptons elites are back on their social circuit, chattering in person about inflation, migration and taxes. Goldman Sachs’s Ashok Varadhan said at Novogratz’s brunch that he’s been reading academic papers on cryptocurrency.

Novogratz and music executive Jason Flom talked about Flom’s podcast, “Wrongful Conviction,” and his new ride, a ‘59 Corvette, which he’d narrowly pulled past an ice cream truck in the driveway.

Of course, things are just getting started in this hot, post-Covid-vaccination summer.

“I haven’t been out to a party in a year-and-a-half, and I had events five nights in a row last week,” said Joey Wolffer, of the Sagaponack winery family, who has a clothing store in Sag Harbor. “I came home one night and my kids had epic meltdowns. We didn’t ease into this at all.”

Some of the more politically minded, who last year got through an election season with very few in-person events, are bracing for a busy time.

“Ordinarily it would be quieter in an off-year, but political fundraising is coming back with a vengeance,” said Steve Israel, the former New York Democratic Congressman turned novelist.

The Democrats are focused on keeping control of the House in the midterms, with six House Democrats in districts won by Donald Trump headlining three events one day in late July, and Nancy Pelosi and Terry McAuliffe coming through in August. Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, meanwhile, may be hoping to draw some new Sunshine State residents when he comes to town later this summer for a fundraiser.

Israel said Democrats in the Hamptons aren’t going to kvetch about the higher taxes President Joe Biden is proposing. “Virtually all of them believe that wealth inequity is a major economic problem that has to be addressed,” he said. “They also realize that if wealth inequality continues, at some point there will be pitchforks at the hedgerows.”

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t preparing.

“The most anxiety right now is over Biden’s tax plan, because if you’re not going to have a stepped-up basis, people who have homes here and sell them, upon someone passing, they’re going to get whacked twice, first on capital gains doubled, and on estate taxes,” said Leonard Ackerman, an East Hampton lawyer. “A substantial amount of equity built up over the years is going to get wiped out. So there’s potential for a lot of older homes to come on the market.”

A more immediate question is how many people will be returning to the city in the fall. At Novogratz’s brunch, one couple said they pulled their kids out of a New York private school and put them in the Amagansett public schools; the kids love it so much, they’ll be staying one more year, and then going back. In another family, the mom stayed in the Hamptons full-time, while the dad took the kids into the city each week for their school.

On the entertaining front, benefits will be back, though perhaps none will be as memorable as the one held on Rayner’s East Hampton estate, which is along the ocean and Georgica Pond. Bonackers shucked oysters, and Rayner’s staff made margaritas with home-grown strawberries.

Guests also had a chance to wander through her gardens, which includes a Covid addition: a henhouse like no other.

“Having that cocktail party at her house was the top,” said Andrea Grover, the head of Guild Hall. “She’s the consummate hostess who really attends to every detail of a party. The napkins were linen embroidered with elephants and golden thread.”

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