One Surreal Saturday in the Hamptons

There are few times in life when one can see, in a single day, sweaty celebrities trying on dresses in a field, hot men chasing a tiny ball while riding horses, and performance artists prancing through the woods with cardboard boxes on their heads. The Hamptons offers this opportunity every year on the third Saturday of July, when Bridgehampton plays host to the Super Saturday megasale to benefit the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, the Mercedes-Benz Polo Challenge, and the annual benefit for Robert Wilson’s artists’ residency, the Watermill Center. Even cynical Hamptons outsiders like ourselves can’t resist that lineup, even though we will never own enough white clothing to really fit in.

After a mandatory traffic jam, we got to Super Saturday at eleven, just in time for the special VIP shopping hour. Kelsey Grammer had been dragged along by his wife, former Playmate Camille Donatacci, to act as both porter and bank. “I throw money and it ends up at our home,” he said. “That’s sort of how it goes.” Kelly Ripa, a five-time vet of the event, handed out advice to newbies — “If there’s a surplus of stuff, wait on that and come back because the prices drop … far” — and told us, “I’ve gotten into it over some Marc Jacobs bags. I use the old elbows.”

Just down the road at the Bridgehampton Polo Club, the only famous polo player, Nacho Figueras, was kicking ass. Ardent fan Richard Johnson told us he frequently feels like a failure when it comes to the time-honored polo tradition of replacing the field’s divots (chunks of grass and dirt torn up by the horses). “By the time I get out there I’m too slow and the divots are back in already,” he said. “It’s deeply disappointing. You have to drown your sorrows, then.” The event’s token celebrity, Kristin Cavallari, was equally nonplussed: “I have no idea where I am or what I’m doing,” she said, laughing.

There was similar confusion at the last big stop of the evening, the fifteenth annual Watermill Summer Benefit. As we entered, we were greeted by a man wearing gigantic inflatable balls, head to toe black-and-white-patterned Lycra, and lipstick-red platform pumps. At the end of a tiki-torch-lit walkway, the entrance was flanked by two women in traditional Taiwanese opera costumes — white faces, red cheeks, long colorful robes — standing on what looked like twelve-foot-high stilts. But the real treat was a walk through the woods, which were populated by more than a dozen youths in white rags, either sitting against trees with cardboard boxes over their heads or tossing fitfully on mattresses.

The awesome Brooklyn noise rock band Japanther played nearby, while guests were encouraged to operate a huge dragon puppet. On the other side of the forest was a room made of red mesh containing people-size candles spelling out L-O-V-E, and an incredibly long table set for dinner, on which a woman would walk very slowly in high heels without ever looking down, or disturbing a glass. Performance artist Marina Abramovic was impressed, “It’s very difficult to create your own space around all these people and still be charismatic. She’s incredibly precise. It’s not easy.”

The entertainment at dinner was a live auction headed by the ever-entertaining Simon du Pury. Someone paid $16,000 to have her portrait painted by Rufus Wainwright, who’d shown up in a sequined suit Victor & Rolf had custom-made for his London Judy Garland show. Later, Du Pury paraded out a horse for auction. Wainwright had been waiting all night for this moment, he’d told us earlier. “I’m going to take the horse home after, give the horse one last fling, then off to the glue factory,” he explained. To the relief of everyone, the horse eventually went to PR scion Vanessa Von Bismarck for $30,000, which she said was a very good price for a horse these days. —Jada Yuan