True, at least one bona fide Hollywood royal rests peaceably in the Hamptons -- specifically, Gary Cooper, who is buried rather inconspicuously. If only the current wave of Hollywood émigrés were so considerate. Instead, every summer, as reliably as a plague of Gulfstream-powered locusts, the West Coast crowd have descended on the East End's once somnambulant hamlets, ready to chew up the picturesque scenery.
But wait. It's almost August, and some of the inmates are escaping the asylum. Georgica Pond inhabitant Steven Spielberg is away, flogging Saving Private Ryan. (Of course, if President Clinton stays at the compound during his fund-raising round-robin, you may be certain the director will put in an appearance.) Even the Hamptons' most famous houseguest, Barbra Streisand, hasn't appeared chez Donna Karan. Ample anecdotal evidence suggests that more moguls and movie stars are spending this summer in Montana or on the Mediterranean than in Malibu-on-the-Atlantic. The chances are considerably greater of a crash of Hollywood-hired yachts off the Isle of Capri than of Hollywood-guided shopping carts in an aisle at Dreesen's.
Which is not to say that the Hamptons are celebrity-deprived. Regulars Kevin Costner and Mira Sorvino have shown up, and non-regulars Kelsey Grammer and Eddie Murphy have been spotted. This is, after all, where Ron Perelman's houseguests have included Penny Marshall and Melanie Griffith, and where Alec Baldwin is still regarded as a bankable actor. Many in the studio smart set are hanging out with director Nora Ephron and her writer husband, Nick Pileggi, whose East Hampton retreat has quietly morphed into the address of choice for summer freeloaders.
Steve Ross, the late Time Warner capo, bears most responsibility for the wave of arrivistes from Hollywood. It was Ross who introduced Spielberg to the charms of Georgica Pond, and Ross's wife, Courtney, who decorated "Quelle Barn," the director's home. With Ross gone and Courtney mostly out of sight, Spielberg and wife Kate Capshaw quickly became the Hamptons hosts with the best-known houseguests -- including Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Robin and Marsha Williams, and partners Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. (That is, when the crown couple is in residence.)
Hamptons fever among the Hollywood set crested in the summer of '95, when a slew of entertainers and executives sought to put a continent between themselves and several years of man-made and natural disasters of almost biblical proportions (riots, earthquakes, fires, mud slides, the $3.2 billion Sony write-off, Waterworld). That was the last time visitors could schedule trips for tax purposes to attend the cliquish HBO premiere party that was hosted by Michael Fuchs and organized to within an inch of its life by Peggy Siegal every August. (Time Warner fired Fuchs that November.) That same season, onetime 20th Century Fox owner Marvin Davis and wife Barbara rented the 45-acre Southampton estate that once belonged to Henry Ford II. Everyone thought they would upend the social order. Instead, they threw a few splashy parties, attended a few others -- and were outta there the next summer. The East End's quaint villages have at best a short-term cachet for most of the Industry.
Still, every summer, rumors fan out that La Streisand has finally bought a choice spread -- a surefire tactic for boosting real-estate prices. Now the nattering is, again, that Barbra has finally found her dream house. The location is supposedly so secret that even her unlisted phone is billed to an alias. Or maybe it's all just as much of a mirage as the ongoing belief that the Hamptons really still are Malibu East.