The new TV show Royal Pains is bringing some attention to an area of Long Island the media likes to call “The Hamptons.” I was born there and growing up we referred to the area as “the south fork.” Or perhaps “the east end [of Long Island]” When I was growing up there were summer people – artists, writers, actors, miscellaneous rich people – who had big summer homes but there were also baymen and farmers – lots of farmers – and it did not get the media attention it does today.
Today there are sort of two dimensions (dimensions in the science fiction sense that they occupy the same physical space but hardly interact) to the Hamptons. There are the rich and famous who occupy one dimension and the other people who live in another. For ease of use I refer to the first group as summer people and the second group as year-round people. Strictly speaking many of the “summer people” come out more than just in the summer and may even live here (I am in East Hampton as I write this) most of the time.
The media (TV and movies) mostly presents a fictional view of the summer people. The year round people are kept in the background. I can’t say I am very familiar with that dimension of the Hamptons though. The year round people a bit more. While I haven’t lived in the Hamptons full-time for 50 years I do visit regularly and my father still lives here. I like to think of myself as a “displaced Bonacker” who knows something of the area.
The TV show Royal Pains is fairly unique in that it does show some local, year-round people types. The hospital administrator who was born and raised in Southampton (not explicitly stated but the only hospital in the Hamptons is in Southampton – I was born there) for example. The most recent episode showed the star helping a sick fisherman. Why they didn’t add some authenticity by finding a way to refer to him as a bayman I don’t know. Baymen is a general term for people who make their living from the bays and ocean around the Hamptons. That is a word I would have liked to see in the show’s “Hamptons Glossary” but I guess as it is a local word not a summer people word it didn’t make the cut.
It’s going to be interesting to watch this show (Royal Pains) to see how it treats the year round people. My suspicion is that the writers and the people working on the show are more generally influenced by summer people. There are many of them in the TV business. I’m not sure how much interaction they have with year round people other than to buy from them, hire them to do work around their houses and see them in the streets. Will they take on the number of immigrants (legal and otherwise) from south and central America? How about the summer workers from Ireland who come to the area in droves? And what more of the hard working baymen will we see?
I actually wonder how they will handle the rest of the year – not the summer. Will the late season events like the Hamptons International Film Festival (October) be an opportunity to have a bunch of high profile cameo appearances? Will the Hampton Classic show some international beauty (ever notice how many gorgeous young women need treatment on TV shows?) falling off a horse?
Yeah, I guess I like the show. The doctor is a good guy. The young rich kid he befriends is really interesting. The hospital administrator is more attractive than most of the rich people but is still a strong and complex person one can respect. The brother and the physicians assistant add something good to the mix. The USA Network does seem to do characters well. Plus I like to keep my eye open for places I know. 🙂
Note: Strictly speaking a Bonacker is from Springs, a village in the town of East Hampton, but more general usage tends to include the most of the town including the village of East Hampton.
Note: If you go to the East Hampton Village page on Wikipedia you will see a picture of the old Hook Mill windmill. That picture is very close to the view from my bedroom window when I was a small child. Our current house is close by but doesn’t have that view.