As usual, Codger did not score a skateboard or a pedicure at the Hannabury Fair last Saturday, although he did fill up on the cookies he had thought about since last year’s party.
He wanted to win a free week at Camp Quinipet — the grandkids are coming back this summer — but was satisfied by just being at the Cheryl Hannabury Annual Memorial Celebration of Life Community Cocktail Party, as it is properly called. It’s by far the best benefit event on the calendar, although it lacks the jiggly insanity of the Turkey Plunge or the blissful pigouts of the Fire Department feasts.
What makes it the best is the good that it delivers. That’s first, of course. Codger was moved by a recent front-page story in the East Hampton Star by Christine Sampson describing how money from the Island Gift of Life Foundation transformed the life of an East Hampton teenager who was withdrawn and isolated as other kids mocked her facially distorting overbite. Complicated surgery and orthodontia, funded mostly by the Foundation, changed her into a happy, productive college student.
For 15 years, the Foundation has helped East Enders with money, transportation and the expertise to deal with medical bills and bone marrow campaigns. In more routine cases, reported by the Star, a Sag Harbor woman receives money for medication to combat renal failure, and a Montauk boy could be treated at the Cleveland Clinic for a rare neurological condition.
Codger was struck by the wide reach of people being helped. At the benefit, Ken Lewis, president of the Foundation’s board, told Codger that most of its patients and caretakers these days are from the North and South Forks. The spirit of the founder, Cheryl Hannabury, reaches across the waters.
Codger knew Cheryl casually from STARS. Like most people, he was inspired by an uninsured middle-aged woman struggling with non-Hodgkins lymphoma using her energy to create an organization to help others.
That’s the second reason why last week’s benefit is the best.
The third is because it is so Shelter Island. Most of the various subgroups living here in winter seemed to have been represented at the Ram’s Head Inn last Saturday night, from Hareleggers to people whose second homes are in Manhattan. They all looked local, no Southampton lime pants or size 0 cocktail dresses.
By being so Shelter Islandish, the Hannabury Fair reflected the Island’s current buzz words — “Hamptonization” and “proportionality.” There was none of the first, plenty of the latter.
Hamptonization is the spectre/hope that the Island will imitate the flashy cash machine that has supported so many South Fork real estate brokers, contractors and business owners. Planning Board member Emory Breiner, who recently campaigned unsuccessfully for the Town Board, reminds us that big houses pay the taxes for most of the rest of us.
Proportionality’s main proponent, if not its philosopher, is Paul Shepherd, recently re-elected to the board. Paul can not only make proportionality sound like a principle for rational living, he offered a formula: the square footage of a house can take up no more than 10 percent of the first acre, 7.5 percent of the second, and so forth. That has been tweaked, but bigger land still gets bigger houses, even though more than 6,000 square feet needs Board approval.
Codger thinks the most spectacular example of Hamptonization and proportionality is Ira Rennert’s Sagaponack waterfront mansion named Fair Field. It’s reported to be the largest single-family residence in the country. With a 62,000-square-foot floor plan on 64 acres, it’s probably proportional.
It probably pays the taxes on a lot of lesser houses. And, some ask, shouldn’t even multi-billionaires get to spend the money they made the way they want?
Better ask the 1,350 employees of a steel company belonging to Rennert’s conglomerate, the Renco Group, who came close to losing their pensions, according to the New York Times. Rennert had bankrupted the company and tried to bail on their pensions through technicalities the government called fraudulent.
If a federal pension guarantor hadn’t threatened Rennert’s $248 million Fair Field, he might have gotten away without paying the $70 million pension shortfall.
Ahh, those billionaires. It took an Islander, the comedian, TV and film star, Louis C.K., to deliver the latest and arguably strongest shot at Donald Trump, describing him in a long public email as sick, sad, a bigot and liar, comparing him to Adolf Hitler.
Coincidentally, speaking of money, class and houses, one of Codger and Crone’s favorite TV shows, “Downton Abbey,” has been foreclosed. Could a modern remake be set here, with the family of a mega-hutted wetlands polluter upstairs while downstairs are those Zika-infested “friends from Latin America” that Vincent Novak trumpets against.
Call the new series, Louie’s Beach house.