June 11, 1978, the day Amy Zerner and I became wife and husband, was a day and a party to remember, though there were so many fun things going on that I have had to dig my best “man,” Roland the Robot, out of my studio closet to help me recall them all. More about him later.
Our wedding grew out of the fact that Amy’s late grandmother, who died at nearly 102 years of age, but who was 80 at the time, refused to come visit the family compound on the grounds that we were not married, but “living in sin.” We decided to get married because we realized that we were married and might as well have the party. We planned the party to pay for itself out of the projected gifts from various sacred relatives. Our years of experience as producers of music and art extravaganzas had taught us well the near-military discipline required to hold a party for over 200 people.
I was not a published astrological author then, just a sun sign columnist for various local publications like Dan’s Papers, a Hamptons institution and the first free newspaper in America. I picked the date astrologically mainly to avoid the expense of renting a tent, and the day dawned as one with the most perfect weather in memory. A new friend, Margie Dignan, who was then in the process of a divorce and who we haven’t seen since our wedding day, had most graciously (and unexpectedly) offered to us her very large and historic house in East Hampton for the day. It had the huge front and back lawns, several porches and large rooms of the classic summer “cottage” of the 1800s, plus a large in-ground pool with diving board and, more unusually, an in-ground trampoline. In short, the ultimate party house.
My morning started at Ashawagh Hall in Springs, the part of East Hampton where we live, to pick up 200 folding chairs from our friends there. After hurriedly driving back to the Margie’s cottage and setting the chairs up, Amy and I hung about 15 of her “Materializations,” exquisite fabric-collage tapestries for which she has since won an NEA fellowship. The place looked great.
After checking with the catering staff, recruited from our friends at the East Hampton Day Care Center, and making sure that the trays and trays of wedding cakes from Silvers in Southampton had arrived, I ran upstairs to change into my hand-made, 40s vintage double-breasted wedding suit, which I had bought from the Southampton Hospital Thrift Shop for $10. Amy’s gorgeous wedding dress, a creamy-lace 40s vintage stunner, was a $2.50 “Scoresville” (as we call a great deal) from the L.V.I.S. Bargain Box in East Hampton.
My beautiful bride was attended by her many happy bridesmaids and our hairdresser, Jon, who had left his chic Madison Avenue shop for the day in our honor. I heard recently that he went into real estate and is doing very well.
We had arranged to be married by our friend Jack the psychiatrist, who also happened to be an ordained minister. We thought he was very nervous to be appearing in front of so many people (we had over 200 invited guests!). However, in later years we found out that he had given up years of drinking the previous night and was in the throws of withdrawal that day. Like all of our friends, he was a trooper and a survivor and he performed the ceremony beautifully, if a little quietly.
After signing our marriage certificate we did the wedding march up onto the steps of the front porch accompanied by music, my original compositions, played by Roland the robot whose chest contained a tape recorder. I pre-recorded all the parts to my songs and Roland played them back when I performed live. Roland was my partner in “The Me, My Sylph, and Eye Band,” my one-man band bar act that is now something of a Hamptons legend. I still get people asking me how Roland is doing and I haven’t played with him in almost 20 years.
Roland’s arm was a microphone stand and the Reverend Jack stepped up to it and read the vows we had printed up and passed out to the assembled happy throng. One of Amy’s bridesmaids seemed so delighted we thought she would soon ascend to heaven, though we later found out she was in the first blush of a torrid, illicit affair. But her beaming face reflected the joy we were feeling.
We believe in short ceremonies and long parties so we kissed and said “I do.” Now married, we stayed on the porch as our guests filed by congratulating us and then walking into the living room where Ms. Lisa Vetault and Ms. Judith Markowitz serenaded us on piano and flute. The delicious food disappeared and I must confess neither Amy nor I got to eat a crumb of our own wedding cake – it was so good that everyone had seconds!
Sometimes it is hard to know were tradition stops and superstition starts. We violated just about every wedding tradition there is, but our marriage has lasted and thrived and you are reading about it, so draw your own conclusions.
As for liquid refreshments, we had decided that champagne would be the only alcoholic beverage and so had quite a few of our friends because they gave us cases of it as their gifts (probably to make sure they’d be drinking their favorite brand). At this point, my memory is not as sharp as I’d like it to be and so I must depend on Roland, the robot.
I had gotten to know a lot of other bands and musicians and they all came and played at the wedding party. We had blue-grass on the pool porch, classical in the house and rock in the back yard. There was another flutist who was walking all over the place playing what has since come to be known as soothing New Age music to all and sundry. He backed up a healer doing the “laying on off hands” to a guest slightly injured on the trampoline.
My relatives had almost not come because we had picked the one day in their religion, which was based on making trouble for people, when marriage is forbidden. They looked on in amazement as elegantly dressed guests of all ages bounced up and down on the trampoline, some bounding off only to dive into the pool fully clothed. It did get wild but never out of hand, or that is how I remember it.
In fact, the only wear and tear to the house and grounds came from our hostess who really got into the spirit of things. She was giving away trinkets, like her heirloom jewelry, away (which we got back and returned to her later), writing her phone number on men’s chests with lipstick, and teaching Amy’s blind 80-year old great aunt how to shoot champagne corks over the roof onto the 40 people who were circling the front lawn holding hands and calling up the “God Force.”
We were so exhilarated that after everybody left Amy and I cleaned the whole place up! My only regrets are that people were having too good a time to take a lot of pictures and that I didn’t have a picture of me at the dump unloading 96 bottles of champagne off the truck right next to a fisherman, unloading a truckload of scallop shells. He smiled and shook his head saying, “Must have been some party, Bub!” Dick Halliday (aka Captain Shipwreck), the dear, departed friend I’d made playing music with Roland at Snuggler’s Cove in Amagansett, had made me an honorary Bonacker, as the real local Hampton people call themselves, and so I proudly replied, “Yes, yes. It sure was!”
One of the funniest things about the whole event was that it was reported, complete with pictures of the wedding party, right there in Dan’s Papers. They spelled my name “Merce Ferber.” They spelled Roland’s name right. The perfect end to a perfect day.
© Monte Farber from “THE SOULMATE PATH”