Dan Rattiner's Stories

Mom & the Share House: Scandal at My Mother’s Home

Somebody showed me the front page of the East Hampton Star last week. The lead article is entitled “SHARE HOUSE NIGHTMARE IN MONTAUK” and recounts how the police have tracked down an illegal share-house with mattresses all over the place on Kettle Hole Road in that town.

It happened because a man, caught drunk driving one night in that town, told the judge at his arraignment he was the share house manager at 37 Kettle Hole Road and he took the police to that place where that is indeed what they say they found so they are taking appropriate actions. In the second paragraph of that story, right there on the front page, my mother is named.

My parents’ house was on Kettle Hole Road. I don’t remember the number. Come to think of it, the fire department hadn’t put numbers on houses in Montauk then. Was it possible? The last time my mother was mentioned in the Star was when she had a recipe for rugelach in a village cookbook. What the hell was she up to now? And furthermore, she died at the age of 94 in 2005.

Turns out that the two owners of the house, Dr. Marie Savard and Dr. Bradley W. Fenton, “Have owned the four-bedroom house at 37 Kettle Hole Road since buying it about 18 years ago from its original owner, Jeanette Rattiner.”

Aha!

“This is the biggest mistake we ever made,” Dr. Savard said, according to the Star. The week before Memorial Day, they had rented out their house to what they thought would be just two young men, the Star article said, one from West Islip and one from Lake Grove. And now it had come to THIS!

I have so many fond memories of that house. I was married out on the front deck, which, as the Star describes, has a wonderful sunset view out over Fort Pond Bay. After we took our vows, my bride and I were driven in a limo out to the end of the dock at Duryea’s Lobster House on Old Town Road, where we boarded a reconstructed old wooden sloop with a five-man crew and from there headed out into the sunset of the bay and then up and around to Sag Harbor, where we were met at Long Wharf by Ted Conklin in his white Rolls-Royce. He then drove us the short distance to The American Hotel, which he owned then and does now, for a great feast in our honor.

I remember other things. When the house was built in 1977, my parents wanted something modern and so hired famed architect Frank Hollenbeck to design something all glass, with high ceilings to sit high up above a concrete basement on the brow of the hill—the first house ever built in the Kettle Hole section—to look out from that perch at that sunset view. It was only one story high, but boy was it beautiful.

Before we moved in, my now-notorious mother asked for and got a small bathroom and shower built in that basement. The basement was a two-car garage and some storerooms, and the driveway went down a little hill there in the back and you just drove into the garage and the garage door came down behind you.

My dad was a pharmacist, but also a fisherman. He often came home wet from the sea, with fish in a bucket. My mom wanted him and the fish all washed and cleaned before he came upstairs into the fashionably decorated baronial living room.

Ah, the shame of it all! According to the article, there had been partition walls built down there in the basement to turn the two-car garage and the storerooms into multiple rentable units. The renters agreed the partitions had once been there, but by request of the fire department they had been removed before the summer began, the article said.

Well, they couldn’t remove that basement shower and bathroom, let me tell you.

Why the East Hampton Star mentions somebody’s name so totally irrelevant in a story about a police raid I do not know, but they have done it before.

I think, in a way, it is an acknowledgement of a certain amount—not too much mind you—of a celebrity status to the name “Rattiner.” Had this taken place in a house that had been owned by some Hofsenhausers, to pick a name from the phone book, I doubt they would have been mentioned as having been the owners 18 years before who sold it to Savard and Fenton. But if the house had been owned by, for instance, Mick Jagger, his name would have gone all the way up to the headline. It would read SHARE HOUSE ‘NIGHTMARE’ AT MICK JAGGER’S FORMER HOME.

At the level in this story, the Star has therefore bestowed a “B” celebrity status on Rattiner.

I mentioned they have done this before.

A long time ago, a prominent painter named Alfonso Ossorio lived on a 57-acre estate waterfront on Georgica Pond. Ossorio was contemporary with Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, and like them, his work had been collected by many major museums. In 1961 he was included in a show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. An authentic Ossorio today will fetch millions.

Ossorio died in 1990. The Star ran a lengthy obituary. In it they said he had left his house to his longtime lover and partner, dancer Ted Dragon. But then after listing the many accomplishments of Mr. Ossorio in his lifetime, they talked about Ted Dragon. He had been arrested for stealing antique chairs 40 years earlier, something they had reported back when he did it. Remember that?

There was no social media then. The Star was inundated with letters to the editor saying shame on you for writing about a long-ago crime of Mr. Dragon at the time of the death of the very beloved Mr. Ossorio.

But The Star was not done with this story. More than 20 years later, in 2011, Ted Dragon died at the estate. And in DRAGON’S obituary, they once again mentioned him stealing antique chairs in 1950, although this time they were able to report on the big rumpus it had made in their paper when his lover had died in 1990.

So what I am saying is that what Dragon was to Ossorio, Rattiner would be to Jagger. Something like that. To the East Hampton Star anyway.

Well, it’s something. Or maybe it’s what David and Dan Rattiner are to Jeanette Rattiner, a woman who in her lifetime never entered a baking contest she didn’t win.

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