Dan Rattiner's Stories

What’s New? Attention Turns to Video with Southampton Assistant Principal

What’s the big news in the Hamptons?

Well, the big news is that a Southampton High School Assistant Principal named Esther Adler-O’Keefe, whose salary was $143,520 last year (according to seethroughny.net), is in a rap music video in national distribution.

The kids at the school probably think she is the coolest adult in town. Certain parents in the community want her fired.

The official word from School Superintendent Scott Farina (don’t even ASK what he makes) is summed up in an email meant for public consumption.

“The video in question showcases behaviors and language use that is not promoted by the Southampton School District. In fact, we actively teach our students the importance of good character and making smart choices. Additionally, this is not representative of who we are as a district, nor of our students and staff.”

Rapper JR and artist Trey Songz made the video, which is called “Best Friend.” Songz has had several hit singles including “Na Na” and “Smartphones.” He’s been nominated for three Grammys and in 2009 won the BET Best Male R&B Artist award for the year. He’s 31 years old, born and raised near Richmond, Virginia, has formed a nonprofit called the Songz for Peace Foundation to curb youth violence, and has said the first thing he did when he came into some money was to buy a house for his mother.

Assistant Principal Esther Adler-O’Keefe (and her husband, Brian) are not saying how they came to agree to appear in this video. But there they are.

They appear at the very beginning of the video, two well-dressed middle-aged people going off for a while and leaving their house in the care of a rap star. He has a cap on sideways. He promises to be good. Mrs. Adler-O’Keefe says don’t forget there is security working there to keep everything nice. He says he won’t forget. The couple goes out to their car and drive off, the security guard and Trey Songz wave goodbye, and the security guard is next shown stripping down to her bikini to join the party.

It’s a pool party, it’s a dance party, it’s a party with lots of hugging and rubbing up against one another. Eventually, as Songz calls his “best friends” to come over, everybody is jumping in and out of the pool, flopping onto the rugs and the beds, laughing and singing, acting in sexually suggestive ways and drinking alcohol. In other words, these kids do what kids do when they party, and at a movie theater it wouldn’t even get an R rating. No body part that shouldn’t be exposed is exposed. But they sure imply that stuff might happen like that off-camera. By the way, it’s a testament to people of all races and sexes getting along.

At the end of the four-minute music video, about 20 young people are asleep, still in their clothes, lying all over the house, which has had a good going over. The middle-aged couple arrives home. They are shocked. Brian finds a “roach” on a table, sniffs it and throws it down angrily. Adler-O’Keefe shakes her head in disgust and throws an inflatable ball at Trey Songz’s head, which wakes him up. The last thing we see is him looking at them and smiling sheepishly.

In other words, it’s a video where the adults find bad behavior and take the high moral ground. It’s what we adults and role models are supposed to do. From that perspective it’s a training video.

Having watched this video, I found that it reminded me of a party my daughter had in our house during her senior year at East Hampton High School.

It was near graduation. Everybody was having parties at their houses, she told me. She’d like to have one at our house. Reluctantly, I agreed. I say reluctantly because when I was her age I went to such parties, and if they got out of hand our parents dealt with it. But now, a generation later, she wanted to have a party like this, and because in the interval we had become a litigious society, if anybody underage got a tooth knocked out drinking a Bud (rather than a Coke), I’d get sued. Also, I could go to jail for allowing alcohol in our house to be drunk by minors. Also the rumors were there were high school kids with drugs in town, and that would be even worse at my house.

Maya was my first child. I have four altogether. Like many other parents in this community, my wife and I held our breaths when our kids, as teenagers, got together for parties in our finished basement. It’s not like we could sit down there on a sofa and be chaperoning such parties. That would be so embarrassing to our kids. We could sit upstairs in the living room, though. But we should shout down there a minute or two before we started down. We did that. And somehow, we got through that part of our lives, living with teenagers in the Hamptons.

Except then there was Maya’s party.

Maya said she would invite just 12 people. I think one of the 12 put posters all along Main Street the afternoon before the party. The party was scheduled for 9. About 8, my wife and I went out for dinner at a nearby tavern, planning to get back around 9:30. We never got to dessert.

This was before cellphones. Just as the clock struck nine, the tavern got a call from Maya. I took the receiver. “Come home,” she wailed. “Hurry.”

We lived then up a driveway on top of a 50-foot hill. We had an indoor pool. Coming up the long driveway, small stones were thrown down at us from the front deck of the house. A few rattled off the windshield and fenders. Arriving, I got out, mad, to find a hundred people there already, the house trashed by party crashers, the swimming pool filled with teenagers and pool toys, and two kegs of beer in the living room. I ordered everybody out. And I called the police. By the time the police got there, my daughter was crying hysterically, everybody had run away and driven off, and all was peaceful, except for one guy asleep on the floor in the kitchen. The police didn’t arrest anybody, scratched their heads and left, telling us this happens from time to time.

Thank God we didn’t have cellphones and videos back then. I suspect I would be ruined. People would be watching this video over and over to this day.

Mrs. O’Keefe claims she didn’t know the video she was in was to be about a party, implying that if she had known, she wouldn’t have been in it. If that were the case, the fact that there was such a party.

My own opinion is that Mrs. O’Keefe should be offered a timeslot in front of a morning assembly—I presume they still have assemblies in high schools—and say to the kids and teachers she was sorry she had done such a thing. And indeed, this is what can happen when you are not on your guard, particularly in the age of YouTube.

If she doesn’t take this offer, I suggest she seek employment as an Assistant Principal in a remote area that does not get any Internet service.

Watch the video yourself at DansPapers.com, or on YouTube. Just search for Best Friend Video Trey Songz.

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