Then & Now: Same Hamptons Story, Different Cast of Characters

Bridgehampton farmers
Bridgehampton farmers, ca. 1950s, Photo: Courtesy Bridgehampton Museum

People occasionally ask me how things have changed since I first got to the East End 60 years ago. These two stories tell the tale.

Sixty years ago, my dad owned White’s Montauk Pharmacy, and on a Saturday afternoon that summer someone drove a Mercury station wagon through the plate glass windows of the storefront. I was not in the store at the time, but when I went down there from my parents’ house on South Fairview Avenue, where I lived, I saw it was some mess. The car had been hauled away and the driver was gone, but the magazines, hats, suntan lotion and bathing suits were scattered about amidst the broken glass and wood framing.

“Truck” Addison, for that was her name, had parked her car facing the front of the store—there was diagonal parking then—and had gone in to get something. There was a crash. She hadn’t put on the emergency brake. Now we had a different sort of emergency.

“Truck” was the grown daughter of one of the charter fishing boat captains in town. After the crash, she told my dad she was really sorry. I remember this because, not only was it an item in the paper that week, but also because she had two kids in the car. This was before seatbelts, and before sit-in-the-back child seats. Of course, since none of that was invented, there was no mention of it. But she had left the car with the motor running, which was something you don’t do. Not with a manual transmission car, not if you don’t remember to pull up the emergency brake, and not with kids in the car.

The kids were not injured. Nobody was injured in the store, either. But people felt she had done an irresponsible thing. And surely she had.

Anyway, that was then.

Last week, 60 years later, somebody else shattered glass driving off the road into the front of a building. The car was a 2006 Mercedes-Benz and it was on Sunday morning at 1:15 a.m. when it drove off Hayground Road, according to The East Hampton Star, through two pine trees, a fence, a concrete fence base, a small concrete statue of Buddha, across a lawn and through the bedroom wall of a house. It then caught fire. Sleeping inside at that hour were supermodel Sasha Pivovarova, her husband, artist, and their daughter.

“It sounded like a bomb exploded,” Mr. Vishnyakov told The East Hampton Star.

Leaping out of bed, Mr. Vishnyakov went to the Mercedes, where he saw the engine on fire and two people in the car—the driver, 21-year-old Alec Wasser, and his passenger, a girl, not identified. Mr. Wasser was trying to get her out.

Mr. Vishnyakov grabbed a fire extinguisher and tried to put out the blazing Mercedes but gave up on it when his wife urged him to back away. They then got their pre-school daughter and, with the fire spreading, left. Hours later, after the fire was extinguished, a fireman found their black tomcat, Oolong, hiding behind a toilet in a bathroom off the kitchen.

The Buddha, toppled over but uninjured, had apparently slowed the car. “Buddha saved us,” Mr. Vishnyakov told the Star.

Police reported that the Mercedes was apparently traveling at a high speed. Mr. Wasser refused a Breathalyzer test at the scene. At an arraignment the following morning, Mr. Wasser, a college student at Marymount Manhattan, was represented by attorney Eddie Burke Jr. Justice Kooperstein ordered Mr. Wasser’s driver’s license suspended for one year.

Mr. Wasser’s father, Gregg Wasser, is, according to The Real Deal, a real estate developer whose firm A&C has done projects in New Jersey, Long Island and Westchester. He also owns a Fifth Avenue apartment in Manhattan, as well as a house in Water Mill that is less than 200 yards from the Vishnyakov house. According to the Star, Burke told Mr. Vishnyakov that the father looked forward to speaking with him. The topic: the damage done.

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