The Friends of Dan have unveiled a statue commissioned to celebrate Hamptons publisher Dan Rattiner. The statue, a 7-foot-tall, bright red lobster, with a somewhat taller Rattiner riding on its back, was installed on the corner of Hills Station Road and Route 27 in Southampton. The installation is called “Welcome to Dan’s Country.”
Often referred to as the “Dardanelles of the Hamptons,” the giant lobster and Rattiner stand just feet from the now-shuttered Lobster Inn at the point where Route 27 narrows into a single lane highway into Southampton.
Rattiner is best known for having founded Dan’s Papers in 1960, a newspaper that billed itself as the first free resort newspaper in America and which is much expanded and still going strong 57 years later. From the very beginning, he has written about four articles every week on a wide variety of topics including history, humor, current affairs, local news and more. They appear in the newspaper and the Dan’s Papers website. Dan’s Hamptons Media today, which includes the original Dan’s Papers, the websites, Behind the Hedges magazine and website, the largest series of food and drink events on the East End and other offerings, is by far the biggest and most diverse media company on the Two Forks.
Born in New York City, Rattiner grew up in a New York suburb, moved to Montauk at age 16 when his father bought White’s Drug Store there, was educated at the University of Rochester and the Harvard Graduate School of Design and at age 20, started Dan’s Papers. He’s worked for short periods as a copywriter at the Foote Cone and Belding advertising agency, a “runner” in the city room of the New York Times and is also a successful nationally known cartoonist.
“I had a vision,” said Richard Burns, president of Friends of Dan. “Every time I passed the Lobster Inn on my way in to Southampton, I’d have visions of a giant lobster holding Dan up in its claws.” Heartbroken that the Inn had recently closed, it spurred Burns to seek like-minded individuals who wanted to thank Dan for all that he has done for the East End Community over more than five decades as founder and president of Dan’s Papers.
Jeremy Essay, the new owner of the Behind the Fence Gallery (formerly known as Yesterday’s Treasures located at 1549 County Road) immediately offered to play a key role in the project. His family business Nugent and Potter, one of the Hamptons’ oldest plumbing supply companies, recently bought the property surrounded outside and crowded inside by its life-size dinosaurs, elks, celebrities, dogs, cats and various other objets. “Everyone knows this place and drives by it a thousand times,” said Essay of the store. “They probably all ask themselves, ‘who buys this stuff?’ The answer is: ‘they do.’ Every time someone stops to look around.”
Essay’s team worked with Acre Arts on the design and execution of the project. Creating the lobster was more straightforward. The Dan figure was, in the end, repurposed from a John Wayne statue found at the store and worked on with diligence by the Gallery’s team of craftsmen. “This was a natural project for us to get involved with, “said Essay. “And we couldn’t be happier with the outcome.”
“My first thought was, ‘this is crazy!'” says Rattiner of his initial reaction upon learning a statue was being built in his likeness. Rattiner, who spends time during the summer working with interns on reporting and news, relays a story to the enthusiastic students about a favorite statue of his from history, the Colossus of Rhodes. The Colossus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, greeted ships coming into Rhodes. Rattiner’s statue, similarly, greets visitors in the Hamptons.
Rattiner jokes that he will look to the statue for guidance. “If something comes up, I feel like I should go to the statue!”
The Plaque mounted at the base of the statue reads as follows:
“WELCOME TO DAN’S COUNTRY”
Erected this day, July 4th, Day of Independence, 2017, by Friends of Dan to celebrate the Hamptons’ best known citizen, Lover of Hedgerows, Keeper of the Conscience, Historian, Curmudgeon and Publisher Extraordinary Dan Rattiner. Designed and created by the Behind the Fence Gallery and Acre Arts.