The first memory I have is at the ribbon cutting. It was July 3, across the street from the Lobster Inn where the Sunrise Highway ends and County Road 39 begins. I was by the side of the road, 11 feet up above the crowd, sitting atop the giant lobster, looking out at the oncoming traffic coming to the Hamptons. There were also a lot of dignitaries and reporters at the ribbon cutting.
The ribbon was cut by Christine Wasserstein. Richard Burns, who thought up everything and then made it happen, was having his hand shaken by the onlookers. Little Dan Rattiner craned his neck to look up at me. I was told he knew nothing about it until four days before, so it was a big surprise to him. He was beaming. Eric Feil, the CEO of Dan’s Hamptons Media, was there, and so was Publisher Steve McKenna.
“He looks just like you,” Eric Feil told Little Dan, gesturing to me.
“In my wildest dreams I never imagined anyone would make a statue of me,” Little Dan said. “Who does this?”
Well, Richard Burns, Chairman of Dan’s Hamptons Media, did it. His group is “Friends of Dan.”
“I took Dan to the Behind the Fence store three days before this grand opening for him to have a look at the statue,” Burns said. “He was speechless.”
I have no memory of it.
Here, people driving eastbound along the Sunrise Highway slow down and look out their car windows—not at my Little Dan, but at me, up there riding the lobster. I am very proud. The lobster’s name is Mel. We have this completely under control.
What I discovered, after everybody left, was that at midnight I could get off Mel and walk around. I am 7 feet high, and with Mel, 11 feet. Mel stayed where he was, and I went off to the gas station across the street and bought Mel some pretzels from the vending machine there. I didn’t exactly buy them, as I had no money. But I found that when I gave it a good kick, it spit out the pretzel bag. Coming back to Mel, I sprinkled the pretzels on the ground and Mel screeched in happiness.
It’s quiet after midnight. I found I could not only walk around, I could think about this and that. And so I began to write a diary by thinking it. I believe it gets written down inside me. At six a.m. I got back on Mel to handle the hordes driving out in what they call the trade parade. It’s a job, welcoming everybody to the Hamptons, but somebody’s got to do it. I had a sign they’d given me that read WELCOME TO DAN’S COUNTRY.
I sit up there and people slow down, honk and stare at me and sometimes pull over and get out of their cars to take selfies or pictures of their kids standing by the side of Mel and me. It’s like being Santa Claus, I guess.
The next night at midnight, I was about to get off Mel when Little Dan himself pulled up in his Tahoe, got out and walked over. Mel murmured something. I told him to stuff it, I’ll get to you later.
“I’ve been thinking about you all day,” Little Dan said. “You look just like me, only bigger.”
Yeah, guy, you’re five-eight.
“And something’s come up I wanted to ask you about.”
“Well, it’s personal. And you’re me and I’m me and I was sure I could trust you with this.”
Of course you can.
“You’re up there, looking out. I’m down here in the mix all day. Things come up.”
So what is it?
“I’ve been thinking about my life. It’s been a good 57 years writing Dan’s Papers. But maybe I could tell my stories another way.”
“I could be an Uber driver. People would climb in. I’d take them where they have to go and tell them my stories along the way. It would be very nice. Someone said Uber drivers make $100,000 a year.”
You’ve been in touch with them?
“I called them up. They’re ready for me to get started. What do you think?”
I think that’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. Your writing gets better and better. Everybody will be so disappointed.
“I guess people wouldn’t understand my doing it. I should just stick to the program. That’s what I’ll do. Thanks for the advice.”
“It’s great I have someone like me to talk to, especially a me bigger than me. So I’ll be talking to you from time to time.”
He walked over to his Tahoe and, heading out, he waved and honked.
He becomes an Uber driver, I said to Mel, and our gig is over. I hope buttering him up persuaded him.
Mel was making little hissing noises. He does that when he’s hungry. You don’t want to be around him when he gets hungry. He’s got nasty claws.
I climbed down, walked over to the gas station, kicked the vending machine and got Mel his dinner.
The next morning, the New York Post came out and there was a picture of me on Mel on the Media Ink page, with Little Dan standing next to us, holding onto one of Mel’s claws and looking up. He shouldn’t be holding him like that. But Mel was putting up with it. A lot more people stopped their cars and came to take pictures and talk to me and say nice things. Others just slowed and waved and honked. If I could move during the day, which I cannot, I would have waved back.
It’s nice to be welcoming people to Dan’s Country.
Four days later, on July 7, some people in a flatbed truck came by, unlocked the base, and took me and Mel out of the ground and carried us over to the back of the truck and set us down on padding, lying down. It took six of them and I was comfortable. But I was scared. Were we being kidnapped? Mel started shaking. Easy guy, I said.
There was something said about getting us under low bridges being a problem if they had us standing up. They also said they were going to Montauk for a Dan’s Taste of Summer event called MonTaco, and people wanted to see me there. So okay, we were in good hands. What a relief.
At Montauk, I was set up to meet people at the entrance just outside of a huge tent set up on top of Gurney’s Saltwater Spa. Music was playing. Food and drink was everywhere. And what an ocean view! Little Dan came over and put his arm on my leg.
“Let us take a picture of the two of you,” one of the photographers said. I thought he meant Little Dan and me. But he meant Little Dan and the photographer’s wife. Dan and his wife smiled. Bah!
I met the man who made me at the MonTaco event. He owns Behind the Fence up on County Road 39 in Southampton. They have dinosaurs and superheroes out front of the store. Jeremy is a thin fellow, about 40 with a moustache and suspenders.
“We refashioned you from a leftover statue of John Wayne,” he said.
If I could have, I’d have cried. My own father, telling me this.
I was at Gurney’s the next night, too, for Dan’s ClambakeMTK there. Then I was at the GrillHampton event on July 21 and the Taste of Two Forks on July 22, both at Fairview Farm in Mecox. After that, back to home base across from the Lobster Inn, I guess.
Little Dan came over. “I’ll stop by later tonight,” he said. “Gotta ask your advice again.”