Maybe you’ve seen this thing driving around this summer in the Hamptons. It is a small mini-sized orange motor vehicle made in Italy that opens up into a bar. It has three wheels—one in the front and two in the back—and it chugs along with what sounds like a 50-horsepower engine from town to town, promoting a spritzer. It parks. It’s the adult version of an ice cream truck.
It’s in resort towns along the Italian Riviera. They call it an Ape (pronounced ah-PAY). This summer, the first Ape came off a freighter to America, and here it is in the Hamptons. When it stops at the beach, or at a party, or wherever, the uniformed people in charge of it get out and raise up the metal side panels and, yup, there it is, a bar. There’s a bartender. Then there’s a lower panel that pulls out and, voila, it’s seating at the bar. And it’s all in the shade, thanks to the upper panels now held open like awning wings. But you can only get one drink at this bar—an Aperol Spritz, which, the promoters say, is currently experiencing a surge in popularity.
The Ape can play a little tune to attract attention to itself after it arrives, and if that doesn’t work, it blows bubbles. Finally, curious people come over. I don’t know if the drink is free or you have to pay for it, but there they are, the partygoers, sitting on benches, chatting away, sipping the Aperol Spritz which, as you might guess, is the same color as the orange panels on the side of the truck.
It’s another promotion in the Hamptons. It may be available for private parties. But I saw it scooting around on the streets in town.
I spoke to the East Hampton Town Ordinance Inspector about it. Between us, we could think of about nine ordinances somebody new could violate. I’m told this Ape is following the rules. Open containers of alcohol on the street. Selling alcohol without a license. Can alcoholic beverages be given away without a license? No sticker to park at the beach. Is it a legal motor vehicle? Peddling without a license. Being Italian—is that against the law? Traveling with open alcoholic containers in a motor vehicle. Being a public nuisance. Being a bar without a County Health Certificate.
There’s so much fantastic stuff going on the East End these days here.
It was not always thus. There was a time, in the Hamptons, before mansions and limousines, when outrageous behavior and tons of fun was frowned upon. And then, along came this girl super fly, who, by coincidence, was also on a tricycle. I think it was the first inkling that things were going to go cuckoo as time wore on.
It was the first day of the first year of the Hamptons International Film Festival in 1993. I was standing out front of the East Hampton Cinema that Thursday morning when this remarkable giant five-foot housefly came flapping down Main Street from the west. I was able to get an exclusive interview with this lady dressed as a fly before the authorities swooped in. The vehicle she was riding was a giant tricycle, and every time she pedaled it made these grand Saran-Wrap-and-sparkle wings she was wearing flutter and flap. The police eventually arrived and threatened her with summonses as she sat on her bike by the theater. And so she, and this big yellow duck that was behind her, turned around and went back out of town the way they came.
I have never forgotten this experience. And it seemed to me I had written about it at the time. I went to our back-issue archive and there it was.
Here’s what I wrote.
The first Hamptons International Film Festival, scheduled to run four days, was supposed to open on Thursday evening October 21 with a private dinner at the Maidstone Arms in East Hampton to honor the Countess Anne D’Ornano, the Mayor of Deauville, France. Our Film Festival is the sister film festival of the one in Deauville. Thus we have been blessed by the appearance of the Countess, who, in turn, will presumably bless our film festival.
For me, however, the festival actually began earlier that day when this huge five foot tall fly with flapping wings and a snapping mouth made its appearance coming down Main Street. The lady driving this thing—pedaling it actually—was June Moxon and she told me that her being this giant fly had been put together in Eureka, California where she lived and it had been brought here in order to promote a movie making its world premiere at the festival. This film is 88 minutes long and is called It’ll Have Blinking Eyes and a Moving Mouth. It will be shown at 9:40 p.m. Thursday at UA East Hampton. The fly, and Ms. Moxon, are in it.
“That duck also came from Eureka,” June Moxon told me, pointing a mandible at this man pedaling furiously on an eight-foot yellow duck. A car was coming and the man honked his horn to get the car out of the way and this honk sounded very much like a quack and when it occurred, the mouth of the duck opened and closed. Swear to God.
Both of these vehicles, containing tricycle drives that you pedal underneath, have been part of an annual race up in northern California, which is kind of a triathlon for wacky giant bicycles. A California artist named Hobart Brown has been holding this triathlon for the last 24 years. It draws hundreds of entrants. Each entrant has to go through 38 miles of trails, water, sand and woods and the whole way has to be pedaled furiously. Entrants have included giant iguanas, lobsters, flying saucers and I guess ducks and flies. The story of this race has been filmed by a Long Island producer named Jed Bergh—he is based in Huntington—and if you want to see this thing just be there Thursday at 9:40 p.m.
Well, now the police are heading this way…
So that’s the story. You read it here in Dan’s Papers, the opening gun for wackiness on the public streets of the staid downtown colonial village of East Hampton, founded in 1648, brought to our town, ever so briefly, by the first Hamptons International Film Festival in 1993.
It’s their fault.