Dan Rattiner's Stories

Summer House: The Poor Little Show That Can’t Find Its Way Home

The Montauk hotspot Surf Lodge had their lawyer send a legal letter to the Bravo television show Summer House, warning them that charges will be filed if they do not take certain actions. They say that video of Surf Lodge appears in the sixth and seventh episodes of the second season, accessible forever on screens everywhere on demand, and they wanted it removed.

Surf Lodge claims that appearing in Summer House is damaging to its reputation. The letter says Bravo asked permission to film at Surf Lodge several times last year and the year before and had been refused. According to the lawyer, however, the show went ahead and got footage anyway. They had drones flying over Surf Lodge, he says, and they got video from cellphones of those attending the programs at Surf Lodge and, in a surreptitious manner, made it appear that the steamy interior scenes shown on the show in connection with this were of the show’s stars partying at Surf Lodge. Surf Lodge insisted that the network respond by Friday, March 23 and that if they didn’t, legal action would follow.

So of course, since this is now past that date, I ran to check out Season 2, Episodes 6 and 7 of Summer House. No Surf Lodge. The show, about a bunch of hormone-fueled young people driving out from their work-a-day jobs in Manhattan to a private home at the “it” destination on the East End—Montauk—to share each weekend at big parties, getting drunk, rolling around playing musical beds and, on occasion, trashing the image of the community with their behavior—says it is set here. But the video, other than what’s shown at the house, doesn’t appear to be in Montauk, and often doesn’t even seem to be in the Hamptons.

There are scenes of these people driving cars—BMWs and the like—on country lanes, and you see them inside the cars so you can see the stores sliding by outside, and, you know, I’ve lived here nearly all my life and these are not our stores or streets.

Some years ago there was a film called Murder in the Hamptons, which was not filmed here. It was filmed in a small town in Canada during the six weeks that they have summertime up there. And they called it the Hamptons.

Why can’t they film in certain locations in the Hamptons? Last year, East Hampton, which administers Montauk, refused to give them permission to film on the public streets in that community. And that also meant East Hampton and Amagansett, which are other communities they administer.

“This is not the sort of behavior we want to encourage,” was what Paul Monte, the President of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, said at the time.

Think about it. Here’s seven different groups you can encourage. Fishermen, sportsmen, families, wealthy summer people, celebrities, tourists, locals or young people behaving badly, peeing in public, staying up all night, playing music loud, drinking too much, rolling around in beds and off in the woods, throwing up and, well, who knows what else. Choose one you don’t want.

Duh.

In their first year, Summer House rented a large mansion on Napeague Harbor and somehow got a permit to make this a “private home,” with eight people in residence.
There is a law that says no more than four unrelated people can be in residence in a home in East Hampton. Summer House was for eight people, two of whom were twins. Problem solved?

In their second year—last year—the town denied them not only a film permit, but even denied them permission to rent a house in East Hampton. They also noted that the prior year, when the permit was approved, they had the wrong address for the property as well as having an incorrect configuration of what constitutes a family.

Having been denied that second year, Summer House moved westward and rented an eight bedroom, nine bathroom mansion on five acres deep in the woods in Southampton Town, in the community of Water Mill, where, no matter what they did in there, even if it were the worst stuff imaginable, nobody would likely complain about it.

The town said they would consider it. In that town, several hundred thousand dollars in fees for “per day” filming permits and renting permits would be assessed. It got approved.

Supervisor Jay Schneiderman of Southampton Town, the entity that oversees Water Mill, had this to say about the rental in Water Mill:

“I’m…not happy about it, because the culture of having a group share house, and getting drunk, it’s a bad image for the area,” he told Patch. “It’s promoting something that’s not legally permitted. I’m not delighted to have them. I wish they weren’t here, and we’re going to make sure they conform with all the laws.”

Here’s a blurb from Bravo’s promotion of this show in that first year:

“Everyone’s heard of the Hamptons. That’s like your mom’s friend who wars pearls. My group of friends, we go to Montauk. Montauk is like your mom’s friend’s daughter, who is a little promiscuous, and by a little, I mean a lot.”

For the second year, after all the trouble in East Hampton, they changed this. They don’t mention Montauk.

“The Hamptons, that’s like your mom’s friend who wears pearls. The East End is like the cool surfer chick, who’s a little promiscuous, and by a little I mean a lot.”

Well, it got approved, and that is the main house where the partygoers live every weekend before they go out to have fun in Canada. Before I tackled Season 2, Episode 7, I watched Season 2, Episode 1, where the eight people who have signed on for the summer slowly drive up to the house and meet those who have come before them and then go “upstairs” to choose a bedroom. The last one got the bedroom without a bathroom, and he is mad. (There are eight bathrooms, but one is the “guest” bath off the front hall.) “I had the one without the bathroom last year. I should be entitled to one this year.”

A big argument ensues. And it is only mid-afternoon of the first day of the first weekend. And by the way, you can’t fast forward watching on demand. You have to watch the commercials.

For this upcoming season, this house at 1451 Deerfield Road was listed as available for rent for $100,000 a month for June, July and August. But now, according to Southampton Town officials, an application to use this same house landed on their doorstep just last week.

“If the rental meets all our laws,” I was told, “it will likely get approved again.”

Maybe one set of laws should apply to homes that can enfold themselves in a woods of privacy, and another set of laws should apply to private homes where everybody can see what’s going on.

Seems like a good idea to me.

Wait a minute. Did the marketing people for both Summer House and Surf Lodge decide to get this legal matter underway together? To make more publicity for both? Well, it got me to watch, and then got me to write this story.

Help!

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