Authors Night: An Insider’s View
The East Hampton Library’s Authors Night, which took place on Saturday, August 10, is the premier literary event in the Hamptons and beyond, with 100 authors signing their books and talking to fans. With the likes of Alec Baldwin, who is also the event’s honorary chair, Candace Bushnell, Rosanne Cash, Douglas Brinkley, Gretchen Rubin, Kat Odell, and many others, the fundraiser provides about 10 percent of the organization’s operating costs each year, said executive director Dennis Fabiszak.
I was lucky enough to interview as many of the writers as I could, as host of a live satellite broadcast for the local NPR affiliate, Peconic Public Broadcasting, 88.3 WPPB-FM, with its main offices in Southampton Village.
I like to call it “Speed Dating with Authors.” The fabulous Dawn Watson would “wrangle” the participants to the platform where I sat with the mic and my headphones on; my husband, Eric Johnson, would make sure that overenthusiastic up-and-comers didn’t storm the castle (one or two got through when he was snacking on sushi); and most importantly, Kyle Lynch, the producer, would keep “dead air” to a minimum.
I had recently interviewed actress Bridget Moynahan for this paper about her book, “Our Shoes, Our Selves,” and it was fun to throw my leg up on the table so that she and her co-author, Amanda Benchley, could “ooh” and “aah” over my super-cool boots.
Speaking with Candace Bushnell about her new book “Is There Still Sex in the City?” proved to be poignant, as she discussed divorce, loneliness, but ultimately getting back into the game when you’re over 50.
Alec Baldwin, as always, was intense and passionate about his commitment to the library and other local year-round cultural nonprofits. He recalled the bookmobiles that used to travel around his hometown of Massapequa that are now decommissioned. Sentimentally, he bought one — it sits, rusting, on his property, but conjures up fond memories for him.
Rosanne Cash and Dan Rizzie co-produced the book “Bird on a Blade,” with Cash’s lyrics and Rizzie’s art, and discussed their collaborative effort, which took 20 years from the first time they discussed it until its actual fruition.
Instead of discussing his seven New York Times bestsellers, or his new book “Moonshot,” or his role as presidential historian, it was fun to talk to Douglas Brinkley instead about the Grammy-nominated album he co-produced with Johnny Depp — “Gonzo,” an album based on the writings of Hunter S. Thompson, but realized in music. The jump from journalism to jazz is an interesting one. Brinkley also won a Grammy for “Presidential Suite,” published the long-lost novel by Woody Guthrie, and drove a natural-gas powered bus across the nation. He is easily one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met, and I wish I had been able to speak with him much longer.
As always, a chat with literary lion Robert Caro was a thrill. Taking a break from his LBJ-athon, Caro managed to churn out the book “Working,” which is due to become the go-to bible for investigative journalism. In it, he chronicles how to do research, and his own experiences interviewing Robert Moses and other power brokers.
The evening ended with Thomas Maier — best known for “Masters of Sex” with his book, “Mafia Spies,” about how the CIA hired two mob guys to try and remove Fidel Castro — and Gianni Russo (“Hollywood Godfather”), who played Carlo, the no-good son-in-law, in the movie “The Godfather,” and is a real made man. Having the two of them together up on the platform, interviewing each other, was everything you could hope to see as a journalist.