Inside Dan Rattiner’s New Book ‘Hamptons Private’

Hamptons Private
"Hamptons Private"
Courtesy Assouline

When Dan Rattiner, our esteemed founder of Dan’s Papers, first came out to the Hamptons, oddly enough, it wasn’t by choice.

“I was dragged here by my parents—I was 16 at the time,” says Rattiner, who was happy living at home in Millburn, NJ where he grew up…until his father, “who always wanted to go fishing,” but who was also a pharmacist, bought White’s Pharmacy in Montauk.

Rattiner says he was “absolutely floored with the whole place, including the Hamptons,” which at the time, were “just something on the way to Montauk.”

That was 65 years ago, and Dan has been telling compelling stories about the Hamptons and its unique inhabitants, and visitors ever since.

Now he has written a 10,000-word text for a new hardcover coffee table book, Hamptons Private (Assouline), featuring over 200 richly evocative glossy photographs that lushly chronicles the Hamptons and its particular places, people, and allure from its glorious beaches and incomparable shoreline, to the privilege and parties behind the hedges, to the charming villages and hamlets that have been home, and a mecca, for the rich and not-so-rich, and/or famous.

Rattiner’s text is a riveting read through time, taking us through decades of change and development in the Hamptons, starting with the physical “waves of glaciers” that literally formed the South Fork (and the rest of Long Island) to the “waves of invasions” over the decades that have shaped the social landscape, from the early English settlers, the fishermen and farmers, to the influx of “old money” and the high society set, to the Bohemians, hippies, artists and writers, to the wave of “new money” and the celebrity set, and the (literal) wave of surfers.

Dan Rattiner is used to asking the questions, so it was fun to turn the tables and get the inside scoop on this new book. [You can listen to our full interview on “Dan’s Talks: Who’s Here in the Hamptons”]

“It is a truly beautiful peninsula. Although just a hundred miles from New York City, eagles swoop and soar overhead and whales roll up to the surface to spout. The sea thunders and the wind whistles. As for the people here when I first got here, it seemed to me that nearly all of them had decided to settle in the Hamptons for the same reason that I did. They had fallen in love…” —an excerpt from Hamptons Private

How did Hamptons Private come about?
It was great fun. I wrote this during the pandemic. I had gotten a call from Assouline and they had wanted an overview of “what the Hamptons was all about.” I think since I’ve been running a journal for all these years [the iconic Dan’s Papers is 62 years old], I seemed to be a witness to some of the changes taking place—the different waves of people coming here over the decades—and they thought I would probably be the best person to write it.

The book is filled with photographs of Montauk surfers, people at parties, cafes, people walking the streets in the towns, Jackie Bouvier Kennedy and many other celebrities who come out here, as well as the Shinnecock people—it covers the whole area. It’s a very beautiful book.

What do you think was the main draw for these waves of invasions to the Hamptons?
I think the main draw was the natural beauty—the ponds, the lakes, the ocean, the beaches, the woods, the lighthouse—and all the other wonderful things out here that create the Hamptons.

In the early period [of settlers here], the Hamptons were considered very healthy for the country air—it was a place to invigorate yourself.

Many of the early homes were built with interiors that were primitive, including the giant mansions—no plumbing, no insulation. People were coming out here because it was healthy.

You write in the book about so many special places, restaurants, people, and events. Do you have a favorite Hamptons hamlet?
I love each one, I really do.

Montauk, for the wind, and the dichotomy of young people and the fishermen and motels.

East Hampton, for the formal beautiful and the restoration of a Colonial village.

Sag Harbor, because it is a little whaling town and gorgeous and the architecture of the homes is restored.

Bridgehampton, originally a farm town that was completely surrounded by potato fields.

Southampton, the queen of American watering places, according to the local newspapers back then—and you know that meant alcohol [laughs].

Hamptons Private (Assouline) is available at assouline.com and locally at Southampton Books and Sag Harbor Books.

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