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The nor'easter had blown out to sea and was battering the Maine coast while here at East Hampton Labor Day was gray and chill with only three surfers out and a scatter of foursomes on the Maidstone links. Summer was clearly coming to an end.

Without Bill and Hillary.

As you know, and as Liz Smith reported in her column (and you can usually go to the bank on that!), the First Family was supposed to be giving up Martha's Vineyard for the delights of the Hamptons. There was talk of a rental on the dunes near where Mort Zuckerman and Jerry Della Femina live, convenient to Calvin Klein and Martha Stewart and Donna Karan (with perpetual house guest Barbra Streisand).

Or possibly stay in Billy Joel's house, now regrettably with its several vacant rooms, on Further Lane, just east of where I am.

Instead, the Clintons returned to the Vineyard, for whatever reasons. Leaving East Hampton with reaction decidedly mixed. On the one hand, you can't find a parking space or get in the movie house now. On the other, it might have been fun.

A week or so before he tore his Achilles tendon (and got shouted at by the Pope!), Al Gore was in East Hampton for a fund-raiser at Chris Whittle's house. That Sunday I was coming up from the beach and strolling along Further Lane toward my house when I encountered one of the volunteer firemen parked on the grass shoulder. "Vice President's coming," he said. And then, from the direction of Amagansett, where Billy Joel has his place, along came Gore.

Now you have got to realize that Further Lane is a narrow, rural road favored by bikers and turtles and covergirls on rollerblades. And along came a couple of motorcycle cops with red lights flashing, some cop cars, an ambulance, a couple of black cars, some other sedans (the press?) and a final couple of cops on bikes.

This is Further Lane where in 15 years I've never seen a motorcade and this one has 17 vehicles and it's for the Vice President? The local paper would later report the Gore entourage numbered 80 people. Man! Suppose Clinton really does come to East Hampton and turns Further Lane into Pennsylvania Avenue and he and Hillary and the kid are here. Plus Leon Panetta and DeeDee Myers and Gergen and God knows who else. How many in that entourage? And how is a turtle ever going to cross the damned road?

On the other hand, however, Billy Joel's house is right along the Lane and maybe Hillary's coming by my kitchen door where the "Attention! Chat lunatique!" sign is, to borrow a cup of sugar.

Meanwhile, even without First Families, life and the East Hampton summer were pretty thrilling. We had young Sarah out, the first grandchild, and put her down on the lawn for a while on a beach towel and she nearly ate a fly. I said it wouldn't harm her any but my daughter Susan said she would prefer that Sarah's first solid food (she was born June 21) not be a bug.

Melanie Griffith was renting on Further Lane but school was opening and she had to go off. . And Streisand was said to be shopping for a place of her own and Randy Quaid rented the house behind me, just the other side of the privet. And Mick Jagger's renting too and Betty Bacall was back. Even without James Carville and Mary Matalin in town you couldn't get a table at The Grill, which is the place former Madison Avenue-type Frank Duffy owns; or Della Femina's East Hampton Point; or The Laundry; or O'Mally's Saloon; without connections and a considerable wait.

So I was over at The Blue Parrot where all the talk was about how Richard Ryan reportedly bought some new Topsiders but was saving the old ones in the garage in case these don't work out. Lloyd Bentsen might be interested in that as an indication of caution in the consumer economy. But maybe we shouldn't mention Bentsen because the feeling in East Hampton is that Roger Altman, whose wife's family lives here, sort of got screwed down there in Washington, carrying the Whitewater bucket for the Prez.

Jimmy Buffet came by The Blue Parrot but I wasn't there that night, which is unusual. Lee the owner says he'll probably keep open until Christmas and then leave for Kauai. Roland the manager will be off then for someplace else where there's surfing. In the meantime, Mike the backup barman is in France, because his girlfriend is the personal chef of some big Hollywood filmmaker whose name I am sworn not to reveal.

But if it snows early, Lee and Roland will be out of here and surfing long before Christmas. So at The Parrot they're already pushing the fall specials, "Fajita for Two," for example, at $16.95, and the Monday night football special of "Killer Chili," all you can eat with jalapeĀ¤o cornbread for $7.95.

So don't tell me East Hampton is only for the rich and famous. And wouldn't Bill Clinton have gone for that "all you can eat Killer Chili"?

The East Hampton Star reports the village cops are trading in their .357s for Glock 9 mm's. But why? Lieutenant Kenneth Brown was quoted as saying in 28 years on the force he can't recall a shot fired in anger in the village, except to dispatch an injured deer or sick raccoon.

I also got to go to dinner at Jerry Della Femina's and Judy Licht's house. A sitdown dinner for about 40 people out atop the dunes between the pool and the ocean with maybe eight waiters and I don't know how many in the kitchen, and lighted tapers on the lawn. The food was great but it was windy and the tapers kept setting the lawn on fire. But Jerry was very cool, getting up occasionally to empty a water glass on the flames.

A great guest list: Mickey Schulhof who runs Sony USA, Howard Stringer of CBS, Ken Auletta and Binky Urban (she's an agent), Ed Kosner and Julie Baumgold, Mort Zuckerman, Peter and Mary Stone, and like that. Also a very pleasant young man and his wife from Michigan. Over cocktails I was going on about how great my four-wheel drive Chevy Blazer was. "Yes," he said, "I'm sure." Turned out he's in autos, too. He and his father own the Detroit Lions. Last name Ford.

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