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Does life really imitate art? I leave it to your own good judgment to decide. While I, meanwhile, simply lay out the facts.

The affair begins in East Hampton on a Saturday morning, when I encountered Alan Patricof standing with another gent on the sidewalk outside Dreesen's grocery store, postulating a new theory of how to measure economic growth.

We already have consumer confidence, employment, the Dow, carloadings, the Russell 2000, various oscillators and other measurements. And what was Mr. Patricof's idea?

Well, as you know, Dreesen's is the official doughnut purveyor to the stars (and just about everyone else!) in The Hamptons. And Alan believes if you compare the length of the queue for donuts on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend to that of succeeding Saturday mornings, you will have a pretty good idea of just how good a summer it'll be.

I'm not sure if that towering economist, Maynard Keynes (when he wasn't chasing Cambridge freshmen around the ivy) would agree, but that's The Patricof Theory. The reason any of this should matter? According to the local weekly East Hampton Star, President and Mrs. Clinton, when they visit East Hampton July 31-Aug. 3, will be attending a party hosted by Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger under a tent on their pasture, but will be staying at the home of Alan and Susan Patricof on Huntting Lane!

I can't tell you the excitement here greeting this news (including plenty of anguished handwringing over traffic snarls sure to be imposed on an already suffering summer population). Bill Clinton hasn't been to East Hampton since the Artists & Writers softball game of 1988, a full decade ago when he was a mere governor, and we let him call balls & strikes. Four or five years ago there were rumors the Clintons were coming back but they ended up on Martha's Vineyard or one of those New England places. This time we know it's a true bill because the visit was announced by Judith Hope.

Judy used to be supervisor of East Hampton Town and is today the New York State Democratic boss. And while for security reasons nothing was confirmed about sleeping arrangements (could I perhaps put that more delicately?), the Patricof house was the only one mentioned and it was Alan himself who spoke to the Star, sounding, the paper said, "pleased but subdued."

He and Susan have visited the White House (actually on the Lincoln Bedroom "A" list) and have hosted a small dinner for the president at their flat in Manhattan. Mr. Patricof is described as a venture capitalist, and a good one, but I also know him as a fisherman (he dons waders at the slightest encouragement) and as one of the backers of New York, who 20 years ago staged a coup d'etat against Clay Felker and sold out to Rupert Murdoch.

And if I might, tastefully and briefly, bring myself into the picture, without being entirely too pushy and self-serving, there seems to me in this presidential visit a distinct element of "life imitates art."

Because, as it turns out, a just-published novel entitled "Gin Lane" has as its principal subplot just what happens when the president of the United States visits the Hamptons to attend a chi-chi party, as the Secret Service, dubious and murky characters, substantial and dignified establishment figures (mostly Episcopalian, members of either the Maidstone or the Meadow Club), plus a few nutcases, perform ritual capers in preparation.

In this fictional visit, the president's plans for a pleasant social occasion (well, his host is a big contributor from Chicago, inspiring one cynic to inquire aloud, "Did he run out of Indonesians?"), are complicated by the following: hero and heroine Beecher Stowe and her ladyship, Alix Dunraven; a rally of superannuated race-car drivers to save the Bridgehampton raceway; the arrival of a one-legged German army officer; an uprising by the local Shinnecock Indians; a feud over the Falklands that erupts between a crew of RAF flyers and magazine publisher Rex Magnifico's imported team of Argentinian polo players; a hit & run accident that puts broadcast icon "Cowboy in the Morning" Dils in the hospital (a Rolls did the dirty deed, I assure you); the wedding of Viscount "Fruity" Metcalfe; Senorita de la Playa, the Peruvian kayak champ; Wyseman Claggett, the avaricious land developer with a hideous facial tic; "Fruity's" father, the earl, who loves to dance (in his words, "enjoy a gallop about the old hardwood"); charter boat Captain Bly; the U.S. Marines; a cleric dispatched by the archbishop of Canterbury; Special-agent-in-charge Vittorini; Roger Champion the network CEO; Cowboy Dils' Red Ryder air rifle (he fires at dogs peeing on his lawn); plus Dils' merry pranksters, Dr. Fu Manchu, Nurse Edith Cavell, Mr. Gloomy, Harry Almond and The Sports Geek. And in a cameo role, John Fairchild of Women's Wear Daily.

To confess bias upfront, I am myself the author of this nonsense. As, in self-justification, I deny having a White House leak (Sidney Blumenthal can rest easy) and admit I just got lucky.

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