If only you could drain the Hamptons of 90 percent of its summer population, raze a few hundred gaudy, oversize beach homes, and begin systematically reclaiming the potato fields and wooded areas, acre by exorbitant acre, the East End of Long Island might again become a pleasant place to spend some time. Certainly that particular daydream resurfaced with a vengeance when news of the knuckleheaded shenanigans surrounding the Safe & Sound drive-in event for a few local children’s charities, held on July 25 in Water Mill, first broke.
In case you missed it, celebrants paid as much as $25,000 to attend the evening’s festivities at the 95-acre sculpture park Nova’s Ark, in what the promoters promised would be “a safe and controlled environment, setting the bar for all events to come.” Given the price of admission, one hopes it was an open bar.
On the marquee: the Chainsmokers, the world’s highest-paid electronic-music duo, if not necessarily the most talented; Southampton town supervisor Jay Schneiderman; and—promoting his new E.D.M. single, “Someone Like You”—David “DJ D-Sol” Solomon, who moonlights as the C.E.O. of Goldman Sachs, having in 2018 succeeded Lloyd “Doing God’s Work” Blankfein. That same year, Solomon’s personal assistant, Nicolas DeMeyer, was arrested for liberating $1.2 million worth of wine from his employer’s East Hampton cellar. The day he was scheduled to appear before a judge, DeMeyer leapt to his death from the 33rd floor of the Carlyle.
Solomon, who, in addition to D.J.-ing at nightclubs, is said to ride the subway to work (pre-coronavirus) and even to fetch his own coffee, had more than his new single to celebrate. The day before, Goldman Sachs had finally settled fraud claims brought against the firm by the government of Malaysia for $3.9 billion. Some Goldman units had helped raise billions for a sovereign wealth fund that was used, as The New York Times put it, as “a personal piggy bank” by individuals including the now removed Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, and the fugitive financier Jho Low. The fund, it is alleged, was used to underwrite a $3.2 million gift of a Picasso to Leonardo DiCaprio; a birthday party for Low at which, The Guardian reported, “Jamie Foxx, Chris Brown, Ludacris, Busta Rhymes and Pharrell Williams performed live and Britney Spears jumped out of a cake”; and tens of millions to fund The Wolf of Wall Street. So, with that unpleasantness now past, it was obviously party time.
Celebrants paid as much as $25,000 to attend what the promoters promised would be “a safe and controlled environment, setting the bar for all events to come.” Given the price of admission, one hopes it was an open bar.
If you have any doubt that the Safe & Sound bash was the place to be in the Hamptons that night, let’s just mention that both Winklevii were in attendance. Unfortunately, so were an estimated 3,000 others, and if there was any initial commitment to social distancing, as some attendees insist there was, it appears to have faded as the evening progressed. Revelers apparently shrugged off the pre-approved, permit-earning guidelines and abandoned their cars, preferring to mill about in front of the stage in that insouciant “Pandemic? What pandemic?” manner now in vogue. Videos on social media of all of this mayhem drew the attention of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who tweeted that he was “appalled” and vowed an investigation by the Department of Health. Southampton Town, within whose boundaries Water Mill lies, is also investigating, and is in turn being investigated by New York State. “The concert in Southampton was just a gross violation of not only the public-health rules, it was a gross violation of common sense,” Cuomo said later.
A Goldman spokesperson hastened to assure the governor that “David agreed to participate in an event for charity in which the organizers worked closely with the local government and put strict health protocols in place. The vast majority of the audience appeared to follow the rules, but he’s troubled that some violated them and put themselves and others at risk.” A few bad apples—isn’t that the way it always goes?
Well, this too shall pass. Though maybe attending (and throwing, and performing at) a party for thousands in the middle of a pandemic wasn’t really the best idea. The rich are different from you and me: sometimes, they’re just stupider.
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for Air Mail