Saturday, June 15, 2024

Hamptons Weekend Goes from One Vegetarian (Russell Simmons) to Another (Paul McCartney)


I start this Hamptons report by telling you I am absolutely not a vegetarian. That’s just the way it is. 

But I do support Russell Simmons’ RUSH Philanthropic Foundation and their annual Art for Life fundraiser. Russell has done so much for young people, particularly in music, and the effects of his generosity and vision continue to spread. He used to throw the RUSH dinner in his own backyard in East Hampton, but the founder of Def Jam everything and brother of Reverend Run (Run-DMC) has relocated to Los Angeles and sold his beautiful home.

So on Saturday night the RUSH gala was held in a huge (and I mean huge) tent erected on a potato field on the water in Water Mill, the tony town between Southampton and Bridgehampton. No expense was spared, there was even some air conditioning! Gayle King was the estimable emcee, and somehow she graciously and humorously introduced us to the 8 honorees.

They included Debra Lee, the always elegant cutting edge fashion chief of BET Networks, and Frank Collins of BuzzFeed. But my favorite was my old pal Suzanne dePasse, of Motown Entertainment fame, Berry Gordy’s secret weapon and right hand since the late 60s.

When Bobby Taylor and Gladys Knight reported that they’d found a family group called the Jackson Five, it was Suzanne who brought them to Gordy. She told the glittering crowd on Saturday night: “Mr. Gordy said, I don’t have kids groups, you don’t know how much trouble Stevie Wonder was!”

Suzanne has Emmys, Grammys, Peabodys, Golden Globes. I met her in 1982. She is timeless, but she did admit to me and then to the crowd that next week she turns 70! “I don’t want to turn 70, but what choice do I have?” she said rhetorically.

Yes, we sat through all of this only to discover that Russell, an avowed vegetarian, was serving beet ravioli and cauliflower for dinner. Also, hummus. I’m sure this is how he rose to great heights of success, but dinner was still not consumed. What to do?

Off to Nick and Toni’s, the great East Hampton eatery started by the late Jeff Soloway and his wife Toni Ross. I only expected a great dinner. But upon arriving, we realized the main course was Paul McCartney. There he was, dining with wife Nancy Shevell, Paul’s nephew Lee Eastman and wife Vanessa. Keep in mind, Paul is a famous vegetarian.

Michael Lynn, founder of New Line Pictures, was eating at the next table, with his lovely wife Nineh. “Why didn’t you eat at Russell’s?” he asked as we were being seated. Paul was listening.

I stammered. “Oh, you know, it was just– were just under-fed.”

Michael asked, “What did they have?”

I answered uncomfortably. I didn’t know what Nick and Toni’s had whipped up for the great Beatle, but I had my eye on a steak.

And yes, though they were all there by accident, Michael Lynne and his partner Bob Shaye are still doing an animated film with McCartney— which I reported long ago.

And Paul? He’d just been in Las Vegas on Thursday for the 10th anniversary of the Beatles’ LOVE show with Cirque du Soleil– in the middle of his summer tour! He just turned 74 and plays the Meadowlands in New Jersey on August 7th. The diet must work!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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