Bellport, N.Y.: Not So Far East

For a certain creative class, the sleepy Long Island haven provides respite from both Manhattan and the Hamptons.

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Angela Westwater and David Meitus.

Photo By Kyle Ericksen

John DeStefano and Francisco Costa

Photo By Kyle Ericksen

Costa and DeStefano’s previous and current homes in town have both both fashion and film history to their credits. Their old house once belonged to Eighties model Kim Alexis, while their newer home, which boasts a vast emerald lawn fit for polo, was the setting for several scenes from “Splendor in the Grass.”

“The famous scene at the end of the movie where Natalie Wood comes back to see Warren Beatty in the little farmhouse — those were buildings in the back of this house,” DeStefano says.

The photographer Eric Boman and artist Peter Schlesinger — the latter once boyfriend and muse to David Hockney — live in a house in nearby East Patchogue that was once the financier Bernard Baruch’s summer abode.

“They have one of my favorite homes. Impeccable taste, but a bit eccentric,” says DeStefano.

Art has a major presence in Bellport, with dealers abounding, like Westwater of Sperone Westwater, Danziger and Howard Read of Cheim & Read. Westwater hosts collectors for overnight stays and gives them tours of artist Malcom Morley’s studio in a deconsecrated church in Brookhaven.

Artists Hugo Guinness and Elliott Puckette bought their house in Brookhaven in 2008 from cosmetics maven Laura Mercier. Puckette uses a shed in the backyard as her painting studio.

“We have a little boat, we swim in the ocean and we go for walks,” sums up Guinness, who has a milder mien than his cousin, Daphne.

Much of Bellport life revolves around the bay, with many residents owning boats. There’s also a residents-only ferry that brings beachgoers to a very private and sparsely populated stretch of sand on the Fire Island National Seashore.

“Where can you go one hour from New York and be completely alone on a beach?” asks Mirzayantz, who is group president of fragrances at International Flavors & Fragrances. “It’s very close to New York but it’s a different world. Somehow it seems very remote in time. The authenticity and charm of the place were very important to us.”

Mirzayantz and Princess Alexandra of Greece spend time in Bellport year-round with their two sons. Gardening has become a favorite activity, something they knew nothing about prior to their move there last year.

“We have a lot of social engagements in New York and this is a very good counterbalance. You can completely regroup and disconnect in a very meaningful and wholesome way,” Mirzayantz says.

Lucy Danziger, editor in chief of Self magazine and a dedicated triathlete, can jump directly into the bay from her small backyard and swim to the town dock. “I pass from dock to dock. There’s Charlie’s dock, there’s Amanda’s dock,” she notes, referring to neighbors Charlie Rose and Amanda Burden.

“If you’re like me, very engaged and happy being in the red hot center of the universe all week long, you need to step away from that to relax and recharge,” says Danziger, who has been coming to Bellport since 1987. “When I spent time in the Hamptons, you feel like you have to go to whatever is going on that night. What’s zen about Bellport is that you can read a book or watch a movie and there isn’t any action that you’re missing out on.”

During his time as president of HBO Films, Colin and Elizabeth Callender split their year between the opposite cultural poles of Beverly Hills and Bellport. “There’s something about this town’s DNA that allows people to open up to each other. There’s a lack of pretense here — I think people who are drawn to the place aren’t looking for a status place for the weekend,” notes Elizabeth of the dichotomy. Nadine Johnson, whom she met in Bellport, is now godmother to her older daughter, Caroline.

Colin is now producing the upcoming NBC series “Dracula” and the Broadway play “Lucky Guy,” which was written by Nora Ephron before her death and based on the life of tabloid reporter Mike McAlary — himself a Bellport habitué before his death in 1998.

While the town has a tranquil, Arcadian quality, it also offers a definite social swirl and eddy on Saturday nights during the summer. (Fridays are usually spent at The Bellport restaurant, which Martone has dubbed “the Waverly Inn of Bellport” for all the recognizable faces that pop in.) Dinner parties are prevalent and during the summers there are any number of poolside cocktail parties. Both Calvin Klein’s Kevin Carrigan and Stacy Fischer, a photographer’s agent, gleefully accuse each other of being the party house in town.

“There are always fun people to hang out with. You don’t feel socially isolated here. It’s a round-robin of dinners at home,” says Foxman. “Alexandra Lebenthal is a hostess, for sure. Angela Westwater hosts some beautiful dinners. Michel and Arthur have really fun cocktail parties. John and Francisco have a lot of people over around their piano-shaped pool. And Bruce [Pask] is known for a chili and beer thing around his birthday in April. Everyone takes their turn.”

Lebenthal and her husband, Jay Diamond, plan to host an end-of-summer fete on Aug. 25 to break in their new waterfront home they finished building in the spring.

“In the city, I go to a ton of social events with photographers. On the weekends, I don’t want to have to wear makeup. There’s no scene here and a real friendliness about the place,” observes Lebenthal of the inclusive nature of Bellport socializing. “I always say I feel like I’ve walked into Brigadoon.”


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