Hamptons Happenings…The Hamptons 9
On Sunday, July 21st, 2013 while Kurt and I were recovering from the previous day’s events including a birthday party for Kurt in which his friends roasted him for being as old as dirt; the last thing we wanted to do was to get involved in any project. We were looking forward to a day of doing nothing, absolutely NOTHING.
Two guests remained, having stayed the night and we were enjoying some coffee and our daughters continuing to pillage Kurt with ‘old man’ jokes, when our friend received a call at about 11:00am, just when Stephanopoulos was going off. We were all a little alarmed when we overheard the concern in her voice. We heard her shout”…Oh, no!!! They did what????” She had gotten all our attention as we listened in. Our friend appeared shaken as she entered the living room. She could barely contain her emotions as she was visibly angry and looked like she wanted to scream.
Our friend had just gotten a call from her daughter who told her that when celebrating a friend’s birthday with 8 other friends the previous Saturday night July 20th, they had been rebuffed by the security detail outside of the Georgica Restaurant and Lounge in Wainscott, Ny, being told that they couldn’t go inside. Now having frequented a number of clubs myself, I knew that sometimes, without a contact, reservation or being born into royalty you will have a hard time getting into some of these venues in the Hamptons. That’s just how it is. But this is where this thing swings completely out of control. The 9 girls were allegedly told by the security that the reason they couldn’t get in was “a colored thing”.’ SAY WHAT???? The girls are African American.
According to the girls, the security intimated that if it was up to him, he would have let them in but he was following orders. He was saying this in hushed tones as a manager (a white man) was looking on from a short distance, apparently to insure that the message had been delivered. The girls were inconsolable. Whipped, tarred, feathered, defeated and turned away. Because of their youth and inexperience with dealing with this type of behavior they choose, perhaps the best option and walked away. They did question the statement of the bouncer to identify that he had indeed said what he said. At first he tried to deny it but when the group insisted that he had indeed uttered that ‘…it’s a colored thing’ remark; he relented and agreed that he had said it. This did not change the dynamic, if anything it only infuriated the girls more. They choose the best course in this matter. Their intelligence and good sense told them to walk away without creating a scene. This was a good idea given how sometimes things spiral out of control and law enforcement is tasked with having to make judgments that may be disproportionate to the circumstance. Walking away was not easy for them.
When the girls left the club they were crest fallen, confused and disillusioned. The veneer of the Hamptons had been stripped away and the bitter pill they were being forced to swallow had only just begun to impact them. Their evening of friendship, sisterhood and plain old fun was ruined, no… destroyed.
Kurt and I had an opportunity to speak with the owner of Georgica, Antonio Fuccio, on Monday night, July 22, 2013 who had just drove in from Brooklyn and was gracious enough to make himself available to speak to us. He wanted to view the video we had taken of the young women speaking of their experience on Saturday night. After viewing this 30 minute video, he seemed upset when one of the young ladies indicated that the bouncer said” I would let you in if it were up to me but it’s a color thing”.
Mr. Fuccio’s response at first was defensive and he began to say that this was a gross miscommunication and his establishment has never been accused of racial discrimination. He indicated that he has been a reputable business in the community for several years and is the only nightclub that has never had an issue with over-crowding. I wanted Mr. Fuccio to have an opportunity respond to these allegations.
He says they have never had a violation, but admitted that they are probably the only place that has a complicated policy of getting into the club. He indicates that it is the policy of the club that you make a reservation on Friday and Saturday nights. The club is small and the maximum number of people that can be in the club is 299, so to maximize on the space is to only allow reservations. He indicates that it is a one bottle minimum, but if it is really busy then it could be a cost to the table. Mr. Fuccio told his bouncer while we there that if someone had explained to the ladies that it was a $300 minimum bar requirement to enter he is sure these ladies would not have blinked an eye and would have paid it. The bouncer stated the ladies were told this and they had a problem with the cost. He stated the ladies questioned “why do we have to pay this amount if we were here already this evening”? I interjected and said, according to their statement they were never told about this policy.
After spending over an hour with Mr. Fuccio he seemed genuinely upset and surprised, and asked if he could have a copy of the video, he wants to use this as the training video for what should NEVER happen. He was extremely upset with his staff and the possible mistaken impression people could have of the policies and ethics of his establishment. Mr. Fuccio offered to issue a letter of apology to the ladies and extend an invitation to invite the ladies back, although he doubted they would accept.
He apologized for the staff not handling it correctly. He said he was embarrassed and this is not how he runs his business. Although this was a difficult conversation, he was patient and very open in discussing this very difficult situation. I do however think his staff needs additional training and I do believe that whoever was in charge, prejudged these young women and assumed they were not going to be spending sufficient money.
The hostess had a responsibility to tell the girls of the table requirement, yet this was not done but I am told it was not her job to tell them. Well, whose job was it? I feel the restaurant should be more forthcoming with their late night entry policy, with regards to reservations on Friday and Saturday nights, because the website does not indicate this information.
It is my hope that Georgica and other places in the Hamptons learn from this. It is the niteclub’s perogative to allow in who they want. They have the right to maintain their exclusivity, the other stuff has no place. The question is however; why were these young women the only people left standing outside?
Some background information is in order. These young women of color are all college graduates from the finest schools in the land. From Hillary Clinton’s alma mater Wellesley College, as well as UPenn, Howard University, Boston College and other elite schools. These Black women hold positions as diverse as research analysts at a renowned east coast research hospital to a marketing strategist in a fashion house. These women are no country bumpkins or riff raff. These young Black women are educationally prepared and contributing members of our society. You get my drift. These ladies did everything right. They were going out on the town in the Hamptons and realizing they could be at risk, engaged a limousine to take them to every venue they wanted to go to. They were and are smart. You’ll forgive me for calling them girls because they remind me of my daughters. THEY ARE MY DAUGHTERS!!!! That’s why this is personal.
My oldest daughter could have just as easily been one of this crew. Ready to hang out in the Hamptons. Our friend has a home in the Hamptons, so her daughter has been raised in the Hamptons, knows this place. They choose this club because they knew the party was happening there, only just not for them. We only hope it was not because of the gift of more melanin in their skin. When our friend related this incident, we immediately knew that these young women had to be given the opportunity to tell their story. We decided to videotape their words. Only they would be able to chronicle this calamity, what they viewed as racism. Yeah, I said it. That’s what it is folks. Now I’m not that delusional to think that some of you will say and swear that this is not the case and you are entitled to your fantasy. But the reality that these young women were exposed to, sometimes lurks just around the bend. I am certain that the bouncer spoke out of turn but I am just as certain that in many clubs, perhaps not this one, the implicit but unspoken directive is to limit access to ‘too many’ minority faces in these establishments. It is OK to have the ‘hired help’ strategically placed to give a sense of inclusion but the true question is, who do you allow through the front door?
These beautiful, intelligent young women, who, if you closed your eyes and wished upon a star, you would want your daughter to grow up to be just like them, regardless if you were white, black, yellow, red or brown. Having spoken to them, it only added to my own hurt and frustration in my inability to make it better. It made me cry. I just couldn’t help myself.
Well, we taped them and they laid bare about all the hurt and pain they have suffered as a result of this nonsense. The girls have asked us to wait before releasing the video. They are worried, and perhaps with good reason, as to the known and unknown impacts that the notoriety of this video may cause to current and future employment opportunities. In this day of social media, it is an unpleasant byproduct of the medium. Corporate America may see these vital young women as trouble, based on their encounter with what perceived as racism and further violate them with censorship and employment opportunities unrealized.
And that would be a shame. Hamptons Mouthpiece, “we do the talking for you”
special Thank You to my hubby Kurt H. Leggard who co-wrote this article with me.