It may be hard to believe now, but there was a time in the 1970s when residents of the Hamptons felt that the area could use some publicity. Enter Dan Rattiner, founder of Dan’s Papers, a weekly lifestyle publication covering the Hamptons with a whimsical voice that isn’t afraid to have a little fun. Miffed that the Hamptons, the setting of the novel Jaws, had been replaced in the movie by Martha’s Vineyard, Dan put an attention-grabbing hoax on the front page of one of his weekly papers, the East Hampton Summer Sun. He ran an open letter from the Chief of Police, urging donations to a “raw meat drive” that would help satisfy a shark that was currently eating “one, or at the most two,” swimmers a day. The hoax is one of several that Dan has run over the years, as his publications have remained the best-circulated in the area.
Today, a different kind of feeding frenzy is going on in the Hamptons. While it has served as a retreat for high society since the late 19th Century, its popularity has surged markedly in recent years. The New York Times recently described “a new hoard of speculators (moguls, nightclub impresarios, and their yearly multiplying conspicuous consumers)” descending on the area, along with celebrities who are ferried back and forth from New York City in helicopters.
The Hamptons have never been more popular (or less in need of publicity) than they are today. How that popularity will affect the quaint villages remains to be seen; we can be sure, however, that Dan’s Papers will cover the changes to come with a sense of humor.
The Way I See It
- The Hampton’s “brand” is one of exclusivity, privilege, and natural beauty. Brands are not static, however, and the reputation of the Hamptons is being affected by reports, such as the recent New York Times article, which talks about a new wave of “McMansions and unrecognizable party zones” on the island.
- Even in the digital age, the power of the pen remains strong. That is particularly true for publications that write with a distinct voice and cover close-knit communities. Dan’s Papers have both of those qualities; it’s no surprise, then, that they have remained vital publications.
- The Hamptons is a microcosm of the advertising, media, and marketing communities, as it is the place where the people in this industry come from New York City and around the country. The growing popularity of the Hamptons has attracted advertising, media, and marketing professionals from all around the country and New York City in particular, making it a microcosm for these industries.
The way the Industry Sees It
I sat down with Dan Rattiner, founder of Dan’s Papers, to get his take on the Hamptons in 2015.
How have the Hamptons changed the most from the 1960s to today?
In 1960 it was a rural farming and fishing community where everyone knew everybody and a few nationally known artists and writers holed up in the woods for privacy. A dog could sleep on the white line in the center of the Montauk Highway. All the stores closed on Sunday because everyone went to church. It was the Lord’s Day. All the roads were narrow lanes, the farms were beautiful and off in the distance was the ocean or the bay. Today, it has been transformed to an enclave for the rich and famous on vacation. Homes are mostly very grand and are often walled off by hedgerows and gates. Activities are highly structured and planned ahead, there is much traffic and we have some of the best restaurants in the world. It is a much more urban experience. It is a dramatic change from then to now. A Rip Van Winkle, waking up wouldn’t even know the place.
The summer population of the Hamptons reportedly grew 30 percent between 2000 and 2010. Do you view that as a positive or a negative, and why?
It’s negative in the sense that it makes the place more crowded than before. It’s also a delicate business because the transformation needs increased infrastructure to remain as wonderful as it is. It can be hard to get your head around how to go about that and how to get it done in the needed time frames. Since America allows people to go anywhere and everywhere it is a fact of life that this change is taking place. Preserving open space, history, culture and quality of life is the goal. But you’ve got locals who want to keep everything the way it is and some selfish people, rich and otherwise, who have only a very narrow perspective – what’s best for them is all that matters, no matter the consequences to others.
When you think Hamptons, do you think Wall Street or Madison Avenue, or both?
I also think of Hollywood, the Garment Industry, Broadway, Farmland, Commercial Fishing and the Arts.
What do readers want when they pick up Dan’s Papers? What are your most popular articles?
Articles about the rich and famous abound in Dan’s Papers and are among the favorites. We also write personal accounts and opinions and quite often we just make stuff up, usually to make a point one way or another, or just to offer an entertainment. Other popular articles are about celebrating the accomplishments of those who deserve to have such accomplishments celebrated.
What is the role of the print media today and where do you see it going?
I don’t know the answer to that question. We have a very robust website at danspapers.com that is rapidly growing and which is both in keeping with the thrust of the print product and in expanding how it is offered. I do think the digital age brings more interest in the printed word, both digitally and in print. It may also bring a more informed citizenry. I also like to think our readers simply enjoy the gift of Dan’s Papers and its artwork on the cover and the interesting stuff inside. In addition to our focus on media, we have also developed a large and expanding event business.
What’s the most interesting object in your office?
I’ve several pieces of the Berlin Wall I picked up off the ground on the west side of the while it was being hammered down back in the late 1980s. They are on my desk both in Southampton and Manhattan. They have red spray paint on them, an informed graffiti courtesy of the local Berlin citizenry. It always makes me think of how fascinating the world is and how it can change, sometimes even overnight, with the people making the difference.