A cello virtuoso of many projects recently visited the Hamptons to play a high-profile event. This weekend, non-disclosure agreements were signed. Google “wedding cancelled” “Hamptons” and “hip hop” and you’ll get quite a few results about the same event. There is absolutely no connection between the above sentences and the passage below.
This weekend I was asked to play at a certain wedding (or should I say, non-wedding) that’s been getting a lot of attention recently in the news media. This wedding, for a certain multi-platinum music artist, was to take place at the estate of a certain major record label executive at on of his mansions in the Hamptons.
Rising at a painful 5:30 am, I made my way to the Upper West Side of Manhattan to meet up with our ensemble leader. He had rented a car and wanted to beat morning LIE traffic, arriving at the wedding with time to set up, rehearse and get acclimated.
The ride itself was smooth. I slept most of the way and when we got to the house we could see the white wedding tents from off in the distance. As we pulled into the driveway, we drove by a pony stable and a well-tended squash farm. As we arrived at the main gate, security asked us to hand over our cell phones, along with our IDs. Our violist raised a good point: what if someone close to us needed to reach us in an emergency? At this wedding, we were told, that had to be made a non-issue. Mangy-looking German shepherds were standing ready in their cages in case anybody tried to pull a stunt.
Cell phone-less and ID-less, we slipped onto the grounds, through a maze of tent passageways, past a makeshift kitchen where cooks were stirring batter and tending fires, through the dining area where florists were furiously shearing plants and plucking orchids. I peeked into the dance room. This tent was empty and it’s interior was a deep red. Towards the back of the tent, perched slightly, were two turntables glimmering and alone, begging to be spun. The dance room looked at once like the prom of your parents and the prom on a spaceship.
Our area was in the “chapel” tent, where the ceremony was to take place. It had been erected over the grounds’ tennis court, almost to the Golden Ratio. The music stands were placed in a row awaiting our music. The piano, a 1934 Steinway rented from one of the top studios in midtown Manhattan, had just been tuned. The wicker chairs where the guests would sit, which alone looked impressive, were being draped with a soft beige fabric covering, seamlessly unifying the decor. Every base covered.
We got out our instruments, burned through some Handel for about twenty minutes and then quickly reached for our Poland Springs. The tent was humid and balmy. I was a little tired from waking up so early. Suddenly, in popped the famed wedding planner for the stars, mistress of todays’ ceremonies. She called us into the dining tent for a quick meeting. The flutist in our group thought she was joking when she whispered: “she’s bringing us in there to say the whole thing’s been canceled.”
The wedding planner got right to the point, and we had to vacate the premises, and strike the entire tent setup within a matter of hours. At least a million dollars worth of pageantry had to be dismantled for a wedding that wasn’t even going to take place. The orchids would be tossed, the incredible food would be fed to the German shepherds, and no one would dance in the Prom Fantasy Tent. One of the florists cried.
Meanwhile, our pianist and leader needed to contact the piano studio, as he needed to organize a quicker pick-up than anticipated. The studio, however, was being somewhat inflexible. Our leader had no choice but approach the keeper of the grounds, the major-label executive, and ask him to be patient with the piano. Our leader entered the house, probably one of the only people allowed of our hundred-person wedding army permitted to do so. We waited from a distance, trying to get a peak inside. And lo, there was the executive, having lunch. Our leader, who was able to get in talking distance, later described him to us as a “Gatsby”-like figure. He was having one of his three servants bring him a VO Manhattan straight-up along with a celery juice. Quite a spread, he said, commenting on the controlled chaos taking place on his property.
Our leader explained the situation and the executive nodded. That was all. Everything was fine. And so we, feeling a little let down, though relieved because our leader had been smart to ask for payment in advance, headed for the beach. Some of us stripped down to our tux pants, others down to their bras, and we all just waded into the ocean and tried to relax…