By Dan Rattiner | danspapers.com
Last week, about ten thousand people in the movie business arrived in the Hamptons to attend the 13th annual Hamptons International Film Festival. For four days, our community would be inundated with producers, directors, distributors, cameramen, actors, sound people, stuntmen, bodyguards, chauffeurs and special effects people. They would premiere or put on display for the public a total of 170 new films. There would be parties, awards, speeches and, off in corners, deals made involving tens of millions of dollars. Would our community survive?
Of course it would. And we had tickets. Although to what movies, we hadn't decided. The tickets could be used for anything. The choices seemed overwhelming.
"How about KARDIA?" I ask.
"What does it say?"
I'm reading from the festival catalogue. "Hope discovers that the experimental heart operation she underwent as a child has mysteriously linked her life with another."
"How about THE CAVE OF THE YELLOW DOG? Exquisitely filmed on the Mongolian steppes, this simple saga of a nomadic herding family elevates the intricate rituals of their daily life into compelling cinema. It's a German produced film with English subtitles."
"Not sure. Keep reading."
"Oscar-nominated director Byambasuren Davaa (THE STORY OF THE WEEPING CAMEL) artfully incorporates the real day-to-day existence of the Tatchuluuns - an actual Mongolian family, not actors - into the warm-hearted story of Nansal, the young daughter who finds a puppy sheltered in a cave."
Eventually, we decide to go to LIZA WITH A "Z," which Liza Minelli will attend and talk about afterwards, to MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS starring Judy Densch and Bob Hoskins, and if we have time, THE WEATHER MAN starring Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine and Hope Davis.
"And what do you say we hire some bodyguards?" I ask.
"We need bodyguards. You need bodyguards. You see all these powerful people at the film festival every year with bodyguards. I want our friends to see us with bodyguards. And I could write about what it was like to have bodyguards for the newspaper. How much could it cost?"
"You're out of your mind."
Some friends recommended the Gold Shield Group of Garden City, Long Island, a firm that protects visiting dignitaries at the United Nations. I called them and ordered two men in suits with earpieces. Also a black Range Rover. We agreed they would pick us up at our house in East Hampton at 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon and take us off for the rest of the day and until midnight to events and films. We would go to Guild Hall in East Hampton at 4 p.m. and hear Kevin Bacon and his wife Kyra Sedgwick talk about the craft of acting. At 6 we would go see MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS at the East Hampton Cinema. At 8, we would go to the film festival gala at 21 Water Street. And around 9, we'd have a late dinner at 11 Cappuccino in Sag Harbor. The bodyguards would accompany us everywhere.
At ten minutes to 3 on Saturday afternoon, I was in our living room trying to send an e-mail to a friend.
"They'll be here in ten minutes," she said.
"This isn't going through," I said. "I think the Internet is down."
"Send it later."
I called who I was e-mailing. "I can't get this through," I said. "And our bodyguards are coming at three."
That was it. Just okay. No questions. No nothing.
At three, the dogs started barking madly. "Our bodyguards are here," she said, putting on her jacket.
Out the window, through a drizzle that was now commencing, there they were, in their big shiny, black Range Rover in our driveway.
YOUR E-MAIL JUST ARRIVED. AOL IS WORKING AGAIN came an Instant Message.
"You're going to wear that sweatshirt?" she said.
She looked stunning.
"Yeah," I said. I also thought – tell the bodyguards to make sure nobody approaches the house for awhile – but I didn't say that. Instead, I put a jacket over my sweatshirt, picked up a second umbrella and we headed out.
Our two bodyguards were Ron Lawson, a former Navy Seal and Mark Slovensky, a retired New York City police officer. Both were over six feet tall, about forty, had on black suits and ties, black shoes, ear pieces with curling wires and with lapel button shields indicating the name of their firm. They were the real thing.
"Where to?" Ron asked as we headed down the road. He was at the wheel. Mark sat next to him in the front seat with us in the back.
"We go into town," I said. "But first, we should stop at Damark's Deli. I want to get a cup of coffee. And the Times. We get it delivered. But this morning's paper is soaked."
How would this work? This would be my first experience.
We parked facing the building and I got out the back door and Mark got out the front door. What was the etiquette? He made a motion with his hand toward the deli. I should go, he would follow. And he did.
The little store is just one small room with counters and shelves all around and a woman at the cash register. I went over to where you get the coffee and made myself some. Mark stood at the door, inside, with his hands folded, and he surveyed the scene, apparently looking for anything amiss. There was the woman at the checkout. A guy in fishermen's clothes near the newspapers with an earpiece of his own. But it was a telephone.
"Just tell him to drop it off," he was saying to his earpiece. He didn't even notice us. But the girl at the register was wide eyed. I know her. I went over and paid. Then I motioned with my thumb.
"He's guarding me," I said.
"We're coming out," Mark said into the lapel of his suit.
The Range Rover was to the left just outside the door of the deli, facing it. Ron had come out from behind the wheel and was standing by the driver's door in the rain. And then, as I walked around the car, he saved my life.
"Watch out," he shouted.
I looked up just in time to get out of the way of another car pulling up alongside the Range Rover. The driver hadn't seen me walk around the car. Ron's shout saved me.
Back in the car, I thanked him. Now I saw that Ron was soaking wet. He had been standing in the rain, outside the car, the whole time Mark and I had been inside.
As we drove off, I offered him one of our two umbrellas.
"Thanks," he said. "But I need to have both hands free. Don't worry. We're used to it."
At Guild Hall, there was quite a crowd of people out of the rain in the lobby. But nobody was being allowed in to their seats just yet. We waited there in the lobby, the security directly behind me, for a few minutes. And then, the Chairman of the Board of Guild Hall, Mickey Straus, came over and led the four of us around to a side entrance. It got us away from the crush of the crowd.
We found our seats. My girlfriend and I sat in two together in one row. Mark sat directly behind me and Ron stood out in a back corner of the theatre scanning the room. Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick came out on stage in jeans and sweaters and sat in chairs and talked amiably to an interviewer. Kevin is directing Kyra in a movie being shown at the festival called LOVERBOY.
At one point, I got up to use the Men's Room. Behind me Mark got up and followed me to the Men's Room. On our way, we passed three other bodyguards at the back of the theatre. We weren't the only ones being guarded. Would Mark wait outside? He would not. I went in and he went in. I went to one urinal, he went to another. We acted as if we did not know one another, which is generally how men act in Men's Rooms, and then we went back to our seats. Hmmmm...
Kevin Bacon, who is known for his roles as troubled or bad guys, said he would like someday to do comedy. It could happen.
We had about forty minutes to kill after the event at Guild Hall and before the movie at the East Hampton Cinema. It was 5 p.m. My girlfriend said we should go home to feed the dogs as we would be out late, and I said that was a good idea. Along the way, we passed Libert's Barber Shop next to Hampton Bagels on North Main Street. As we did, I could peer in the window and see there was nobody in there except a barber doing nothing. I'd been trying to find the time to get a haircut for weeks. And I hate waiting in lines.
"Drop me off here. I can go right in. Then pick me up in half an hour."
So that's what we did. Only, once again, dropping me off meant me and my bodyguard. I went into the barber shop and security came in behind me and sat down.
Sahd sat me in a barber's chair and looked at Mark with his suit and earpiece. Then he asked me if I wanted it left long or cut short.
I knew this would be an amateur move, but I decided to introduce my barber to my bodyguard anyway. They grunted and nodded politely.
"Just in case you think he's waiting to get a haircut," I said.
Halfway through the haircut, I asked Sahd if he had anybody else ever come in with a bodyguard.
"I have one guy," he said. "He has Mr. Muscles with him wherever he goes."
On our way back into town, we still had time on our hands, so my girlfriend and I decided to go for a little walk through town in the rain before the movie. We asked that they let us off in front of Devlin McNiff on the comer in the center of town. And so we got out and Mark got out and he followed us on our walk. We went up Newtown Lane under our wet umbrellas, passing some of the nice stores along the way. Mark followed, the rain pouring down on him. He ignored it. He was looking for anything unusual. There wasn't anything.
"Do you think he's packing heat?" I asked her.
"I'm sure he is."
"It never enters my mind that anybody I know is carrying a gun around."
"Oh look, a sale," she said.
We had stopped in front of Anne Crabtree, a women's shop. We went inside, leaving our wet umbrellas by the door. There were a bunch of women looking at clothes. And we walked toward the back where something had attracted her attention. We were by some dressing rooms.
It occurred to me that there were probably mirrors in the dressing rooms, and I wanted to see my haircut. I went in one.
"What are you doing?"
"Looking for a mirror."
"That's a lady's dressing room."
"There's no sign on it," I said, but it was a lame argument. There was nothing but ladies clothes and ladies in this store.
"What if I was a cross-dresser?" I said.
"Oh, come on."
"Cross-dressers have to try things on."
"You're getting bored," she said. "Let's go."
There were huge numbers of people in front of the movie theatre at this point, all of them under a sea of umbrellas, standing in various lines. Again, security followed. People we knew asked about it. They were the only two people standing out in the rain.
"What do you need to be protected from?" Peter Rotholtz asked.
"Bang, bang you're dead," somebody else said gleefully. Which raised an eyebrow from Mark.
"You better watch out," I said.
It was Mickey Straus from Guild Hall again. And now the people handling the crowds came and rounded up the four of us and took us inside ahead of everybody else again.
Inside, we sat one row in front of Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson and waited for the movie to begin. There was a delay. So people began talking with one another. We know Eli and Anne. As we talked to them, a tall man came sidling down their row and stepped on Eli's umbrella on the floor, which snapped open with a thump. The man was all apologetic, but the truth was the umbrella was wedged in down there. Something had to be done. So he wrestled it out and went out to the street with it. He would fix it. In a few minutes he returned, but without the umbrella.
"The rain will have stopped by the time you get back out there," he said, then sidled past to an empty seat.
Mark sat a row behind me and off to one side. Ron was at the back of the theatre, on the lookout for assassins again. We were safe from umbrella smashers anyway. But we also felt sorry for Eli. My girlfriend offered him one of our two. He declined, but thanked us for offering it.
The film we saw, MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS, involved a theatre in wartime London where Mrs. Henderson, a wealthy English aristocrat, buys a theatre and winds up putting on nude reviews for the GIs getting ready for the invasion. It was actually very wonderful.
The exit to the East Hampton movie theatre is a few feet down from the entrance, and as Mark and I and my girlfriend left, we walked through a phalanx of photographers looking for targets of opportunity. We walked past them, their shutters clicking and their light bulbs flashing, and we climbed into the back of our black Range Rover, Mark holding the door for us. And we started off. As we did, I heard somebody on the curb tell someone else who I was. Then we were gone.
At the film festival gala on Water Street in Sag Harbor, we spent a considerable time walking through the crowds, having drinks and shaking hands. By this time, we were quite used to the fact that we were being followed by our security people. My thinking at this point was to just ignore them. They'd keep an eye on us. If we went from one room to another room, they'd go from that room to the other room. I didn't have to keep looking for them to make sure they were keeping up. I mean, that was ridiculous.
With that out of the way, we went to dinner at 11 Cappuccino on Madison Street, the classic Italian restaurant in that town, and then headed home. On the way I had a few questions.
"Have you ever been shot at?" I asked.
Ron said he had not. Mark said that in the South Bronx ten years ago, he had been, twice, to no effect.
"And you carry guns?"
"Always," Ron said.
"Even in the shower?" my girlfriend asked.
"I keep it on a washcloth on the sink," he said.
"You're kidding," she said.
"Yes, I am," he said, smiling.
The two men are partners in the firm that I had called. They work with about twenty other men. They've guarded Presidents, they've handled security for large corporations, they've handled security for several major metropolitan events, including the United nations General Assembly meeting where they guarded the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Upcoming, they will be in charge of security for the Heisman Trophy Awards.
"Ever have any incidents?" I asked.
"No," Mark said. "Our job is to prevent incidents. And we do. If something comes up, we just escort out who is causing it. And that's the end of it. One of the more interesting jobs we do is security for board meetings of big corporations. Among the many things we do is, before the meeting, look for listening devices. Sometimes we find them. It is of considerable value to both competitors and Wall Street people to find out what a company is doing at a board meeting."
Both men are family men, with wives and children. Mark, as I said earlier, is a retired police officer who completed 22 years on the force. Ron served in the Navy in Vietnam.
They took us home. And we said our goodbyes, came in and went to bed.
Are they still out there?