Throwback Thursday – Creating a Scene

A Greenery Scenery group poses in front of the Montauk Manor, possibly in 1980. Included in the photo are Joe Dunn, Phyllis Clemenz, Balcomb Greene, Diane Dinkle, Edward Albee, Bob Sylvester, Mary Pospisil, Perry Duryea, and Mo Kiley. Photograph by Ray Smith | Montauk Library Archives. The Montauk Village Association plans another Greenery Scenery event, called Deep Sea Disco, at the Safe Harbor Montauk Yacht Club on Thursday, August 24.

The Montauk Village Association’s Greenery Scenery gala was THE happening of the summer from the 1970s until the ‘90s. At its peak the party attracted about 1,000 guests drinking cocktails built by Dick Cavett, Edward Albee, Maureen Stapleton, Jimmy Dean, Elia Kazan, Lauren Bacall, Craig Claiborne, Balcomb Greene, and other celebrities.

Greenery Scenery attendees, possibly in 1970. From left in the back row are Edward Albee, Marty Bergman, Sue Crowley, Perry Duryea Jr., Margaret Lachman, Gerry Philbin, Betty Duryea; middle row: Maureen Stapleton, Dr. James Fontana, Betty Bresman; kneeling in front: Carl Stokes, Richard Bar, Murph (Marilyn) Wilson, and Sheldon Harnick, Photograph by Ray Smith | Montauk Library Archives

Celebrity bartenders Edward Albee (Above) (possibly between 1970 and 1980) and Jimmy Dean (possibly in 1980). Photographs by Ray Smith | Montauk Library Archives
1982 advertisement, most likely by Frank Borth. From the Montauk Village Association Materials, gift of Barbara Borth. | Montauk Library Archives

The venue changed over the years – from the Carl Fisher House to the Montauk Manor to the Downs, the Lake Club, the Yacht Club, and other elegant locations. But no matter where the event was staged, the level of planning could at times be stratospheric.

MVA historical materials in the Montauk Library Archives include a literal Plan A for fair weather and a Plan B for rain, each with three pages of hand-drawn maps of the Montauk Downs. Another document is a military-style list of teams, captains, and work assignments. There is also an all-day schedule indicating which volunteers will serve at which stations – the clam tent, the raffle table, the celebrity tent, one of many bars, or the champagne table. Also: a post-mortem on how well the champagne table performed, including how many boxes of Carr’s water crackers, how many wheels of brie, and how many jars of caviar were consumed:

“As usual the table looked elegant and inviting. John D’Agostino was hired to open the Champagne bottles, and did a wonderful job. Christa and Laura Willenborg prepared the Caviar Torte and Caviar on crushed ice. The guests seemed to enjoy the Torte and several requested the recipe. The one Torte went quickly, next year we really should have two.”

Four images above From the Montauk Village Association Materials, gift of Barbara Borth. | Montauk Library Archives

So many details! Floral arrangements, invitations, thank-you notes, event and raffle tickets, flyers and advertising, valet badges, valet dress code, the food service and insurance contract, parking signs, tables to borrow, publicity, a pre-party, a supply inventory (2,000 5 oz. plastic glasses for champagne and wine, for example). And then there were letters to the Montauk Fire Department requesting the use of a truck for lighting, to the East Hampton Town Police Department for coverage “to facilitate the arrival of celebrities and to control traffic,” and to Volk’s disposal service for a dumpster.

It’s encouraging to see how many hands made work light at the time, even if many volunteers have since passed. Founded in 1961, the Montauk Village Association continues to work to beautify Montauk and award scholarships – and will work to support that mission with yet another Greenery Scenery party on Thursday, August 24.


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