A Shore Thing
They’re exclusive, they’re anachronistic, and they mix a mean cocktail. The tides of fashion shift, but beach clubs remain forever anchored in tradition. Here, Town & Country dips into the archives for an ode to summers past — and yet to come.
By Hudson Morgan (reposted from TownandCountry.com)
WE’VE ALL been there. Height-of-summer hangover. Head pounding, mouth Sahara-dry, an ominous sense of how the night might have ended. There’s only one thing that can bring you back from the brink and make the world right again: a trip to the beach club. Salty cousin of the country club, answers to a name like Piping or B&T or Wianno, makes a bloody Mary. Is there any better place on earth to regroup, rehash, and — cheers, dears — retox? If there is, I haven’t found it.
Maybe it’s the ocean air, or maybe it’s the fact that, unlike landlocked clubs — which tend to encourage actual sport (golf, tennis, social climbing) — the sole purpose of the beach club is leisure: tanning, drinking, talking, swimming, tanning. For the species known as Preppius maximus, it’s also a safe habitat. I’ll never forget having lunch at a certain seaside New England club with a girlfriend as her buttoned-up mother told us about visiting Plato’s Retreat, the infamous 1970s New York City sex den. “The only thing we were allowed to wear was a tiny little towel,” she said casually as I choked on my grilled cheese and tried to focus on a buoy in the distance. Don’t picture her naked, don’t picture her naked, don’t — oops.
Of course, not every beach-clubber is so trusting with visitors. One morning at a Long Island club a few summers ago, my friends and I were piecing together the club dance the night before (did ______ really take his date to the tennis courts to try the ol’ late-night serve and volley? Ninth grade called, wants its moves back…), when the guy in question — an old chum of theirs I’ll call Fast Hands — walked up. The table fell silent, so Fast Hands asked how we liked his new sunglasses. “They’re a little R. Kelly,” I said innocently enough (and they were). He stared at me and replied without a lick of irony, “Good seeing you guys. Except for you, dude. The jury’s still out on you. Jury’s still out.”
Moral of the story: When away from your home surf, tread lightly or you may end up treading water. My own saltwater society is a tiny enclave on Martha’s Vineyard, and it never felt farther away than at that moment. Other words of caution: Make sure you get the right Rainbows/Jack Rogers from the communal pile when you leave the beach, don’t always assume the clam chowder at the grill is fresh (and don’t order three helpings on your friend’s account), and when you sneak onto the premises in the wee hours to go skinny-dipping, be sure to put your clothes out of the tide’s reach. I’ve, uh, heard.