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Jun 28, 2011 5:29 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

The Elusive, Exclusive Blue Book Of The Hamptons

Jun 28, 2011 7:06 PM

Shhhh! This year’s “Blue Book of the Hamptons” has hit the shelves. Not necessarily shelves accessible to the public, that is, but shelves protected by people behind counters, like librarians and cashiers.

“We just picked it up from Southampton today,” Chris Avena said on June 17 from the East Hampton branch of BookHampton, which also has a third store in Sag Harbor. “The new edition just came out. Eighty dollars. It’s still as popular as ever.”

The slender blue social register, now in its 89th year, is kept under wraps at the three BookHampton stores, of which Mr. Avena is the general manager. It literally comes in shrink wrap and is tucked discreetly into a plain, unmarked envelope. BookHampton stows the hardcover books behind the counter to prevent people from thumbing nosily through their pages; once the seal is broken, the Blue Book cannot be returned for a refund.

The East Hampton bookstore had about five 2011 Blue Books behind the counter on June 17; Mr. Avena said BookHampton probably sells about 100 per season.

“People are clamoring for them,” he said, awaiting their seasonal debut as eagerly as they do the arrival of the latest “Jodi’s Shortcuts.”

Evidently, many people consider $80 a fair price to pay for a compilation of the vital stats of the Hamptons’ social top tier. Among them are all the exclusive winter and summer addresses (often including corny or crusty names for spreads in the country or on the sea),

alma maters, and the names and schools of offspring, known as “juniors” within these pages.

Divided by villages from Amagansett to Westhampton Beach, along with “adjacent villages” like Shelter Island, the social register also contains its listees’ golf and yacht club memberships, telephone numbers, even an occasional cellphone number or email address.

All of which is convenient to people who share social circles and want to invite each other to parties. But Mr. Avena said people also buy the Blue Book because those who’ve been listed in years past are “curious to see if they’re still in it,” or because people who own businesses find it useful in attracting customers. “It’s the most thorough 
mailing list for a targeted audience,” he said, a tool for anyone “from landscapers to party planners.”

The book’s advertisers suggest a similar demographic: They range from dog groomers to florists to portrait painters to nonprofits to real estate brokers.

“People who are having benefits or big events” use it to find people to invite, said Jane Cochran, BookHampton’s website manager, from the Southampton store, where she’s been fielding Blue Book queries since 1995, and where each new crop is delivered by an undisclosed personage. “When we run low, we leave a message and somebody brings them by,” Ms. Cochran said. “I think they also mail them to people.”

“We’ve had customers call from all over the country for it,” she said, and “from all over the world” when The New York Times ran a story about the Blue Book in 2007. “I think it’s a very useful tool for people,” she said. “It’s smart to know the names in the Blue Book.”

There is, however, a delicate line to walk in terms of being a listee: Do you want to join Team Exclusive with all its status, or do you want to protect your privacy?

Alex Littlefield, who writes the “Beachcomber” social column for The Southampton Press, wasn’t quite sure why people would want to be listed these days. “It’s funny how much information people put in there,” said Alex, whose own gender and real name are concealed by a pseudonym.

“The people who are in are not


protective of their privacy,” Ms. Cochran agreed. “People who are listed in it, why do they choose to do that?”

“We’ve always sold the Blue Book and we’ve always been as discreet as they want us to be, all of our customers,” she said. “Do they want someone to come into my store, page through the book, and get their address?”

Traditionally, Alex Littlefield said, only the “old money families,” much like the top 400 of New York Society, got in the Blue Book. “There are people in there that you wonder, why did A get in there and not B?” Alex said. “Do you have to have a house on the right street? Do you have to have a certain amount of money?”

Recently, Alex said, a friend received an invitation to be listed the year after joining one of the major clubs of the South Fork. Alex never got to see the letter, but said, “I would love to see one.”

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I have recycled THOUSANDS of these books.

They are not worth the dioxin bleached paper they are printed on.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 30, 11 11:00 PM
Do you have to pay to be in the book? How much does it cost?
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Jul 1, 11 12:31 PM
The price of being in the book is the price of living within the arbitrary definitions of "high society". And Mr Z., I would argue that the books are worth the price of smugness and virtual reality that is associated with such a listing. Can't put a price on that, but if you could, it would probably be $80
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jul 1, 11 2:15 PM
2 members liked this comment
Yup, you do have to pay each year to be in it and you have to be invited, but not everyone in it has money or is in "high society". There used to be one person listed in it who lived in a house trailer. I always got a kick out of knowing about that.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Jul 6, 11 12:01 AM
did anyone see my shoe?
By local69 (65), southampton on Jul 6, 11 6:57 AM