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...on who lives in the Hamptons

392k WAV audio file
2.1MB QuickTime movie

...on the building of mansions in The Hamptons

588k WAV audio file
3.1Mb QuickTime movie

The good life

Steven Gaines gives insider's guide to The Hamptons

(CNN) -- The Hamptons have long been the chosen weekend getaway for the rich and powerful. Just this past weekend, President and Mrs. Clinton stayed there.

Perhaps not coincidentally, author Steven Gaines' latest book, "Philistines at the Hedgerow -- Passion and Property in the Hamptons" has been on the New York Times non-fiction best seller list for four weeks now. The book is billed as an inside guide to the Hamptons.

Gaines spoke about the book with Miles O'Brien on CNN Sunday Morning.

CNN ANCHOR MILES O'BRIEN: The Hamptons are about 100 miles from New York City. You know what they say in real estate -- "location, location, location."

Is that why the Hamptons is such a popular place?

STEVEN GAINES: Well, a hundred miles is striking distance from New York City, and yet it was remote enough.

O'BRIEN: On a Friday afternoon at rush hour, it doesn't seem like striking distance, I'll bet.

GAINES: Well you know what we say in the Hamptons: If you have to come out on a Friday afternoon or go back on a Sunday night, you're not rich enough to have a house there. So, you have to be able to come and go when you feel like it in the Hamptons.

O'BRIEN: Or in a chopper.

GAINES: Or in a chopper or sea plane, or like the president, in Air Force One.

O'BRIEN: I am curious -- the transition of this place, for years and years, it was kind of an old money place, at least that was my perception of it, and now we've got Steven Spielberg there and Alec Baldwin and Kim Bassinger.

When did it become sort of a Hollywood celebrity place?

GAINES: It didn't really become a Hollywood celebrity place. It's interesting that that's the general perception, but that's really not what it is.

There was always a great media crowd there. There were always writers, there were always artists, people in entertainment and the arts. Except for Steven Spielberg, most of the people that we hear about being out there are really from the Northeast, people like Billy Joel and Paul Simon, Kathleen Turner. Alec Baldwin's a Long Island boy, and so is Billy Joel.

What it is: there's a huge concentration of media out there. Celebrities, media CEO's, captains of industry and the whole Hamptons is driven by Wall Street, the financial markets, and since things are going so well in the country right now ... the Hamptons is kind of exploding.

O'BRIEN: All right, let's do a little Robin Leach tour here for a moment. Take me to one of the priciest streets in the Hamptons and who would I find living there and how much would the houses be?

GAINES: Well there are many, many pricey streets in the Hamptons. There's South Hampton, Bridge Hampton and East Hampton, the three major towns. East Hampton has the largest selection of celebrities.

Martha Stewart has two houses in East Hampton. She has an old fashioned Victorian house and a very new modern house.

There's a street called Further Lane, we call the people who live there the Further Lane gang. There's Jan Wenner, who owns "Rolling Stone" magazine, Billy Joel, as I mentioned before. Bruce Wasserstein who gave a dinner party for the president where it was $25,000 a couple to attend.

There's celebrities everywhere you look. You go into the supermarket, and you can run into JFK Junior.

O'BRIEN: And housing prices -- give us an idea. How much would it be for Martha Stewart's place?

GAINES: Well, it's going to be a bit of a shock. The starter house in the Hamptons is about $800,000 (or) $1 million. An average house now is about $2-3 million. They go way up, to $15 or $20 million.

One of the largest houses in the world is being built there now. It's a compound that will have a 100,000 square-feet and a 100-car garage.

People in the Hamptons have what I call ...

O'BRIEN: Excuse me, 100-car garage?

GAINES: I've no idea what this guy needs a 100 cars...

O'BRIEN: That's a parking lot, Steven. That's not a garage.

GAINES: I agree. Actually, we're very angry about this in the Hamptons. They're trying to stop this house from being built. We think that it's too oversized and one of the problems about the Hamptons, and one thing that the book talks about, because the book is really an historical perspective of the Hamptons, it goes right back to the Indians, and we're showing what brought everybody out there in the first place, the gorgeousness of it -- the beaches, the fields are all being ruined by these houses.

O'BRIEN: The subtitle is, "Passion And Property In The Hamptons". Is it passion for property, really? Is that what this is all about? Or passion for money?

GAINES: No, there's some passion among people in the book, too. There are several really terrific love stories in the book, as well.

O'BRIEN: All right. Tell us what you like to read.

GAINES: What I like to read personally?

Well, I love history books; that's what I've done mostly for the past couple of years, while I was writing the book. And otherwise just novels for relaxation.

It's interesting when you're a non-fiction writer like I am, most of the time you're reading what you have to write about.

O'BRIEN: And what are working on right now?

GAINES: It's a secret -- I'm not going to say yet.

O'BRIEN: All right. Well, with that tantalizing little tidbit, Steven Gaines, thank you so much for being with us on CNN Sunday Morning.

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