On Saturday afternoon, in a dusty softball field behind the East Hampton Waldbaum's, media mogul Mort Zuckerman was stretching his calves. For a captain of industry, his legs were remarkably rickety. On his right calf, a messy bandage alluded to some frailty. But this was Zuckerman's day. For 25 years he'd played in the East Hampton Artist and Writers Annual Softball Game; he is also often a sponsor. Today he and his fellow "writers" (clad in blue jerseys) were squaring off against the Hamptons Artists; that squad, in red, included noted artist Christie Brinkley. Amelia Bauer was there to catch the action.
Burt Randolph Sugar, the legendary boxing raconteur, was calling the game. He did so ineptly but with great passion. To his immediate left sat James Lipton, the sycophantic host of Bravo's Inside the Actors Studio. A gnarled misshapen demon of a man, Lipton brushed aside a child's request for an autograph with a wave of his hand. He was too busy eating hot dogs, his face distorted by the meat, his dark feral eyes gleaming misanthropically into the field of play. As the writers went up to bat, Sugar read from a roster. "Mort Zuckerman, the pitcher and owner of the Daily News...." or "Rick Leventhal, from FOX news..." When the artists went up to bat, the introductions went something like, "Jeffrey Meizlik's sculpts in bronze. Some say his work deals with issues of life and death..."
On the writers squad, Zuckerman was the star and star pitcher. His teammates gathered around him, patting him on his back after every inning, though he gave up countless runs. Ad-man and egotist Donny Deutsch, who later played second base, and the New Yorker's Ken Auletta paid homage to the master.
I timidly patted the man on his back as well, and asked him for any words of advice he might have for Jared Kushner, whose New York Observer is still trudging down that long road towards profit. "In the publishing game," Zuckerman said, "the definition of genius is lasting five minutes longer than the other guy."
We nodded because we wanted him to think we understood; also because we thought we understood. Only later, during the 6th inning, while the writers were on their way to a crushing defeat, did we realize we didn't know really know what Mort meant. While we were pondering, the very athletic Daily News-man Mike Lupica, over at second base, dove to catch a line drive, a nimbus of dirt enveloping him momentarily until out of the cloud, his glove appeared: Ball firmly in mitt.
It was too late. Perhaps if Jerry Della Femina (along with Mort, he is one of the Four Horsemen of the Hamptons) or Giuliani had showed up for the writers, things would have ended up differently. Or maybe it was that Alec Baldwin was a no-show for the artists that tipped the game in their favor. Either way, Zuckerman's looked defeated as the two teams lined up for the post-game handshakes. This time, it seemed, the other guy had lasted five minutes longer.