Where Hollywood Stars Live Compound Lives

From Susan Parker
Friday August 01, 2003

The headline in today’s East Hampton Star screams out at me. Renee Zellweger’s $2.15 million house in East Hampton may be haunted! But further down in the article it says that Renee isn’t worried. She never stays there anyway. 

It’s day 25 of my stay at the William Flanagan Memorial Creative Person’s Center in Montauk, New York and now I have ghosts to worry about too. It’s bad enough that there is constant sand between my toes and a whirl of mosquitoes buzzing around my head, but Renee’s house being haunted? It’s just too much. I decide to get out of my “creative persons” paranoid rut by taking a site-seeing tour.  

I’m the only person on the county bus. The driver is so happy to see me that he gives me a running commentary as we barrel eastward on Highway 27 toward the old Montauk Point Lighthouse.  

“Alec Baldwin has a compound here,” he tells me. “See the house on the hill? That’s Dick Cavett’s. And the big house next to it? That’s his too. Robert De Niro lives over there and Bianca Jagger lives down that road. Roy Scheider’s place is on the other side of the highway. You know who he is don’t you? Jaws.” 

Ah, yes Jaws. Another thing to worry about. I guess I won’t be going into the ocean this week. It’s too rough anyway.  

The bus driver drops me off at the lighthouse and gives me 10 minutes to walk around. I approach the entrance but am stopped by a woman sitting in a kiosk. “Six dollars,” she says.  

“I’m only walking to the lighthouse and back,” I say. ”I have to get back on the bus in 8 minutes.”  

“Sorry,” she answers. “It’ll cost you six bucks.” 

I look at the lighthouse from the kiosk. I walk slowly to the bus and get on. “What do you think?” asks the bus driver. “Gives you a creepy feeling being all the way at the very end of Long Island, doesn’t it?”  

“Yes,” I agree.  

But the creepy feeling is not enough to keep me from going back to the lighthouse the next day. I have looked at a map and discovered that it is a five mile beach walk from the lighthouse to the village of Montauk. I talk to one of the artists at the center and he gives me some advice. “You can walk it,” he says. “But the tide has got to be just right and you’ll have to climb a lot of rocks. You’ll know you’re halfway when you reach the Andy Warhol Compound. Pack a lunch, take plenty of water and wear sturdy shoes.” 

I am intrigued. In the East Bay we don’t have “compounds.” We live in apartments, condos, cottages and houses. I imagine tall, weird buildings made out of bizarre materials and strange, wild people running around in costume on the beach. Maybe if I walk by slowly and smile they’ll invite me to their party. 

But when I finally make it to the Warhol beachfront property I am surprised, and pleasantly amused. It is not the avant garde warehousey place I have envisioned. Indeed, it is a stately white New England-looking farmhouse, with multiple wings, green shutters and a grandmotherly atmosphere. There is no one there to invite me to a party. 

I keep walking and thinking. Perhaps the William Flanagan Memorial Creative Person’s Center could be classified as a compound. There is more than one building on the property. There are people of no blood relationship living together here, five artists per month plus two caretakers. When I get back to Oakland, where I live with my disabled husband, his two unrelated attendants, a little dog, a big bird and a sometimes visiting child, I think I’ll start calling my little Victorian house on Dover Street a compound. I like the sound of it. 


Oakland resident Susan Parker spent the month of July in Montauk, New York as the guest of the Edward F. Albee Foundation. For information on this artist residency program visit www.pipeline.com/~jtnyc/albeefdtn.html.