Monday, October 26, 2009


Actor Johnny Depp

The Crow's Nest Parlor

Rumors are the life’s blood of each day in Montauk. To sift the truth from the long stretches and the outright lies is a popular sport because in Montauk the one who is held at fault for a lie is not the teller but the knucklehead who believes it.

The rumors fall into categories: sexual slander and innuendo, financial shenanigans and conspiracies, political monkey business, new weird poltergeists seeping out of the rocks around the lighthouse and Camp Hero, celebrity activity, and real estate.

For example, the rumor mill has ground out a new one about the actor Johnny Depp buying the Crow’s Nest, a restaurant and inn fitted out by Don and Astrid Torr to look like a warmly respectable 18th century British brothel. The rumor has to do with the Crow’s Nest’s kitchen catering a local party for President Bill and Hillary Clinton at Alec Baldwin’s and Kim Bassinger’s house, and in a Hollywood way that gig led to Jack Sparrow hearing about this murkily strange hideaway that only a few people not related to Captain Kidd ever heard of.

A pirate’s mother speculates, “Maybe Depp bought it because there’s a skull and crossbones out front.”

There is almost never the checking or validation of Montauk rumors. Instead they are usually embellished with quaint details added by the resident storytellers. There are no hard feelings if the rumors turn out to be baseless, or even malicious. In Montauk the rumor is an art form in itself and only the skeptics believe that where there’s smoke there isn’t always fire.

Very salty rumors swirl around the case of Chief Petty Officer Jim Weber, who was recently relieved from command of the Montauk Coast Guard station on Star Island just eight months short of his retirement for ordering Coast Guard boats into the 10 to 15-foot waves generated by Hurricane Bill last August on a training mission. Unluckily, a Surf Magazine photographer who was snapping in the neighborhood caught an image of the 47-foot boat poised at the top of a wave, with the front half of the hull entirely out of the water. The situation was wonderfully dramatic; the maneuver was an almost perfectly executed and accepted way of piloting a boat that size through the combers. But the picture looks to politicians and landlubbers like there’s a bit more danger than there actually was to U.S. government property (a figure bandied around for the price of the boat is $1.2 million). When officers up the chain saw the picture they asked why they didn’t know about the mission. One reason seems to be that Chief Weber was not officially qualified to command the boat in surf bigger than 10 feet, and neither was anyone else in the crew. Many sailors in town disagree with the severity of the punishment for the offense of being supposedly unqualified, and if you sit at the Crow’s Nest bar or down at the West Lake Chowder House or the Shagwong you’ll hear an earful about how Chief Weber, a good man and true, was screwed by PR-minded brass and ought to appeal. If you are in the mood for some high salinity language, go there.

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