Legendary Long Islanders
Interviews with Famous Residents from the Hamptons to New York
By Helene Herzig
Billy Joel? Craig Claiborne? Susan Lucci? Melissa Errico? Mort Kunstler? The Roosevelt Family? Oleg Cassini? Nelson Doubleday? The Phipps Family? The Chocolate Chef Lazars? Representative Carolyn McCarthy? Snapple? Wang? What do these individuals, companies and families have in common? Legendary Long Islanders by Helene Herzig is a compilation of sensitive interviews with a group of highly fascinating subjects–from media stars to artists to a Nobel prize winner to politicians and entrepreneurs.
Excerpt from Legendary Long Islanders
“Only 45 minutes from Broadway,” as the George M.Cohan song goes, the North Shore of Long Island, where the composer lived, had a romantic reputation even before F. Scott Fitzgerald chose it as his background for the Great Gatsby. In fact, Fitzgerald, who lived in Great Neck, recognized this area overlooking Long Island Sound by its acquired name, “The Gold Coast.” A drive through the verdant Gatsbyesque landscape of charming white houses and grand waterfront estates reveals the attractions that brought so many of the famous and fascinating to settle down here. The North Shore of Long Island, with its “fingers” (Sands Point, Kings Point) of land jutting into the ocean, offered an abundance of water views plus country life, lush greenery and quaint New England-like villages only 20 miles or so from the metropolis that is New York City. The first and closest municipality that abuts the New York City line is Great Neck, the home of many theatrical people in the 1920’s. But later, with the addition of the Long Island Expressway and other fast moving roads, barring heavy traffic, one could, like Oleg Cassini in Oyster Bay at the other end of Nassau County, commute daily to the City in what he calls “no time.”
The renown of the North Shore didn’t stop with Fitzgerald. With such names as Billy Joel, Kiri Te Kanawa and Oleg Cassini, the reputation goes on and on. Artists such as Mort Kunstler, socialites such as Mrs. John Hay Whitney, explorers of the heavens such as astronaut Mary Cleve and many more extraordinary individuals made this beautiful area their home.
In the course of my career as a feature editor of North Shore Magazine, I sought out and arranged for interviews with the “boldface” personalities whose lives I thought would be of particular interest to our readers. North Shore Magazine captured the attention of those readers by bringing these celebrities into the suburban orbit. It humanized them by describing their homes and families and their leisure activities, turning them into a “neighbor” of every resident of the North Shore.
Not only was it a treat to meet people of distinction from a variety of fields, but it was also fascinating to hear their stories. Sometimes it took just a phone call to make the connection. Most were gracious and generous in giving of their time, and invited me into their homes and offices.
“Helene Herzig has that rare ability to write in a fascinating and concise style — and get all the facts right! A wonderful combination!”
—Mort Kunstler Artist
“Helene Herzig has captured the feel and flavor of Long Island. She has brought together our legends, our heroes, all true Long Islanders. I thoroughly enjoyed her columns when they were first published. This compilation is a chance to savor that enjoyment once again. Long Island lives in the words of Helene Herzig.”
— Tom DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller
“… Helene Herzog has captured the romance and rich heritage of this unique area — just 45 minutes from New York City — in her book Long Island Legends. This is indeed a ‘must read’ for those who are intrigued by the history of legendary and glamorous days gone by and the people who inhabited the enchanted circle of the North Shore.”
—Constance Schwartz Director, Nassau County Museum of Art
“As the President of the Great Neck Historical society, it is always a joy to read about individuals who will certainly be part of the rich historical legacy of Long Island. Helene Herzig has had access to many of these celebrated people and her book is a fascinating insight into how they live and work and their contributions to our historical legacy. I recommend this as a read for anyone interested in the history of Long Island.”
—Regina Gil, Founder/Executive Director, Great Neck Arts Center
“…Helene’s collection of her interviews and articles written for North Shore Magazine reminds us of the natural beauty of our area and all the accomplishments of our talented residents, past and present… …this exclusive glimpse into the lives of those special people like Billy Joel, Alan King and Oleg Cassini, the Phipps, the Whitneys and the Roosevelts … make for a fascinating read…”
—Thomas R. Suozzi, Nassau County Executive
“I liked the story you wrote better than any story ever written about me. You got the exact feeling of what the Bishop was all about—and you said it beautifully.”
—Chris Watson Author, The Last Plane from Nice
“Karl and I felt … you wrote such a beautiful and warm article about us and our work…Again, many thanks. It was one of the nicest and truest articles ever written about us and our work.”
—Joachim Springer of Karl Springer, Inc.
“With best wishes to a very talented fellow writer.”
—Robert A. Caro, Winner of two Pulitzer Prizes in Biography; three National Book Critics Circle Awards, for Best Nonfiction Book of the Year and Best Biography; the National Book Award; the Francis Parkman Prize, awarded by the Society of American Historians and virtually every other major literary honor including the Gold Medal in Biography from the National Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Humanities Medal, awarded by President Barack Obama.
“I can’t tell you how much pleasure the article was that appeared in North Shore Magazine for the year-end holidays. It was exceedingly well researched and beautifully written and I am indebted to you for your kindness and generosity…Best wishes for 1980 and I do hope our paths cross again.”
—Craig Claiborne, American restaurant critic, food journalist and author of numerous cookbooks and an autobiography. Winner of James Beard Award for Lifetime Achievement