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Whatever happened to last year's breakout stars?
EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. (AP) — Its roster of participants is impressive: former President Bill Clinton, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, three Baldwins, Dustin Hoffman, Paul Simon, Jackson Pollock and Kurt Vonnegut, to name just a few.
Organizers of the annual East Hampton Artists & Writers softball games are a little fuzzy about when they got their start — most peg it to around 1948, when artists including Pollock, Willem de Kooning and others organized casual pickup games on summer afternoons in their yards. Today they have become one of the premier events in the Hamptons, New York’s summer resort for the haves and have mores.
“I’ve played against some of the greatest house painters in the world,” jokes reporter Carl Bernstein, making a common, good-natured accusation that his opponents pepper their rosters with “ringers” to gain a competitive advantage.
This year’s game, billed as the 65th and slated for Aug. 17, is expected to draw thousands to watch writers such as Bernstein, Richard Reeves and Mike Lupica play artists including Domingo Zapata and Eric Ernst and actors Josh Charles, Lori Singer and others. With the support of corporate sponsors and deep-pocketed donors, the game is expected to raise $100,000 for eastern Long Island charities.
“Like professional wrestlers, we pretend we want to kill our opponent,” says author Ken Auletta, the longtime captain of the writer’s team. “We mock how the other side cheats. We act like winning is all that matters. Winning does matter. But so does the camaraderie forged over many games and many after-game beers.
“And most of all, so does the money we raise at the game for needy local charities.”
As the game has grown in popularity, celebrities have increasingly clamored to play. Batting practice begins at noon, where competitors are sized up by captains Auletta and Lief Hope, the longtime helmsman of the artists’ squad.
Over the years, there have been regular disputes over what constitutes an artist or a writer. Boxer Gerry Cooney once played, organizers recall, because he worked on canvas (nyuk nyuk) and a pair of power-hitting attorneys played one year for the writers, qualifying because they wrote “legal briefs.” Another year, the artists squad recruited a couple of semiprofessional women’s softball players, including a pitcher who threw laser beams at opposing players.
Paul Simon, who only played a couple of years, is considered among the better competitors. “The line, ‘Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?’ is self-referential,” Bernstein jokes. And former Jets behemoth lineman Marty Lyons is remembered for hitting perhaps the longest home run in the lore of the game. Among the many gags played during the contest is a moment when a cantaloupe or turnip is substituted for a softball and thrown to a batter.
“Recently, the splatter across home plate caused by Willem DeKoonig’s hit sold for $500,000,” jokes Fred Graver, a former National Lampoon editor-in-chief who wrote for David Letterman and Jon Stewart.
To commemorate the 65th anniversary, organizers last month held an art exhibition at East Hampton’s Guild Hall, where they displayed works from artists such as Pollock, de Kooning, Ernst and Hope.
A common theme of all games is that precious few keep track of the actual score. Reeves estimates in an essay for this year’s game program that in “modern times,” the writers have won 28 games, the artists 16 and there has been one tie. Juliet Papa, a reporter for WINS Radio who helps announce the games, notes that two popular Hamptons weekly newspapers often report different outcomes from the same game.
“It’s the only game I know of where a play can be contested two innings after it occurs,” Graver says.
The roll call of former players numbers in the hundreds, organizers said. Among the more notables are supermodel Christie Brinkley, Alec, Billy and Stephen Baldwin, Yogi Berra and his son Dale, Bob Woodward, Tom Wolfe, Martha Stewart, George Plimpton, Phillip Pavia, Bianca Jagger, John Irving, Clifford Irving, Josh Charles and Chevy Chase.
Publisher Mort Zuckerman, who pitches for the writers’ team, said several years ago he persuaded his friend, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, to umpire. Breyer, Zuckerman said, “was willing to give up a seat on the court in order to get into this game.”
Bill Clinton was a little-known Arkansas governor in 1988 when he umpired, hitching a ride to the post-game party with another player. It was a different story last year, when the former president appeared to cheers, halting the proceedings to sign autographs.
Graphic artist Walter Bernard recalls the 1976 contest, when New York Times theater critic Clive Barnes was calling balls and strikes.
“The first pitch of the game, he said, was adequate.”
The star of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” charmed practically everyone at the Oscars, where she was the youngest best actress nominee ever; she went on to film a remake of “Annie” opposite Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz.
Carly Rae Jepsen
Jepsen, who had 2012’s song of the summer with “Call Me Maybe,” released the fifth and final single from her debut album in January 2013. She toured the U.S. in mid-2013 -- just as Daft Punk and Robin Thicke battled to succeed her as icons of the summer.
Honey Boo Boo
2012’s biggest reality star, the young pageant contestant Alana Thompson, had a quieter time this year, with a second season whose ratings were strong but whose buzz was a bit muted. America was, by now, accustomed to young Thompson, and outraged or scandalized reactions were reserved for other TLC programming, like “The Man With the 132-Pound Scrotum.”
Ocean missed out on the top Grammys for which he was nominated in early 2013; he bounced back quickly with featured appearances on albums by Kanye West, Jay Z and Beyoncé, and is at work on a new album. Things are looking up!
The “21 Jump Street” and “Magic Mike” star had a marginally less charmed 2013, with “White House Down” failing to connect with moviegoers and “Foxcatcher” delayed until next year. It may get worse before it gets better: His big 2014 sci-fi flick, “Jupiter Ascending,” looks … well, a little weird!
With their third album in 21 months hitting No. 1 immediately upon its fall 2013 release, the boy band that broke into America in 2012 would seem to be here to stay for a while. Still, they looked a bit nervous in their reaction shots during the Video Music Awards’ ‘N Sync reunion; maybe not this year, maybe not next, but eventually, the Justin of One Direction is going to break out. For now, though, things look good!
Lana Del Rey
The famously uncomfortable “Saturday Night Live” musical guest overcame endless mockery from 2012 to land her first top-10 hit in the summer of 2013 -- a remix of a year-old song, “Summertime Sadness.” As the co-writer of “Young and Beautiful,” the love theme from “The Great Gatsby,” Del Rey is such a front-runner for the best original song Oscar (last won by Adele) that there has been a direct-mail campaign to academy voters against her. The song was also played at the most romantic event of the year: Kanye West’s stadium marriage proposal to Kim Kardashian.
Wilson, who charmed fans of 2012’s “Pitch Perfect,” had a rockier 2013, with her sitcom “Super Fun Night” struggling creatively and in the ratings. Her next planned movies are both sequels, to “Kung Fu Panda” and -- hoping lightning will strike twice -- to “Pitch Perfect.”
Another 2012 music icon, Gotye won the record of the year trophy at the 2013 Grammys for “Somebody That I Used to Know.” He released no new singles in 2013, and has told the press he has been struggling to complete new material. Good luck, Gotye!
The golden boy of the 2012 Olympics, without feats of aquatic derring-do to distract the public this year, saw his always-tenuous persona completely shift from “amiable jock” into “utter dolt” with his E! reality series. Worst of all, the series was canceled.
In 2012, the young actress -- best known for her role in the indie “Winter’s Bone” and a supporting part in the “X-Men” franchise -- had marquee roles in the first “Hunger Games” film and in David O. Russell’s comedy “Silver Linings Playbook.” In 2013, she played to her strengths: After winning an Oscar, she starred in the second “Hunger Games” movie, on whose publicity tour she managed to charm everyone in America, and had another role in a David O. Russell comedy, “American Hustle,” for which she might just win ANOTHER Oscar. By 2014, she may end up running a major studio, or serving as president.
The breakout bikini model of 2012 made a repeat appearance on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue -- and got to do high-fashion spreads in Elle, Vogue and Vanity Fair. She was cast in a Cameron Diaz comedy, too. Some types of appeal are eternal!
E. L. James
The “50 Shades” novelist now gets to help share some input into a movie adaptation set for release in 2015. She probably never needs to work again! Isn’t that great? Isn’t that … just … great?
The “Gangnam Style” phenom performed at New Year’s 2013, but will spend New Year’s 2014 flipping channels to find his pistachio ad, his goofy antics having been outdone in the past year by “The Fox” singers Ylvis. Nothing meme can stay.
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