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This is just what Vered was busy doing one fine recent Saturday night in East Hampton as she played gracious hostess to some 300 (or 200 depending on the account) well-to-do Hamptonites at the opening of a photo exhibit. Suddenly, bursting into the genteel atmosphere of Vered’s gallery, muscling through the crowd studying photographer Steven Klein’s exhibit “Polaroid” and ignoring Klein’s images of Brad and Angelina and Madonna, were the East Hampton police. Brusquely informing Vered that they were on a mission to shut down art galleries serving wine without a permit (something no town officials had broached with gallery owners), they told her to shut down the open bar. NOW.
Vered was startled. Then, God bless America, furious. She looked the representative of the government in the eye and refused, pointedly saying that “I’ve been serving alcohol here since before you were born.” And in true Orwellian fashion, the cop was not amused. Neither were the cops who poured into the gallery from the several police cars now surrounding the gallery as if they were so many Eddie Murphy’s busting a drug kingpin in Beverly Hills Cop. They got tough, not only shutting down the bar and removing the wine, but ransacking the entire gallery, in the words of Janet Lehr, Vered’s partner. They systematically began removing alcohol not only from the bar, but a nearby table, the closets and, in the words of Dan’s reporter Debbie Tuma, Vered’s “private storage area.” That done, they spun around and arrested Vered as her daughter and 13-year-old granddaughter — and a gallery full of clients and friends — watched.
This being a Hamptons party, there was a photographer present. Sure enough by Monday morning Vered was seen on the front page of the New York Post, resplendent in black cocktail dress, earrings and very interesting matching eyeglasses, perfectly coiffed. Her dental work looked pretty impressive too, as she was, quite apparently, screaming at the top of her lungs. The photo has the especially nice touch of giving her eyes that eerie glowing red familiar from Amityville Horror movies as she is shoved, cuffed, into the back seat of a patrol car. Her stunned guests, now angry themselves, were yelling “leave her alone.” To no avail. Vered was dragged off to police headquarters, charged with a couple counts of serving alcohol without a permit and lacking a permit for a “mass assemblage.”
NOW. BACK TO DAN, his fiancee, and the shivering Moo. It turns out this interesting little point and click gizmo that captured the rogue Dan is now parked on top of police cruisers in East Hampton. Only in East Hampton. Nowhere else on all of Long Island (thankfully), which for you outliers includes Brooklyn and Queens, aka part of New York City. Thank goodness for small favors. Did I mention that in trying to unravel the mystery, Dan finds out for certain what he knew from the very first — that there had been a mistake made? In the words of his insurance broker: “This happens all the time with Albany.” Isn’t that a relief? The state of New York keeps making mistakes with the insurance status of its drivers. If you happen to be unlucky enough to be driving through the town of East Hampton when you get pointed at by the gizmo, well, tough nuggies.
One does not have to be a conservative as I am, or super-rich, which I am not, or a member of the A-list social set in the Hamptons (not on that one either) to understand what these two quite separate yet quite disturbingly similar incidents illustrate.
Government — any government — can be a very, very powerful institution. It can be abused, since it is run by human beings for whom the word “fallible” was invented, very, very easily. When there is bureaucracy involved — and police power not far down the chain of command from that — life can become disturbingly difficult. In the cases of Dan, fiancee, Moo, and Vered, the word was frightening.
Let’s think here. What if Dan had been ill? What if Vered had a heart condition? In Vered’s case, what if she had someone in the gallery that night who was thinking of buying some art but changed their mind when they saw the police?
Does it really make sense to give human beings with police power the kind of point and click ability that comes pretty close to an invasion of privacy? What else is out there in gizmo land that could peer into your car, your house, or your business and — heedless of a mistake — just upend your life? Not to mention your Moo’s? Wouldn’t a simple old-fashion sit down between the East Hampton police and the local business community to tell them that after decades of not enforcing some obscure law gallery owners had not been dealing with for decades — decades! — they should now do A,B or C or they will have a problem?
THE REAL PROBLEM here isn’t really even Dan or Vered. The problem, as it always is, is you. Yes, you. Because if this kind of involuntary trip to the land of Orwell can happen to a successful local institution like Dan or to someone as upscale as Vered, most assuredly it could happen to you. And when it does, when you don’t have your own newspaper to write the story or a photographer with access to the front page of one of New York’s biggest newspapers, well, as the saying goes in astronaut land: Houston, we have a problem. You, my fellow American have just lost your freedom.
Vered’s lawyer, Mark Heller, has said he is not only going to demand that Suffolk County drop the charges against Vered, he is going to demand an apology — in writing. In my book, she should get that apology. Somewhere somebody should say something to Dan, too. Not to mention reimburse him for impoundment and other fees. And if I were Vered? I’d invite the same crowd back for a glass of wine and a look at two new well-framed items that should be on permanent display at Vered’s. First, of course, would be the apology, maybe with the front page of the Post included. And hanging next to the apology? Maybe in a nice gold frame?
Something called the Constitution of the United States.
Jeffrey Lord is the creator, co-founder and CEO of QubeTV„ an online conservative video site. A Reagan White House political director and author, he writes from Pennsylvania where a copy of Dan’s Papers arrives weekly.
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