15-Foot Giant Rat at the Airport

Last Thursday, the Town of East Hampton issued a permit to allow demonstrators—up to 100 people at a time—to protest for 40 consecutive days on Industrial Road in East Hampton by the airport, seven days a week between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. The demonstrations will be against the MTK: Music to Know Festival, which is scheduled for the weekend of August 13 and 14, and they will be held by members of Theatrical Teamsters Local 817, Theatrical Stagehands Local 340 and Teamsters Local 817, based in Nassau County about 80 miles away, all protesting the fact that the Music Festival is using non-union  local people as laborers rather than union labor to provide the necessary work to run the event.

The centerpiece of the protest will be a very nasty looking two-story-tall giant inflatable Rat. The Rat is supposed to represent the businessmen running the event who won’t hire the teamsters.

According to the two promoters of the event, Southampton nightclub owner Chris Jones and Hollywood screenwriter Bill Collage, there is no law that requires them to hire union labor. It’s very expensive. This is just what the unions do to gain attention for themselves when they don’t get hired. [expand]

Personally, I have no knowledge of how expensive union labor is these days, but I do recall some years ago when Frazer Dougherty was trying to hire union labor to attend to some of the movies being filmed at East Hampton Studios in Wainscott, also on Industrial Road. He found that a union stagehand’s day began when he left his house in New York City, wherever it was—the pay was an astronomic amount an hour—and the day ended when he drove back into his driveway. And there were the “transportation” costs of his getting out here and back, which were sort of the rates charged for car rentals. I also think there was a rule if he worked an hour he got paid for a day.

It reminded me of some of the horror stories I used to hear about the Javitts Center in Manhattan where, for example, if you had a lamp and needed to put the plug in a socket, they’d have to call in a Union electrician, with cost estimates paralleling the stagehand results in Wainscott.

Another aspect of the Giant Rat is its size. In Manhattan, where this same Giant Rat is inflated occasionally—the unions cart it around to have it report for work as needed—the Rat is just a small thing next to a big building. Here in East Hampton, it will loom over the landscape.

You know that fabulous sculpture you pass driving out to the East End on the Manorville Road that rises in a farm field just before the road ends at Sunrise Highway? Linda Scott, who made that sculpture, told me that she made it originally as a commission for the Animal Rescue Fund (ARF) in Wainscott where Industrial Road meets Daniel’s Hole Road. The sculpture, Stargazer, is a giant deer reaching for a leaf at the top of a plant. It was so large—it is more than 20 feet high—that you could drive right under it as you came up the dirt driveway to the ARF kennels.

But guess what? Back then, East Hampton Town decided that since the entry driveway to ARF was so close to the airport, it was feared the sculpture could distract incoming pilots. So they disallowed it. Linda was beside herself. Finally, a sod farmer in Manorville offered a place for it and it is there today. (Images of it also adorn the sides of the Hampton Jitney coaches this summer.) Welcome to the East End.

I wonder what arriving pilots will make of a big inflatable rat. You can turn away a deer, but you can’t turn away a union rat. No sir.

MTK: Music to Know will feature the bands Vampire Weekend, Bright Eyes, Ellie Goulding and lots more. Coming by air? Just look to touch down near the Giant Rat.

Actually, the Giant Rat was in use on Industrial Road near the airport once before for about 100 days. In 2006, it was deployed against Mitchell Kreigman of Mecox, the Emmy Award-winning TV show creator who was producing a whole season’s worth of a children’s show called “BIG BIG WORLD” at East Hampton Studios for several months. I wonder if this is the same rat. Or if it is a newer rat. Son of Union Rat. Gotta go see.

No planes crashed back then. And Kreigman, as I recall, did not relent. [/expand]

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