Shark! Shark! The Book, the Movie, the Party, the Real Ones Named Bonac & Big Kahuna

There has never been anybody eaten by a great white shark off the Hamptons, but that is not going to change the fact that for the rest of this summer in the Hamptons, killer sharks will likely be on your mind.

I know sharks will be on my mind. Among the half-dozen events involving sharks that are about to happen from Westhampton to Montauk to movies to television during July and August is the fact that there will shortly be sharks named Bonac and Big Kahuna with beepers on their backs, swimming around in the Atlantic. And you’ll be able to track them by satellite on your computer.

Dan’s Papers sponsored the annual Shark’s Eye All-Release Tournament & Festival in Montauk on July 11–13, and one of the sharks caught and given a satellite tag was named Bonac by children at the Amagansett School; another was tagged and named Big Kahuna by the Montauk School. Soon you will be able to track both at ocearch.org. But they have to get underway a bit before getting into the public eye.

Even now, as I write this, there has already been a groundswell of shark stuff in the Hamptons.

This past February was the 40th anniversary of the book Jaws by Peter Benchley. The 30-foot killer white shark in that book was eating people in a mythical town called Amity, which Benchley, a Hamptons regular, described as being between Bridgehampton and East Hampton. Although the book tended to focus on the sexual misconduct of some of the lead characters (shark fisherman Quint was having an affair with the wife of Chief Brody, for example), the idea of a killer shark just off our shores pushed this book onto The New York Times bestseller list for 44 weeks.

Over the July 4th weekend, there was the big—well, not so big—“Shark Attack Sounds” party in Montauk. In the prior year this annual party had drawn nearly 4,000 people to the Montauk Yacht Club, bringing itself to the attention of the town. As a result of its size, over the winter the town refused to give the party organizers a permit. A permit is needed if you have an assemblage of more than 50 people.

So this year the event was held at Gurney’s Montauk, and among those there with Ben Watts, the founder of Shark Attack Sounds in Montauk in 2002, were Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (who’ve claimed Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea for Facebook). Two weeks before this party, Tyler Winklevoss posted a video on Instagram of a shark swimming offshore in the Atlantic. (We’re not sure if it was
Bonac or Big Kahuna.) Also attending were Mazdack Rassi, Julia Restoin Roitfeld, Bambi, Morgan O’Connor, Jenne Lombardo, Eli Reed, Athena Calderone, Michael Avedon, Brandee Brown, Aurelie Claudel and Josh and Jessie Cooper and others.

The flame of Shark Attack Sounds lives on.

Then came the Today show last week, during which anchor and Hamptons homeowner Matt Lauer (and weather expert Al Roker) showed a clip of the upcoming SyFy film Sharknado 2 in which they have cameo roles. That movie premieres July 30.

The original Sharknado takes place in Los Angeles, where thousands of man-eating sharks get sucked up from the surface of the Pacific Ocean to form a swirling storm of fish that pushes into the center of the city and falls down on top of various citizens who either get squashed or eaten or otherwise done in except for a few brave folks who fight back. In the new movie, they’re attacking New York, and the people fight back with chainsaws or machine guns or, in the case of Matt Lauer, the end of an umbrella.

Still not enough about sharks?

There are two shark-catching tournaments in Montauk coming up where sport fishermen head out at dawn into the Atlantic aboard fishing boats and hope to bring back
to the docks winning fish that will earn them trophies and prizes on August 1–2 and on September 2.

And then there is Shark Week on television. It runs from August 10 to August 18 on the Discovery Channel, and in this interval documentaries about giant sharks, killer sharks, zombie sharks, those that eat people and those that don’t, will be shown every single day.

I just watched a preview of Shark Week, as reporters talked about the top five most legendary white sharks ever—New Zealand’s 17-foot battle-worn behemoth known as Slash; the Cojimar Monster off the coast of Cuba; PEI Shark off Prince Edward Island in Canada; Colossus, a two-ton “mega shark” spotted off the coast of Seal Island in South Africa;  and the 28-foot beast “Submarine” in False Bay, South Africa—who was probably just a legend created by bored newspaper reporters in Cape Town.

Included in Shark Week are no less than four shows named in honor of the movie that started it all, Jaws, made by the young director Steven Spielberg and released in June of 1975, just after the book Jaws was falling off the best-seller lists.

In the movie version, all the affairs and scandals were removed from the script, leaving the film to deal exclusively with the terror of a killer great white shark devouring swimmers in the ocean off of Amity while the mayor tries to keep the general public from learning about it, and the chief of police heads out in a fishing boat with Quint to hunt it down.

Incidentally, that film was originally scheduled to have been filmed in the Hamptons, but at the last minute it was decided to film it in Martha’s Vineyard instead. By 1975, the Hamptons was considered too busy for a sci-fi flick. The filmmakers also changed the town of “Amity” into an island. It was the Hamptons’ loss.

On the upside, it resulted in Steven Spielberg’s settling here in East Hampton. Also Chief Brody, who was played by the late Roy Scheider.

Benchley informally acknowledged that he based his character of the irascible shark fisherman Quint after a real-life shark fisherman he’d heard about, Captain Frank Mundus, who went out every day from  Montauk for 30 years aboard his Cricket II fishing boat, looking to come back with giant sharks. Twice in his career Mundus hooked into sharks that weighed upwards of 3,000 pounds.

Last year, by the way, was the fifth anniversary of the passing of Frank Mundus.

How did we miss it?

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