On Wednesday, August 10, officials inaugurated a new helicopter service designed to get desperately ill patients from Montauk to Stony Brook Hospital by medevac helicopter. The Suffolk County Police Department, which has such services elsewhere, had in late July approved the lawn of the Montauk Firehouse as the landing site. All that was needed was to remove two trees, and the location—flat, open and in front of the firehouse just off Flamingo Road about 500 yards from Fort Pond—could easily accommodate a helicopter landing pad measuring the official 50 x 50 yard minimum. This would be the first time people could be choppered out like this from downtown and the beaches.
A test of this service was held that day. The helicopter, a Star AS350 piloted by Police Officer Michael Spindler, came in and landed safely, after which a simulated transfer of a patient from an ambulance took place and then it took off again.
It is a comfort to know this service now exists, although it is hoped, as Montauk Fire Chief Richard Schoen said, it is never needed.
I mention this because I believe, if the people from the popular “Royal Pains” TV show take my advice, that one of the first uses of this service will be when a Montauk fisherman gets “sick” during the filming of one of the show’s episodes.
My advice comes about because of my love for this series. “Royal Pains” is a popular one-hour show on USA Network and has a particular bond with Dan’s Papers. Issues of Dan’s Papers are frequent set dressing on this show. (Our office must sign permissions.) The show is set in the Hamptons, where actor Mark Feuerstein, as Dr. Hank Lawson, a highly regarded E.R. physician, works as the personal doctor-on-demand for the wealthy summer residents in these parts. Thus the name “Royal Pains.” The wealthy get sick. Feuerstein cures them. Or not. There are all sorts of twists to the plot.
Feuerstein himself served as co-host for the Dan’s Papers Taste of Two Forks event, which drew 1,600 people to a large tent in Bridgehampton July 16. He told me at the event that he’s a great fan of the paper. Often, we see him sitting on one of the two park benches on our front deck reading a script. He seems to like being there.
In any case, last Tuesday, the producers of “Royal Pains” came to the East Hampton Town Board meeting to apply for a filming permit for an upcoming episode. They had never before applied in East Hampton. The show has always, up until now, been filmed in the Town of Southampton. But the producers followed the same procedures. Bring a script to Town Hall and show what you want to do and where. Pay for the permit.
The episode they intend to make centers around a surfing competition in Montauk. The crew from the network will total about 40 people. They’ll be out here shooting for four days, sometime in the next four weeks, before the weather gets too cold. They’ll film at Ditch Plains and other places. One of the scenes calls for a fisherman to get ill and for a helicopter to be called in to medevac him off to Stony Brook Hospital. The landing and takeoff would be, as indicated in the script, somewhere in the center of town by Fort Pond.
The Town seemed amenable to the script, until it got to the part about the helicopter. One of the Town Board members said there was great sensitivity to helicopter noise in the town and they were not so sure they could allow that.
Michael Fucci, Location Manager for USA, said, “It’s our goal to be invited back wherever we go.”
“The one red flag is the helicopter,” said Councilwoman Theresa Quigley. Councilwoman Julia Prince also said that would not fly. There are five council people.
“We understand that, yes,” Fucci replied.
So here is my opinion and what I think USA ought to do about it. My opinion is that the Town Board is being a royal pain. And what I think USA should do is hire an actor to play the part of a fisherman having a heart attack at the surfing competition. Who’s to say it’s not a real heart attack?
Just have lots of cameras rolling.