Other Baron’s Cove regulars included the artist Willem de Kooning and the writers John Knowles and Truman Capote.
Knowles, remembered today as the author of ”A Separate Peace,” a novel about prep school life during World War II, came in for lunch two or three times a week, Mr. Cagliasacchi recalled. So did Capote, the ”In Cold Blood” author, who would get boisterous as the afternoon progressed, the restaurateur recalled.
”Truman usually came in with a friend and sat at a table,” Mr. Cagliasecchi said. ”He had a certain flair about him, an exuberance. But he was never part of the bar crowd.”
Marina Van, then married to Bobby Van and working in his Main Street restaurant in Bridgehampton, said Capote was often waiting outside their restaurant before it opened its doors at noon – and after a few drinks at their place would move on to other restaurants on the block. Ms. Van, now executive director of the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce, said that as Capote’s drinking problem worsened, his old friends began to avoid him. Eventually he was frozen out of the literary clique that congregated at their bar, including Knowles; James Jones, author of ”From Here to Eternity,” and Willie Morris, the editor of Harper’s magazine.
A picture of the four literary lions was taken in happier days by Jill Krementz, the photographer, who is married to Kurt Vonnegut, also a Bobby Van’s regular. Ms. Krementz posed the group in front of the brick-faced restaurant and snapped the now-famous photograph.
The picture, blown up and framed, made the move across the street when Mr. Van relocated in 1979 and today hangs on the wall near the rear of the building.
Other regulars included the artists Roy Lichtenstein, Warren Brandt and de Kooning. Lukas Foss, the classical composer and conductor, stopped by often and once got drawn into a debate with her husband and Ms. Van’s brother, a rock musician, over the definition of a downbeat.
”They sat at a table outside on the patio and went at it for two hours,” Ms. Van said. ”That’s the kind of place it was.”
Ms. Van said her former husband zealously guarded the piano bench from interlopers, rising only for visiting jazz musicians and ringers like the actor Dustin Hoffman, Ms. Van said.
The music policy was strictly jazz or swing, provided Mr. Van was there to enforce it.
”I was always trying to get Bobby to put Dylan on the jukebox, or Simon and Garfunkel,” Ms. Van said. ”Then we were living in an apartment over the restaurant. One night after I went upstairs I heard Bob Dylan singing from below.”
Thinking Mr. Van had finally relented and purchased a pop single for the jukebox, Ms. Van went downstairs to listen and found it was Mr. Dylan singing and accompanying himself on the piano.
”It was a new song, ‘Catfish Hunter,”’ she said. ”Bobby wasn’t downstairs, which is how Dylan was allowed to sing.”
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