EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. — At the independent bookstore on the main drag of this vacation spot for the rich, employees closed down shop hours early, wearing t-shirts custom-printed for the occasion: “Honored to Welcome Hillary Rodham Clinton.”
Down the street, the owner of a monogram shop said she’d ordered napkins to sell during the Clintons’ Hamptons vacation this month. One set read, “Hillary Clinton 2016?” The other bore the names of every likely Republican presidential candidate.
And at Herrick Park, a plot of green just beyond the bookstore, organizers at a charity softball game left two “CLINTON” uniforms waiting on a table, just in case the former first family decided to show up at the annual East Hampton event.
No one at the Artists & Writers game on Saturday afternoon knew whether the Clintons would make an appearance — Bill has attended three times in the past, and they hoped Hillary would stop by before her book signing down the street. Carl Bernstein, the journalist and a player on the “Writers” team, approached the uniform table and joked, “I’m gonna take Hillary’s shirt.”
Programs at the softball game said, “If you invite him, he will come.” He didn’t (he was said to be golfing), and neither did Hillary, but regulars here waited for the possible guests of honor with fond familiarity. The reception was just as warm back at the BookHampton shop on Saturday night, where the former secretary of state signed just under 1,000 copies of her memoir, Hard Choices.
In the cramped independent bookstore, Clinton greeted more friends and familiar faces than at her signing two months ago in Chappaqua, the Westchester hamlet where the Clintons have owned a home since 2001.
Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont and a past presidential candidate, came to the signing with his mother and several other family members, who Clinton met in a private enclave in the back of the store before the signing started. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, also spent time with Clinton in the back room, along with Martha Stewart, who had been shopping nearby and stumbled on the signing.
Later, after Clinton took her seat at a table in the front of the room, her former colleague, Peter Orszag, the one-time director of the Office of Management and Budget, waited in line with his wife, Yahoo anchor Bianna Golodryga. When the couple approached, Clinton looked up in surprise. “It’s a celebrity drop-by!”
“We’re in vacation mode,” Orszag replied.
“It’s fun,” Golodryga told Clinton. “You should try it sometime.”
A BookHampton staffer said the Clintons have been customers of the shop for years, visiting at least once or twice every summer; the owner of the store, Charlene Spector, contributed to Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2008. As fans cycled through the line, Clinton seemed more at ease than at previous book signings, where interaction with attendees was often limited. Here, she took time to speak with most in line and occasionally signed photos and other personal items.
“We’ll see you in town,” one man said as he passed the table.
Another asked Clinton how she was enjoying Amagansett, where she is staying with her husband in a seven-bedroom home overlooking Gardiners Bay, worth a reported $18 million. “We always love it out here,” Clinton said. “It’s just the best.”
As Clinton signed another fan’s book, he asked her to name a favorite restaurant in the Hamptons. “There are so many,” she said. “What’s yours?” The man said his was Almond — a restaurant in Bridgehampton, owned by the brother of Anthony Weiner, who is married to one of Clinton’s closest aides, Huma Abedin.
Outside the signing, a woman wearing black clothes, an eyepatch, and a Prada fanny pack held up a white poster bearing the words, “The Worst Sec of State,” written in sloppy lettering. She stayed outside BookHampton, her arms raised, for more than three hours.
But inside, the event had the feeling of a family affair, signaling the extent to which the Clintons have made the tony Hamptons community their summer home in recent years. The Clintons’ Amagansett house this summer is on what people here joke is “the wrong side of the tracks,” north of Route 27 and the railroad line that runs through the Hamptons, and farther from the ocean-front beaches. Their rental is just next door to Harvey Weinstein, the film mogul and Democratic donor.
The signing capped off a difficult week for Clinton. After criticizing a line President Obama’s staff uses to describe his foreign policy doctrine — “Don’t do stupid stuff” — she called her former boss to insist she hadn’t meant to attack him. The episode culminated in a statement released by Clinton’s office that said she looked forward to “hugging it out” with Obama at a party on Martha’s Vineyard later in the week.
Clinton did not take questions at the East Hampton event. Following her vacation this month, Clinton is likely to continue promoting her memoir, an aide said.