When I caught wind of the ~invite only~ “ELLIS” party that was to take place on glittery Dune Beach in Southampton, NY, I knew I was going.
And by “going” I mean actually going, not just Facebook “interested” only to flake out at the last minute due to a nasty case of summer ennui. (P.S., does anyone else suffer from summer ennui this time of year? As soon as the month of August hits, I’m overcome with extreme fatigue, heat-exhaustion, and desert-level dehydration. Must be all the poolside boozing in the Fire Island sun. It’s certainly not from “civilized” summer activities, like “running in Central Park” or “kayaking in the Catskills.” That’s for damn sure.)
All I knew about the event was that it was going to be on the stunning Southampton beach, that there would allegedly be an open bar/gorgeous array of food, and that a party bus packed to the gills with lesbian/bi/curious/queer/fluid girls would be departing from Manhattan at 4 p.m. sharp, whisking the urban lesbians off to ~the country~.
Sign. Me. Up. Babe.
After all, it was combining my two favorite things in this cruel, cold world: a swoon-worthy beach, and women. Purr. I felt like the party had been custom-tailored just for me (I’m working on the shameless narcissism, I promise. I’m in therapy). Plus, I had an intrinsic feeling the event would be amazing because I had gone to The ELLIS Pride Party at downtown venue “Up & Down” this past June and it was pretty fabulous. I hadn’t seen that many interesting women together, in one space, in years.
(Also, they gave out really sexy gold necklaces as party favors, which I’m still wearing, and it hasn’t tarnished at all, even though I’ve worn it in the ocean approximately two thousand times. Giving out complimentary high-quality gold necklaces to your guests is chic AF).
I was also aware of the gaping void in the New York City lesbian nightlife scene ELLIS hopes to fill. Their mission statement reads: “ELLIS is an all-women, invitation-only event series that focuses on building a community for lesbians and creating lasting connections among our members.” The women behind ELLIS create all kinds of events, ranging from fine-dining dinner parties to classic nightlife-y soirées to professional networking mixers. Their goal is to create a safe space in the culture “where women can develop friendships and professional contacts that go beyond a brief superficial conversation, allowing us to get together regularly to foster real community.”
Now that’s a mission I can get down and dirty with! Call me old-school, but I like having actual conversations with women at events. I’m not one of those fierce party-girls, the cool, perpetually-dancing, swaggy lesbian, who thrives in a sweaty, packed nightclub. I’m horrendous at small talk and I only dance after midnight. So a party where talking is encouraged? Well, lez just say that’s my kind of party.
So that’s how I found myself on the ELLIS luxury party bus at 4 p.m. this Saturday. And the moment I stepped onto the velvety, sparkly-lit bus I immediately regretted my outfit: a slutty black chiffon top and silk black vintage pants.
Luckily, I quickly forgot about my horrendous outfit (seriously, I looked like I was channeling a bat mitzvah warm-up dancer from the early 2000s; it’s been days and I’m still shame-spiraling over it) because the energy on the bus was electric. Intoxicating. There were girls of all ages, all types, all styles, mingling, talking, hanging out. Some girls were dancing. Other girls were dreamily staring into each other’s eyes, in classic lesbian style, already falling madly in love after knowing each other for about ten minutes. A group of youngins in their early 20s were passionately Insta-Storying in the back of the bus.
A few hours later the bus gracefully sailed down the windy streets of Southampton. When we arrived, I haphazardly exited the bus, in typical, un-glam Zara form. My hat blew off my head as I tripped down the bus stairs and I screamed, running into the middle of the street, chasing my airborne hat like a blithering idiot, worried my ratty hair extensions would be exposed by the unforgiving beach wind. (What? It’s time for a re-touch and my stylist is out of town!)
Seconds later a sea of queer babes sauntered, in perfect unison, down the wood-plank walkway to Dune Beach. It was really quite a sight. A slew of rowdy, wild, excitable, interesting women, making their way toward the beach, in some sort of tribal Sapphic stampede.
The set-up was gorge. A barbecue buffet full of fresh food held court right in the sand. Pretty, cocktail-sized tables were perfectly arranged in order to optimize the best ocean views. Giant haystacks gleamed in the flickering light of a bohemian fire pit. There were creamy, white, bean-bag-style chairs one could lounge on if one got tired. There was a full open bar.
I was quickly introduced to the ELLIS girls, who are actually super nice (and stylish and beautiful and authentic and fun), which is refreshing in the events world. These were not your aggressive, too-cool-for-school promoter bitches, who are only nice to you if you’ve had a stint on a reality show or are friends with someone who has had a stint on a reality show.
The ELLIS girls—Sage Fuchs, Jane Goldstein, Blaire Preiss, and Kelsey Hunter—are all worthy of their own feature separate from this (which is coming soon! In ~print~ perhaps?).
They’re truly all the perfect party hosts: attentive and caring, unpretentious but super polite, and I credit them for the feel-good vibes.
Look, I know some of you might think that an exclusive, invite-only event on the beautiful beaches of The Hamptons could lend itself to snobbery and mean-girl energy, but that was hardly the case at this party. It wasn’t bitchy energy, it was ~beachy~ energy. I haven’t been in the thick of a sweeter mix of people in a long while. There were no visible fights (which, lez be honest, boozed-up lesbians together for five-plus hours can often lead to epic, melodramatic, jealousy-induced screaming matches).
The ELLIS girls treated everyone the same. It didn’t matter if you were their lifelong friend or just some random lesbian writer like me, everyone was equally tended to. We were all VIPs, babes. And because we were all treated with equal respect and care, there was no obnoxious social hierarchy.
And you know what happens when you smash the social hierarchy at a party?
Everyone talks to everyone! I even managed to do a few haphazard cartwheels in the sand, and nobody shot me a dirty look, I was only encouraged to keep going. And I did. I cartwheeled ’til the regal East Coast sun set over the navy blue waters.
After about 400 glasses of white wine I was feeling pretty tossed—but the good kind of tossed. Not the stumbling, crying-mascara-tears-into-an-empty-champagne-bottle kind of tossed. The let’s-run-around-the-beach-and-marvel-over-the-insane-beauty-of-this-party kind of tossed. Maybe it was because I was outside, not trapped in some claustrophobic windowless nightclub on the Lower East Side. Or maybe it was the magic outdoor setting that made everyone a feel a little mystical. By the end of the night, everyone was dancing fireside, tapping into some supreme primal woman-ness, taking long sticks and making s’mores like it was summer camp all over again.
I was sad when the bus came at 11 p.m. “I don’t want to go back to The City,” I wailed.
“You’re going back to Manhattan. Not Prison.” My friend said.
But oh my god, the bus ride back? Now that was a real party, babes.
“This was the best lesbian party I ever went to,” I overheard my friend slur to a leggy blonde as her limbs happily swayed in time with the movement of the bus.
“I agree. Best. Party. Ever.” The leggy blonde slurred back.
“Cheers. To ELLIS!” A rowdy, twinkly-eyed babe in denim cutoffs shouted. We all shouted “CHEERS!” back at her as the bus pulled into lower Manhattan.
None of us wanted the party end! It may have been 1:30 a.m. but we were all intoxicated, high off the energy of a great night.
So we did what all good Manhattan queer ladies do: we went to the Cubbyhole. ‘Til 4 a.m. I would tell you about what happened at the Cubbyhole, but you know what they say (and by “they” I mean “me”): What happens in Cubby, stays in Cubby.
‘Til next time, ladies.