Most of the massive mansions dotting the shores of Manhasset Bay have not survived the decades, but F. Scott's Fitzgerald's novel "The Great Gatsby," which captured the ambience of Long Island's opulence in the heydays of the 1920s, has stood the test of time.
Today the tale is told on film for the fourth time, with Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway and Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan in director Baz Luhrmann's interpretation of the novel.
Fitzgerald's story depicting the fictional towns of West Egg (thought to be Great Neck, where the author rented a home) and East Egg (believed to be Manhasset) was conceived as he lived among the country's most wealthiest families -- the Tiffanys, the Woolworths, the Vanderbilts. The novel depicts the rollicking social scene during the Prohibition era, and the difference between "new money" bootlegger Jay Gatsby and "old money" families such as Daisy Buchanan's.
Fitzgerald's time in Great Neck, overlooking the mansions on the other side of the bay, proved to be his inspiration. "His closest friend was writer] Ring Lardner," says Hofstra University English professor Ruth Prigozy, founder of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society. "They would sit and look out over the water and comment on all the parties."
Long Island's Gold Coast is getting ready to party Gatsby-style in celebration of the release of the latest film. If you want to live it up like the rich and famous, here are seven opportunities to do so.
1. STAY CLASSIC
Gatsby wasn't all bootleg drinking and partying -- there was also a sense of sophistication to the era. To that end, Elmont Public Library is holding a Great Gatsby Social Tea. Bring your favorite teacup and spoon to a chat about Fitzgerald's famous book with library staff as 1920s music plays in the background.
2. GARDEN SOIREE
Kick up your heels at a real '20s Long Island mansion, just like the partygoers in Fitzgerald's book. Oheka Castle, one of the last and great circa-1920s estate homes still around (it's now a hotel and restaurant), is accepting reservations now for its annual garden party June 12.
The manicured grounds will make you feel like you're in the movie.
Wine, hors d'oeuvres, light dinner and dessert will be served and Prohibition-style drinks will be served. Automobiles representing the era will also be on exhibit. "We're still partying like it's the 1920s," says Nancy Melius, marketing and design director. Come dressed in '20s-inspired garb, if you'd like.
INFO 5 p.m. June 12 at 135 West Gate Dr., Huntington. Admission is $75 ($60 advance) with reservations by phone, 631-659-1400, oheka.com.
3. FLAPPER DRESSES
Edna Woolworth and daughter Barbara Hutton of Woolworth fame, the Countess of Bismarck . . . the women who lived in beautiful mansions along the Gold Coast and all wore fabulous dresses in their day. "Abandoned Trunks" is an exhibit of many such couture gowns, including a pink organza dress worn by Hutton on her 16th birthday and a beaded flapper number that belonged to socialite Winifred Bird.
Syosset resident Monica Randall, a photographer and former model, "rescued" hundreds of these one-of-a-kind garments, plucking them from steam trunks stowed in the third floor attics of mansions being torn down in the '60s and '70s. "The trunks survive because I'm a very good pirate," says Randall, who grew up in and around the homes most of her life. "Otherwise, all of these gowns would have been crushed in the ground."
The lectures alone are worth listening to -- Randall will spill details on the dramas behind the original dress owners at talks planned throughout the exhibit.
4. BOAT TOUR
Although most of the original grand houses of the '20s have been torn down, there are mansions aplenty along Manhasset Bay and points east -- and you can see them via boat, just like narrator Nick Carraway does in the film. The canopied Charles II tour boat takes off from Port Washington town dock and motors close enough to view the magnificent homes and conjure up visions of Fitzgerald's West Egg and East Egg.
INFO By-reservation-only tours typically run at 2, 4 and 6 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays and cost $25 ($15 ages 10 and younger), 516-767-1691, portwatertaxi.com.
5. PROHIBITION COCKTAILS
Make like you're at a speak-easy with a menu of Prohibition-style drinks at Huntington Social. Head up a staircase to the second-floor bar and restaurant and peruse the menu of 20-plus bourbons, ryes and gins -- or just order up an Old-Fashioned or a Sidecar. See those little lockers on the wall? Those are safe-keepings for regulars who buy liquor by the bottle.
INFO 5 p.m. until closing Wednesdays-Sundays at 330 New York Ave., Huntington, 631-923-2442, huntingtonsocial.com.
6. BOOTLEG PARTY
Flapper dance the night away at another Gold Coast mansion, C hateau at Coindre Hall, which is hosting a "Roaring '20s Party" Thursday. The evening includes Jazz Age dancing and music, plus a "Gatsby" costume contest. Expect "bootleg" wine and "killer cocktails" at the bar. Model A Fords will be on display, too.
INFO 6:30 p.m. May 16 at 101 Browns Rd., Huntington. Admission is $45 ($40 advance) or $75 per couple. RSVP by today, 631-751-2244, longislandheritagetrail.com.
7. RENT THE LOOK
Planning on attending a Gatsby party but have nothing to wear? Antique Costume and Prop Rentals has costumes from every major time period and lots from the Roaring '20s. "We have costumes, wigs, hats, garters, stockings, even raccoon coats," says owner Nancy Guzzetta. Ensembles can be borrowed for $125, from headdress to stockings and shoes. A set of accessories starts around $25.
INFO 709 Main St., Port Jefferson, 631-331-2261, antiquecostumes.com.
Shorter dresses, extravagant jewels, new hairdos and dapper suits -- the 1920s were an intriguing time in fashion. And thanks to lust-worthy looks (costumes from Prada and Brooks Brothers, Tiffany jewels) and a cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire and Isla Fisher, the film opening today has caused a frenzied fashion revival.
Options for re-creating the glitz and glamour of the Roaring '20s run from flapper-inspired dresses to Deco jewels and more -- because you never know when you could score an invitation to a party from a modern-day Gatsby type.
Compiled by Brianna McMahon and Nina Ruggiero