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Dick Cavett's tells tales of his dream castle

Publication: The East Hampton Press
By Carolyn Kormann   Feb 17, 2009 6:17 PM

Dick Cavett’s relationship with Montauk dates back to the 1960s, when he was working as a writer for Tonight Show host Johnny Carson. He, with his late wife Carrie Nye, rented Tick Hall, the eighth and last Montauk Association house built by Stanford 
White in 1883, for a couple of summers. It was the family retreat of a friend of his from Yale Drama School, Barbette Tweed, whose grandfather owned it.

When the Tweeds wanted to sell Tick Hall, they approached Mr. Cavett and said, “If you really like the place, you ought to think about buying it,” Mr. Cavett recalled.

Tick Hall came with 20 acres around it, which the Tweed family had bought for $5 an acre in 1924, after they had bought the house. Mr. Cavett bought an additional 77 acres in the late 1970s, on the advice of some colleagues.

Over the years, he’s enjoyed walking the beach, riding, sitting by the fire and fishing, he said. Harrison Tweed, the prior owner, taught Mr. Cavett how to surf cast on the property’s beach when he was 91, “and quite well,” Mr. Cavett said.

That beach came to be known as Cavett’s Cove and became popular as a surf spot with a relaxed attitude toward sunbathing and swimming attire.

“A lot of the folks from the 1960s and early 1970s frequented my beach, frequently naked,” Mr. Cavett said. “When I first had gotten there, there was no one on it except me and a lonely fisherman.”

He recalled sitting on a plane once and noticing his name in the pamphlet that the stranger next to him was reading. “When he got up to go to the bathroom,” Mr. Cavett said, “I saw it was a pamphlet about things to do in Long Island and it read, if I remember correctly, ‘Though East End policemen usually take a dim view of nudity, there’s a place called Cavett’s Cove.’ I nearly fainted. ‘It’s so popular and secluded that even the cops strip down and take a dip.’”

Mr. Cavett’s “dream castle,” as Tennessee Williams called it in a note to Mr. Cavett after staying there, was a favorite stopover for many of the TV luminary’s talk show guests and friends. The Dick Cavett Show ran on ABC from 1969 to 1975.

The great American playwright, Mr. Williams, who used to write in a nearby cottage, told Mr. Cavett that the house had the most enchanting “gallery,” or porch, in the north. “He liked to sit there and watch the fireflies,” Mr. Cavett said.

“Katharine Hepburn used to threaten to sail over,” Mr. Cavett said. “She’d say, ‘You’re going to wake up one morning and I’m going to be standing on your porch.’”

Mohammed Ali was another fan. The first night he stayed over, Carrie Nye—unaware that Mr. Ali was there, lounging in a guest bed, watching TV—called. Mohammed Ali, “said, ‘Hello?’ and she said, ‘Darling?’” Mr. Cavett recalled.

“And he said, ‘This ain’t darling, it’s the only three-time heavyweight champion of the world, watching your TV.’ She knew very well who it was and said, ‘Well Mr. Ali, I will have to put a plaque above that bed.’ I later said to her that’s more than you’ve ever offered for me.”

Woody Allen used to visit too. “We walked down to the cliff,” Mr. Cavett said, “and he said to me, ‘Cavett! This is out of a storybook.’”

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