‘The Great Gatsby’ Then and Now: The Parties of West Egg Today

Credit: Warner Bros.

When you first encounter The Great Gatsby in your high school days, you’re bound to get lost in a sense of wonder over some of the vividly stupefying party scenes. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a gallant bash like nobody’s business, giving his titular hero the most elaborate get-togethers on the North Shore of Long Island. And no matter where you live, you’re going to imagine yourself in attendance at one of these parties, picturing the amazement and joy all around you… woefully comparing the thought to the humdrum open houses your own town is known for.

But some people were lucky enough to grow up in the very same town as the great Jay Gatsby… even if it was almost a century too late. Still, we couldn’t help but question if the locale maintains its penchant for dazzling soirees. As such, we contacted a modern day resident of Fitzgerald’s West Egg — known in the far inferior real world as Great Neck, N.Y., to see just how Gatsbian his teenage parties were. Sure, there are some differences, but when compared to the passages from the book, we came to realize that modern day Great Neck parties do in fact maintain some of that old spirit… 

Credit: Warner Bros.

“In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.”

“It was always a mish-mosh of two or three grades, showing up at the same place every night … There was a pretty wide mix of everyone from the jocks to the normal kids to hot girls, dorky girls that could be hot, younger girls, even younger guys. Everyone would pretty much always show up with an 18 rack of something. It was high school, so people still thought they could chug from the bottle.”

Credit: Warner Bros.

“On week-ends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains.”

“When you go to parties on the North Side of town, it was a little more ridiculous. A little more flashy. Rolling up in all of their souped-up cars, BMWs, Bentleys, stuff like that. They are the kids that are club promoters these days. Always dressed to impress. Flashy. Bottles of Goose.”

Credit: Warner Bros.

“At high tide in the afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft, or taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his two motor-boats slit the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam.”

“The ones on the north end, these guys had the crazy mansions. Indoor pools, outdoor pools. Right on the Long Island Sound … One kid had an indoor-slash-outdoor pool, with a balcony overlooking the indoor portion, about 20 feet high, that people would just jump off of into the pool all the time. And then once you leave the outdoor pool, you could just walk into his backyard, where there was a connecting pattern of water features. Imagine a stream, or a like a little brook. And you could hang out in the outdoor pool, but it was more a hot spring than a pool. And this whole thing just led through gardens all the way down to his dock, with his 50-foot yacht.”

Credit: Warner Bros.

“I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby’s house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited — they went there.”

“This kid would just throw parties all the time. I don’t even think I knew the person whose party this was. I might have said two words to him. Literally everyone would show up.”

Credit: Warner Bros.

“I slunk off in the direction of the cocktail table- the only place in the garden where a single man could linger without looking purposeless and alone.”

“You’d pretty much always get there and do a lap. Try and gauge who’s there, what’s going on, how crazy it is.”

Credit: Warner Bros.

“There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights.”

“50 Cent was big back then. We had ‘Candy Shop,’ ‘In Da Club.’ People liked Fitty back then.”

Credit: Warner Bros.

“He gives large parties… and I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”

“We’d have parties with some Chili Peppers and Zeppelin. Those weren’t the ones that typically got out of control. Barbecue, drinking, smoking.”

And so, we beat on, hoping to someday attend a party up to the caliber of Fitzgerald’s hero… or even our anonymous Great Neckian pal. That indoor pool thing does sound pretty American Dreamy…

Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter

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