Pleasure & Pain

The Wildest Hamptons Bondage Party

What was meant to be an exclusive, fun night of S&M in 1980 turned into something much uglier and more notorious.

Emil Lendof/The Daily Beast

Melonie Haller’s Lost Weekend,’ a piece I wrote for New York magazine in the summer of 1980, centered on a party in a Southampton beach house.

It had been on the weekend of April 11 and the goings-on had involved a dealer’s choice of drugs and the erotic games that have since gone mass-market with Fifty Shades of Grey, but it culminated in ugliness: assault for sure, an alleged rape, and sheer, callous dumbness absolutely.

So it was a dark story at the time but, God knows, some time after the piece was published it grew richer, stranger and much, much darker.

The host, Roy Radin, was in showbiz, His most consistent profit source was wheeling old-timey stars into benefits for local police unions, and he was clearly doing well out of it since Ocean Castle, his beach house, was posh even by Southampton standards.

Indeed it is piquant that it had been the wholesale trashing of this pile under its former name, the Ladd House, in the wake of a debutante party that had launched this series of (sometimes infamously) legendary parties.

Can houses haunt themselves?

Melonie Haller, who had been introduced to Radin by a photographer, was a model/actress, an ambitious 21 year old whose resume included appearances in a hit TV comedy series and a Playboy spread that March.

That Friday, on their way to Ocean Castle she and her date, a businessman, Robert McKeage, dropped by a Southampton pharmacy, where her purchases included toothpaste, tampons, cologne and three dog chains.

Dog chains?

In my piece I referred to the man who opened up a whole party world in the Hamptons for me only as ‘The Roman Senator,’ this being because he had kind of that look and because there was something of Roman decadence about the scene of which he was effectively the Godfather.

Well, ‘the Roman Senator’ died ten years ago and his name was Tom Corbally. He was a terrific fellow, described in his obituary in the Guardian as a man who “played significant roles in scandals and big-business battles on both sides of the Atlantic for forty years,” and in the London Times as “a businessman and New York socialite cloaked in mystery and involved in international intrigue” who ”had friendships with Hollywood stars, business leaders and such international luminaries as Mother Teresa, Sir Jimmy Goldsmith of Britain and King Hussein of Jordan.”

The Hamptons world into which Corbally opened the door was small but intense, a clubby, pink and green trousered version of bondage, whippings and what have you, where—I quote myself—“sufferers from tennis elbow were likely to get a knowing look, or a coarse allusion to ‘thrasher’s arm’” and where “it seemed there was no shortage of lovelies longing to slip out of their Halstons into something uncomfortable.”

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I was shown photographs of shackled babes and a cute couple wincing as they were spattered with drippings from a lit candle.

Corbally also showed me a collection of gizmos inventively put together from leather, glimmery metal, and rubber tubing.

“Other girls’ boyfriends get them jewelry from Van Cleef’s,” a young woman said as she donned a new present. “My boyfriend gets me stuff from Harrods’ pet shop.”

Why had Corbally been so ready to share? It turned out he was none too keen on some of the fresh faces horning in.

The whole scene was supposed to be fun and games, he had said. But amateurs wouldn’t necessarily know where to draw those fine lines. “You’ll do something wrong and you’ll end up in the headlines,” he had told them. He added that he had never accepted an invitation from Roy Radin.

Melonie Haller and Robert McKeage, who was well-supplied with coke, poppers, Quaaludes and mescaline, were early arrivals at Ocean Castle.

The party swelled, and later reports on its progress splinter into hallucinatory fragments.

In one, Haller and McKeage make a post-midnight visit to Radin’s bedroom in which a video camera atop a tripod was trained on Radin’s bed.

The duo was dressed in itty-bitty leather outfits, dog chains—those dog chains, presumably—and Nazi caps, and were whipping each other.

Another fragment has Haller marching into Radin’s bedroom on Saturday morning to show him her portfolio.

Radin’s version: he had her taken back to her bedroom. But she returned and smashed his video camera.

Haller’s version: There was rough sex. And it went too far.

Radin’s version: It was consensual.

Haller’s version: she was beaten and raped. By two men and two women.

Radin and McKeage’s version: never happened.

Three things were certain though. One was that Melonie Haller was beaten.

The second was that Radin and McKeage wanted her out of there. They called her mother and told her that her daughter was incoherent. She asked that she be put in a limo.

The third certain thing? They wanted to get rid of her on the cheap. A limo would cost $60. They tried to find a cheaper one. Nothing doing. So they had her driven to the station and bundled into the train.

Melonie told the conductor her story. He called the cops.

Tom Corbally was left contemplating the accuracy of his warning. They had gone too far. And they had wound up in the headlines.

Just how too far they had gone would remain obscure though. No rape charges were ever brought against McKeage or anybody else at Ocean Castle. McKeage did thirty days, but for non-sexual assault.

Roy Radin moved on. He set to planning a movie about the Cotton Club, the defunct Harlem hotspot, with the producer Robert Evans to whom he had been introduced by Karen Greenberger, a woman who wanted to co-produce, but grew worried that she was being cut out of the deal.

She called Radin at his Los Angeles hotel on May 13, 1983, and set up a meeting.

She had hired three bodyguards as contract killers. They drove Radin to the northeast of LA, riddled him with bullets and left him in a canon. He was found by a beekeeper a month later.

By the time the four were convicted, the movie, The Cotton Club had been directed by Francis Ford Coppola, been much praised, and been a commercial bomb.