Talkhouse Is a Real Community

Making people happy for 30 years
Buddy Guy and Junior Wells perform at the Stephen Talkhouse in 1988. David E. Rattray

The Stephen Talkhouse has been many things to many people — classic gin joint for good times, a music venue where big-name musicians perform in a living-room setting, and a place where personal attractions are kindled, many growing into significant partnerships. But for Peter Honerkamp, its longtime managing partner, and a circle of friends and bar regulars, it has been the nucleus of a community.

“The Talkhouse gave a bunch of us a chance to make people happy for a living — what better blessing is that?” Mr. Honerkamp said this week. The bar’s employees include many who have been with Mr. Honerkamp since the start, 30 years ago, when he and members of his family bought the Amagansett bar. “Customers come and go, but here at the Talkhouse the employee is always right,” says a plaque behind the bar.

A celebration of “30 years of great music” — and much more — will take place at the Talkhouse on Monday night beginning at 7. The “whole community is welcome,” Mr. Honerkamp said. There will be no cover charge — although donations will be accepted to help James Pellow, a stalwart Talkhouse bartender facing health issues, and a whole lineup of performers will take the stage to mark the bar’s three decades.

Besides local musicians, for whom the Talkhouse has been both daily bread and Holy Grail, friends of the establishment expected to perform include G.E. Smith and Taylor Barton, Loudon Wainwright, and Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Other well-known guests may show up.

Over the years, so many musicians of note have played at the Talkhouse that it’s hard to pick and choose who to mention, but a walk through it offers a full picture. Signed photographs of performers line the walls, along with group shots of the Talkhouse “family,” candids that show some of Mr. Honerkamp’s signature pranks, news stories about what Talkhouse folk have done, and a wide variety of nudes.

The Talkhouse has offered exclusive performances by Sting and by Coldplay (last summer), been a casual drop-in spot for Paul McCartney, Van Morrison, Jimmy Buffett, and Jimmy Fallon, and the place where a young Nancy Atlas honed her guitar.

The stories are legendary, and well chronicled on Mr. Honerkamp’s blog and by him and others on the Talkhouse website. If you get the right group around the bar on the right night, and throw out a starter like “There was the time when. . . ,” reminiscing will swell, spinning from incredible performances to crazy antics, and all kinds of moments that make up life stories for individuals and a town, from inspired to wistful and sad. Plaques with the names of  friends who are no longer alive mark certain seats at the bar; once you’re embraced, the Talkhouse never lets go.

It was at the Talkhouse that Soldier Ride, bicycle events that have made significant money for the Wounded Warrior Project, began with what seemed like a cockamamie idea for a Talkhouse bartender to ride cross-country. Before that, a kidding remark during a roast of Mr. Honerkamp bloomed into a Hunter Thompson-esque trip by the Maidstoners softball team to Cuba for winter games, and an ongoing people-to-people initiative with long-reaching effect.

Dozens of fund-raisers for everything from worldwide political causes to local people needing money for medical care have taken place over the years.

“We’re part of the East Hampton community, and the East Hampton community is why we’re here. It’s all the great local musicians who have been part of this place,” Mr. Honerkamp said