A Conversation with Gordon Ryan

Gordon Ryan. Courtesy photo

Mr. Ryan, an Amagansett resident with a longtime legal practice in Montauk, is known for his edgy, comedic floats every year in the Montauk Friends of Erin St. Patrick’s Day parade. This year, the group named him the grand marshal of the parade, now in its 57th year.

How do you feel to have been named grand marshal?

They caught me completely by surprise. I totally expected that as long as I kept putting floats in the parade I was safe, but they said no such luck. It is just about the biggest honor Montauk can bestow upon someone. The Chamber of Commerce has Man of the Year, and Friends of Erin has the Grand Marshal. I’m honored and flattered.

What have your floats been like in the past?

We try to do a float that has something to do with current events. One year we did “50 Shades of Montauk.” We did “Janet Jackson, Thanks for the Mammary,” “Bernie Madoff and the Debts,” and “The Chicken of the Sea” — the Italian ship captain who wrecked the liner and got into a boat before the passengers got off. We did “Dick Cheney’s Gun Club — Bag a Lawyer Today,” when Dick Cheney shot his lawyer by mistake. We did “Trump Putin’ America First” — we won first prize for that one, $500, two years ago. They asked us to avoid political floats; we did Clinton twice and Trump twice.

How far back does your connection go on the East End?

I bought my house in Amagansett on the Napeague stretch in Lazy Point in 1979. It was an unlivable, classic shack on the beach, 500 square feet. I worked on it all winter, and moved in in the summer of 1980. I had a place by the Montauk Airport for three years before that. I went solo with my law business in 1980 and opened up my office on the Carl Fisher Plaza in 1983. I taught the brokers courses at night at Southampton College for 12 years. I’ve lectured the police departments over the years on trial techniques and was also very involved in East Hampton Town Youth Court when it was operating for about 11 years.

I understand you have a strong Sag Harbor connection, too.

I have a big connection with Sag Harbor. My wife Dianne and I run the race committee boats Wednesday nights at the Breakwater Yacht Club. We’ve been doing that for easily 20 years. We set the courses, log them out, log them in, assist if they need anything. Things get blown overboard and we try to find it. We’re always at one end of the start and finish line. They can get real scary close sometimes, and sometimes too close — bang! That’s a lot of fun. Breakwater is a great outfit.

What do you love about the communities here?

I like being outside. My wife and I bike all winter long outside around Napeague after work. I like the fact that it’s small-town and you know everyone in town, especially off season, and that you matter. These towns are just fantastic. They really look out for each other. … My daughter Tess died when she was seven years old. She had cancer, and that was another reason I fell in love with these towns. When Tess got sick, the towns took over. People dropped off a meal every day, picked up the kids. They knew how much help I needed before I knew. The Montauk and Amagansett fire departments took Tess and her friends for rides in fire trucks. The towns really saved us. That was 2000. That was major.

What are you looking forward to about the parade?

I’m looking forward to seeing the parade. I never get to see the parade. They’re going to have me march and then take me back to the viewing stand so I can see it. I like the marching bands and the floats the best.

The Montauk Friends of Erin’s 57th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade steps off on March 24 at noon from Edgemere Street, turns onto Main Street and finishes at the Montauk IGA at the end of Main Street. For more information on the event, including a luncheon on March 22 and a cocktail party on March 23, visit montaukfriendsoferin.org/parade.html.