At Home in the Hamptons – with Joy Behar

Joy Behar
Philippe Cheng

When it comes to real estate, Joy Behar admits she’s a “house hopper.”

“When I see it, I want it,” says the Emmy Award-winning co-host of ABC-TV’s popular daytime talk show The View.

In life, Behar has had some long runs. She has been sharing her opinions with television viewers around the country for almost 25 years on The View and she has been with the same man, Steve Janowitz, for almost 40 years. But when it comes to her homes in the Hamptons and Manhattan, she’s bounced around a bit, moving eight times.

Her first foray out east was in the 1960s, when her sorority from Queens College rented a house in Hampton Bays.

“It was next to the firehouse,” Behar recalls with a laugh, “not exactly bucolic.”

She returned to the East End in the 1990s with her now-husband Steve, and tried the rental scene. It was more misses than hits.

The folk art painting Behar picked up at an estate sale in Southampton, on her second floor landing. “I happen to like folk art,” she says. “I didn’t know where I was going to hang it, but I’d like to find some place downstairs for it.”Philippe Cheng

“One landlord in Springs was so mean he wouldn’t let us turn the heat on in the pool,” Behar remembers. “Then we rented again in Springs, an upside- down house — awful. Then a house on Mt. Misery Drive, which lived up to its name.”

Behar decided to purchase a home out east in 1998, about a year after she landed the job at The View and after receiving “a nice chunk of money for an advance” for her first book deal.

“I started with a small, very modest house in Sagaponack,” she says, “then to a ‘less modest’ house in East Hampton.” Six years ago she moved again, to her current Hamptons home where she has been living full time, and where she has been shooting The View live from a second-floor bedroom since COVID-19 hit.

“This house is over 100 years old — I’m almost as old as this house!” she quips. “But it’s a beautiful house, it has bones, and it has history.”

The house wasn’t even for sale, when Behar “fell in love with it,” she says.

“I was looking at the one next door, a brand new big house, that was too much money,” she recalls. “I asked the broker, ‘Can you find out if he wants to sell this house?’ The owner said ‘Only at top dollar and as is.’ I took it.”

While her day job may focus on current events, Behar clearly has a thing for history.

The house is filled with unique art, period pieces, and eclectic items that have caught her eye. Much of it she scored at local tag sales and estate sales — like the Basil’s Bar ashtray displayed on her coffee table or the Charcuterie sign in her upstairs sitting area.

The French Charcuterie sign Behar picked up at an antiques show at Mulford Farm in East Hampton. It hangs in her upstairs sitting area.Philippe Cheng

“I like ashtrays,” says Behar. “I don’t smoke but they are basically things of the past and anything I feel is ever going to be used again—I like. The Charcuterie sign was expensive; I just loved it. I saw it at an antiques show at Mulford Farm in East Hampton a long time ago. I like all foreign European stuff.”

Before the pandemic slowed things down, Behar could regularly be spotted on early Saturday morning adventures with friends, scouring the Hamptons for yard sale treasures.

“With yard sales, it’s ‘the hunt,’” explains Behar. “It’s not because the products are cheap — though that is part of the fun. The real truth is you never know what you will find in somebody’s house. You are rummaging through people’s lives and it’s interesting — you learn about them, even though they are not there. You’ll find a book, How to Get a Good Divorce, and then you know why they left the house.”

Behar describes her taste as “eclectic modern” and “modern with a twist.”

In terms of decorating she likes “to mix it up.”

The dining room table is modern and the lamp fixture hanging above it is Scandinavian. In the main living room, where she loves to entertain and have political discussions with friends and Hamptons residents like Alan Alda, Don Lemon, Carl Bernstein and their spouses/partners, she has modern sofas, an old-world detailed mantel, and a “fun sculpture” of a naked lady that she picked up at an estate sale by an artist named Joseph Meerbott.

“It’s an unusual sculpture,” says Behar, as unusual as “the man with the knives in the kitchen.”

“Whoopi [Goldberg] gave me the knife thing — maybe she’s trying to tell me something,” she quips.

It’s the same kitchen where Behar made her famous to-die-for sausage lasagna for Whoopi’s birthday two years ago in The View’s “Cooking With Joy” segment. The video has over 600,000 views.

An unusual knife holder given to Behar by The View’s moderator Whoopi Goldberg.Philippe Cheng

A favorite photograph on display in the living room captures a classic moment on The View between Behar and Barbara Walters, her former boss and co-creator of The View. Walters’ hand is covering Behar’s mouth.

“One day on The View I must have been saying something she didn’t like and they took a picture,” she says. “The photograph is ironic because on a talk show we are supposed to talk. But Barbara felt so affectionate towards me she felt she could do that. I don’t think she would do that with anyone, but she knew she could do that to me. I treasure that picture.”

The “farbissina” (Yiddish word for angry, bitter, vocal person) portrait Behar loves, hanging over the political wax head figures of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and others.Philippe Cheng

Artwork is displayed throughout Behar’s home. A huge folk art painting she picked up at an estate sale in Southampton hangs on a wall in the upstairs landing. In the den, an original print of subway stops in Brooklyn is a meaningful piece because she was born on Metropolitan Avenue. On a side table by the stairs, are novelty heads in the shape of political figures and former presidents, such as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In an office, there’s the “Fat Lady” painting that she bought at an antiques show in Bridgehampton.

Behar admits she is “obsessed” with portraits — many of them paintings by art students. In her past homes she used to group the portraits on one wall, and she and her friends would make up stories behind the faces. Now the portraits are peppered throughout the house, placed in corners, on various walls, and in the hallway.

“I love them so much,” she says. “The farbissina face of the blond woman by the stairs over the presidents’ heads, to me she is a World World II French resistance fighter — you come in, and you see she is not happy today. Not everyone sees it the same way.”

Art runs in the family. She proudly points out the decorative tea set on a coffee table that her daughter, Eve Behar, an accomplished ceramist, made. Eve has her own pottery studio, selling her work online and at Fishers Home Furnishings in Sag Harbor.

Bernie, a Shih Tzu named after Bernie Sanders, holds court in the house. “Bernie believes in universal veterinary care,” Behar says laughing. Above Bernie, one of the ceramic sets by her daughter, Eve Behar.Philippe Cheng

When it comes to her own creativity, Behar retreats to her “woman cave,” a guest house adjacent to the garage where she likes to do her own “writing and Zooming.” She’s been developing scenes and writing plays for the past few years, and on Labor Day weekend, Guild Hall in East Hampton will present a staged reading of Behar’s play Crisis in Queens, a full-length comedy about “an unhappy 40-year-old who blames her husband for her life’s failures.”

In the fall, Behar and her co-hosts on The View are scheduled to return to the studio in Manhattan. How will it feel to be back in the city after living full-time in the Hamptons?

“This Cherry Blossom tree was a bonus,” says Behar. “When I first saw this house, it was in February, so who knew I’d have such a beautiful tree to look down on in May from the master bedroom?”Philippe Cheng

“Cramped,” she says. “I love the Hamptons. There is no better place. To me, it resembles Provence more than any other place I’ve been, and I like it more than Provence.”

In terms of her house-hopping history, Behar says this time she is staying put.

“I never had a house as a kid, and I always wanted one,” she explains. “I grew up in a tenement in Brooklyn. We had to walk. up five flights of stairs until I was 17 years old. My poor mother, she used to have to drag me in the carriage up the five flights. If we forgot milk we were like ‘Oh my God.’ I’d hang out on the fire escape to get some air, or put my pillow in the fridge to get some cool.”

As Behar looks around the house, her resolve is clear.

“My whole life was about getting the best house I could afford, so I found this one. I love it. And I don’t ever want to leave this house — it feels real. I feel like a real resident of the Hamptons.”

A staged reading of Joy Behar’s play Crisis in Queens will be presented at Guild Hall on September 3 and 4. For info/tickets visit: guildhall.org

This article appeared in the Memorial Day 2021 issue of Behind The Hedges. Click here to read the digital version.

Behar’s spot to write: A “woman cave” with a view, photographed from a higher landing. “I like to write when it’s quiet, you know, with something like Enya or elevator music playing in the background,” quips Behar. “I also like to write where it’s noisy,” she adds, “like at the Harbor Market.”Philippe Cheng

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