East Hampton, N.Y.
Bed and breakfast has come to the Hamptons, and not a summer too soon. One could never fault that 45-mile stretch of eastern Long Island for its beaches (infinite and dune-backed), its towns (shaded and stylish), or its landscapes (sweeping and relatively condo-free), but reasonable lodging was always hard to find.
Now comes Hampton Hosts, one of the latest B&B enterprises on the American scene, the creation of New York City schoolteaching chums Goldie Scher and Renee Fisher. You could say that B&B, the age-old British lodging tradition, has caught on in the Hamptons because Mrs. Scher and Mrs. Fisher both have sons who are doctors . . . but let them tell the story.
''We both live in Manhattan, teach in Hicksville, Long Island, and have summer houses in East Hampton,'' said Goldie one hot Hamptonian afternoon while her partner sat beside her on a chaise manning a cordless telephone and talking with an endless string of customers. The cordless phone enables the two to work in the sun astride the Scher swimming pool in back-country East Hampton. ''Both of us have sons who are doctors doing fellowships,'' Goldie went on, ''and when their friends came out to visit, we put up as many of them as we could, but the others had trouble finding suitable accommodations in the area.''
''Suitable?'' said Renee, plopping down the phone for a moment. ''Most of the hotels out here charge $85 to $90 a night, require three nights' minimum stay, and have an 11 a.m. checkout time on Sunday. Our hosts charge $60 a night with a two-night minimum, but you can stay until 5 p.m. on Sunday, so if you want to go to the beach there's no rush to pack and get out.''
''And we think our accommodations are much nicer,'' Goldie put in. ''We make sure of it by checking out each place before we sign up a host. If it's not a house we'd like to stay in, we don't list it. And the hosts have to be friendly and helpful. We had one man who wanted to join the program - nice house with a pool - but he said he couldn't let the guests sit on his patio or use the pool. Well, you can't exactly sit in your room the whole time, so we had to turn him down.''
Many of the 70 B&B houses are in East Hampton, but there is a scattering in Westhampton, Quague, Hampton Bays, Southampton, Water Mill, Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor, Amagansett, and Montauk. Most are modest three- and four-bedroom houses whose owners can use the extra money and perhaps the company. So while you may not live like Woody Allen, Truman Capote, Lee Radziwill, Irwin Shaw, or Dick Cavett, Hamptonites all, you can count on a comfortable room, a continental breakfast, and possibly a few extras no motel, hotel, or inn would provide.
''We have hosts who are gourmet cooks, who like to show off at breakfast with an omelet or muffins,'' said Goldie. ''And some of the houses are more than you'd expect. A couple in Sag Habor has a historic shingle house with a separate side entrance - bedroom, sitting room, and Pullman kitchen, perfect for a longer stay.''
''That couple,'' added Renee, ''even provides dinner at a low cost if you want it. Baby-sitting service, too. Other hosts have boats you can use. Some will drive you around in their cars, take you to yard sales or antique stores.''
Probably the ultimate Hampton Host is Col. H. Harding Isaacson, who offers more services at his cedar-shake ranch house in Amagansett than one would get at the Savoy. With a luxuriant handlebar mustache and shiny shaved head, Colonel Isaacson would look more at home pouring a Schweppes tonic on the veranda of an East African great house than squirting his guests with Off! in his eastern Long Island garden. But so he was, on a hot cloudless Saturday morning as we reclined on orange-cushioned chaises and shrugged off the mosquitoes, whose numbers have been swelled by recent rains.
Colonel Isaacson - his friends call him Harding - said he was recently widowed and also recently retired from a New York public relations job. ''I was always a frustrated innkeeper, anyway, so when I was left on my own, I couldn't think of a better way of having company around,'' he said. Not that his black poodle, J. J. Rousseau, isn't the best of company.
In case you wondered, his is not a military colonelcy but a state title (he belongs to a number of veterans and officers societies, both foreign and domestic), and there is nothing military about his hospitality. ''They have full run of the place,'' he said of his guests, ''and that goes for the kitchen - New York couple made themselves an omelet this morning.'' That also goes for his garden, a lovely little Rousseauvian (Henri, not J. J.) jungle with daylilies of all colors, petunias, bayberry, Russian olive trees, tomatoes, and zucchini.
''I provide sand chairs for the beach, which is a block away,'' he went on. ''I have a mo-ped and a bike anyone can use. What I use, I expect my guests to use. If I have nothing else to do, I'll show them around by car - maybe a drive to Montauk and lunch at Gosman's Dock, or shopping in East Hampton or Bridgehampton.''
Colonel Isaacson - his visage and bearing somehow wouldn't let me call him anything but ''colonel'' - led the way down to the beach, and as we strolled along the shore in the noonday sun, I couldn't help thinking I was in some far-off, long-ago British colony greeting his fellow weekending colonials. We walked as far as Amagansett's Asparagus Beach, so named because its patrons stand up late in the afternoon like so many stalks of asparagus, to socialize. It's one of the many natural and cultural attractions of the now reasonable Hamptons.
For more information on Hampton Hosts write PO Box 507, East Hampton, N.Y. 11937 or 330 East 33rd Street, 21N, New York, N.Y. 10016. Phone (212) 696-1938 or (516) 324-9351. Guests must fill out a guest reservation form and forward a check for $60 per night a week in advance of their stay. Later reservations are not encouraged, but are possible.