This diary contains diverse views and opinions on what goes on in Cherry Grove, the nation and the world. Racism and bigotry have no place here. Please do not engage in personal attacks on other users. The cardinal rule here is to respect others. The opinions published here are those of individual writers and may or may not represent those of our publisher/editor or any other members of our volunteer staff.
To paraphrase a piece of writing that caught my eye on the Internet: "The ability to put my thoughts on (virtual) paper and put them where people can read and respond to them has been marvelous, even if most people who have read my writings haven't agreed with them. If there is any hope for the long term success of democracy, it will be if people agree to listen to and try to understand their opponents rather than simply seek to crush them." -- RLF
In Memorium -- "My primary purpose in writing these articles is to help provide gays with a sense of their history outside of Stonewall. I feel we have to grab it wherever we are living it and get it down for the generations that will follow in our footsteps."--Mary Kapsalis.
Jan and Edrie Tie The Knot in San Francisco
June 25, 2008 -- After forty-nine years of domestic partnership, Jan and Edrie of Surf Walk, flew to San Francisco last week to be legally married (see "Of Interest" below). Best wish to you both!
They cut the celebration short so Edrie could get back to Cherry Grove in time to attend Saturday rehearsal for her role in Island Rep's upcoming production of "Sordid Lives." She's hilarious as Sissy, the nicotine-addicted aunt. (Photo right: Edrie (left) and Denise Harbin (right) at a recent "Sordid Lives" rehearsal.) Denise is cast as Noleta, originally played by Delta Burke.
On July 2, Island Rep's summer theatre season opens with writer/performer Steven Fales in his blockbuster international hit play "Confessions of Mormon Boy." If you support our efforts here at ATGT to keep you informed about what's going on, I hope you'll return the favor by attending Island Rep's exciting summer lineup. Besides, you'll have fun! Please note that "Confessions of a Mormon Boy" will give weekday performances, too.
Might as well get all of the self-promotion out of the way all at once. On July 12, between 11 a.m and 1 p.m, the Top of the Bay Bistro will host a Jazz Brunch for the benefit of The Island Repertory Theatre Company. Dine on sumptuous dishes to the tune of live jazz music. You will get the chance to meet special guests of honor NY State Assemblywoman Ginny Fields and Steven Fales, star of "Confessions of a Mormon Boy." Seating is limited to seventy people. Suggested minimum contribution $50 per person. You can buy tickets at Top of the Bay Bistro, Island Rep's box office on the ground floor of the Top of the Bay Building or by phone at 631 597-9439.
We're happy to welcome Alan & Carlos to our ATGT family. In their new column As The Pines Turns they'll give us the real lowdown on what's happening in our sister community to the east.
In this edition, I look at the current success of go-go boy nights and underwear parties in local clubs and reflect back on the fuss caused by the original one at Tides in 2005. Our next edition will review the porn star nights at Cherry's that almost tore our community apart in 2002-03. You will not believe it!)
Speaking of porn stars, a film company was here last week recruiting local talent to appear in a skin flick that they were shooting at The Belvedere. Gee, maybe it'll premiere at next year's Fire Island Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Oink!
2008 Go-go boy at Cherry's
This summer, local clubs are increasingly feeling the pinch of the recession and vigorously competing for the patronage of an increasingly more jaded younger generation, who want something extra to go with their ten-dollar (including tip) drinks, by offering go-go boy nights and underwear parties with lots of skin on display.
Their major competition is the Internet, where you can cruise website after website for potential sex partners in your area, what they look like, the size of their private parts and what they're into -- with graphic photos to prove it. Some guys come to Cherry Grove and spend most of their time in front of their PC's trying to get laid. (It's the ol' raging hormones thing . . . ah, yes, I almost remember them well!!) Why go to a bar and take a chance on picking up somebody who might or might not be your ideal when you can see the real goods in every detail on the Internet and not pay a cent?
Cherry's, The Ice Palace and Tides all planned to lure men who love to dance in their scanties by hosting underwear parties on the same night -- great skivvy overload!) I am told by one of the party hosts that a representative of "certain community members" urged them not to hold the event. As of this writing, Tides is the only business to follow through.
The Island Breeze is staying in the race (sort of) by offering: "Stud Wednesdays -- with HOT Dancers," "Freeballin' Fridays -- The ANTI-Underwear Party with Go-Go Boys" (Freeballin' means that you don't wear underwear) and "Pajama Party Saturdays with Go-Go Boys."
Reliable sources tell me that when it was still a four-way race, things got nasty when one member of club management made libelous remarks to the police about one of the other competitors.
2002 Go-Go Boys have a "just working my way through college" look.
Cherry's offers "the hottest go-go boys" on Thursday nights and planned an underwear party called Menergy (optional clothes check) on Fridays, but their June 13 event convinced them that their space isn't conducive to a night of men dancing in their scanties and they're rethinking it. Owners Jacque and Donna have managed the very difficult task of attracting a mixed crowd of gay, lesbian, straight, transgender clients and feel that holding too many specialized events will alienate segments of their sizeable following. At the moment, Cherry's is the most popular watering hole in the Grove; if it works, why change it? Besides, their Thursday night Go-Go Boy parties are a huge success and hosting a similar themed event the following night seems excessive.
Through the years, Go-Go Boys take on an edgier image.
Those with an urge to dance in their skivvies still have Tides, home of Fire Island's original Underwear Party, to go to. They held their first event on June 20.
I went out last Thursday night to catch the go-go boys at Cherry's and take some photos of the party, but, unlike the ones that I'd covered in the past, the boys (except for one -- see "2008 Go-Go Boy at Cherry's above") would only allow me to take body shots, no faces. I was told that today's go-go boys are accountants, teachers, lawyers, cops, straight family men etc. doing double duty trying to make ends meet and would lose their jobs (for a start) if anybody found out. (So, I took some faceless body shots (boring) and left.)
Ah, for the good ol' days when go-go dancers and strippers were exhibitionists who truly loved their jobs. A previous club owner in the Grove always insisted that his dancers reach a climax on stage and passed out lobster bibs to people in the front row in case there was any overspill (is that a word?).
Grove go-go boys are more inhibited and camera shy than in the past.
On Friday night, I checked out the "Freeballin' Anti-Underwear Party" at Island Breeze, but it was not yet underway. I was told that it gets a late crowd.
The Original Underwear Party at Tides was not underway either. When I got there some people were fully dressed and the ones who were stripped down to their skivvies wouldn't let me take a photo. I understand that by 2 a.m. the place rocked.
These present day parties do not have the sense of fun and camaraderie that they had a few years ago when I covered them in depth. (See below.) Four years later, there seems to be a jaded cloud hanging over the festivities. To so many guys who've posted x-rated photos of themselves all over the Internet, standing around in public in your undies is no big deal.
In 2002, the introduction of this type of event into our community pitted neighbor against neighbor and encouraged organized boycotting the host clubs.
The whole underwear party thing began in August, 2004 when Daniel Nardicio and drag star Sweetie planned to open Fire Island's first underwear party at Tides, the new kid on the block looking for a gimmick to draw customers in.
The party drew big crowds from both Cherry Grove, Fire Island Pines and beyond and was an instant success. Although clothes check was offered, lots of guys simply left home in their undies to save themselves a tip. One could get a free show by gorging al fresco on the "best kickass pizza" at Grove Pizza, while watching all the hunks in the latest designer bikinis, thongs, jockeys and boxer shorts working the boards on their way to Tides, which was nearby.
Initially, I was among the naysayers who didn't think that an undies party was a good idea. When I challenged entrepreneur Danny Nardicio to an ATGT interview, he accepted, but only after I agreed to attend the underwear party that was going to be held the night before agreed to meet and talk. Here's what I reported at the time:
TWINKS DANCING IN THEIR SCANTIES
In the August 11 2004 edition of ATGT, I wrote:
August, 2004 -- "I went to the Underwear Party at Tides in Cherry Grove to do research for my standoff with promoter Daniel Nardicio on Saturday. Initially, I planned to defy dress code and wear knee-length shorts and tank top, but thought it would betray my spy status. Then, I decided to let it all hang out by wearing a jock strap and harness, but didn't want to be responsible for insighting a stampede toward the exits. Finally, I compromised on paisley boxers with a long tank top that covered my crotch and ass, yet satisfied my inner desire to be au courant.
Underwear Party: Sweetie at the door (above l.); Bottoms at the top (above r.)
I approached the Tides entrance very gingerly, as twinks in their scanties eagerly passed me by. When I got closer, I was comforted by the reassuring appearance of Sweetie, who was selling tickets at the door. Inside the entrance, anybody who was wearing more than underwear was handed a plastic bag in which to deposit their clothes for checking. (Fortunately, I live nearby and had scurried down the walk in my party outfit and had nothing to declare.) Although some wore fetish styles that did not strictly conform to the dress code, they were still allowed entrance. After working so hard on their outfits, I guess it would have violated the Thirteenth Commandment to ask them to take them off.
Beyond the clothes check area was a staircase that led to a second floor party room. I cautiously climbed the steps -- my heart beating ever faster as I approached the landing -- wanting and not wanting to lay my baby blue contacts on what I hoped I wouldn't -- and yet secretly hoped I would --- witness. Aghhhhhh!
Yep . . . In that smoke-filled, dimly lit cabaret room, Cherry Grove's worst fears were realized. I tried to shield my eyes in vain from the sight of at least a couple of hundred people of various age, shape and size, laughing, drinking and, yes, dancing in their underwear!
Host Daniel, in a pair of classic Jockey shorts, welcomed me warmly, confirmed our interview the following day and cautioned me to ask permission before I took photos.
The overall mood was cordial and there were more older people in attendance than I'd imagined. I did recognize some Cherry Grovers, but think the majority of the revelers were from The Pines or had been bused in from Manhattan.
At first, I felt uncomfortable asking people if I could photograph them in their delicates, but all were willing . . . except for a tall, elderly man in a jockstrap, who absolutely refused to allow me to photograph his rear end.
Did I see anything going on that one wouldn't see going on in other public places in Cherry Grove? Nope . . .
After fifteen minutes, or so, I decided I'd taken enough photographs for two coffee table books and rushed home to the comforting sight of Big Nacho Man in his long, loose, blue nightshirt.
Well, that's the whole story of my descent into the decadent nightlife of Cherry Grove. Would I do it again? Let's just say that if I did, I'd wear something a bit more opaque, perhaps edged with just a hint of lace . . .
MY INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL NARDICIO:
August, 2004 -- Although he must have been tired, Daniel Nardicio (photo left) was exactly on time for our interview. I like that.
He was born in Hainesville, Ohio and spent his formative years in foster homes. He came to New York ten years ago, via Los Angeles, San Francisco and Berlin, Germany, where made his living as an actor.
"I lived in Berlin for five years and found myself letting go of my American roots. I really love the States and decided to move to New York City, where I worked as an actor. After five years, I came to the conclusion that performing wasn't the path that was meant for me."
He got a job with a firm that did corporate parties, found his niche and founded Daniel Nardicio Productions creating nightclub events, concerts and theatrical productions. One of his most successful parties was an underwear party on Thursday nights in Manhattan.
"I do parties that are very liberating. My employees are good people. Everybody has fun," he said.
He continued, "After spending several summers in Fire Island Pines, I decided to move west to Cherry Grove. I liked it, but the bars weren't speaking to me . . . weren't my scene."
RLF: "But, Daniel, why bring something into a community that it doesn't want.?
DANIEL: "But, it does want it. Tides was packed last night."
RLF: "Yes. But there were a lot of people there who were not from the community."
DANIEL: "The community needs the money. This place is dying, to some degree." The bars are fighting for fifty dollars."
RLF: "But the community isn't just bars."
DANIEL: "But that's what I do. If I was a realtor, I'd have an office. If I was a restaurateur, I'd open a restaurant. People walk up to me and thank me for my party. They tell me that I've brought back the 70s to Cherry Grove."
RLF: "You can't bring back the past. In the 70s, we were very passionate about finding out who we were. The temperament of the people was different. Your party last night was not the 1970s, it was the 2000s."
DANIEL: "I just want people to have a good time."
RLF: "The core of Cherry Grove are the homeowners, who have invested money in Cherry Grove and don't feel they have a say in any of this."
DANIEL: "The people I bring out here spend money."
RLF: "That doesn't interest the people who live here." (Photo right: 2005 Ad.)
DANIEL: "But isn't that how property values go up?"
RLF: "I think that the values would go up if it was more diverse. Cherry Grove has always promoted itself as a sleazy place to go. As we've gotten more liberated, there's a large section of gays -- in committed relationships and raising children, for instance -- who don't want to come here. If Cherry Grove enticed them here, I think the property values would really go up. Party people are not necessarily homeowners."
DANIEL: "People who are coming over here to party will be next year's homeowners. In fact, I'm looking for property here, myself."
RLF: "People go for the quick buck here. There's no balance. Cherry Grove does not reflect the gay world as it exists today. I couldn't even find a place for my theatre company. They fought it here.
"We live in a historic place. If it weren't for Cherry Grove, gay liberation would not be where it is today. This was the first gay community ever. No one ever bothered to found a historic association that would archive the past in any organized way. History is already being reported in a distorted manner. Our history should have been preserved. We should have a museum here, where people could come to study gay history. It would draw people from all over the world."
DANIEL: "Yes. Accommodations are wildly overpriced. My friends would love to come out here, but they can't afford it. It's a resort town fueled by sex and alcohol."
RLF: "Yes. To some degree, I think it keeps people down. Gay life has experienced a complete transformation since the fifties. We are couples, educators, politicians, writers, artists, doctors, lawyers, etc. We don't attract many of those people here because we don't offer anything they're interested in. I find that a pity. There should be some cultural balance here."
DANIEL: "I agree with you on that."
RLF: "You and I are the same. We're just interested in different things."
DANIEL: "That's why I like Robyn and Ron. They want to give Cherry Grove something different."
RLF: You know Daniel, some people here would say that it's you who are out of date."
DANIEL: "Yes, but it's beautiful. . ."
It was at this point in our conversation that I decided that I liked this man. He's a visionary and probably not going to go away. To his credit, he agrees that the answer is cultural diversity and that's he's just a part of the solution. If you don't like what he does, don't go.
(Editor: Not everybody in the Grove thought this was a good idea, and many tried to boycott the party and the club itself (Even today, some of them still refuse to go into the place.)
NOTE: Daniel Nardicio has no connections with current underwear parties in Cherry Grove.)
An incident happened last week that brought me back to life in 1950's Manhattan, where there was more tolerance for gays than in most other places. However, one still had to be alert and not venture into unfriendly neighborhoods, where there was always the potential for whistles, catcalls, being called 'FAGGOT' and chased until you thought that your heart was going to burst. The possibility was always there. That's why Cherry Grove was such a safe haven from all that discrimination. Of course, there were beatings in the meat rack and Sayville townies would come to The Island to "beat up the queers," but gays and lesbians beat the intruders back to where they belonged. (Photo above left: Rose bushes at "Nacho Men.")
Last week, those years came up for me again when three children (two girls and one boy in their very early teens) followed me down the boardwalk, doing a lot of sniggering and copying the way I walk. I was so pissed (and hurt?) that I told them to go live some place where they belonged . . . that this was an adult community. They hung their heads in silence, as only hateful kids can when caught being mean, and turned up Main Walk. Know anybody on Main Walk, who urge their offspring to make fun of people here?
I had not been the victim of that kind of discrimination in a long time and it caught me off guard. Of all places to experience that brand of deja vu! Not in Cherry Grove! Yup!
Previous to this incident, I did not have an opinion on the changing landscape in Cherry Grove. I do now . . .
Steve Parks, Newsday theatre critic says that The Island Repertory Theatre Company’s presentation of Confessions of a Mormon Boy at The Tides Playhouse in Cherry Grove is one of “SEVEN SHOWS TO SEE” this summer! (Newsday, Sunday, May 25, 2008)
On July 2-17, The Island Repertory Theatre Company will present writer and performer Steven Fales (photo left) in his blockbuster international hit play “Confessions of a Mormon Boy” for a two-week run at The Tides Playhouse in Cherry Grove, Fire Island. It has been brilliantly directed by Tony Award winner Jack Hofsiss.
The show moves to Cherry Grove directly from a sold-out engagement at the Dublin International Fringe Festival and will play a six-week run in London after its Fire Island engagement.
Please note that “Confessions of a Mormon Boy” will play weekday, as well as weekend performances.
Your attendance will represent your vote to see more high-caliber theatrical entertainment like The Island Repertory Theatre Company has offered Fire Islanders since the year 2000.
“Confessions of a Mormon Boy” will be presented on July 2-17 on Wednesdays, Sundays and Mondays at 7 pm; Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm. Box office is open at the Top of the Bay Bistro Building in downtown Cherry Grove on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 am to 3 pm and also on performance days. You can also charge tickets to your Visa or Master Card by calling 631 597-9439 or on the Internet at www.Theatremania.com.
Season subscribers will also see "Sordid Lives" and attend a staged reading of a new play in Island Rep's New Plays and Playwrights Series set for August 22-24. Already booked for the event is, direct from its NYC off-Broadway run, "The Rarest of Birds," a one-man play based on the life of one of America’s greatest actors and most tortured souls Montgomery Clift by John Lisbon Wood and starring Omar Prince. The series is a free event for subscribers only. (Photo left: Montgomery Clift.)
People, Places & Things: Before writer/performer Steven Fales (photo right) opens in "Confessions of Mormon Boy" for The Island Repertory Theatre Company at The Tides Playhouse on July 2, he will make his Manhattan cabaret debut at Joe's Pub. Entitled Mormon American Princess, Fales will play the intimate cabaret June 27 at 9:30 PM and June 28 at 11:30 PM. G. Scott Lacy is musical director. Steven Fales trained at the Boston Conservatory before completing his two-year mission for the Mormon Church in Portugal, and going on to a BFA and MFA in acting and musical theatre. Joe's Pub is located within the Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street. There is a $20 cover charge. For reservations visit www.joespub.com or call (212) 967-7555.
Reverend Eleni O. Marudis will be doing Private Pet Blessings in your home until June 26th. Please call Valerie at 631 597-6140 for an appointment.
Cherry Grove will celebrate a decade of pride with its Tenth Annual GLBT Pride Parade twice around downtown Cherry Grove on Saturday, June 28. Meet in front of the Community House & Firehouse at 2 pm -- kick off 2:30 sharp. Decorate your float, paint your wagon, grab a banner and be there!! Start from Firehouse/Community House and go west on Bayview, turn south on Surf Walk, turn east on Lewis Walk, north on Ocean Walk, east on Bayview, south on Doctor's Walk, west on Lewis, north on Main Walk, west on Bayview and then an encore. Disperse at the dock. . . .
Two weeks ago, the annual House Blessing took in a nice amount of money that was divided among Cherry Grove's not-for-profits. Checks made out to specific causes amounted to $3,580 and general cash contributions amounted to $1060. The distribution was as follows: APCG $225.00; CGOAI $212.50; Doctor's Fund $1,202.50; Dunes Fund $1,132.50; Fire Dept $732.50; Island Repertory Theatre Company $352.50; Memorial Fund $132.50 and PAWS $657.50. Next year, make sure that your favorite org receives monies intended for them by dropping checks in the basket that are specifically made out to them.... Cherry Grove Pizza is asking whoever stole their wagon to return it. I wouldn't get Frank pissed off, if I were you. . . .
I can't vouch for the authenticity of the following notice that was recently posted on various bulletin boards and business establishments, but here it is word for word:
"STOP THE SEX POLICE! Federal SEX POLICE (U.S. Park Rangers) have invaded the meat rack, looking to arrest gay men having sex. Don't let this happen! Getting the police out of the meat rack was one of the most successful campaigns of the Mattachine Society in the 1960, before Stonewall.
"Raise holy hell. Tell the sex police to get out of our backyard. Sex police arresting men in the meatrack is the desecration of a sacred land. Protest Saturday at the Grove Gay Pride March. Call The Fire Island National Seashore: Sean McGuiness, Acting Superintendent or Paula S. Valentine, Public Affairs 631 587-4759."
When I got in touch with Mr. Johnson, I got the following reply:
"I saw a raid Saturday...yelling at boys who went running out of the bushes. I spoke to two Park rangers yesterday. Officer Swindle and a female partner. He said he was there to enforce federal law and anyone having sex would be arrested for a federal crime. Thanks, David"
A Suffolk County Police Officer told me that the Meatrack is under the jurisdiction of the Fire Island National Seashore Park Rangers. He mentioned that two trespassers were recently arrested in the Carrington House (owned by the FINS) for lewd conduct and cocaine possession. If this is true, perhaps there is a crackdown going on or maybe the Rangers are just doing their job. If this story has any legs, I'm sure we'll hear more about it. It's just the kind of situation that people love to adopt as their summer cause. Makes 'em feel more like they belong.
Whenever something like this happens, people have a grand old time gossiping and whispering about it, but when it's time to take action everybody gets quiet, doesn't want to be involved and hangs the messenger from the nearest tree.
Best to get to the bottom of this before the mainland press gets hold of the story and has a field day. Talk to the police and rangers. Insist that one of our organizations holds a town meeting where everybody, including David Johnson, Officer Swindle, the police, etc. gets their say. But that won't happen. It's too much fun speculating on what did and didn't happen to find out the truth. If the real facts came out, people would have to find another cause to carry on about. Better to giggle and fret awhile.
If you'd like your event mentioned here on ATGT, just e-mail info to mailto:AsTheGroveTurnds@aol.com and you'll no doubt see it in our next edition.
As The Grove Turns was founded on May 15, 2000. So far, we have received over a million visits to our site from over fifty countries. Next edition of As The Grove Turns: July 9, 2008. 'Til then, God bless.