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.

September 24, 2008 -- Since the year 2000, ATGT and The Island Repertory Theatre Company have been our primary focus. Most of our time has been devoted to one or the other or both.

Both operations will cease as of this edition.

ATGT was founded to record the transition of Cherry Grove in the post-AIDS era in the words of people who were there. If you go back to the first editions and read forward, I think you'll agree that we succeeded in putting together an interesting document. 

It served as a public forum for majority and minority points of view on community affairs and anything else people had on their minds. It was always stressed that attacks on individuals would not be published, only opinions on the principles behind the issues would appear here.

Although people discuss every intimate detail of their lives (with pictures) on the Internet, in Cherry Grove most were hesitant/resistant to be quoted about anything (especially in the last few years). There are reasons for that which I won't go into, but, if you have been a fan of the website, you probably know what I mean.

Cherry Grove is a different place now. The new generation is not combative and doesn't see things in terms of glasses half empty or half full. And, although everybody and their cat have a website nowadays, there's really not that much to write about.

Many editions of ATGT have been archived on the Internet back to the year 2000. If you go to:*/  you will get a general idea of what the years 2000-2008 were like.

Unfortunately, many editions have not been preserved with photos. Sometimes they'll download if you are patient.

In the future, I might spend some time archiving editions that I've saved onto DVDs and make them available to you. It would be a mammoth task, but probably worthwhile. Then, there will be a permanent record of the times.

Early editions feature interviews with real Grove luminaries like Jeanne Skinner, Mary Kapsalis and others. There are also historic photos of the Michael's Restaurant fire that is part of Grove history and should be preserved. It's ATGT's coverage of that incident that attracted people from around the world to our site to the tune of ten thousand hits in one week.

ATGT archives also contain Invasion pics back to the year 2000 and attest to how gracefully some of the Cherry Grove drag queens have aged.

There's also a terrific series of interviews with famous porn stars who played Cherry's and caused one of the biggest stinks ever in Cherry Grove history. Did you ever think we'd look back at those years in nostalgic amusement?

From the beginning, powers that be who control community and charitable organizations (the same people, then and now) did not appreciate being scrutinized and made it more and more difficult for us to report on their activities.

Disgruntled group officers fought back by boycotting attendance at Island Rep shows and our board of directors advised that I "cool it" for the sake of the theatre company, which I've always thought was the more important of the two. So, I "sold out" and Island Rep grew. There's got to be a moral (or immoral?) there somewhere.

The Rep's 2008 summer theatre season was it's most successful in its nine years. Never before had we had a sellout season. Incredibly, by August 1 we didn't have to man our box office because there were no more tickets!

When Island Rep opened its first season, many advised that there was no place in Cherry Grove for legit theatre plays. We proved that there was. By offering excellent comedies and dramas -- well directed and performed -- the theatre company grew.

Good critical and audience word of mouth began to attract theatre professionals who wanted to come to Cherry Grove to appear in, direct and have us perform their plays: ((David Drake, Paul Lekakis, James Edwin Parker (Two Boys In A Bed On A Cold Winter's Night), Steven Fales (Confessions of a Mormon Boy), Tony Finstrom (Between the Covers and Six For The Show), Omar Prince, John C. Wood (Rarest of Birds), Matthew Todd (Blowing Whistles), David Dubin (Six For The Show), Paul Harris (You Look For Me), David Parr (Slap And Tickle), Tom DeMastri (Slap And Tickle and Sordid Lives), James Beaman (Black Market Marlene: A Berlin Cabaret) and Bianca Leigh (Love Letters) were some of them.))

Some of our productions moved on to professional engagements elsewhere.  Their publicity noted that they originated in Cherry Grove.

We also produced Fire Island's first and only One Act Play Festival titled "Six for the Show," which featured new plays by professional local and mainland playwrights.

In nine years, we developed an excellent resident acting company comprised of mainland and community performers who appeared with guest artists in our productions. This past summer, Newsday critic Steve Parks attended and favorably reviewed one of our shows. Also this past summer, Island Rep received a New York State Citation for outstanding artistic excellence and exemplary community service. (Presented to us by terrific New York State Assemblywoman Ginny Fields.)

The Rep is a true 501(c)3 org whose expenses exceeded its income. That's what the term "not-for-profit" means.

Unfortunately, we were never able to raise enough in tax-deductible contributions to balance our budgets. All income was pumped into the productions. All involved were paid. (Excepting Big Nacho Man and I, who never took a cent in compensation.) Please note that most monies stayed within our community, not sent to the mainland on the next boat.

There was never enough money to pay for a much needed staff to man our professional box office office system, subscription campaign, fund raising efforts, publicity and day to day record keeping.

Two years ago, the proceeds from the benefit party at The Belvedere Guest House helped us balance our books. I've always felt that some jealous local organization complained to the Belvedere management, because the following year's planned party was canceled. I have no proof of that, but remarks made at the time led me to that conclusion.

I'm not talking big bucks here. We managed to produce a four-show summer season for about $35,000. Our box office income represented about $20,000, fund raising amounted to about $15,000 (most from ATGT readers.) To operate properly, we needed another $15,000 to pay for administrative expenses mentioned above. Not a lot of money, but not a pittance, either. But when you think of all the locals, people from other Fire Island and mainland communities who took the ferry to Cherry Grove to eat, drink and see a show, it's not a lot. Think of the prestige showered on Cherry Grove for having a quality professional theatre company in its midst.

Most community businesses lavishly support theatre companies responsible for attracting people to its shores, but (with exceptions) not so much here. I have to thank those who did with all my heart: Craig and Julian at The Belvedere Guest House, Evelyn and Valerie at A Summer Place Realty, Jacque and Donna at Cherry's, Ron and Justin at Top of the Bay Bistro and Frank at Cherry Grove Pizza. They recognized the value of a theatre company in their community and I hope benefited from our being here. Please be sure to patronize them a lot.

Although The Tides Playhouse was built to house Island Rep, appearances there have always been tenuous, at best. The theatre is a little jewel, but this past summer's host was abusive and our experience there was a nightmare. From night to night we never knew under what conditions the show would go on. Try doing that with a hefty advance sale!

Too, Big Nacho Man and I are getting older and can no longer manage ATGT or The Island Repertory Theatre Company by ourselves and have decided to sell "Nacho Men," (our oceanfront home, not the man), fold up our tent and move on.

Nacho Men is the ultimate Fire Island year-round beach house . . . cozy, income producing and carefree. If you want more info, send an e-mail to me at or We'd be happy to tell you anything else you'd like to know.

Four-bedroom, three-bath house completely winterized (tight as a drum), two income producing units, laundry shed, storage shed, care free, oversized lot onto which you can add a second story, extend the house eastward, build a guest house or swimming pool and lots of extras. Tremendous privacy, great oceanfront view, nice furnishings, including fabulous art we've collected in Mexico. Asking Price: $950,999.

The web addresses of both As The Grove Turns and The Island Repertory Theatre Company will remain on the Internet, although neither will be active. Island Rep will retain its not-for-profit, tax-exempt status in case there is opportunity to reopen elsewhere.

So, that's it. Have we failed? Nah! We succeeded in what we set out to do. Nobody will ever be able to take that away from us. Hell, we've made history! It's been one hell of a ride!

I have been invited to direct a major revival of "The Boys In The Band" at  a theatre company in Fort Lauderdale, but will do so only if the artistic environment is conducive to doing good work. I would love being associated with theatre elsewhere. I guess it's in my blood.

Our decision is final. Once I get settled in Lauderdale, I might write a good ol' blog about whatever fancies my sick mind,  but not solely focused on Cherry Grove. Just think what havoc I could create stirring the bottom of a bigger pot! (That's a joke!)

Big Nacho Man and I will always be grateful to those of you who got it and  supported our efforts through the years.

God Bless!

As The Grove Turns was founded on May 15, 2000.


Dear Richard,

I am most happy for you and Nacho Man in the next phase of your journey together; I know it will be perfect for you both! Blessings on the journey.

As read the latest (and last) post of "As the Grove Turns" my heart became heavy - I will miss it. Reading your diary of Cherry Grove has provided me with an opportunity to stay connected to a community, an era, and time in my life that will always remain in my heart.

I am 46 years-old; however, when I was 15, I took a ferry to the Grove for the first time. It was magical. Two summers later, after graduating high-school, I bought a copy of "The Mr. Boston Guide to Bartending". I walked up to the old beach hotel and met with Jim Bozart. He asked me a few questions and then said, "your hired". Little did I know that I was part of an awesome era. A time of great freedom, learning, expression, and an opportunity to be a part of something special.

I spent 10-summers working on the Island. The first 3-in the grove and the following 7 at the Blue Whale. There are countless names, faces, places, and experiences that will forever be in my heart. Many of those faces and beautiful spirits have been spoken about or photos have been placed in your diary. It was because of them that we have the freedoms that we do today. It was truly an amazing experience to be a part of that.

I spoke as guest lecturer at Chico State University this week. I was asked to speak about "the history of club culture and the impact of HIV". I agreed because of spending 10-years of my life between Fire Island, Key West, and Ft. Lauderdale. As I prepared the lecture, I found myself focusing on NYC, Fire Island and the people that carved the way. The young students in "Queer Studies" really have no idea of what it took and will continue to take to anchor our community. They really have very little concept or context of the freedom of the late 70's, the impact of HIV disease in the early years, or the commitment to maintaining a safe community for our brothers and sisters. It's ironic that on the week that I spoke about Fire Island, I would also read your last entry.

Again, I can not express my gratitude for your commitment, energy, intention, and love.




Just wanted to wish you and your partner the very best in your new endeavors.  I will certainly miss asthegroveturns as I can't get down there as often as I used to.  Used to be across the bay as I lived in Sayville, but since I retired and moved to New Hampshire it's not exactly a weekend trip anymore.   I have always looked forward to your publications as well as attending the plays you brought to the Grove.  God bless and good luck,

Bill Fullam


Beautiful, beautifully rendered poetic prose. what more can i say you said it all- i am honored to have been a part of it.

Michelle Coffaro


With all best wishes and thanks.
Jack Cahn


Well, Do what you gotta do... I'll miss ya.



Well Shit.....In case anyone from CG forgets to tell you-thanks for all the good you both have done!
Seeya soon!
Teri, Billy & Family


I'm so sorry to hear that you are moving on.  Cherry Grove loses as a result.  I wish you well and hope our paths will cross again in the a warmer climate.
Tom Cunningham





Richard & Richard,
I certainly hope that our paths cross again even though the times they have crossed were brief.  I enjoyed reading all your articles and certainly appreciate the ones that covered my historic "Invasions"  and the travels of "Nora" (aka Taffeta Darling).  My Big Swan went down in history on the web! 
Who knows, Taffeta may wind up in Mexico!
James A. Ciervo


Hi Richard,
It was a busy summer for me, so I apologize for not being able to send more articles.
I just read the website, and I guess that will be the last edition.
I would like to thank you for the oppotunity to share my writings at your website for the last 3 years. It's been great!
I wish you all the best.


Dear Richard & Richard,
You should be very proud of AsTheGroveTurns...bravo!
I have not been to the island in many years and thank you for allowing me to share in the news, pictures and stories of one of the most very special places on earth. 
I am sure you will miss Cherry Grove and I know I will miss your reports on Cherry Grove.  But, as they say, all goods things must come to an end.
Please be sure to keep me on your mailing list for your future writing and theatrical endeavors.
Good Luck.
Your # 1 Philadelphia Fan,
Mark Donatelli


What a loss for Cherry Grove but wishing you all the best on the next leg of your journey!
Bradshaw & John


Wishing you and your partner the best for the future. I will miss your website.






"Because a great community deserves great theatre."


Richard LaFrance, Founding Artistic Director

E-mail:  Website:


Thanks for all the Love . . .

Steven Fales in "Confessions of a Mormon Boy" (upper left)

Omar Prince in The Rarest of Birds" (upper right)

"Between The Covers" cast and crew:

Frank Spoto, Dennis Callahan, Tommy Femia, David Dubin, Charity and Bob Verbugge, Tony Finstrom, playwright; Michael Spina, Technical director; Rob Wisdom, Stage manager.

"Sordid Lives" cast and crew:

 John Philip, Dell Harbin, Sally Ann Piacentino, Dennis Callahan, Vicki Solomon, Robyn Murray, Tommy "Tush" DiMastri, Seth Michael Donsky, Barbara Flood, Cem Uanik, Michelle Coffaro, Edrie Ferdun, Michael Spina, Rob Wisdom, Andrew Loren Resto, David Johnson, Richard LaFrance, Richard Fenn and The Tides management and staff.




The following people made tax-deductible contributions to The Island Repertory Theatre Company in 2008 in the following categories.

Founder $1,000+:

Richard Fenn

Richard LaFrance

This 'n That

Top of the Bay Bistro

Cherry Grove Pizza


Producer $500*:

Tony Finstrom & Jack Dezak Cherry's

Director $250+:

Jan Felshin & Edrie Ferdun Michael Kobos & Donald Egan
Walter B. Quetsch Charles Whipple
Eric Coyne

Michael Romanelli

Peter Downes

A Summer Place Realty

Belvedere Guest House

Bill Todt & Tony Tholtsiniathis

Dr. Anna Tirado & Ms. Henriette Von Woerkom

Linda Albarano


Patron $100+

Edwin & Neil Juan Punchin
Anonymous Jeffrey Zirpolo
Karen Durka Steven Tepper
Anonymous John Langan
James P. Hughes The House of Mae Bush
Tom Holden Roy and Barbara Flood
Bill Ottignon Virginia McInerney
Dan Nafziger John Philip III
Rita & Jack Lichtenstein Bill & Tony Tholtsiniathis 
Jim Kapsalis The Cubby Hole (Fort Lauderdale)
Paul E. Elsener Ralph M. Hays & Harold Fried
Emma McGrattan Anonymous
House Blessings


Supporter $50+:

Mark Donatelli Anonymous
David J. Garfinkel Al Wolff
Lorenzo F. Pugliese Harold Seeley
Thomas McKenna Robert Michel
Ken Fabbrini Carl & Linda Eisenberg
Sayville Inn James Keys
William Marino Anonymous
Tom Cunningham JKTWO LLC
Richard Daddario Gay Nathan and Julie Paradise
Edward Mallon Dan Daly
Jim Kelly Kim Guzalak & Anita Grosso
David Bullock Asa Somers & Gina Garan


"A Fire Island Gem" Dan Evans, F.I Tide

"The Miracle of Legitimate Theatre" Jeanne Lieberman, Fire Island Sun


For further information, visit our website: 

Thank you,
Richard LaFrance, Artistic Director
The Island Repertory Theatre Company

OUR MISSION: The Island Repertory Theatre Company is a Cherry Grove-based not-for-profit 501(c(3) arts organization dedicated to promoting cultural exchange, social interaction and goodwill between Fire Island communities by presenting time-honored and new plays that chronicle the GLBT experience.

Board of Directors: Richard Fenn, President; L. Bradshaw, Peter Downes, Pierre Galarneau, Ron King, Richard LaFrance, Nicole Pressly-Wolf, Juan Punchin, Frank Santoro, Bill Todt.


All Donations Are Tax-Deductible!


Copyright by Richard LaFrance, 2008. All rights reserved. Do not duplicate without permission.