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Gay History: WATCH Footage of Fire Island in the 1980’s – VIDEO

In the 1980’s Fire Island’s Pines and Cherry Grove was THE gay mecca of the Northeast United States.

Watch the wonderful and bittersweet footage below of Fire Island in the pre-AIDS era and share the memories and remember all of our brothers and sisters who were there and many who are now gone.

 

Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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3 thoughts on “Gay History: WATCH Footage of Fire Island in the 1980’s – VIDEO”

  1. Will, this is heartbreaking, but vividly memorable video footage for me. The people in it I knew who have died are just too many. But the absolute joy we felt when there in what was for a time a very queer space! The sight of Vito Russo playing with a plastic beach ball is worth it! We all felt so very young then; even though most of us were well into our 30s and middle-aged as well. But, oh, the memories of that ferry arriving and leaving. The Sunday Tea parties at the Monster and that other seemingly neverending sense of a summer that was eternal.
    Thank.you for finding this one!

  2. I chose StonyBrookUniversity once I emancipated myself from HighSchool,my overbearing parents,and homogenous suburbia because I saw its location a gateway to NYC,where I was mysteriously drawn to discover myself amongst the blaring sex industry that was Times Square in1976.I only learned about the gay paradise of FireIsland from a surprisingly young ‘john’ who frequented theGaietyMaleBurlesque,where I was successfully “working”.He had a strong appetite for my virgin 18 yr.old “gay-for-pay” ass,rimming me like no one has ever done before and since.Post-financial&fluid exchange,he shared that he owned a beachfront guest house in CherryGrove,FireIsland,and seeing as I was a student living at StonyBrook due directly north of Sayville,LongIsland,I had a standing invitation to venture to FireIsland,an oasis of unspeakable beauty so close to NYC,claimed as homosexual sovereign state by early generations of gay men and women.It is known around the world as the gay’s own private Zanadu.I regret that I never took this gentleman up on his offer as once I gave up the disposable income of stripping and hustling to finish school and start a legitimate career and life,I was finally able to travel and experience FireIsland with my first legitimate boyfriend who went dutch with me to pay for the overpriced and underwhelming room at theBotel in thePines.It was 1980.I was a newly graduated college intern at a non-profit,and the excessive cost of everything frightened me as a independent young man.Not to mention the awe of absorbing the overwhelmingly narcissistic architecture of the beachfront houses,surreal with youthfully beautiful young men staged around what could not possibly be their home.I might have been one of those financially carefree human decorations in a CherryGrove guest house to taste the nectar of FireIsland without paying out of pocket in 1976.But that virgin visit with my first boyfriend instilled a necessity to make a pilgrimage to the holyland only 2hrs away from home in NYC at least once a year.

  3. epilogue: I left NYC in 2004 for a new life of serenity in the HudsonValley,romanticizing about the past and all the glamour that I thought was now just my history.I’ve returned to NYC.What the hell happened?It seems like it was taken away from the natives and is now the amusement park of tourists.With a hallmark birthday approaching,I convinced my long-term companion,my boyfriend and family,to commit to celebrating this event on FireIsland this past month,fueled by the memories both he and I hold to that special place when we were younger,and people found us entertaining and flattering to be around.We were faux-model “it” boys in our prime.Now,we are growing old gracefully due to good genes.But one week after our return from my royal birthday in CherryGrove, and having turned from a “pay for gay” hustler and DJ’s delight on the dancefloor who occasionally modeled to a fixed-income writer content to be in my home in quiet domestic bliss every night once the sun sets(I’m 60,still look 40,and my boyfriend loves me unconditionally!), it is my opinion that FireIsland is depressed,and so am I from the disappointment of seeing so many iconic establishments gone(too many fires!As suspicious as when the Copa was torched)and really nothing seems to be filling the empty spaces.It was sad to see it like that.But, even NYC is unrecognizable after 12 years away.France Joli was16 yrs.old when she was helicoptered down to the beach in the Pines in 1976,singing about love like no16 yr.old should already have experienced in “Come to Me”.That’s how I’ll remember FireIsland.I wrote about my overextended obsession with dancing both recreationally&professionally from 1976–2004 in the best clubs in NYC,until I crashed&burned from the excesses of the lifestyle. Homo GoGo Man: a fairytale about a boy who grew up in discoland.

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