Tag Archives: Fire Island

The Very Gay and Interesting History of the Almost Lost Tradition of the Sunday Tea Dance

This is one of Back2Stonewall.com’s most popular Gay History posts.  We hope that you enjoy revisiting it or reading it for the first time.

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The Very Gay History of the Almost Lost Tradition of the Sunday Tea Dance

Many gay men under the age of 30 today are totally clueless of  the almost lost tradition of the Sunday Tea Dance. (A tradition that really must be brought back.) So here’s a little history primer on the “Sunday T-dance” and how and why it was embraced it in the gay culture.

Historically, tea was served in the afternoon, either with snacks (“low tea”) or with a full meal (“high tea” or “meat tea”). High Tea eventually moved earlier in the day, sometimes replacing the midday “luncheon” and settled around 11 o’clock, becoming the forerunner of what we know as “brunch”.

From the late 1800’s to well into the pre-WWI era in both America and England, late afternoon (low) tea service became the highlight of society life. As dance crazes swept both countries, tea dances became increasingly popular as places where single women and their gentlemen friends could meet — the singles scene of the age.

While tea dances enjoyed a revival in America after the Great War, The Great Depression of the 30’s wiped them out. Tea consumption was in steady decline in America anyways and by the 50’s, tea was largely thought of as something “your grandmother drinks”. Also, nightlife was moving later and younger. Working men and women were too busy building the American Dream to socialize so it was left to their teenaged children in the age of sockhops and the jukebox diner. Rock and roll was dark and dangerous — something you sneaked out for after dinner, not took part in before dinner.

Gay people, of course, were still largely underground in the 50s, but it was in these discreet speakeasies that social (nonpartnered) dancing was evolving. It was illegal for men to dance with men, or for women to dance with women. In the event of a raid, gay men and lesbian women would quickly change partners to mixed-couples. Eventually, this led to everyone sort of dancing on their own.

By the late 60s, gay men had established the Fire Island Cherry Grove and also the more subdued and “closeted” Pines (off of Long Island, in New York) as a summer resort of sorts. It was illegal at that time for bars to ‘knowingly sell alcohol to homosexuals’ and besides many of the venues there were not licensed as ‘night clubs’ or to sell alcohol. To avoid attracting attention, afternoon tea dances were promoted. Holding them in the afternoon also allowed those who needed to catch the last ferry back to the mainland to attend.

The proscription against same-sex dancing was still in effect and  gay men were not allowed to dance together by law, so organizers were forced to institute ‘no touching’ rules. The only way it could happen was in a group. The line dance was born. Dances like the “Hully Gully” and “The Madison” allowed men to dance together as long as there was at least one woman involved. It became the rage in the Pines. The dancing was monitored by someone up on a ladder with a flashlight and megaphone to observe, if the men got too close the light would be shined on them. The dance would be featured in the 1970 film “Boys in the Band.”

In 1967 Tea Dance went to 7 days a week during season. 

During this time raids by the Suffolk Police Department were a common occurrence on Fire Island. The men of the Pines were often rounded up like cattle and chained to poles in order for them to get their quota. Their identities were sometimes revealed in the local press.

By the 1970’s after the Stonewall riots disco music arrived and again the Tea Dance would evolve. It would now grow into a phenomenon that all of Fire Island would find their way to.

Post-Stonewall, the tea dance moved to Greenwich Village. A newly-energized gay community around Christopher Street embraced the social dancing craze.  While the Fire Island gays tended to be rich upper-class preppies, the downtown gays of Christopher Street and the Village were working-class and they tended to party at night. As in the straight community, tea dances gradually moved later until they became subsumed into the night club scene.

Through the 70’s, gay men championed the uniform of the working class — t-shirts and denim — as fashion aesthetic. In part because they were affordable, and in part because it projected an appealing hypermasculinity associated with the working class. Gays in the post-Stonewall era were consciously rebelling against the effete stereotypes associated with the manicured, sweater-wearing, tea-drinking gays of the Fire Island set. Real men wore t-shirts and drank beer. Gay men still had afternoon/early evening dances — usually on Sundays, in order to make the most of one’s weekend while still being able to get up for Monday morning’s work.

The downtown gays rejected the term “tea dance” as being too effete and opted for the supposedly butcher “t-dance”, and promoted “t-shirts and denim” as the costume of choice. By the mid 70’s, the “Christopher Street Clone” look (short cropped hair, mustache, plaid shirt over a tight white t-shirt, faded denim jeans that showed off your ass) had made the trans-continental trip from New York City to Los Angeles (gays in Hollywood) and, of course, to San Francisco (follow the Yellow Brick Road and it leads to Castro). It brought with it the tea dance phenomenon

Through the decades the popularity of the tea dance has waned. And while it still survives in Fire Island and a few gay bastions like Provincetown it is all but gone and those few remaining are shadows of their former selves.

Lets not let the Tea Dance become a piece of our forgotten gay history.

*TRIVIA:

Back in the day a no gay man worth his weight in poppers ever went to Sunday Brunch before 2 p.m. and timed it that way as  to hit the Tea Dance at 4 p.m. part of this was because they were out at after-hours clubs, the Baths, or the Meat Rack the night before till 6 or 7 a.m. in the morning.

pines-arrest-in-the-news-1960s

1979TE~1 copy

1983 tea bweb

tea dance t shirt design 1983

Source:  The Clock

Back2Stonewall Sunday Tea Dance - Evelyn Thomas "High Energy" (1984) - VIDEO

Back2Stonewall Sunday Tea Dance – Evelyn Thomas “High Energy” (1984) – VIDEO

Although best known worldwide for her 1980’s Hi-NRG club hits, Thomas recorded and performed in disco, jazz, and gospel music styles for a decade before her successful stint in the 1980’s. Evelyn Thomas was discovered by British producer Ian Levine.

In 1984 Evelyn Thomas went to London to record a new track “High Energy“. Just few weeks after it was released, it zoomed up the charts all over Europe – peaking at No. 1 in Germany and No. 5 in the UK, selling a total of 7,000,000 copies[ worldwide. In the US it hit No. 1 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart, selling 250,000 copiesThe song was Thomas; only Billboard Hot 100 entry.

Excuse me while I get another Long Island Ice Tea

Fire Island Manager Sued by Former Employees Over “Sexual Harassment”. But……..

 

Two twenty-two year old men Joe Rapuano-Novella and Dylan Pace ,are suing the umbrella company Outpost Pines which owns several entertainment and food venues at the gay resort on Fire Island.

Rapuano-Novella and Pace are suing their former manager Mario Priola and owner PJ McAteer for sexual harassment and assault.

The NY Post reports:

He and Pace interviewed in March 2016 for jobs at “The Pines,” an enclave of bars and restaurants which cater primarily to the LGBTQ community, according to their Brooklyn federal court filing.

Rapuano-Novella was “hired on the spot” via Skype during a bizarre interview in which Priola asked him to take off his shirt, the suit says. Pace, a Long Island resident, was asked to report for his interview to Priola’s hot tub on the island, the suit alleges.

Before Rapuano-Novella even got to Fire Island, Priola, who was twice his age, allegedly sent him “inappropriate texts,” noting in one that “you’re perfect” and asking for explicit photos, the suit says.

Rapuano-Novella charges in the suit that Priola repeatedly asked him to sleep over and “groped his penis.”

In addition, Rapuano-Novella claims he was forced to promote live sex shows, which was never discussed as a part of his job description prior to starting employment. (That is a new one on me.)

Wrote Rapuano-Novella on Facebook:

I haven’t yet come forward with my #metoo story because I was waiting for the right moment. A lot of people know I worked on Fire Island last year. My time on the island was abruptly cut short when a series of dark harassments and assaults at the hands of my boss drove me from the place.

So lets get this straight. Well as much as we can.

“Rapuano-Novella was “hired on the spot” via Skype during a interview in which Priola asked him to take off his shirt”  But he still continued wanting the job.

Priola, sent him “inappropriate texts,” noting in one that “you’re perfect” and asking for explicit photos.” BEFORE the job started. But RN still wanted the job.

He was told to “Report to Priola’s hot tub on the island foe his interview.”  And went and still took the job.

Now these are some seriously major red flags Rapuano-Novell  should have noticed.

Look sexual harassment and abuse is a serious problem.  But suddenly the floodgates are open and all kinds of accusations are spilling forth.  Some true and some perhaps not so true.  But with both Rapuano-Novella and Pace being 22 years old and all the warnings that were had before they started the job.  Something just does not seem quite right.

Now I am not saying they are lying or telling the truth.  I am just saying we must all be careful.

As for the live sex shows on Fire Island?   Anyone got the address?

 

 

 

 

 

1970’s Gay Lit Classic “Dancer from the Dance” Gets Director, Set To Begin Production In 2016

Dancer from the Dance FULL

The feature film adaptation of Andrew Holleran’s classic 1978 gay novel Dancer from the Dance about a lawyer who gives up his day job and immerses himself in the ’70s social scene of gay men in New York City and Fire Island has gotten a Director and will soon begin production almost 40 years after its literary debut.

Deadline reports:

Alan Poul’s TV directing credits include Six Feet Under, The Newsroom, Rome, Swingtown, and the feature The Back-up Plan. RT Features’ productions include Frances Ha, Love is Strange, Mistress America, and The Witch. Screenplay is by Joshua Harmon, John Krokidas, and Austin Bunn. Poul, Rodrigo Teixeira, and Mauricio Zacharias will produce. Production is scheduled for summer 2016 and WME is packaging.

The novel is known for its unflinching vivid imagery, lush language, and captivating depiction of gay men searching for love and acceptance in a harsh, dreamlike urban landscape.

Poul also co-produced the ’90s Tales of the City series which aired on PBS and Showtime.

TRIVIA:  The title of the novel comes  from the last line of William Butler Yeats‘s poem “Among School Children”, which ends, “O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,/ Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?/ O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,/ How can we know the dancer from the dance?”

Reference:  Post-Stonewall gay literature

 

 

OUT-NYC Owner Mati Weiderpass Kicked Out Of Fire Island Bar Sip-n-Twirl‏. But Was It A Set-Up?

sip n twirl Mati

 

Mati Weiderpass, co-owner of the “gay-friendly“ and now struggling OUT NYC Hotel who is facing massive backlash for hosting a dinner for anti-gay GOP Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz was kicked out of the iconic Fire Island bar the Sip-n-Twirl on Sunday much to the delight and cheers of other patrons.  

Weiderpass was “supposedly” kicked out after he was confronted by furious patrons,and the bars owner according to the New York Post.

Customer Evan Lobel said, “One guy got up and asked him what the rationale was to have dinner with Cruz. They got kind of heated and before you knew it, there was a lot of people yelling

It was at this point that that Sip-n-Twirl owner, P.J. McAteer, asked them to leave the bar and threatened to call police.

When Widerpass cheers exploded within the bar.

Mr. Weiderpass issued the following statement: “P.J. McAteer is condemning me for what he perceives as my thoughts and beliefs by asking me to leave a venue open to all. As small-minded as that is, I have been and will always be an advocate for LGBTQ issues,”

What makes this interesting is that  P.J. McAteer’s is a co-owner of Reisner’s properties  in the Pines and its HIS  liquor license  they piggybacked off of to get the State Liqour Authority  license for Reisner’s acquisitions on on Fire Island and helped Reiser set up his businesses on Fire Island:

The Out is coming out…. to Fire Island. Ian Reisner, owner of New York’s The Out Hotel, has purchased Fire Island Pines at auction, the commercial district along the harbor on Fire Island (on the other side of Long Island). Together with PJ McAteer, owner of the local Sip & Twirl nightclub, he plans to bring the district back to life following the fire that destroyed The Pavilion nightclub back in 2011.

For the $10.1 million they paid, Reisner and McAteer now own a long list of properties that include: The Pavilion (rebuilt by the previous owners), the ‘High Tea’ Deck, the Botel Hotel, Rack Gym, Pines Pool & Bar, the Blue Whale Restaurant, Canteen/ Cultured Elephant Restaurant, a number of shops, two homes, and a boat (!).

Was this a stunt on P.J. McAteer’s  part to distance himself (and his property) from Reisner and Weiderpass so he could continue to make money? 

Both Boycott Fire Island Pines Establishments & Out NYC Hotel and Queer Nation NY have been actively educating gay men and women on Fire Island about Weiderpass and Reiser and have been pushing a boycott of the following businesses owned by either of them which include: Sip-N-Twirl, The Pavilion, Botel, Bistro, Blue Whale, Pines Pizza, and the Cultured Elephant.

Something sure smells in the Fire Island Pines and it sure ain’t poppers.

 

*Back2Stonewall.com has reached out to P.J. McAteer for comment.  He has not responded. Meanwhile both McAteer’s own Facebook page and the Sip-n-Twirl page continue to publicize Ian Reisner owned property events.

 

 

Forgotten Memories – WATCH: Rare 5 Minute Video of Fire Island Cherry Grove 1976

Fire Island 1976

 

In 1976 Nelson Sullivan was enrolled in film school when he shot this Super 8 film at Fire Island, a gay-friendly New York City getaway. Around this time, Nelson and his partner owned a salon on Fire Island called David/Nelson.

So few historical photographs and videos of gay life from the 1960’s 70’s and early 80’s still exist.  This video is  gem and a time machine which takes us back to an earlier carefree time before our world went mad and AIDS destroyed almost an entire generation of gay men.

If you have any photos or video’s of gay landmarks, events, and people from the 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s. please feel free to send them to will@back2stonewall.com I would love to post them here and share them with everyone.

 

Back2Stonewall Sunday Tea Dance: “So Many Men, So Little Time” by Miquel Brown – (1983)

Fire Island 2

 

Miquel Brown (born Michael Brown) is a Canadian actress, and disco/soul singer in the 1970s and 1980s, most popular for the songs “Close to Perfection” and the Hi-NRG songs “So Many Men, So Little Time” and “He’s A Saint, He’s A Sinner”, produced in London by Ian Levine.

So Many Men, So Little Time” reached #88 on the UK Singles Chart on June 11, 1983  and peaked at number #2 on the club chart.

“So Many Men, So Little Time” is considered by many within the male gay community to be one of the greatest dance songs from the 1980s. It was included in the 1997 independent film, Kiss Me, Guido and in the 1998 queer coming of age film, Edge of Seventeen

 

New Radio Documentary Explores The Gay History of Fire Island: “The Ghosts of Fire Island”

Fire Island 2

This weekend a new radio documentary will debut, that will tell the very gay history of Fire Island and its rise to the heights of being the best known mecca in the world.to the devestation that it suffered during the AIDS epidemic.

The documentary produced by Myke Dodge Weiskopf will cover the dark days of the ’50s through the liberation of the ’70s through the AIDS crisis, The Ghosts of Fire Island explores the spirit of the island through interviews with the people who lived there. Once a safe-haven away from a homophobic world, Fire Island was also impacted as much as any major city in the 1980’s by the AIDS epidemic.

KCRW in Los Angeles will broadcast the show in commemoration of World AIDS Day 2013 on Friday, November 29 at 7:30 p.m. and Tuesday, December 3 at 2:30 p.m. (PST). Here are some other ways to listen online if you are outside the L.A. area:

Required listening kids.  I will be holding a pop quiz.

RARE Video of Fire Island’s Cherry Grove, Summer 1976 – LGBT History

Images of a lost and almost forgotten time

So little film footage from this era has been saved and transferred to video or still even exists.

A RARE gem

Back2Stonewall.com is ALWAYS looking for forgotten LGBT video and photos from the 1970’s and 1980’s to publish.

If you have any you’d like posted on the internet to live forever PLEASE contact me at will@back2Stonewall.com