By Robert Levine
Congratulations to Barbara Sahlman who became a great-grandmother four weeks ago. Her granddaughter, Laura, had a baby girl, Evelyn. Barbara has four children, 12 grandchildren and now one great-grandchild. She and her late husband, Ira, were true Fire Islanders. They originally lived in Seaview, then moved to Water Island and then found the magic of the Pines in the late ‘60s. Their children grew up in the Pines. Ira and Barbara were among the movers and shakers of the Pines, attending all the fundraisers, shows, and parties. In the ‘50s we had many families living in the Pines. The La Fountaines, Ted and Doris Taussig, and the Boss family were among many others. In the ‘60s more families arrived: The Muellers, Sylvan and Lillian Cole, and the Lichtensteins to name a few. More arrived in the ‘80s and ‘90s, up to the present day: Peter and Ariadne Villarreal, Larry and Karen Nicosia, The Rosens, Laura and Mike Hartstein, and Jodi and David Mahler.
In the early days there were always families in the Pines, but there has always been an undertone of gay people as well. The atmosphere, our natural harbor, the beautiful architecture, and of course the excitement of celebrities spending weekends or passing through gave the Pines a definite aura that no other community on Fire Island has ever had.
Many others have worked hard to develop this community. Alan Brockman was the president of FIPPOA for 27 years. He set many standards that are relevant today. Many have taken on jobs and positions in the Pines to continue the tradition.
In the ‘70s and ‘80s many fashionable trends began in the Pines like tea dance with celebrity DJs. There were preppy boys wearing polo shirts. Houses got bigger with pools built on the property. Celebrities like Tommy Tune, Jerry Herman, Robin Byrd, James Baldwin, and Paul Rudnick were here; Broadway producers Morty Gottlieb, Joseph Kipness, and Stuart Ostrow bought houses. Designers like Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, Geoffrey Beene, and Perry Ellis were among the fashion elite. Through the years Carol Channing, Betty Grable, Colleen Dewhurst, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Rock Hudson, Cher, Joan Rivers, Madonna, and Bette Midler were among the glamorous people who visited the Pines. Some celebrities would arrive for a day trip to enjoy tea dance, others to sneak away from the world.
GMHC, God’s Love We Deliver, SAGE, and Lambda were among the causes we have collectively championed. Fire Island Pines also became powerful as politicians made stops here for their political fundraisers, and we used this opportunity to advocate for the LBGTQ cause, shoreline protection, and life as we know it on Fire Island itself. Bella Abzug, Howard Dean, Kirsten Gillibrand, Chuck Schumer, Neil Foley, Ginny Fields, Rick Lazio, and Steve Levy are among those names – as people on the local and national level knew the Pines was an important campaign stop to make.
We have become a major player in all of our endeavors. In a post-war boom up to present day the Pines has become world famous as a gay community, but we are indeed a blended community in which straight and gay couples live side by side, and we are the better for it.
The second Annual Go Native! plant tour was held on Saturday, Aug. 4. PJ McAteer generously donated the space where Ranger Kaetlyn Jackson gave a talk about the ocean to bay ecology. Other speakers were Jordan Rafael and Steve Nemecek. The rain stopped just in time for the group to tour the sights from the Harbor to Oak Walk. Then on to the ocean we went to explore the swale. We all met at the Turtle Pond and the tour ended at the Carrington Estate. Everyone was thrilled with the information.
Aug. 25, from 3-6 p.m. Callen-Lorde is having its SPLASH Pool Party in the Pines. Music by DJ Frankie Sharp and performance by Kink Haus. Go to callen-lorde.org/splash or call 212-271-7263 for ticket information.
Aug. 31, 8 p.m., Sept. 1 and 2, 6 p.m. Joe Barros is back in the Pines to direct and choreograph his fifth show, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” at Whyte Hall. He choreographed “Guys and Dolls,” “Hello Dolly,” and directed “Falsettos.” In the fall he will direct a new musical coming to Broadway, “The Evolution of Mann,” written by Daniel Cohen and Don Elish. It will star Max Crumm and Allie Trimm.
Sept. 2, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. The second annual PCS Brunch will be held at Whyte Hall. Henry Mueller and Russell Saray are both being honored. Catering by Billy Carroll and a silent auction will be held. Visit pinesconservationsociety. org for more information.