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By Robert Levine
The first annual Cherry Grove Film Festival was held the weekend of July 15. It was extremely well run, well timed, and with a very professional tone. It was something new and important to the Community. There are many people to thank from the Archives Committee, who is responsible for putting this event together, including Brian Clark, Michael Coffindaffer, Troy Files, George Liter, Carl Luss, Lorraine Michels, Parker Sargent and Lee Sharmat. There was also a Silent Auction.
Opening night featured “Time Passes,” a film clip from Wakefield Poole’s “Boys In The Sand,” which was filmed and made in the Pines in 1971. This film starred Cal Culver, a.k.a Casey Donovan, who was a hardcore porn star of that era, in this beautifully made soft porn movie that hit the mainstream circuit, becoming a financial success around the world. It played at the 55th Street Playhouse in NYC for a record breaking run. I personally met Cal that year, and he was one of “Rose’s Boys” in a show we did at the Ice Palace in 1972.
The other half of the program was a documentary on Wakefield Poole’s life. “I Always Say Yes: The Many Lives of Wakefield Poole.” He was a Broadway dancer, then an associate choreographer with “Do I Hear a Waltz,” as well as other shows. He went from one job to another, moving from New York to San Francisco and back, fighting drugs, alcohol and other problems. His life turned around again and he continued to prosper.
The Saturday afternoon program was an interview with the Fire Island Residency Artists and the Nelson Sullivan 1976 Super Footage. The highlight of the afternoon was the May Bush 1970’s super home movies – which included a few seasons of the Ms. Monster contest, relaxing on the beach, and various house parties. In those days Cherry Grove had an innocent feeling. No cares, no nonsense, no trees, no deer, no fences, no pools, no high power excitement or drama. It seemed that everyone who lived here then was young and had a wonderful sense of personal freedom: A freedom that we didn’t have on the mainland at the time, but created here in Cherry Grove, and since then has grown worldwide.
The 8 p.m. segment opened with a short camp film by Greg Scarnici, “Children of the Dune,” featuring many of our current Cherry Grove residents. Then an interview with Jack Davidson, a longtime Grove resident who had a home movie tucked away in a closet for over 40 years, which Jerett Robert Austin partly filmed at Pride House in the Grove in 1953. It was a drag camp version of “Camille” with actors unknown to Cherry Grove. Although we did not have electricity in 1953, I was told by Davidson that they brought a hand held crank camera to the island, which enabled them to shoot the film. The film was so serious that it was funny.
On Sunday a film was shown that was put together by Carl Luss, who acquired old photos from the photo albums of the Pinto and Skinner/Macwhinnie families, who are still living in Cherry Grove. It was the history of Cherry Grove from 1839 to the present. Mike Pinto and his wife Barbara, and Gerry Skinner Macwhinnie were in the audience. Gerry got her name from her grandmother, Mrs. Gerardette who was Post Mistress in the 40s and 50s. When I bought my bay house, Gerardette gave me a photo of the house, damaged from the Hurricane of 1938. Another highlight of the afternoon was “The Panzi Invasion,” a new documentary by Parker Sargent, which was done beautifully.
Chris Lacovara and Sam Green hosted a cocktail party at Blueberry Hill to celebrate the 30th anniversary of “God’s Love We Deliver (GLWD).” At least 100 guests from the Grove and the Pines were in attendance. Representing GLWD were Stephen Covello, manager of Corporate Relations; Chief Development Officer David Ludwigson; and President and CEO Karen Pearl. Karen introduced Craig Eberhard who reminisced about the first toga tea party held at the Belvedere back in July 1993. Then I was introduced and spoke about “Anything Rose,” the very first benefit for GLWD held at John Whyte’s Botel in the Pines on July 30, 1988. That was just the beginning. We raised $3,000 that night, which was unheard of at that time. In 1993, society ladies who were married to captains of industry, the darlings of Women’s Wear Daily, picked up the mantel and took fundraising to the next level. Those luncheon ladies were Blaine Trump, Ann Slater, Joan Rivers, Kitty Carlisle Hart, Pat Buckley, Nan Kempner, and Judy Peabody. Michael and I attended that intimate event at a small chic upstairs restaurant on 2nd Avenue and 52nd Street many years ago. That night was extraordinary, and they raised more than $150,000 back then. The organization took off financially. Today they have a new building that bears the name of my old friend Michael Kors.
Lavinia Draper who performs at the Ice Palace regularly, appeared at the Community House in “Five Minutes Miss Draper”. The very talented Susan Campanaro, wrote the script. She performs as Lavinia Draper. You would think she is a Drag Queen. I would compare her to the character Victor/Victoria.
In the mid 1950s, Bobby Davies was one of the Koman Boys in our Cherry Grove shows. He and his partner, Phil Rubin, bought their house in the 1960s. Bobby died about a decade ago. Phil then died three years ago. Phil’s cousin, Michael Goldberg, and his partner, Alton Bader, came to Cherry Grove to scatter the ashes of Phil and his following late partner, Lou Ehrlich. Bobby’s ashes were already scattered in Roland Michely’s front garden. Now they are all together. After the scattering ceremony Michael Fitzgerald and I joined Roland, Michael, and Alton for lunch at the Island Breeze.
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