By Robert Levine
The Pines Harbor was overflowing with excitement, yachts, boats, noise, cheering, horns sounding and everyone celebrating an event that has become as important to Fire Island as July 4 in America. The people were shoulder-to-shoulder as we walked from the water taxi to the dock. I had to squeeze my way through all that to get to my VIP seat.
Ariadne Villarreal, Randy Wilson and John Wood were getting the pre-show acts and all those responsible ready to welcome the Cherry Grove invaders. Robin Byrd was filming as she has done for the past 20 years. The show began with drag personality Shandela as MC. She was beautifully dressed in a red sequined gown and introduced Luis Villabon who sang, “Never Enough” from the movie “The Greatest Showman.” Then Rose Levine sang, “I Feel a Song Comin’ On.” Jay Pagano, president of FIPPOA, spoke and welcomed all to this major historic day. Luis Villabon then sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the first boat was arriving into the Pines harbor.
The first group to appear was the “Glitter Girls” (Panzi’s dancers), who included Michael Goddard, Shane Hoffman, Wes Pope, Dan Perry, Charlie Williams, Michael Serapiglia (did hair and makeup for the group), and Richie Mastascusa (choreographed the group); they are all from the Broadway dance world.
On the first boat was Electra who did an eight-minute skit as Bette Midler. While she was performing, the second and third boats arrived at the dock. Homecoming Queen Victoria Falls, all in white with angel wings, performed on the dock and showed her talents with her entourage behind her. The groups were outstanding, including the last group that came off the boat, which won as “The Most Tragic Group” (a play on words), which included seven people who Michael Fitzgerald hand painted, each in a different color, representing the gay flag. Panzi was dressed in her rainbow colored dress as many other invaders had the same theme. Let’s call it the “Rainbow Invasion!”
After the Invasion, the “Glitter Girls” were invited to Jerry Mitchell’s home for a party. He is a Tony Award winner, as a director and choreographer for many Broadway shows. The Invasion began in 1977, when Terri Warren was denied a drink at a bar since she was in drag. Terri came back to the Grove and told Panzi about the denial of entry and a group of 15 was organized to invade the Pines one week later at Tea Dance, which became a historic tradition. Today, Panzi, Lyn Hutton and I are the three surviving members. We did not know that this would become such a historic event.
Albert Lepage, Durrell Parish and Andre Almeda had their annual party at their beautiful beachfront home on Saturday, July 13, called the “Lobster Fest in Ogunquit, Maine.” As you arrived drinks were offered. When you arrived at the pool, to the right was a fantastic, overflowing raw bar with shrimp, clams and oysters. To the left of the pool was a piano set up with Dan Daley singing and the crowd singing along. Waiters served baby lamb chops, pigs in a blanket and deviled eggs continually. A sit down dinner was served for more than 100 people. Every guest got a full lobster, corn on the cob, clams, oysters and more. A fabulous array of desserts followed. During dinner Cherry Grove superstar Electra again performed as Bette Midler. She included many of the guests in her act and brought everyone together. We all had a fantastic time and everything was done to on-point perfection!
Another night Michael and I were invited to a dinner party in the Pines at Bobby Michel’s house. Other guests were Lila Swell and Mitch Cirker. We had a great time, the food was delicious, and the house was beautiful. Michael and I walked back to the Grove in a pouring rain to find that the Grove had a blackout. Fortunately, we know our way around in the dark.
The Pines Fire Department had their annual Thank You Party at the firehouse with all the trimmings: hamburgers, franks, coleslaw, potato salad, tossed salad, beer, wine, soda and more. All the firefighters were the chefs behind the hot barbecues and served all the food and drinks. Serving beer was Kyle Merker, a member from Water Island. Bill Haberman, who is 96 years old, is known to be the oldest resident and longest serving member of the Pines Fire Department, and his number is 7. Lots of raffle prizes were donated by many from the business community in the Pines and Cherry Grove.
Pete Buttigieg, a presidential candidate, could not make a fundraiser in the Pines, however his 27-year old husband, Chasten, stood in for him and attended a luncheon at the home of Evan Lobel where 100 people were inspired and excited by his intellect and optimism. I personally spoke to him and he loved being in the Pines.
We mourn the loss of Richard Greene the twin brother of Clark. They have lived in the Pines for over 50 years and we will miss him.
• Broadway Cares presents DRA, their annual dance, July 19, 20 and 21. Tickets are still available at a table set up in the harbor. • Know Your Status, a free walk-in Rapid HIV, STD and Hepatitis C testing, at the Pines Care Center, 577 Coast Guard Walk, is held on on Saturdays, July 20, Aug. 3, 31, Sept. 7 and 21; and Thursdays, July 26, Aug. 8, 22 and Sept. 12. Treatment for positive results is confidential and free. The clinic accepts contributions. Call 631-597-6160.
• The 40th Anniversary of the famed beach party this year, Island of Lost Boys, July 26-28, is being coordinated by Frank Liberto, Alan Baum and Randy Wilson. Thanks to many volunteers: Tom Meier, Cyd Waage, Rosemary Coluccio and Michelle McConvey, who are tirelessly working. Tickets are available at table set up in the harbor.
• Father Rowan celebrated his 37th year of offering Catholic mass in the Pines, with a luncheon in his honor, held on July 14. Mass is every Sunday at 12:30 p.m., at Whyte Hall.
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