This diary contains diverse views and opinions on what goes on in Cherry Grove, the nation and the world. Racism and bigotry have no place here. Please do not engage in personal attacks on other users. The cardinal rule here is to respect others. The opinions published here are those of individual writers and may or may not represent those of our publisher/editor or any other members of our volunteer staff. -- RLF
To paraphrase a piece of writing that caught my eye on the Internet: "Believe it or not, one of the things I will miss most is not being able to blog any longer. The ability to put my thoughts on (virtual) paper and put them where people can read and respond to them has been marvelous, even if most people who have read my writings haven't agreed with them. If there is any hope for the long term success of democracy, it will be if people agree to listen to and try to understand their . . . opponents rather than simply seeking to crush them."
In Memorium -- "My primary purpose in writing these articles is to help provide gays with a sense of their history outside of Stonewall. I feel we have to grab it wherever we are living it and get it down for the generations that will follow in our footsteps."--Mary Kapsalis.
May 14, 2008 -- Surprise! Surprise! We were supposed to spend the summer going back and forth to and from Fort Lauderdale, but the opportunity to do another theatre season came up and resuming publication of As The Grove Turns seemed appropriate. When the decision was made to suspend the website last September, several features were permanently deleted and it will take some time to put them back. (Photo left: Sayville Ferry Service on the mainland.)
Fort Lauderdale continues to be a great place to be. We moved into larger digs this year and the place feels more and more like home. Although Lauderdale is a city, the lifestyle is informal, the pace is very laid back, the weather is great and the building's aren't so high that you can't see the sky. I find the people very friendly and hospitable. Even supermarket checkers and wait people smile and say hello.
Shopping is also great, restaurants reasonable and there is an abundance of theatre, movies and other cultural events. There's a theory that people who live in a warm year round climate are happier and I do believe it.
The drive north was long and tiring. There was only one laugh the whole way: Somewhere in the Carolinas, a rest stop parking sign that read: "Reserved for Hi Cops" was good for a giggle. (Of course "Hi" was short for "Highway", except to a warped mind). I would have taken a pic, but the trusty camera was on the blink.
We arrived at the Sayville Ferry on the mainland (photo upper right) on a very chilly Friday, May 2. When the boat approached the Grove, it was apparent that a lot of work had been done on the dock structures; the place hadn't looked as good in years. (See lead photo above).
Upper left: Cherry's; Upper right: Island Breeze
Cherry's had a sparkling new red tent over their open air bar (photo above left), Island Breeze looked very inviting (photo above right) and the once-sad-looking Top of the Bay building seemed transformed (by new owner Ron King) into something quite handsome (photo below left).
Upper left: The old Top of the Bay building (I don't know if it's going to be renamed); Upper right: The Belvedere.
The Belvedere also looked great on the approach. A lot of work has been done on the landmark structure (photo above right), which seemed to rise out of the water like a fantastic magical castle, glistening brilliantly in the late afternoon sun (photo above right).
When we got off the boat, Bob Lerch (Doc Ta House Moving 631 671-9688) helped transport our boxes and bags to "Nacho Men," our home at the corner of Surf and Lewis. Bob complained that the winter had been too mild ("the bay didn't freeze over once"), and noted that at least twenty-one other people had called Cherry Grove their home during the off-season. He also said that members of the younger generation are occupying their homes and rentals a lot earlier than they used to. Although it was very early in the season, practically every business was open and lots of people were here. Bob also runs a winter watchman service to make sure that our houses are okay in our absence. (Bob Lerch Winter Watchman Service 631 671-9688.)
During the last nine years, I have bemoaned the failure of elder sages (?) to landmark Cherry Grove, to insurer that future generations would have the opportunity to visit and learn about our historic past. So many of those who could have contributed their knowledge and memories are gone, as are photos and other memorabilia that could have kept the spirit of early Cherry Grove alive forever. (Photo right: Here comes the boat!)
In the 90's, aggressive moves were made by some individuals and groups to turn Cherry Grove into either a quiet, rustic community with just a grocery store, one bar and a few restaurants; a sleazy rock 'n roll town where anything went; a "family" community with playgrounds and dress codes; a commercial "theme park"; a Las Vegas-type gambler's Mecca; a religious retreat; or (take your pick) either a "For Women Only" or a "For Men Only" ghetto, to name a few.
The struggle for power peaked and the business community won. A younger generation of young entrepreneurs has finally gotten a foothold in the door and, though it won't be the same place that it could have been, the future looks promising. Some have gone into hock to keep the myth of Cherry Grove alive and deserve our support.
My hope is that this new generation of business owners will understand the principle of cooperation better than in the past. Perhaps it's the short time that a businessperson has to make any money, but there has always been fierce and unfriendly competition between many in the past. If they all get together and agree on a focus that they could all abide by, everyone would do much better and the community itself would flourish, again. Perhaps it's time to revive the Cherry Grove Chamber of Commerce, and get along this time, dammit! The future is in your hands.
Shortly after we arrived, I tried to connect the trusty desktop and discovered that AT & T had erroneously disconnected my Internet service and a call for technical help connected me to some creature across the seas, who jibber jabbered at me for about ten minutes without comprehending my problem. When I asked him to connect me to his supervisor, he informed me that he didn't want to do that and hung up. (Don't get me started!) And they call it "technical support?"
So, after ten days without Internet Access, I subscribed to high speed Internet service provided by the Pines Pantry (631 597-6200). They install a small receiver box on the roof (see photo upper left), which supplies very good high speed Internet access. After years of maddeningly slow dial up, I am very happy. They can provide wireless reception, too.
(Upper left): Cherry Grove Post Office; (Upper right: Jeanne Skinner
There was a time when the first person to open the door for business was Jeanne Skinner at the Cherry Grove Post Office. She is a third generation postmaster here and proud of every one of her ninety-one years on Fire Island. (photos above.)
Island Breeze is open most days for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The bar is a popular place to schmooze at cocktail hour and has been expanded to accommodate the local crowd. This year the kitchen is offering a very extensive continental menu that includes delicious appetizers like to-die-for Seafood Bisque (photo left), Spicy Maryland Crab Cakes and Chipotle Baby Rack Ribs; Lunch offerings include good burgers, honey dipped fried chicken, hot meatloaf sandwiches and a Queen Salad (1/2 lobster stuffed with crab, shrimp and lobster salad served on a bed of fresh fruit.) Dinner includes grilled ribeye, short ribs, stuffed chicken breast, tuna steak, weekend lobster bake and daily specials. A full breakfast menu is served from 6:30 am thru 1 pm; lunch is served from 1-5 pm and dinner from 5-11pm; a late night menu will be served at the bar and will be open every night 'til . . . Entertainment includes David Coss Jazz on Friday nights and singer Bianca Leigh on Sundays from 7-10pm.
Cherry's drew a big weekend crowd (photo right) by offering their customers free VIP seasonal passes to special events that will be held throughout the summer. (photo right). The cafe is open for business, too, offering good breakfast, lunch and dinner items. You can dine on the front porch overlooking Bayview Walk or have dinner under the big top on the ocean. In just a few years, Jacque, Donna & David have turned Cherry's into one of the Grove's busiest nightspots offering cabaret shows with popular drag queens, go-go boys, singers and bingo games. It also does a huge disco business on weekends. I've been told that the hugely popular Sweetie will host(ess) the Underwear Party on Friday nights. Woof!
Upper left: Your friendly Cherry Grove Market; Upper right: Brett Roper at Floyd's
Open every day, too, is the Cherry Grove Market (photo upper left). I suspect that it costs these guys money to open every day this early, but their community goodwill is appreciated. The store is chockfull of foodstuffs: delicious sandwiches, sandwich meat by the pound, fresh meat provided by The Fire Island Pines Meat Market, fresh vegetables and fruit, gourmet ingredients to make your favorite recipes at home, pasta, canned goods, ice cream, cakes, cookies, candy, bagels, soda, juices, beer, newspapers, small hardware items, cigarettes and (last but not least) an ATM to replenish your cash.
Floyd's is the place to schmooze -- breakfast and lunch only -- offering great freshly baked (on premises) muffins, breads, imaginative omelets, bacon, sausage, French toast, wraps, sandwiches, great burgers, creative salads and so much more. Fun open aire dining. A Cherry Grove institution. Good food, nice people!
Upper left: Ass Kickin' Grove Pizza; Upper right: Ice Cream-plus.
We've already deemed the pizza at Cherry Grove Pizza "the best kickass pizza" in the USA. But there is also superior Italian dishes here at very affordable prices. Friendly service, inside or outdoor dining. Open 11 am 'til . . . (Photo upper left)
Frank Ice Cream Parlor. Grove Pizza owner Frank has wanted to open an old fashioned ice cream parlor for quite a while now. It looks like it will finally happen in the yellow building in front of the Grove Hotel on Bayview Walk. (Photo upper right.)
Upper left: Schmoozing patrons at Jumping Jacks; Upper right: Fantasy at Rainbow and Dreams
Jumping Jacks is the only oceanfront restaurant in Cherry Grove. The structure goes back to the 1950s and has a true flavor of our historic past, complete with inside and outside dining, wood-burning fireplace and a great ocean view. It's open for lunch and dinner and serves mostly seafood specialties like New England clam chowder, fried clams and oysters, raw bar, fish and chips, lobster, and fried calamari. There are also satisfying chicken and meat dishes. Very popular at cocktail hour. Unique and fun. (Photo upper left.)
Rainbow and Dreams. Bet you can't walk into this fantasyland and not buy something. Funky clothes, beach wear, crazy hats, t-shirts, adult toys, poppers, puzzles, candy, cigarettes, novelty items and gifts. Fun, fun, fun! (Photo upper right.)
Upper left: The attractive, newly renovated Top of The Bay; Upper right: Sunsets on the Bay.
Top of the Bay Bistro -- As I mentioned above, Ron King has transformed the old Top of the Bay Building into an attractive structure that will house a second floor restaurant and three attractive shops on the ground floor. The restaurant, called Top of the Bay Bistro, will be open by Memorial Day. They should not have trouble renting the stores because they are very attractive and will get lots of passersby coming off the boats. Location, location, location!
Sunsets will also be open by the time this edition is published. Sunsets is a lively, sometimes raucous and sometimes bawdy bar that gets a very late night crowd of locals and visitors who dance and schmooze 'til 4 am. Entertainment, Go-Go boys, Wednesday Evening Chinese Buffet, Outside Garden, DJ and more.
Upper photo left: Newly renovated rooms overlook the Grove Hotel's massive swimming pool; Upper photo right: l. to r. Wendy, Petra and manager John are on duty, ready to take your calls.
Under new ownership, The Grove Hotel is actually a complex that includes Dune Point (another hotel); The Ice Palace, that offers varied entertainment by popular personalities like Ariel Sinclair, the phenomenal Porsche, guest artists, special event and theme parties, weekend disco, hosts The Annual Miss Fire Island Contest, The Mr. Fire Island Leather contest and lots more. For more information, visit The Grove Hotel website: www.CherryGroveFi.com.
Tides Entertainment Complex -- The "entertainment complex" part is my own because that's exactly how I've always seen this historic building. In its heyday, under ownership of Joe Scialo, it was the Fire Island branch of the famous Monster Bar, still located on Sheridan Square in New York City. The excellent restaurant, disco and cozy bar brought people to Cherry Grove from every Fire Island and mainland community.
Under new ownership it went downhill and stood empty for several years, until new investors made an attempt to revive the building's former glory. Under the name Bay Leaf, the building was handsomely transformed into a very good restaurant. Upstairs housed a very sophisticated cabaret room and The Island Repertory Theatre Company performed play in a dinner/theatre format.
After two years, the building was severely damaged by arson and again stood empty for several more years until Ron King bought the place and restored both the upstairs open air bar under the big top and the cabaret room that featured popular entertainer Sweetie, guest performers and hosted the first Fire Island Underwear Party. On the first floor, the cozy bar was back in business and a forty-seat black box professional theatre called The Tides Playhouse was installed in the rear of the building that housed two theatre companies Voyager and Island Rep.
Two years later, new owners installed a restaurant in the downstairs front and the rest of the complex was leased to longtime Grove entrepreneurs Lois & Meryl, who kept the operation as it was: upstairs bar, cabaret room, downstairs Cozy Bar and Island Rep productions in the theatre.
Last Fall, the building was sold to Uncle Frank (photo left), whose This 'n That business had occupied space in the Jumping Jack's building for many years. Here's the new lineup:
Uncle Frank will install his This 'n That in the the ground floor front. This amazing Pop and Pop store has always reminded me of a small-town variety, notions and sundries store because it carries hardware, clothing, house wares, small appliances, tools, swimwear and everything else under the sun. If you need something that you're convinced you won't find anywhere on the Island, see Uncle Frank. Ten-to-one he'll have it.
The upstairs cabaret room will operate as in the past under the management of John (Angora), a former manager of Jumping Jack's. The downstairs Cozy Piano Bar will be back, as will The Island Repertory Theatre Company. Tides will also be the new home of the GLBT Long Island Film Festival in September.
This 'n That is already open for business, both bars will be open by Memorial Day . . .
And now for my favorite plug: After eight months in the planning The Island Repertory Theatre Company will open its ninth season on July 2nd at The Tides Playhouse with a very ambitious summer of entertainment that you can't afford to pass up. If you buy your tickets now, you will see three fabulous shows for a total price of $60 per season ticket. That averages out to only $20 per show!
July 2-13. Confessions of a Mormon Boy written and performed by Stephen Fales and directed by Tony Award winner Jack Hofsiss (Elephant Man, Shadow Box).
CONFESSIONS OF A MORMON BOY is Steven Falesí compelling, humorous,
and inspiring true story about how a young gay man went from being a
model Mormon boy in Utah to a high priced call boy in New York City.
Directed by Tony Award winning director Jack Hosfiss (Elephant Man,
Shadow Box). (Photo left: Steven Fales in a scene from "Confessions of a Mormon Boy.")
August 1-17. Sordid Lives by Del Shores. A black comedy about white trash that will soon be an HBO TV Series. Both play and film version are gay cult classics. This production will feature members of Island Repís acclaimed acting ensemble under the direction of Richard LaFrance.
August 22-24. New Plays and Playwrights Series: A staged reading of a new play -- title to be announced. Free event for subscribers only.
The Rep box office will open May 31 in its new offices on the ground floor of The Top of the Bay Building. You can also charge your subscription tickets by phone at Island Rep's ChargIt Ticket Hotline 631 597-9439.
There are only forty seats available per performance and the good ones sell first. Don't be left out! Subscribe now!
What more can I say? If you enjoy ATGT's free website, I hope you'll make a tax-deductible contribution and/or subscribe to Island Rep's exciting new summer theatre season. See below for more details.
Garden Grove looks like an enchanted garden that was dropped on the spot where old Hunky Junky once stood. The beautiful landscaping is a pleasure and sight to behold. He has a good eye for beautiful plants, trees and cut flowers which he says a reasonable cost. He is also knowledgeable about maintenance of the things he sells.
The interior of Garden Grove also serves as a gift shop where you'll be certain to find the right gift for most any occasion.
People, Places and Things: On Tuesday a.m., downtown Cherry Grove was abuzz about "four guys from the UK" who mistakenly took the ferry to Ocean Beach and had to walk to the Grove, where they stayed at The Grove Hotel.
When I turned right on Bayview to pick up the mail at the post office, I saw four cute guys having breakfast at Floyd's and figured they must be the four tourists who got tongues to wagging. When I introduced myself, they were very friendly and told me that, yes, they had gotten on the wrong boat and walked to Cherry Grove from Ocean Beach (no mean feet at about four miles) and no, only one was from the UK (another from Australia and two from NYC). They seemed disappointed that there weren't more people around, but said that they were enjoying the laid back pace of Cherry Grove of early May. After spending one night at The Grove Hotel and another at The Belvedere, they left to go back to NYC, where, I guess, they all went their separate ways. (Photo above left: l. to right: Gregory from San Francisco; Dale from Australia; Peter from London; and Thaddeus from New York. I love stories like this.
In an e-mail to ATGT, Dan Daly (photo right) e-mailed that he "will leave for Europe on May 22nd, and will be gone until August 16th. I am fortunate enough to be doing my Flashback Shows on Celebrity Cruise's Azamara Quest. Some of the Ports of call are The Greek Isles, Turkey, Bulgaria, The Ukraine, Egypt, Italy, South of France, Barcelona, etc.
"My two shows are called 'Flashback to the 1950's' and 'Flashback to the 1960's.' I will be working with a seven-piece orchestra in the main theater."
Nice guy, very talented entertainer. Too bad we won't have him with us this season.
Saturday, May 17, will be Community Clean Up Day sponsored by The Cherry Grove Property Owners Association. Bring your garbage, yard debris and residential consumer stuff down to the dock between the hours of 9 am and 2 pm. Only five hours -- one day! (Excludes commercial contractor garbage and debris.)
OUT IN SAYVI
IN MEMORIUM: Several people have asked us to list the number of Grove people who died this past year: Bill Schulherr and Dan Lanning. They are the only ones I know about.
The only information that I have on longtime Grove resident Bill Bula is that he was the partner of Sherwood, who bartended at The Monster and Top of the Bay.
Dan Lanning was a popular cabaret entertainer who played piano at bars in New York and Cherry Grove.
After I ceased publication in August, 2007, Bill Schulherr sent ATGT a death notice for Bernard Muphy, who spent many summer in the Grove. I do remember him as a very nice guy. I'm glad that I kept it and can publish it now:
MURPHY, BERNARD (photo left) died May 16th, 2007, of lung cancer in Manhattan. He was 67. A consummate New Yorker, Mr. Murphy was an artist and avid collector of New York City books and memorabilia, many of them extremely rare. He came to New York City 50 years ago, and spent many of those summer years in Cherry Grove. Their home was on Aeon Walk. He is survived by his loving partner of 38 years, Terry Lilly.
AUDITIONS FOR "SORDID LIVES"
will take place at
The Tides Playhouse,
Ocean Walk in Cherry Grove on Saturday, May 17. There is a cast of
twelve men and women in their forties and fifties. Texas accents are
a plus. Weekend rehearsals begin May 31. Performances: the first
three weekends in August.
If you've you'd like your event mentioned here on ATGT, just e-mail info to AsTheGroveTurnds@aol.com and you'll no doubt see it in our next edition.
As The Grove Turns was founded on May 15, 2000. So far, we have received over a million visits to our site from over fifty countries. Next edition of As The Grove Turns: May 28, 2008. 'Til then, God bless.