Over the past 40 years or so, Fire Island, on the edge of Long Island, New York, has become one of the world’s premiere gay retreats. Every summer, thousands of gay men descend on the area for fun and various forms of ‘recreation’.
The area’s gay history is intertwined with film. While it had been a gay enclave since the 1930s, the likes of Wahol’s My Hustler and perhaps more particularly Wakefield Poole’s legendary porn movie, Boys In The Sand, help bring it to wider – and more explicitly sexual – attention. That filmic legacy is being explored next month at Metrograph in New York City, with a series of screenings going under the title, On Fire Island.
The season includes some fascinating movies, including the ones mentioned above. Take a look at some more info from Metrograph below:
Sixty miles southeast of Manhattan, Fire Island acts as a calming tonic for those (mostly queer folks) looking for an escape during New York’s balmiest months. Former residents and visitors included Greta Garbo, W.H. Auden, Calvin Klein, Truman Capote, and Tennessee Williams. On screen, this 30 mile long utopia has served as the setting of a filthy two-act play (Warhol’s My Hustler), the backdrop of a cruel coming of age story (Frank Perry’s Last Summer), an environment for sexual discovery (Wakefield Poole’s Boys in the Sand), the setting for a dour 4th of July party (Stan Lopresto’s Sticks and Stones), and a place of contemplation for a man dying of AIDS (Bill Sherwood’s Parting Glances). Historical shorts will be paired with five features, beginning August 11, with special guests.
Boys in the Sand (Wakefield Poole/1971/90 mins/DCP)
Acclaimed Broadway dancer and director Wakefield Poole created a sensation when he and producer Marvin Shulman opened their gay adult feature, Boys in the Sand, at the 55th Street Playhouse in New York City in 1971. Starring Casey Donovan in three sexual vignettes, the film made Fire Island an international tourist destination and introduced gay sex positivity to straight audiences.
Last Summer (Frank Perry/1969/95 mins/16mm)
An X-rated (in the MPAA sense, not the XXX sense) cult coming-of-age classic, adapted from Evan Hunter’s novel by the eternally-underrated director/writer team of Frank and Eleanor Perry. Starring Barbara Hershey, Bruce Davison, Richard Thomas, and an Oscar-nominated Catherine Burns as a group of Fire Island youths whose impending maturity is marked by shattering emotional and sexual violence in this, the rare teen film untainted by sepia nostalgia. Print courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia
My Hustler (Andy Warhol and Chuck Wein/1965/67 mins/16mm)
Warhol’s camp tour de force concerns an idle competition on an empty summer day between tartly monologuing middle-aged queen Ed Weiner, his female Fire Island neighbor, and aging male prostitute, “The Sugar Plum Fairy,” for the attentions of peroxide-blonde “Dial-a-Hustler” hunk Paul America, ogled from deck chairs on the veranda. Bitchy, bitter, and among the flat-out funniest of Warhol productions.
Parting Glances (Bill Sherwood/1986/90 mins/35mm)
One of the first American movies to look the AIDS crisis dead-on, Sherwood’s bittersweet comedy-drama features a young Steve Buscemi in the star-making role of manic rock ‘n’ roller Nick, ex-lover of Richard Ganoung’s Michael, who is simultaneously coping with Nick’s illness and the imminent overseas departure of current boyfriend John Bolger. Setting his scene during one bustling 24-hour period which ends with a Fire Island foray, the sadly short-lived Sherwood faces tragedy with humane humor, creating one of the quintessential queer films of the Reagan debacle.
Sticks and Stones (Stan Lopresto/1970/85 mins/DCP)
A dime-store Rohmer via Boys in the Sand, Stan Lopresto’s chatty, cruel, melancholy film chronicles a 4th of July party on Fire Island. Featuring two lovers, Peter and Buddy, and friends The Lavender Guru, Bobby, and Bike-Boy Fernando, with a recently acquired Prince Albert, Sticks and Stones is a time capsule of now ancient gay norms and a portrait of the Pines long changed.