East of the Pines was a community called “Talisman”. Talisman was considered the most chic and exclusive of the F.I. resorts. It was a private club with accommodation’s for only 50. The chef and kitchen staff were french. Cabanas, a half dozen houses and a clubhouse all built and decorated in neo-japanese style made up the community. One home with a private pool, and a large pool at the clubhouse were used as swimming in the ocean was not considered by this elegant group. The Talisman clientele were drawn mostly from international cafe society, and the french language was most often heard.
The management would display the national flag of it’s guests on the boat dock. Members came over by private water taxi or seaplane as there was no public ferry. String bikinis abounded as the women lounged while chatting on plugged in telephones with friend in London, Paris, and Rome.
The Twist was introduced to the United States at one memorable Talisman affair during the summer of 1961. “Somebody hired Carl Holmes and his Commanders to play for dancing,” the same burned-out jet setter said. “Anyway, this girl who was there had just returned from Paris and at about two in the morning, she started doing this absolutely weird dance. My dear, do you know that it was the first time the Twist had ever been done in America? Nobody slept that night until we all learned the awful thing.” Naturally, she continued to our rapt correspondent, “the were absolutely divine parties devoted to the theme. You know, such as Tahitian or Calypso? Everybody was always imaginative about what they wore or didn’t wear. I remember getting dressed one of those costume things, I wore a fishnet and I believe I carried a tambourine for effect.”
It was the kind of place where, on any given summer evening, Samba music emanated from hidden loudspeakers all over the club grounds and an endless Conga-cum-bongo drum line wove its way across the clubhouse and into the pool.
Talisman was founded by Michael Butler, the millionaire whose family owned Butler Aviation and later was the owner and producer of the musical Hair. His business partner was Ahmet Ertegun, the record company executive known for signing the Rolling Stones, among others. They owned the two houses. Ertegun’s house was decorated by his future wife Mica, the socialite decorator and partner in MAC II.
1960. Designer Michael Butler spoke of his design of Talisman:
“When I first conceived of Talisman and the design of it’s houses, I wanted to create a club resort which was international in feeling, relaxed yet restrained. By following a design distinctly influenced by the Japanese rules, we were able to lay ground rules for a community which seemed to have been in existence for some time. I wanted a feeling of normal, gradual growth, not the impermanent immediacy of so much of today’s design. Houses built by club members on the Talisman site followed the previous style of the central clubhouse and cabanas. However, this simple oriental design was pure enough to allow considerable freedom and imagination to the owners creating their own private atmosphere.
Another source from a magazine interview in 1990 (Michael Gross, mgross.com):
“In summer, Ertegun was often found on New York’s Fire Island, an automobile-free barrier beach where he and the empresario Michael Butler founded a club called Talisman. Each of them had a house, they put two more up for rent, and their exclusive group met and partied in a communal clubhouse. “Those were very fun, marvelous days,” he says. “I was a bachelor, loose on the town. I really started to go out with a lot of girls. I didn’t have very much home life. Talisman was the hot `in’ place to go. All the members remember it with great affection.” The attraction? “We had great volleyball games.” That’s all? “We had a party every night.” And? “A lot of beautiful young girls. All the models and everything.
Only small groups of approximately 15 guests could be accommodated at one time. Visited by many famous celebrities, including Johnny Carson. In the late 50’s and early 60’s, this resort boasted exquisite food and many leisure activities like water skiing, with state-of-the-art, high speed motor boats pulling guests over a course of 3 jump ramps that were set up in the Great South Bay. The housing consisted of about 4 houses and a Motel-like guest house that had 8 separate guest facilities.
The Fire Island National Seashore legislation, signed in 1964 by President Johnson, seized the land Talisman was built on through eminent domain and the resort closed. It still was a place where people visited by boat throughout the 70’s.
Talisman was acquired by the National Park Service when Fire Island National Seashore was created in 1964. It was renamed Barret Beach and was passed back and forth between FINS and Islip Town a few times. The Fire Island National Seashore later used the closed community for staff housing.
Today it is a small complex of well kept buildings, and new marina, and a gift shop/snack bar. The buildings known as Talisman now sit empty, neglected, and ravaged by time and the elements, but if you listen closely you can hear the faint sound the samba and of laughter of a time gone by.
“I guess you could just sum up the whole atmosphere as ‘Pucci simple’,” one ex-Talisman resident recalled for a reporter in 1962. “I mean someone once said all you needed for a weekend at Talisman was a Pucci in a Gucci and a Benzedrine in your purse. Everything was divinely unorganized. Most of the time we’d just slosh a couple of peaches in some champagne and invite a few friends over.”
2016. We recently donated photo’s and information to Modern magazine for this great researched article on Talisman.