A young 16 year old arrives from Canada in the Pines with her mom to perform in a benefit for a Fire truck in Fire Island Pines. Her record “Come to me” is not even released yet. Replacing a last minute cancel of Donna Summer she is an unknown on an unknown Island to her…
This soon will change as she takes the stage, the Pines, and the world by storm as she and her soon to be hit “Come to me” become an overnight sensation.
It was an unforgettable night for many , especially France. Here she remembers:
How can I begin to describe my feelings for the magical place that is Fire Island. Some of you may know my story because you were there that night. Some of you may know simply because you’ve heard about it through the years—almost as if it were some fanciful legend. But let me tell you, it’s true. And to have lived it from the stage, looking out at all of your gorgeous faces…well, it’s almost indescribable. But I’ll try.
The date was Friday, July 13, 1979. I was a 16-year-old unknown French Canadian female vocalist, and I had a newly recorded disco song relatively few people had heard. “Come to Me” had had a little bit of club play in New York City, but it hadn’t yet been released. And I had certainly never performed it live.
Long story short, I was lucky enough to be invited—at the last minute—to fill in for Donna Summer at Beach 79. I flew down to New York City from Montreal. Little did I know a ferry would be transporting me to my final destination: a moonlit venue for this midnight, seaside concert.
And little did I expect that an audience of thousands—most of them gay men; and many of them sadly long gone—would embrace me with such love so instantly. I had never ever even performed in America! That night remains both a blur and a sharp memory seared in my mind. I feel that the LGBT community and I first met that summer night. And our mutual love, respect, and admiration has endured through almost three decades. How wonderful.
I’ve returned to Fire Island, of course, most notably in 2009 for Fifty/30 the 30th anniversary of Beach 79. We and the world have changed much since we first met. Neither of us may look like we did back then, but I know that in our hearts, we feel as if that night was last night. I look forward to the next time I’m in Fire Island, because every arrival there feels like I’ve never left. And every time I bid you farewell and see you vanish in the distance behind the waves, I can’t wait to be back on your shores.
With much love,
France Joli xxoo
She goes onto becoming a star in the disco world releasing many hits.
She returns to the Pines in 1987 to support the GMHC Morning Party in the fight against AIDS.
She performs through a storm, and here is her recollection:
: I guess Gene Kelly, with his “Singing in the Rain,” has nothing on me. Bobby was kind enough to send me a few old pictures from Fire Island’s 1987 Morning Party benefitting GMHC, at which I had the pleasure and honor of performing. Wow! My first thought upon seeing those shots was, “I can’t believe how time flies. That does NOT seem like it was almost 25 years ago!” Then a particular memory came flooding back–and I use the term quite purposely. How many of you remember that it was raining that day–and that we could hear thunder and see lightning in the distance? Today, on the one hand, I can’t believe I chose to go on anyway. I mean, can’t you get electrocuted if you’re singing in the rain with a live mic that’s plugged in? LOL. But on the other hand, I’m not surprised that my love for and devotion to all my Fire Island fans took precedence over logic that day. I couldn’t face letting you down. So I went on! And I’m so thrilled that I lived to tell about it–quarter-century be damned! We’re still all here–and here for one another–and that’s the only thing that matters. I have such a long and special history with the Pines. I miss you, and I can’t wait to be back. Love, France xoxo
Time and Time again France has returned always giving her best to the place that discovered her. In 2009 she returns for a Anniversary of Beach and the Pines Fire Department. She reunites with the Beach creator Scott Bromley, Ron Martin, and more.
In 2013 FIPHPS invite her back to perform at Low Tea on a magical September evening.
We invite her back 2014 the next year as part of our Souvenirs concert series.
In 2015 she returns for the Clambake on the beach.
Her heart never leaves the Pines as she remembers her history as she again returns in 2016 for the Women’s Pride in the Pines event…
Thank you France for always remembering with us….