1960’s-1990’s. Broadway composer Jerry Herman becomes a resident twice purchasing homes on both the Ocean and the Bay.
He involves himself in the community events, and entertains frequent guests like Angela Lansbury and Carol Channing at his home.
1990’s. Jerry Herman at his bayfront home with Carol Channing & friends.
1974. Angela Lansbury at his 40th birthday party in the Pines.
At the bay front home.
1991. Jerry moves to the bay house and entertains friends.
Jon Wilner remembers:
In the early 1960’s, as Broadway composer and lyricist Jerry Herman, was enjoying his first success, “Milk and Honey” at the Martin Beck Theatre, he decided to leave his rental in Cherry Grove and purchase a hone in Fire Island Pines. And that he did. His original Fire Island Pines homes was at 159 Oak Walk, with a view of the ocean, for the two lots on the ocean, in front of his home, on Ocean Walk, provided a clear and unobstructed view of the ocean. In 1964, “Hello, Dolly!” opened at the St. James and in 1966, “Mame” opened at the Winter Garden. And Jerry would invite Carol Channing and Angela Lansbury , his respective stars of both shows, to be his guests in the Pines. As one sea plane would return Carol, another seaplane would bring Angela. It was the most of glamorous times! Jerry eventually purchased the two lots across from him on the ocean, and then sold them to Shillo Adir, who built what was to be known as “The Banana House”. Jerry sold 159 Oak, and moved to California. But he couldn’t stay away. In the mid to late 1970’s, Jerry returned to his beloved Fire Island Pines, purchasing 227 Bay Walk with the most beautiful of sunset views. It was at this home, that Jerry rehearsed his Broadway musical “Jerry’s Girls” with Ms. Channing, Leslie Uggams and Andrea McArdle, before taking it on a national tour. Jerry also did a magnificent SAGE benefit along with Tommy Tune at 227 Bay. The AIDS epidemic began, and Jerry was losing his friends, but before he sold his Bayfront home, he wrote the music and lyrics for LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, from 227 Bay, and hence, the song ,”Song on the Sand” comes from the lapping of the ripples of the bay. In 1984, Jerry won the Tony Award for Best Score as well as Best Musical. The Friday after the Tony Awards that year, as Jerry arrived on the ferry, along with his partner, Marty Finkelstein, without any rehearsal or planning, the hundreds of people at the Blue Whale tea dance, in unison, began applauding Jerry as he walked by tea. He was our hero, for “I am what I am” solidified his musical to be the new gay anthem for our generation. It was “The Best of Times”. Jerry and Marty were among the guests at the celebrated RIO Party starring Peter Allen and the Rockettes at Gloria DeMann’s incredible AIDS benefit.
Jerry sold his Bayfront property, but returned again a decade later, in the early 1990’s. and purchased the largest piece of residential property in all of Fire Island, at the end of Beach Hill Walk and Bay Walk, in the Pines. He renovated that property that encompasses three lots, built a new pool on the bay, and updated the house itself to all the modern comforts of his newly named “Song on the Sand”. That July, for his birthday, he opened up his home to a giant cocktail party for all the friends and neighbors that he had known for over three decades. That Summer, he also had Carol Channing as his house guest, who enjoyed dancing all night long at the Pavilion. One of Jerry’s neighbors turned to Jerry at the Pavilion, pointing at Carol, and whispered to Jerry, “if he were an inch taller, he could pass for the real Carol Channing”. “Ah” replied Jerry, “this one has had a lot of practice.” Almost no one in the Pavilion that night realized that that was the very real Carol Channing, letting her hair down, literally. To this day, Jerry Herman considers Fire Island Pines as his most cherished of communities that he has ever lived in.
In 1993, I had the great pleasure of presenting Jerry in his Rainbow and Stars Revue at our Pines Community House for 3 performances over Labor Day Weekend, also starring Lee Roy Reams and Florence Lacey. I eventually produced that very show on Broadway at the Booth Theatre, entitled: “An Evening with Jerry Herman”.
Jerry has returned several times as my houseguest, and carries all the joys of the Pines with him. The piano that Jerry purchased for the former community house, to this day, is in the living room of 227 Bay, then owned by Stephen Sonderberg.
1991, and Jerry’s back on stage and at the Dog show!