The GMHC Morning Party 1983-1998.
A morning party by definition was an after party that happened exactly like what it says. After an all night dancing event the crowd would then go to someones home for what was called a morning party. The party would continue as the sun rose making it even more memorable, and heightening the experience. As the AIDS crisis grew among the Pines community and the world many felt the need to respond in some fashion. One of them was a woman named Nikki Fried. She had been coming to the Pines for many years, and now was watching her friends become ill and die.
1983. A very young GMHC set out to do a weekend of fundraising events in the Pines. Cocktail parties, lavish dinners, dancing at the Pavilion the island was a buzz with ideas of raising money for the new GMHC and the fight against AIDS. Burt Charmatz had his own idea. He and housemate Nikki Fried, and friends Jerry Bovenschen, Steven Schneider and Doris Taussig decided to do their own fundraising Pines style with a morning party. A ritual gathering of friends at a private home after a night of dancing. Their house at 106 Scaup Walk (known as Romper Room) was deemed too small. They approached Frank McDermott who owned a house at Ocean and Driftwood.
Frank agreed to host the party and along with Nikki, Jerry, Steven Schneider, and Doris Taussig they began organizing. They then decided to keep the price of admission low $10 so that the party would be accessible to everyone making it all about Fire Island Pines community. It was all volunteer based asking for large contributions.
Just over 100 people came, and the party raised $4,000.00 dollars. They started planning for the next year… 1984. It was at this second event that the party got it’s official name “The GMHC Morning Party” Mimeographed invites went out. 200 showed up despite the rain and a faulty sound system. They started making changes for the following year. 1985. The 3rd “GMHC Morning party” was a breakthrough. A live DJ for the first time Michael Jorba who would go on to play at the next 11 parties sold the music he played for charity. Richard Messinger provided a professional sound system. They now had Printed invites, and a wagon train of volunteers transporting speakers, Ice, liquor in wagons back and forth. 400 attended. They knew they were on to something…
1986. The 4th party was the first to offer live entertainment. Pat Ast was to sing her hit “Ocho Rios” written by Paul Jabara. Who also wrote “Last Dance” for Donna Summer. When Ast cancelled at last minute Jabara himself came dressed as Carmen Miranda and lipsynched as 600 people cheered…
The music from all the GMHC Morning parties was always recorded and sold. Here the tapes of DJ Michael Jorba have been re mastered by Jim Hopkins of the Disco Preservation Society.
1987. The party had grown into an event. Expectations were big and so were the number of people wanting to go Volunteers had also grown so that bartenders were given hour shifts. T shirts were now a souvenir of this party that 1000 people showed up for raising $80,000.
Artist John Laub.
DJ Michael Jorba.
T Shirts were always a part of the party, and were customized the night before.
Disco singer France Joli was brought out as the entertainment. She previously had been in the Pines in 1979 for “Beach.”
The day was cloudy, and a storm was predicted that eventually came just as France went on stage.
France Joli: 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
All five people realized the party had gotten too big for them to run, and for the houses they were held at. Also many of them had become ill themselves. GMHC took on their largest running event. The 6th annual Morning Party was hosted by Jeff Applegate at the “Calvin Klein” house next to Frank McDermott.
1989-1990 brought the 7th and 8th Morning Parties to Ocean and Ozone with no room to spare. The 1990 party moved to the Pavilion due to bad weather, and the generosity of John Whyte. Just in time as the dance floor collapsed…
Pines resident Gil Neary remembers one memory in his infamous Bambi Sue column:
“I have a vivid memory of one Morning Party that was on Ozone and Ocean during the Reagan administration when the ‘Just Say No To Drugs’ was a First Lady buzz line that was emblazoned on grocery tote bags. The party got rained out and eventually moved to the Pavilion. My housemates, trying to put together a rain proof outfits for the walk downtown, realized if you cut the bottom off the bags they made excellent muscle tees with ‘Just Say No’ across the chest. Ironic, yet stylish!”