Pines People- David Lee
In a late 1970’s pre- AIDS world a gay man was still closeted. Especially David Lee. He worked for the corporate pharmaceutical world. A world where a gay man had to play it straight, and often had to hear the prejudice of the big boys club of higher ups. Like many from the local Long Island he found his way to Fire Island. Cherry Grove and the Pines. In that he found himself. Day tripping he was able to dip into the scene and live a life he longed to live freely. He has never forgotten those memories, however with that came the advent of AIDS.
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Being in the pharmaceutical end of it he knew way too much. He like many left the Island behind during that time. He watched the loss of friends and acquaintances. He knew he could never stay away as Fire Island becomes part of your life story. Finding our site we connected and now we add his story to our archives…
Fire Island Pines was a magical island, a private utopian paradise for gay men looking to escape the cruel reality of the 70s, who found their own private sanctuary in the sunny, dune-covered beaches off the coast of Long Island.It was a place you could escape to on weekends, away from the homophobia and prejudice that permeated our society and workplace. Fire Island was a safe haven for people like me. A place without fear of prosecution, a place to celebrate your life in full nakedness, and finally feel free and accepted with others just like yourself.
When you first step off the Sayville Ferry in the Pines, it was the beginning of an adventure in paradise. It was a journey in a time of repression, where you could finally identify with others like yourself, escaping to a daily ritual of sunbathing, swimming, eating at sidewalk cafes, and shopping in stores owned and managed by people like yourself. It was a social network where it was common to have dinner parties and dance the night away at the Pavilion. It was truly a fantasy world where you could meet people like yourself. Each visit to the Pines allowed you to visualize and explore, and experience your sexuality, where it was free to be yourself.
It was also a private gay world for the wealthy, with 50-ft yachts in the harbor. A unique place, with a labyrinth of wooden raised sidewalks that cut across the island, where contemporary, custom-built homes, many with its own pool, perched above the dunes, overlooking the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean.
The endless sandy beaches to the east and the west were covered with wall-to-wall gay men of all persuasions, basking in the hot sun. There were Hollywood actors and directors, designers, male models from the world of fashion, theater, and the arts. The Pines was a place where you could go cruising for other men, one hotter than the next. A place to be among the beautiful people. Going to Tea Dance every day at sunset, a ritual that first began on Fire Island, where you could drink “Blue Whale” cocktails, and dance into the wee hours of the night to the disco beats of the Village People, Diana Ross, and Donna Summer, singing along to their gay anthem songs, which celebrated our lives.
Fire Island Pines allowed gays trapped in a straight world by week, to be free on weekends to be themselves. Men traveled by car, train, boat or private plane to flock to the sandy beaches of Fire Island Pines, to absorb the rays of summer, and watch the endless parade of muscular men sport their latest fashions. It was also a one-of-a-kind fantasy place that allowed you to explore your suppressed inner urging where male sexuality was on full display, from rock hard men’s bodies to full nudity on the beaches. It was a voyeur’s heaven.
But more important, it was a private paradise, where I found acceptance and inner peace, by the shining sea and sun-drenched dunes, far away from the realities of the real world.
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Thank you David Lee.