Pines People – Nikki Fried
Nikki Fried was a former nun who found her way to Fire Island. Her friend there Sandy Paul help her to find a job in publishing in New York city. Her love affair with Fire Island Pines began then and there. Her work in publishing led to consulting work with banks. Much of which could be done remotely. She would take off every August to stay in her beloved Pines, and worked her consulting schedule to spend as much time there as she could. From Spring to Fall.
She loved all her gay friends, and considered them family. In 1983 her friend Burt Charmatz approached her with an idea to help GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis). It would be a Morning Party. The Morning party was a unique Fire Island gathering of friends at a private home after a night of all night dancing. Living then at 106 Scaup Walk affectionately named “Romper Room” they felt the house too small.
She and friend Jerry Bovenschen approached Frank McDermott a homeowner who’s home at Ocean and Driftwood walks would be the perfect place for the party. He agreed to host the party, and she, Jerry, Steven Schneider, and longtime Pines resident and Realtor Doris Taussig what would become the biggest fundraiser in Fire Island history.
As AIDS ravaged the world many of the people who initially organized the party passed away. The party took on even more significance for Nikki, and made it her mission in life. The party now officially named the GMHC Morning Party grew bigger every year Attracting people from all over. The homes where it was held also got bigger with the party.
In 1980 she purchased with friend Jerry Bovenschen her first home in the Pines at 42 Lone Hill walk. Then in 1988 she bought the home outright as Jerry became ill. GMHC took over complete control of the party as it had grown enormously. In 1991 it moved onto the beach.
She watched as her dream grew, but sadly it could not save her many friends who were now dying. In 1995 haunted by too many ghosts she rented her house and moved to Cherry Grove. She missed the Pines and the life she built there. That winter one of her very good friends Michael Madison passed away. She felt lost and that her work was done. On August 24th 1997 she took her own life by overdosing on drugs at her Cherry Grove cottage. All her possessions were sold with the proceeds going to GMHC. She gave at a time when giving was not fashionable. She leaves a legacy to Pines history known as the GMHC Morning Party.