The Wedding Gary/Owen
Owen Frager remembers:
. The party was happy but now it’s sad too reflect on. That’s because as 100 guests in the prime of their lives and careers danced the night away without a care in the world, 90 of them, many unbeknownst to them, were incubating a disease that would take their lives within the next 14 months. The saddest among them was Shaun Buchanan. He had recently come from England and wasn’t into the gay scene. He was in a committed relationship with a guy he met over there and brought him here. He didn’t know what the Saint was, what Fire Island was. That night he got seduced by a guest who infected him.
As for the party itself it was on par with those famous parties of the 70’s. One of our housemates was CEO of the holding company that owns the major fashion brands. He was known for his launches and shows and his creative team. One night he invited us to a final run-through of a major event. They had transformed the large lobby of a new headquarters building into a wonderland. I was standing with the creative director who had been a guest in our house and she was telling me about these revolutionary lights from Germany that were being introduced for the first time in this show and guests will have never seen anything like it. The LEDs are buried in a clear plastic hose that can be made any shape or length. It acts like camouflage so it can be baked into every day objects that won’t be noticed until what they call “the moment.” She told me that during her visit to our island house she was moved by our relationship and story. She said as she stood on the deck she thought we should have a wedding. And since there’s no precedent for it we should show the world how a gay wedding is done.
In her head she had a complete vision for the event. Our entrance. Our invite. And how these lights could be used to take this simple deck yard and exude the energy of Vegas or a Broadway show. Because the lights are rented and can be set and operated without technicians, and that she was staging 2-3 events a week with these lights and was the vendors best promoter, the cost to her would be low. She offered her services and these lights as her gift. Once shared with the housemates, they loved the idea and wanted to contribute what they could to make it special. So the idea of a wedding, which started as a theme party idea, and was unheard of at the time, was to say Gay love is not wrong, and the commitment and celebration that is often the foundation of our straight counterparts unions, should be rightfully ours too. Everything was planned and timed. There was a spiked punch and at the first darkness everyone got off at the same time. The lights were turned own including landing strip lights buried under the boardwalk that went from the house to the Ferry. It’s was like turning up the power source in your mind, like turning up the volume in your head. People said they saw faces in rocks, skeletons in hedges. Rose bushes danced and blossomed on command. Flowers dig for corn. Light bulbs ballooned, turn green. Lamps chased them up stairs. It was truly a “magical moment.”
People were truly transfixed and moved to tears at the ceremony which proceeded the light show. As the idea of a gay man having a stable life in par with straight counterparts was unheard of at the time. I met Gary at the Saint he was on a date with my X. I invited him to the island the next weekend as he was from a small country farm town in Vermont and didn’t know the NY gay scene. I thought, like most, he was just sucking up to me to get an invite to the island, and I’d never see him again. But he never left. He became part of the house and our family of friends that have brought a lifetime of joy. Unfortunately the relationship ended nine years after.
Shaun Buchanan…. “Encore”
When Sting sings about being an “Englishman in New York,” I remember my friend and haircutter DJ Shaun Buchanan, who was one of the first people I knew, that succumbed to AIDS in 1984. But Shaun died having touched the hearts and minds of thousands of the world’s most creative and influential men through his music in the early 80s. Determined to play the top clubs in New York, he went from making a demo cassette as a hobby… to getting it played in a small bar called The Break beneath his Chelsea apartment… to becoming one of the most popular regular DJs at The Saint… in less than six months.
This $5million hi-tech phenomenon was dominated by a 76′ x 38′ perforated aluminum dome which is larger than the Hayden Planetarium’s, encasing a dance floor of 4800 square feet. The effect of those dancing under The Saint’s dome was staggering. It took thousands of dancers into a new dimension of light and sound. But when Johnny Mathis’ Begin the Beguine came on, all eyes and ears turned to Shaun who was about to begin a signature encore. There was never anything like dancing to Shaun’s early morning beats before, and I’ve never had a club experience to equal it since. Though Shaun was also known for his Sunday morning sets at Moonshadow and for playing the Pavilion on Fire Island, the selections in this CD come from a more personal venue. Shaun played my wedding on Fire Island in August 1983. The performance was his Island debut and its tape was used as his audition for the Saint. It wet the boys appetites for more of Shaun and the buzz they created helped fulfill his dreams. I hope you enjoy hearing it as much again now as we did back then.