Going into the post-war interval, Cherry Grove grew to become more and more well-known as an eccentric, outrageous spot, its small-town ambiance enriched with a vibrant theatrical and drag tradition, and ample venues for consuming, dancing and public intercourse. The Grove’s extra upmarket neighbour, Fireplace Island Pines, was developed later, within the Nineteen Fifties, as a “family-friendly” group, though this label did not final for very lengthy, even if quite a few homosexual owners had moved there from the Grove within the hopes that it could act as a extra discreet enclave. By the Nineteen Seventies, with the flourishing of an more and more public queer tradition within the years following the Stonewall riots, Cherry Grove and the Pines had been each extremely fascinating places, frequented by writers and, together with Truman Capote, James Baldwin, Patricia Highsmith, Carson McCullers, in addition to quite a few stars of stage and display screen. That the supposed golden age of Fireplace Island’s free and liberated tradition was so short-lived, earlier than the HIV/Aids epidemic started decimating its group within the early Nineteen Eighties, solely additional informs its mythology as a fragile, sacred place, lingering defiantly on the fringes of the Atlantic.
A spot of “loss of life and want”
As a result of here is the opposite factor about Fireplace Island; it’s a haunted place. It’s, as WH Auden writes in his 1948 poem in regards to the place, Pleasure Island, as if the “lenient amusing shore / Is aware of actually about all of the dyings”. As a lot as a summer time on Fireplace Island is about immersion within the current second (this weekend) or the close to future (this season), the previous is rarely far-off. Scratch beneath the glamorous, hedonistic sheen of its fashionable picture and a wealthy cultural lineage comes into view, together with the ghosts of the varied figures who’ve graced its shores. Earlier than I started analysis on my e book Fireplace Island: Love, Loss and Liberation in An American Paradise, which examines the queer cultural historical past of Cherry Grove and the Pines, whereas interweaving facets of private memoir, I went there within the spirit of pilgrimage, looking for to retrace the footsteps of poet Frank O’Hara, who was killed on the seashore close to the Pines in a dune buggy accident in the summertime of 1966. Standing by the ocean within the early hours of the morning, incanting strains from one in all O’Hara’s poems, the deathliness of the place grew to become vividly obvious; the sense that it’s teeming with the life (or lives) of its previous. Because the narrator of Andrew Holleran’s traditional 1978 novel Dancer from the Dance notes, it is a place of “loss of life and want”.