Fire Island Pavilion: Remebrances Of “Gay Utopia” Past

The New York Times took a sober look at the Pavilion, the legendary Fire Island Pines entertainment complex that burned down Monday night.

While it’s true the space has a history that pre-dates Stonewall and was, as writer Alex Williams writers,  “a site was a place where stigma and inhibitions were left at the coat check,” the Pavilion has been rebuilt and renovated before. And as anyone can tell you, its the people who make Fire Island what it is—not some wood planks and carpeting.

Williams got some notable homos to recount their memories of the Pavilion:

Joseph Altuzarra (designer): “The night before Hurricane Irene hit, when Fire Island hadn’t been evacuated yet, we went to the Pavilion for high tea. A hurricane was on its way, and most people were busy boarding their windows and closing up their houses, and yet people still came for a drink, to talk about the day, to dance and have some fun. Even an impending hurricane couldn’t keep us away.”

Aaron Hicklin (editor, Out magazine)“I remember walking from Cherry Grove, through I guess what is called Meat Rack, with my boyfriend so we could dance in the Pavilion. Somewhere along the way, as we were leaving Cherry Grove, we were joined by a petty thief who was English and drunk, carrying a painting wrapped in a sheet that he brazenly announced had been stolen from a house minutes before. Somehow, this companion, who we never saw again, reinforced the idea of Fire Island Pines being a bit of a gay fable. Strange things happened there.”

DJ Robbie Leslie: “They had one of the most discriminating audiences in the world, and when a DJ was on his game, the dance floor knew it and showed their appreciation. If a DJ did poorly at the Pavilion, it could handicap or even destroy his career. That is how influential this little summer venue was.”

Check out the Times article for all the interviews and our Memorial Day slideshow for a view of Fire Island in happier times. 

Images via JJ Keyes, Fire Island Pines Properties.

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  • Ryan

    ok….anyone know what the ‘Meat Rack’ on Fire Island is? There were two cryptic refes but. I can assume it’s a sex thing obviously but….I need to know! it doesn’t even show up on Google so it’s gotta be gay-mafia territory.

  • Peter

    Remeberances? Really?

  • Peter


  • drewa24

    @Ryan: Ahhh, the MeatRack circa 2004, I remember it well. Ryan, it was a small convergence of dunes approximately halfway between the Pines and Cherry Grove, half woods, half bluff, marked by an isolated trail that lead to a large ceder shake house with a walkway for a small public beach. Usually well attended very late at night or early in the morning, it was the best cruising sight on the island for horned up city boys looking to cream rinse a guys face. I got my salad tossed there once, turned around only to be starring at… he’s in the movies now, big , huge , blockbuster movies. Happy hunting.

  • Ryan

    @drewa24: I thought it might be some sort of outdoor cruising.
    but the name “Meat Rack” suugested some sort of sex-club. Well Close enough.

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