The Beginner’s Guide To Fire Island Pines

What to Do

IMG_20130601_191825Gays as far as the eye can see  at Low Tea

I was really impressed by how dedicated to drinking the culture of the Pines is, something near and dear to my liver. Let’s see, there’s unlimited boozy brunch from 11:30 to 4 pm, then there’s Low Tea at the Blue Whale from 5 pm to 8 pm, Mid Tea from 8 pm to 10 pm and High Tea until you can’t stand anymore. Once the Pavilion opens, it will take back the night as the island’s primary club with the slightly smaller but perfectly named Sip n Twirl next door.

In between all that drinking and dancing, the Pines also offers drag, burlesque and vaudeville shows, as well as comedians and the popular Broadway Talks series, which in 2011 played host to Larry Kramer discussing that other seminal gay novel from 1978, Nocturnes for the King of Naples Faggots.

A delightful mix of drag, vaudeville and comedy were the ladies of the Haus of Mimosa, giving us Long Island house wife realness — and singing live, hunties —  by the pool as we ate lunch. If there’s anything I love with a meal, it’s a side of shtick.


‘What gay mecca would be complete without a gym?’ I ask in complete seriousness. The Pavilion usually houses the weights, but when we went there was an outdoor set-up happening, full of dudes working out without shoes, shirts, sometimes pants. There’s no real dress code, when I think about it.

When Leon and I went to the general store, Pines Pantry, on the hunt for some toothpaste, the policy was apparently “no shirt, no shoes, no effing problem.” Meanwhile, after a futile three minutes of searching, Leon exclaimed in the middle of the pantry, “An aisle full of lube in every flavor, but I can’t find a goddamn tube of toothpaste?!” Of course, it was around the corner, but it reminded me of this, nonetheless:


After a delicious dinner at the Blue Whale, we returned to our share, fondly named Cher, promising ourselves that we’d make it out for an evening of dancing because, dammit, we’re not 30 yet and we’re still in the thick of our partying days. I settled down for a nap and woke up the next morning to this instead:

And I kind of got a glimpse of what Tom Bianchi was photographing and what Andrew Holleran was writing about a decade before I was even born:

It was very hot that summer by the end of June and even queens who cared nothing about dancing had taken their tambourines to Fire Island. The city was deserted and Sutherland found a house in the Pines taken by an Italian princess whose husband had once been his lover. Even when he was on welfare his first summer in New York, he managed–like so many others in the same straits–to make the annual migration to Fire Island; it hardly mattered how you got there, who you were, or where you came from.

Sadly, I had left my tambourine back in Brooklyn.

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  • muscl954

    Lester Brathwaite, I love your writing!

  • MikeE

    kind of strange seeing that Quebec flag in the last picture.

  • knoxxy2008

    Cool pictures.

  • Joetx

    Hey Lester, as a BGM, how would you describe the level of racial diversity in Fire Island?

  • Lester Brathwaite

    @Joetx: Not gonna lie to ya, it’s not super diverse, but there was a nice (and surprising) mix of people over all.

  • bobbyo2

    Thank you for a wonderful guide. I am a 64 years young African-American male whose first visit to Fire Island was last Summer, at the invitation of a friend who, has a house there. The experience for me was exciting, anxious, and terrifying knowing I didn’t fit the stereotype of the average island goer.
    There is not much diversity there and I would not be able to hide there. I am an artist and the island is a tremendous source of inspiration along with peace and quiet. The fun starts on the ferry from Sayville.
    It’s certainly worth the trip, go, play, relax and enjoy.
    Have a great Summer!!!

  • Joetx

    @Lester Brathwaite: Thanks, Lester, as well as bobbyo2, for the input re: racial diversity (or rather, the lack thereof) in Fire Island. Although I was expecting that, it’s disappointing nevertheless.

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