Patchogue, NY: Northeasters, Inc., 1979. Tabloid newspaper, newsprint printed in black-and-white and color.
Issue number five of Fire Island, a short-lived seasonal newspaper "dedicated to the political, environmental and social concerns that make Fire Island one of the most dynamic, intriguing resorts in the world" (from the publisher’s letter to the reader, vol. I, number I). Founded in 1979, the newspaper ostensibly covered the several resort towns on the 30-mile barrier island between Long Island’s Great South Bay and the Atlantic that served in the 1970s and early 1980s as a playground for New York’s jetset. Each issue featured recurring sections, including interviews with island personalities, general news with an emphasis on environmental issues, book and music reviews, ferry schedules, classifieds, and ads for local businesses aplenty. But it was as a lodestar for the gay havens of the Pines and Cherry Grove that the paper distinguished itself, with its photos of decadent parties, fashion shows and beach scenes, young artist profiles, dramatic full-page fashion ads, and campy comics exemplifying the carefree spirit of post-Stonewall, pre-AIDS summers spent among lovers and friends. The person responsible for this emphatic, primarily visual approach was the paper’s creative director Steve Lawrence, formerly the publisher of queer-centric underground photo tabloids Newspaper (1969-1971) and The Picture Newspaper (1975-1976). Lawrence, at one time creative and romantic partners with photographer Peter Hujar, worked as a graphic designer in the music industry and as assistant art director for the New York Times Magazine before heading the creative team at Fire Island, where he recruited a number of like-minded young gay photographers, designers and illustrators to set the paper’s tone. Though their daring, sexy, cheeky work features prominently across the paper’s several issues, their names – Robert Armas, Adolph Garza, Barry McKinley, Roger Thurber – are virtually unknown today, with many of them presumed to have been among the earliest victims of AIDS, as was Lawrence, who left New York disillusioned for his native Texas, where he died in 1983. Taken together, their work represents that of a lost generation, and models the idyllic place the island held (and still holds) within the gay male mythos. The present issue’s main feature covers the groundbreaking "Beach '79," an all-night party held on July 7th that brought together the straight and gay communities to help the Pines Fire Department raise funds for a new fire truck (the original dated back to 1959, when the department was founded). Preparations for the extravaganza, which included a 3,000 square foot open-air dance floor directly on the beach, took ten months. Entertainment was provided by disco sensations France Joli, Bonnie Pointer, the Ritchie Family, and legendary club DJ Jim Burgess. A star-studded roster of those in attendance included Calvin Klein, Andy Warhol, Maxime de la Falaise, Diane von Furstenberg, Robert Mapplethorpe, Steve Rubell, Farah Fawcett, Clovis Ruffin, Peter Allen, and many more. The issue's centerfold was designed by Steve Lawrence and features photos by Bill Cunningham among others. The party would be memorialized decades later by one in attendance: "The party of the decade...closed the decade…and achieved mythic status. For 12 magical hours from sunset to sunrise…Fire Island Pines felt to gays like the center of the universe, and there was no other place on Earth where any of us would have wanted to be" (Beach: Fire Island 79, Robert Bonanno). Also featured in the issue is a profile of Korean-American fashion designer Cathy Hardwick. Toning to newsprint throughout, dampstaining to top corner of upper wrap, with approx. 2” closed tear to outer edge of same, several closed tears and small chips along top edge of rear wrap. Very good overall. Rare, with no copies of any issue listed in OCLC. Item #2562