Patchogue, NY: Northeasters, Inc., 1979. Tabloid newspaper, newsprint printed in black-and-white and color.
Issue number three 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 features a cover photo of Bianca Jagger; a double-page spread commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots ("We have made many inroads in the ten years since Stonewall...But in the next ten years, the 80s, we will become a major force"); a profile of then up-and-coming Black fashion designer Willi Smith, who would die of AIDS-related complications in 1987; a feature on the fabled gay tea dances of the Pines ("'what the Wailing Wall is to the Jews, tea dance is to the gays'"); and a remembrence by Steve Lawrence of photographer Diane Arbus, whom Lawrence befriended in his Picture Newspaper days, before her death in 1971. Toning to newsprint throughout, several closed tears and small chips along spine. Very good overall. Rare, with no copies of any issue listed in OCLC. Item #2564