Celebrating Beach, the Epic Party That “Changed Fire Island Pines Forever”

It was "the party that started it all."

This weekend, Pines Party, an extravagant annual celebration, returns to the Fire Island Pines. But this summer also marks the 40th anniversary of another epic event held in this beachy gay mecca: Beach, a massive disco party “that was a first of its kind, and changed the Pines forever.”

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The idea for Beach came about in 1979, when the Pines Volunteer Fire Department needed a new fire truck but couldn’t afford one. Two Pines residents, Jimmy Meade and Ron Martin, had recently attended Sunrise, another giant party on the island. Inspired by the festivities, the pair decided to host a party of their own as a fundraiser for a new truck.

Beach took place on Saturday, July 14, 1979, on a “party perfect” evening, according to Fire Island News’ Aaron Biller:

… A bright full moon complemented the array of disco and theatrical stage lighting. On that night, approximately 3,700 people were in attendance to celebrate the magic of the Pines and to help fund the purchase of the fire truck at $20 per ticket. The night was attended by Farrah Fawcett-Majors, Lee Majors, Andy Warhol and the Village People. Performers at the event included The Ritchie Family, Asha, France Joli, and Bonnie Pointer, setting the stage for future big name performers who frequented the Pines.

The rest, as they say, was history.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Beach this summer, the Fire Island Pines Historical Preservation Society’s Robert Bonanno hosted Boardwalk Talk, an event and panel discussion that featured some of Beach’s original creators and participants, including Ron Martin, Scott Bromley, Walter Boss, and disco queen France Joli, who debuted her hit “Come to Me” at Beach.

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“I think the whole experience with Beach helped to put that history in front of people. We have to preserve this history,” Bonanno told Fire Island News. “We live in a world with climate change and hurricanes and storms, and I hope this never comes to pass, but one day we might be in a world where we say once upon a time there was a place called Fire Island. And by preserving this history we get to pass it on to future generations.”

The Pines Historical Society has also released a photo book, Beach, filled with archival images and Fire Island history, to preserve the legacy of the epic party for future generations of LGBTQ visitors to come. The book is available at two select retailers—the Historical Society’s pop-up shop, Camp, and the Pines General Store—as well as the Historical Society’s website.

Scroll through below for more photos of the original Beach party, along with videos and images from this year’s Boardwalk Talk anniversary event.

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I write about drag queens. Dolly Parton once ruffled my hair and said I was "just the cutest thing ever."
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