A Gay Guide to Proper Behavior in Provincetown and Fire Island

Also: Calvin Klein’s life provides fodder for a new gay comedy.

I’m amazed whenever a gay tells me he hasn’t been to either Fire Island or Provincetown, the quintessential East Coast resorts for all kinds of queer fun in the sun. I feel their gay card should be revoked if they don’t try these hedonism havens at least once—and if they don’t return for a second visit, they should be publicly shamed, pilloried, and stripped of their gym membership. Not that literally “anything goes” in either paradise—there are ways to maximize your experience, in case you do find yourself there. And so, here’s my handy guide to just how to behave at these two marvelous meccas.

1. Leave your big city woes behind and prepare to relax and/or have a good time. Don’t look at your phone, unless it has something to do with, you know, relaxing and/or having a good time.

“Who’s your Daddy now?” @thegarrettswann

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2. Get ready to drop your wall, say “hello” a lot, and actually be friendly. On the planks of Fire Island, most people that pass you will give you a warm greeting as you rummage through your brain to figure if you ever tricked with them. P-town is also an exceedingly personable place, one where a diversity of people are all too happy to smile and chat with you in the street. Once you get over the shock of it, you’ll give in and enjoy.

3. When in Fire Island, get to know the difference between the Grove versus the Pines. The Pines is for muscle queens and other party boys who want to lay out in the sun, titillate themselves, and go to low and high teas. (The motto there is, “We go low! We go high!”) In the neighboring Cherry Grove—which you can walk or take a speedboat to—there are Daniel Nardicio’s rollicking Friday night underwear parties at the Ice Palace, but in general, the mood is more mixed (with lesbians and straight people thrown in) and more honky tonk and welcoming than the Pines.

An aerial view of Jones Beach and Fire Island.

I’ve been known to visit both places, running back and forth through “the Meat Rack” like a maniac, but if I had to pick one, I’m definitely a Grove queen. As for the Meat Rack, it used to be a haven for wild, anonymous sex and paddling in the woods, but not anymore. Stick to your phone. Or better yet, stay at the Belvedere Hotel.

4. Enjoy the fabulous food. Provincetown is known for its amazing seafood (and other) restaurants, which you can encounter by simply strutting up and down the main thoroughfare, Commercial Street, and beyond. (Around town, Canteen, Lobster Pot, and the Red Inn are among the popular places to eat.) But you can also find some wonderful dives by the dock, where you can get footlongs and all the trimmings for a delightfully low price. Restaurants in the Pines are overpriced, but some guys find it sociable to get a burger at the Blue Whale, in between all the partying. But I generally stick with the Pantry, a wonderful grocery store with a deli counter, which is a fun meeting ground for queens rounding up their dinner menus. The Grove has some nice eateries (like Top of the Bay and Island Breeze), but my favorite is Cherry Grove Pizza & Ristorante, an unassuming hangout which serves yummy pizza, pasta, and sausage dishes, with some all too perfect outdoor seating to enjoy it at. The Grove is also the home of Sweet Licks, the best ice cream place for miles.

5. Go to drag shows, naturally. The Ice Palace in Cherry Grove has poolside drag shows, and other boites (like Cherry’s on the Bay) feature regular drag performances to get a rise out of all the drinkers and schmoozers. And promoter Brandon Voss is doing a drag performance series at the Pavilion—everyone from Sharon Needles to Asia O’Hara. And on July 4, there’s the annual Invasion, whereby a boatload of fabulously done up queens embarks from the Grove to the Pines, each one getting a special MC announcement as she hits dry land. The event is a playful yet proud response to the awful time in 1976 when a drag queen was denied admission to a Pines restaurant. (Can you even imagine? Today, they’d probably beg them to perform at brunch.) In Provincetown, drag is played out in more of a cabaret setting, at places like Crown & Anchor and the Pilgrim House. Either way, the drag queens are tirelessly entertaining and a huge part of the summer escapism.

6. Rent a bike. No, not in Fire Island, where there are just wooden planks and no streets, but in Provincetown, where the rentals are cheap and afford you the chance to see the nearby splendor of trees, beach, and grandeur. Some of the best known rental spots are the Bike Shack, Provincetown Bike Rentals, Arnold’s Rent-a-Bike, Ptown Bikes, and Gale Force Bikes.

7. Find out about special events happening, like the Fire Island Dance Festival and the Provincetown International Film Festival. That can help focus a trip, rather than just heading out for aimless good times. P-town also hosts special weeks, like Bear Week, Womens Week, and Family Week, all of which attract swarms of revelers. Go for all three!

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John Waters at the Provincetown International Film Festival 15th Anniversary Celebration.

8. Wear whatever you like, as long as it’s accompanied by lots of sunblock and many condoms. And relax and have fun!

Always hard to leave. Until we see each other again Fire Island. ❤️

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East Side Story

What to do back in my homeland of New York City? Go to concerts at the 92nd Street Y! Last week, they featured Chita Rivera, the Broadway legend who always serves a master class in talent and charisma. This time was no different as Chita tore into hits from her classics like West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie, The Rink, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and The Visit. For good measure, there was also a number from the more obscure musical Seventh Heaven (Chita played all three prostitutes in a ditty called “Camille, Collette, Fifi”) and also a dramatically escalating “Carousel” from Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well And Living In Paris.

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Chita joked about getting older, saying that her leg kicks used to go up to her head, but now they just go a few inches—though she tells dancers to make the move “clean” and that’s all that matters. And in thanking songwriters John Kander and Fred Ebb, who were instrumental to her career, Chita said that without them and their successful shows, “I don’t know what I’d look like, but I wouldn’t look like this!” Best of all, she climaxed with a slithery “Nowadays” (keeping it as a duet by doing a baby-voiced Gwen Verdon impression) and she killed it with her signature Chicago song, “All That Jazz.” When she sang, “Oh, I love my life and all that jazz,” you believed it—and agreed.

Nothing Comes Between Him and His Calvin

In 2011, when designer Calvin Klein threw a big party to celebrate his love for young Nick Gruber, I said it was embarrassing since this clearly wasn’t true love: It was a convenient arrangement between a nubile hottie (with some light raunch in his past) and a very rich daddy. The hookup was fine, I just didn’t think it should be celebrated on such a grand scale as the love story of the century. And sure enough, it all ended badly, with Klein reportedly having Gruber trailed by a private detective.

Brian Killian/WireImage
Calvin Klein and Nick Gruber at the 27th Annual Night of Stars in 2010.

Well, I feel like playwright Joshua Harmon (Bad Jews, Significant Other) may have observed my comments because his new comedy, Skintight, draws heavily on the Calvin and Nick thing and criticisms of it, without naming names—though parallels are quite obvious anyway. Jack Wetherall is Elliot, a Jewish fashion designer who’s not directly involved in his company anymore, but who’s happy with (if overly possessive of) a 20-year-old Oklahoma-bred stud named Trey (Will Brittain) traipsing around the house in a jockstrap and professing his love. In comes Elliot’s daughter Jodi (Idina Menzel), a needy neurotic whose husband just left her for a 24-year old woman, so she’s extra horrified to learn of her dad’s current situation (though he’s had young boyfriends before—in fact, one of them is now one of his servants, and that’s not the only Sunset Boulevard–like touch in this tres gay play).

When Trey proclaims that he and Elliot are “partners,” Jodi and her gay son Benjamin (Eli Gelb) are repulsed, though Elliot feels all relationships are based on some kind of give and take, so why not this one? And at 70, Elliot just doesn’t care what people think anymore, even if Jodi not so lovingly informs him that everyone is laughing their heads off behind his back. As for Trey, he’s adoring the lavish lifestyle he’s stepped into and seems to have some genuine affection for Elliot, though he’s too simple to grasp that he’s basically a glorified hustler. (Harmon has the character blurting the word “byzantine” at one point, and I wish he’d made more of that potential. Might the guy be smarter than he seems or is he just some kind of sculpted sponge?)

When Eliot’s birthday party becomes an orgy of Botox usage, the theme of obsessive lusting after youth and “hotness” becomes more prevalent, along with the concomitant idea that erasing one’s history—and facial lines—is a bad idea. (Jodi pulls out a family album full of memories at one point, and there are also references to their ancestors’ varying fates in the Holocaust). Harmon’s writing is funny and observant and the cast is game (I especially liked Menzel and Wetherall), each one climbing or descending the long stairway in amusing ways specific to their characters, but Elliot delivers an unnecessarily long monologue about his cravings, spelling out what we already know, and by the end, I felt the evening had been as fleeting as a Calvin Klein affair.

Michael Musto is the long running, award-winning entertainment journalist and TV commentator.