Grove Stars Strut Their Stuff to Benefit PAWS
By Bruce-Michael Gelbert

A stellar array of Cherry Grove performers proffered some of their finest numbers in a gala benefit, “Star Turns,” at the Grove Hotel’s Ice Palace last Saturday, raising thousands of dollars for the Pines Animal Welfare Society. PAWS, headed by the tireless Lee Frey in the Pines and Valerie Perez in the Grove, is dedicated to saving, caring for, and placing stray cats and dogs in our neighboring communities and in Sayville, Long Island.

A pre-show featured fabulous singer Porsche, who got the proceedings off to a rousing start with the title song from “Little Shop of Horrors” and a toe-tapping country number warning that “your good girls are gonna go bad.” Porsche did Barbra Streisand, tugging heartstrings with “My Man.” And, Ella Fitzgerald, Grace Slick and Janis Joplin all made an appearances.

Bella, Mistress of Ceremonies for the first half of the evening, left her audience in stitches when she confessed that “Queer Things (Are Happening to Me),” on finding her beau a little light on his feet. Ivanna Cocktail put everyone in an Elvis state of mind with a searing and energetic “Burnin’ Love,” and Denise Harbin, swinging it in full Elvis attire, called for “A Little Less Conversation (A Little More Action).” A terpsichorean Titania, in trademark blue hair and lipstick, wowed the crowd with her “Dance 10, Looks 3,” from “A Chorus Line.”

Sultry Empress-in-red Robin Kradles invited the audience to “Sway with Me” and was briefly joined by John Burke—who is also known as Empress I Sibyl, founder of the Imperial Court of New York—for an impromptu dance. Red Hot Mama Charity, the second Miss Fire Island (1967), in black and leopard print, lustily declared, “I want it all in there.” Closing the first act, lively cowgirl Ariel Sinclair proved that she was “All Jacked Up,” in her skipping, crawling, clap-along offering.

To introduce the second half of the show, Dan Daly made the keyboard sizzle as he sang “I Love a Piano.” Daly also assisted this baritone reporter, questing, like “The Man of LaMancha,” after an “Impossible Dream;” George Brescia, making a PAWS debut with a sensitive, lyrical “They Say It’s Wonderful,” from “Annie Get Your Gun;” and Rose Levine, who segued from “Johnny One Note” into “New York, New York.” Later, tenor John DeMarco sounded as silken-voiced as ever, as he returned to singing after having nodes removed from his vocal chords, pairing “Old Devil Moon” with “Wicked Witchcraft” and delivering “The Gift,” a soft, romantic cha-cha.

Bantering co-hostesses for the remainder of the evening were Philomena, who enthusiastically urged a makeover in Glinda’s “Popular,” from “Wicked,” and her partner in fun and frolic, Panzi, who led the audience in singing “Happy Birthday” to Bella. Philomena and Panzi also presided over the lively Chinese auction of an iPod and a ferry pass, which together brought in more than $2,600. Reigning Miss Fire Island Ginger Moore, a blonde vision in virginal white, was their first guest, vowing, à la Celine Dion, to “Live (For the One I Love).”

Equipped with a yellow slicker and a recalcitrant umbrella, Tony Bondi tap-danced with spirit in “Singing in the Rain.” Linda Dickerman, Barbara Hirsh and Joan Van Ness, in military uniform as the War Lords, Cherry Grove’s answer to the Andrews Sisters, had a ball upstaging each other in “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (of Company B).” Green-haired and green-garbed Dame Edith Piro brought the memorable evening to a close by cheerfully exhorting one and all to “Sing a Song” and “Make Your Own Kind of Music.”