Heroes and Villains Leap into the Pines
By Steve Weinsteiin

Aquamen, Batmen and Supermen galore spread out over the beach on the eastern edge of the Pines all night, Saturday, 30. It wasn’t a casting call for a new action movie, but the latest incarnation of the most fantastic annual event on Fire Island.

In the past, Pines Party has taken a magic carpet to an Arabian castle, has gone into a TV set and retrieved its favorite characters, has done a reverse “Purple Rose of Cairo,” magically walked into a film screen and played cowboys and Indians.

This year, the theme was Heroes and Villains, and that was enough for the muscular denizens of the Pines and their friends to make a run for stretch fabric on Seventh Avenue and keep plenty of costume designers busy. The great thing about this kind of party taking place in the Pines is how few of the revelers need padding to fill out their outfits.

The fun for Pines Party begins when you take your beach walk on Saturday and see the party taking shape around you. The work for this party begins almost as soon as the previous one ends. Co-chairs Jay Pagano and Hal Rubenstein have been steadily working toward this evening since last summer.

The logistics of a party of this scope are nearly mind boggling. Mammoth speakers, multi-story light towers, stages, DJ booth, props, a dance floor, dozens of portable toilets, hundreds of cases of beverages—the list goes on. Everything must be unloaded, brought to the shore and assembled—all coordinated by the Impression Group, the event planners who have somehow managed to make it all work for the past two years.

Maybe parties are like sausages: No one should see how they’re made and only know how good they taste. Somehow, it all came together by Saturday night. Revelers entered the gated area through portals of Times Square billboard-sized superhero cartoons. The party was more spread out this year, which allowed for an easier traffic flow around the dance floor and along the corridor of the sponsored tents.

The tents are sponsored by local individuals, groups and corporate sponsors. One tent, for example, featured the familiar Target (always pronounced “Tar-JAY” in the Pines) red bull’s eye. Other tents featured superheroes and heroines from Underdog to the Fantastic Four.

This year, the setting for the party was between Tarpon and Fisherman Walks.

The party began at 10 p.m., and soon began filling up. Superhero-dressed servers were handing out superdrinks like Jagermeister shots and straight-up premium tequila. The well-stocked bar had two brands of energy drinks, as well as plenty of alcohol to keep the crowd well lubricated. The $150 ticket for the party includes all beverages—a nice change from other dance parties, where one has to buy drink tickets in addition to the ticket.

If not as many people seemed to be dressed up as in past years, the ones who were, successfully recreated their superhero (and occasional supervillain) roles. There were plenty of boys in Superman underwear, plenty in body paint, plenty in leotard superhero outfits and plenty just in their underwear. Why not? Worked for this reporter.

Also a few boys who underscored that, tucked into the right set of cheeks, a thong can definitely be a positive fashion statement! At least one guy I saw on the dance floor had a gorgeous Batman mask and Batman bathing suit with a few accoutrements around it. But it was his body that impressed: he had the exact build of the comic book Batman. This guy would need no body padding. Move over, Michael Keaton!

Where were all the Wonder Women? What a great outfit for any drag queen. But there were at least a few women (including Laura Hartstein) dressed as the villainous Poison Ivy. (Is there a more appropriate villain for Fire Island?) The best villain, however, was promoter Marc Berkeley, the mirror image (same hair, same dress, same icy eyes) of Miranda in “The Devil Wears Prada.”

The dance floor filled up while David Knapp played a signature set of classics and new music. On the eastern end of the dance floor, a giant screen played scenes from movies and TV shows that starred superheroes. After a few hours, Los Angeles’ Roland Belmares turned it out with several mixes that showed why he has become one of the most popular DJs on the West Coast. A highlight was the brilliant mash-up of the House anthem “Pump Up the Volume” and Cher’s “If You Believe in Life After Love.”

Guy Smith did his magic on the lights, which, to this observer, sparkled better than they ever had at a Pines Party. He further enhanced the theme with laser illusions to the characters. L.A.’s drag performer Flava worked Mary J. Blige’s “Be Without You,” and a troupe of acrobats dangled and soared above the crowd. It was elegant, exciting and super sexy.

One of the innovations that points the way toward how much the Pines is incorporating the tastes of a new generation, DJ Lina (who looked fabulous in sequined hot pants) spun a set in a “lounge” tent. The music ranged from hip-hop to ‘80s New Wave. It was East Village meets East End, and it totally worked.

As the dawn started to peek around the horizon, Belmares put on Madonna’s “Ray of Light,” and, yes, quicker than a ray of light, it was day. A gospel choir serenaded the crowd before everyone made their weary but happy way back home.

Up, Up and Away!

(For a Good Cause)

According to co-chair Jay Pagano, the party raised $200,000 after expenses, which met its goal. The money is divided equally between the Stonewall Community Foundation and the Pines’ property owners’ association’s charitable trust.

Stonewall has become an essential organization for seed money going to nascent gay and AIDS groups. They run the gamut from Native American gay organizations, to radical groups such as Queers for Economic Justice. The rest of the money goes toward projects within the Pines, such as improvements for the new community house.

As important as the money raised is the deepened sense of community this event engenders. Pines Party began as a tribute to Beach, the 1979 all-night oceanfront dance that raised money for a new fire engine, but also brought the straight and gay members of the Pines together for a common cause.

Pines Party continues that tradition. On the dance floor in the middle of the night, on one side of me was a drag queen; on another, a group of muscleboys; on another, middle-aged straight grandparents; on another, a woman with her friends, straight and gay men.

“This is what the Pines is all about,” said Alan Brockman, the president of the Fire Island Pines Property Owners Association, “people getting together and having fun.”

Looking out over a sea of people bonded on a dance floor, with the waves dancing before them, it was hard to dispute that.