From Studio 54 to Fire Island Pines: the beach parties of New York’s queer community

Published on Domus, November 1979, Scott Bromley’s stage for a beach party at Fire Island Pines, the favourite vacation spot of New York’s gay community.

In November 1979, under the direction of Alessandro Mendini, Domus published “Beach,” a set up for a beach party designed by Scott Bromley - the architect of New York’s most iconic club, Studio 54 - with Ron Martin and Fern Mallis.
Particularly, between 1975 and 1983, celebrities - such as Calvin Klein, Liza Minelli, and Yoko Ono - and New York’s gay communities migrated seasonally to the beach at Fire Island Pines, escaping the density of the Big Apple.

Capturing the Pines community with his Polaroids was photographer Tom Bianchi. The images ooze with golden light: from the sand dunes to Horace Gifford’s sensual architecture, this was a space of shelter from discrimination. On Saturday, July 14, 1979, the first of the great festivals, simply called “Beach,” was held, which soon became a cult event for the community.

We republish here the text accompanying Bromley, Martin, and Mallis’ staging project, as published in Domus 600, November 1979.

Ribbons, colours, lights and music along the ocean

Scott Bromley, Ron Martin and Fern Mallis, of Jacobsen Associates, New York, were the designers behind “Beach”: one big party for 4,000 people, held by Fire Island Pines fire brigade to raise funds for a new fire truck. Long coloured mosquito nets and gauze ribbons were hung from 15 m poles planted along the beach between the dunes and the ocean and were anchored by tree stumps fixed in the ground.

The various activities – eating, drinking, playing, dancing, etc – took place inside these open, interconnecting, diaphanous tents. A large square dance floor was constructed following the natural slope of the shore. Groups and the disc jockey booth were accomodated on a ship’s prow-style raised triangular zone. On each corner of the square were the high power loudspeakers, and on the sides were four high tubular structures for the sophisticated lighting equipment. Seats were provided by dozens of gauzecovered inner tubes. Poles running round the whole area held flags and horizontal strips of cloth acting as screens for the slide show.

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