Getting Away From It All. Or Not.
Summer Time Shares on Fire Island.
Johnny Carson used to use Fire Island as an easy reference to homosexuality when he was the king of late night TV, and there is a gay community there, called Cherry Grove.
To me, the most interesting thing about Fire Island is that while it's a long, lean spit of land off the south shore of Long Island with a lot of summer homes where people go to get away from it all, it's broken up into little towns of like people, who don't get away from it as much as they all go to it together. (Like in this photo of me and some of my housemates -- Michelle, Marti and Marla.)
With some overlapping, there's the gay community, a lawyer community, an author's community, and the “creative” community for directors, producers, editors, copywriters, designers and such, called Fair Harbor.
All summer, ferry boats leave from different Long Island towns, depending on the destination, and Manhattanites usually get to the ferries by taking the Long Island Railroad or shuttle vans. The really well-off fly in.
If you don't own a home, you audition to become a time sharing member of a summer house at gatherings in Manhattan before the season begins.
Nothing's easy in New York.
I learned about Fair Harbor back in the seventies, when Annette Bachner, the director of the commercial I produced without spending any of the “under the table” cash, invited me and Sevan, the producer I was dating, to the home she owned there. More about that in a minute.
But now, in the early eighties, I was ready to be a Fire Island weekender. The first audition I went to was at a fabulous SoHo loft on Spring Street, owned by an account executive type and his wife, Steve and Heather Madoff.
There were people who had been part of the group in previous years, and they had voting privileges on the people who would fill the empty slots. I'm a personable guy, and although I was forty and at least ten years older than the rest, they let me know I was in. The fact that I wanted a double share, or to be there every weekend instead of every other, didn't hurt my cause.
Spending every weekend in the getaway beach community, I guess I've accumulated twice as many summer stories than normal. I'll start with these two.
Teddy Will Fix It.
Some people really did get away from it all.
Annette Bachner, the first female director of TV commercials and former stage manager for the Howdy Doody Show, loves telling this story. I hope she doesn't mind my retelling it here, but it's a good opportunity to drop a name of somebody I wish I'd met and never did. This is how Annette met him.
When she became the owner of her house in Fair Harbor, which is situated halfway between the bay and the ocean, her neighbors welcomed her. And when a problem arose with the house, they told Annette that there was another resident nearby, that everybody called Teddy, who would come and fix it, because he was really handy, and that was his hobby. She hadn't met him yet, but they told her that didn't matter, and gave her Teddy's phone number.
The problem arose, and she called. He told her when he'd be over, and sure enough, he showed up with his toolbox and fixed the problem expertly.
While he was working, it slowly dawned on Annette why Teddy was familiar.
He was Theodore White, author of the definitive book on the 1960 presidential campaign, “The Making of The President.”
Who's that girl with Frank this weekend?
I've always been attracted to women younger than myself, a trend that gets easier and more ridiculous as I age.
The strange thing is that, until I was 40, I only married women older than myself – but only by a few months. And I'm only talking about two women, because all together, I was only married three times. So far.
Maybe those first two were supposed to replace my mother and give me advice about staying away from younger women. That only worked for a little while in each marriage.
But in the early eighties, I'm a successful bachelor in Manhattan, and I'm dating like crazy. And in some cases, crazy is the exactly right word. But that's another story, for another time.
The summer that I was one of just two people renting a Fair Harbor house was a busy one for me. I had lots of guests. Some weekends, it would be one of my three daughters, then in their teens to early twenties, and on others, an attractive date, somewhat older than my daughters, but not by much.
The house was on the same street as my friend Annette's, and when I walked past her house with my guest of the week, Annette would always guess wrong.
Invariably, when she would ask, “Daughter?” I'd say, “No, girl friend.” The following week, she asked, “Girl friend?” I replied, “No, daughter.” The next time, as I passed by with another pretty young woman, she wised up and asked, “Daughter or girl friend?” She even got that wrong, because I answered, truthfully, “Housemate.”
She gave up trying to guess after that.
Next time: A Witch & A Spell