Nightlife » Parties

Dancing on the Bay Returns to Fire Island on a New Weekend

by Steve Weinstein
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Saturday Jul 9, 2011

You just can't keep a good party down. When Dancing on the Bay didn't return to its normal slot July Fourth Weekend, rumors were flying on Fire Island that this year would mark the demise of one of its most popular dance parties.

Enter Guy Smith. The lighting impresario, who is probably the best-known practitioner of his craft on the Circuit, stepped in to revive the party. The results will be seen when Dancing on the Bay returns to the Pines on Saturday, July 23, from 6 to 10 p.m. for its Sweet 16.

As is traditional, it will be held at a house overlooking Great South Bay. There will be a dance floor extending into the bay and, of course, there will be amazing lighting. This time, the party will be held at 236 Bay Walk, which will come as a relief to anyone who isn't staying east of Tarpon Walk. (The house that hosted the party for the past several years was a beautiful sprawling estate that, however, sat on the very eastern edge of the Pines.)

Pines dancers of all stripes will immediately recognize 236 Bay. On the corner of Beach Hill Walk a few walks west of the harbor, it is the home that has served as the setting for many memorable parties, including the Ascension Tea Dance and the Genesis parties. For the past few years, it has also been the setting for the Fire Island Dance Festival, the island's premier cultural event, taking place a week before this party. And if you are lucky enough to see the pilot for the hilarious proposed sitcom "Half-Share," it's the same house. Oh, and the house mother is none other than Erin Stacey Visslailli, herself a DJ manager, event producer and all-around gAy Lister.

The DJ for Dancing on the Bay will be Randy Bettis, who is having his annus mirabilis. (That's the opposite of an annus horribilis, and it means great fucking year.) Bettis headlined the mammoth Gay Days in Orlando, played at the other huge dance party on a promontory going into the water and the Pier Dance that caps New York's Gay Pride. Oh, and he got hitched to his long-time partner, Sean Dwyer.

Speaking of partners, Smith is being aided in this huge endeavor by his own significant other, Robert Montenegro, a visual artist who's done work on Atlantis Cruises and Oprah's show in Central Park (I know, because I ran into him running the crew there). The hosts of the party will be the hot actor Wilson Cruz and Pam Ann. To tell you the truth, seeing Pam Ann on Fire Island is reason enough to get me out there. It just doesn't get any gayer than that. You just know girlfriend is going to be on her knees in the Meat Rack at 10:30 p.m.!

As if all this weren't enough, all proceeds will go to the Ali Forney Center, which advocates for and houses homeless LGBT youth in New York -- one of my all-time favorite charities.

So how did Smith, who's usually seen behind a lighting table, end up producing this party? "It was never my intention to do it," he says, "but when I heard no one was producing it, I just took it on. Fire Island's not the same without it."

Smith had to do all this quickly, since he only discovered that the party wasn't returning a few weeks ago. Anyone who has tried to deal with the Town of Brookhaven, which governs all permits for parties on the island, knows that its bureaucracy makes New York City look efficient. For that reason, Smith decided to move it to late July from its traditional berth the day after Independence. (The lack of time for permits means no fireworks this year.)

The party will give Smith a chance to spread his wings. "I'm an artist and I like a good party," he says. "This was always one of my favorite parties to design and operate. 'How hard could it be to produce it?' I asked myself. I was wrong. It is much more complicated than that."

One advantage: He handpicked all of the go-go boys.

Dancing on the Bay will be held at 236 Bay Walk, at Beach Hill Walk in Fire Island Pines, on Saturday, July 23, from 6 to 10 p.m. (plenty of time to make the ferry!). For tickets and more information, go to Guy Smith's website or Brown Paper Tickets.

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).


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