"Boys in the Sand" returns to Pines

by Michael Lavers

Fire Island News

Saturday August 14, 2010

The screening of a film that arguably put the Fire Island Pines on the map sparked controversy after some residents reportedly opposed its overtly sexual content.

Crayton Robey and Philip Monaghan brought "Boys in the Sand" to Whyte Hall on Saturday, July 10. Director Wakefield Poole shot his landmark film at the Andrew Michael Geller-designed Frank House on Beachcomber Walk and two other locations during the summer of 1971. Monaghan restored the Frank House to how it looked in "Boys in the Sand" after he bought it in 2003. Poole noted Fire Island (and the Pines in particular) provided the perfect backdrop to highlight gay sexuality in the years immediately after the Stonewall riots.

"It was just me and the camera-and the people I filmed," he said before he discussed how he came to Fire Island for the first time. A couple Poole and his then-partner met at the Continental Baths on the same night Bette Midler made her debut invited them to visit them on the beach. "We came out to visit them and we never left," added Poole. "I didn't feel like a minority. And I wanted people to feel that."

A renowned dancer, choreographer and director before he made "Boys in the Sand", Poole faced a serious backlash after his film debuted at the 55th Street Playhouse on Dec. 29, 1971. And he even faced possible arrest.

"I put myself out there because my name was on it, and they could have tracked me down," said Poole.

Screening Controversy

The Fire Island Pines International Film Festival declined to screen the film, but Monaghan and Robey then sought to show "Boys in the Sand" at Whyte Hall.

"It was really the two of us who made this happen with no organization and no structure," said Monaghan. "We did this ourselves with our own money and our own four hands. We sold our own tickets; we made our own posters because we felt so strongly about this happening."

Robey further elaborated.

"Wakefield Poole is an unsung hero," he said before he introduced the director at the screening. "This work is key to our identity-our sexual identity. To have the source to deliver the experience was such a gift to the community."

Those who reportedly objected to the film's content did not return the News' requests for comment, but Jay Pagano, vice president of FIPPOA, said those who seek to hold an event at Whyte Hall must apply and agree upon a contract. And the FIPPOA board requires the Operating Committee's approval.

"If applicable board procedures had been followed for the decision, I would have supported the showing of the movie," said Pagano. "While certainly reactions to the incident have been divisive, the good news is that there appears to be a clear consensus on what counts: we all agree that our rules are there to be followed and should be followed in the future."

No Regrets

Robey and Monaghan have no regrets about bringing Poole back to the Pines.

"You have to honor the gay experience," added Robey. "If you're going to live in this community, [you] need to know this community's history."

Ron Martin, president of FIPPOA, briefly dated "Boys in the Sand" star Casey Donovan in the summer of 1971. And he stressed Poole's film remains a vital part of the Pines' history.

"This film really made every gay man want to come to Fire Island Pines," said Martin. "It put us on the map."

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