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Cherry Grove Stories Doc Tells Fire Island's Wild Origin Story

Cherry Grove Stories Doc Tells Fire Island's Wild Origin Story

Tales from the Meet Rack, the drag queen "invasion" of the Pines, and more.

Cherry Grove Stories is a 74-minute documentary that uncovers long-hidden secrets and little-known stories of Cherry Grove on Fire Island, N.Y., a safe haven for gays who were often targeted for arrest and prosecution. Now these stories are more relevant than ever. The film covers queer origins, sexual liberation, HIV alienation and an effort to find freedom from the swinging billy clubs of law enforcement.

The director, Michael Fisher, who has been going to Cherry Grove for 32 years, was inspired to make the film by longtime resident Michael Delisio. "Michael was one of the first men to go to Cherry Grove in the 1950s," Fisher says. The documentary includes interviews with other residents who found a rare refuge from the pervasive homophobia of the time.

In new and archival footage, these residents tell many funny stories: the first drag parties, when attendees had to hide their dresses and heels under the floorboards of their hosts' house for fear of being arrested for wearing women's clothes; escapades in the infamous Meat Rack, and how some escaped police raids by hiding in the bay; and the first drag flotilla on the Fourth of July in 1976, when drag queens "invaded" the nearby Pines.

In the video, residents and visitors of the Meat Rack, the strip of sand that connected visitors to Cherry Grove, tell their stories about how this place meant LGBTQ freedom in the 1970s. They also share harrowing firsthand accounts of the raids and public shaming that police inflicted on men meeting at that beach.

Watch the Cherry Grove Stories trailer and see the film in New York City at NewFest on Saturday October 27 and in the encore screening on Tuesday, October 30.

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Roberto Guillen