Provincetown II: Summer 1990’s

In Celebration of this Season of PRIDE, I have culled a few writings from my Summers in Provincetown, as well as pulling together some photographs from over the years. And so Today is the second in a weeklong series about my experiences there. Happy Pride!



Summer 1990’s


I asked THE HAT SISTERS if they would pose for a picture…

Here, in my Twenties, I have discovered this incredibly Diverse World:
Hippies of the 60s, Living their Dream,
A bucolic Portuguese Fishing Village,
Artists — painting their canvases on every roadside — since it is so far out in the middle of the ocean, the Sun Shines Brightly and the Light doesn’t change for hours; thus, it is an ideal place to paint, so Artists flock here, as I imagine they have for centuries,
Art Galleries whose works are sought after,
Japanese Businessmen in their limos on the peer, waiting to bid on Tuna and airship them immediately back to Japan for sushi,
The Lobster Fishermen putting out their lobster traps which they would shoot you for stealing, as it is understood that that is about Livelihood, and at this moment in America’s history, everyone respects one another’s Livelihood,
The Farmer Cakes at CONNIE’s Bakery at The Lobster Pot…

And So Many Beautiful Gay Boys–– Dancing!
Dancing at Tea Dance!
Dancing at After Tea Dance!
Dancing all night at the A-House and BackStreet!
There is something that would come to be known as House Music,
And even if you didn’t Dance, you Danced then.
BILLY TOLZMAN is the Prettiest Boy in Town!
We had gone to NYU together.
He was the Prettiest Boy there too, although the bar was somewhat lower.
Tattoos are rare and not every Boy is shaven and waxed.
RYAN LANDRY is putting together shows.
MICHAEL CALLEN, the extraordinary AIDS Activist, and his Group, THE FLIRTATIONS continue singing a capella, and gaining in popularity — I fall in Love with their sound and their message and I flyer for them as Groupie.
MICHAEL and I grow to be friends, and he tries to convince me to become a male prostitute, insisting that the money is better than at the Kite Shop.
But, ummmm… I like the Kite Shop!
And that Sunset over the Ocean! …not so wildly common on the East Coast!

A New Coffee Place opens up in The Aquarium.
StarBucks is still a West Coast Thing and the Coffee Craze has not yet taken over America.
A pregnant SOPHIE opens up Fortune Cookie right next door.
BETTY runs the Provincetown Gym, located just East of the Town Center on Commercial Street — she is a former heavyweight champion and she is formidable — the very definition of Tough Love!
I whine that I don’t want to keep exercising — I want to go to the Beach, and she says,
“Sit your ass back down on that Bike!”
Her good friend MARGE who is there every day is the polar opposite — she is soft-spoken and sits quietly by the check-in desk holding her cat on her lap
The Lobster Pot had been bought over by JOY MCNULTY, when it was a run down shanty, and the MCNULTY Family is turning it into one of the premiere dining establishments on the East Coast.

BETTY at The Provincetown Gym

Not too many Lesbian Bars — There is just the Pied Piper.
That is not a thing, yet.
But it is all beginning turn, as illustrated by the ROMANOVSKY AND PHILLIPS’  song, “Once Upon a Time”:

Along with THE FLIRTATIONS, these guys are very much a part of the SoundTrack to my Summers here.
I have a Portable CD Player, known as a “CD-Man” — the follow-up to the Cassette Player “WalkMan”
(I still have them both, by the way!)
Cutting Edge Technology of the Day!

So Many Gay People!
We are neither Tolerated nor Accepted!
We are the Majority!
It is Our Town!
And we Welcome Everybody!
In the regular World, like other Gay Men I am an outcast!
But here, I am not only Welcome, I am Doing the Welcoming!
And Herring Cove is our Beach!
Along ProvinceLands Road,
There is a slight space in the Trees along the side of the Road, and an occasional bike tied to the Trees up on the hill.
If you didn’t know to look for it, you would walk right by.
If you duck under the brush and the low Tree branches, you can find your way to a makeshift path…
It felt no less Magical than a child tucking himself into a Wardrobe and discovering New Worlds on the other side.
Gay Men have forged a trail through the Dunes that takes us directly across the marshes to the far end of the Beach, at Wood End!
The Lesbians would drive and stay up in the area close to the Parking Lot, because, as KATE CLINTON says, “Lesbians do not like to carry shit! Hell, I saw two Lesbians get out of their car and park their blankets right down in the Parking Lot! ‘Sure! This looks good! Right here!’ ‘Yeah!’”

There are several Beaches in PTown:
Race Point is the straight beach.
Herring Cove is the gay beach.
Long Point is the townies beach…
Hatches Harbor is so secret we don’t even talk about it!

But the Gay Men have a Utopian Paradise all to ourselves at the Wood End section of Herring Cove Beach!
We SunBathe and Swim Naked!
Rangers in uniform ride down the beach on noisy little Tyco Scooters and do their Job.
As each person hears the motor roaring, they call out “Ranger!”
And people down the beach call out for the next blanket, all putting on their Bathing Suits until he rides by.

Sex is not the guilt ridden Sex of dark alleys back home
But out in the Sunshine!
In Nature!
In Broad Daylight!
We Celebrate our Bodies and our Love and our Sexuality and our Community and One Another!
Everything I’d always imagined was meant by the term “Free Love” in the 60s! Not “Free” as in “Marked Down,”
But rather “Without Restriction!”
“Without Censorship!”
“Without the Reagan Bush Era’s manipulation of and pandering to the so-called Christian Right!”
But Truly Free!
And Truly Love!
And Truly Beautiful!

Walking back from the Beach, along ProvinceLands Road,
I stop into The Moors, a Restaurant with Long Cafeteria Style Tables and Waiter Service.
I am told of its History of Gay Men returning from the Beach and stopping there for drinks, singing ShowTunes all Night Long in the Great Hall.
Sounds like Fun!
But now it is filled with Straight Families and Lots of Screaming Children who have walked over with their strollers from the Provincetown Inn.

Next Door is the Inn at the Moors.
There are Groups of Gay Men hanging out on the decks in the afternoon, and they seem very old to me.
I think to myself, “Ohhhh, that must be where the Old People stay!”
(In retrospect, they may have been no more than 40, but that seemed so old to me then.)
I prefer the Pulse and Vibration of the Spiritus Block Party!

Town Ordinance requires that all businesses close by 11pm.
The Bars and Clubs may stay open until 1am.
And Spiritus Pizza gets to stay open until 2am.
So, every night, everyone who is still awake — mostly the Gay Boys who have been out dancing — gathers in front of Spiritus for what feels like the Best Block Party Ever
And every night that includes me.
Ah, the Natural Ebullience of Youth!

Straight Conservative Folks who have come to Cape Cod ruffle with indignation as the Drag Queens parade down Commercial Street in Full Regalia on the hottest day of the Summer,
Led by the HAT SISTERS, bringing Joy to Everyone!
They grab their children’s hands and flee to the shelter of the Kite Shop, a family type of business that would understand their plight and their need to shelter their little ones from such societal deviants, desperate to avoid catching it themselves!
KEELEY and STEVE who run the store throw them out, calling after them, perfunctorily,
“Store’s Closed! There’s a Parade!”
And as they flee in horror, KEELEY shouts after them, quite heroically,
“Your children are Fine! You’re the ones who are afraid! What kind of example do you think that sets for them!?”

Me with KEELEY and STEVE — I Loved working for them!

It costs me $400 a month for a room upstairs behind a shop in the House next to Blondie’s,
Just big enough for the twin bed it held, with use of the bathroom down the hall.
Two friends from New York visit me for a weekend, and when local friends learn that they are staying with me, their reaction is the same, every time,
“How are three of you sleeping in there? Velcroed to the Wall!???”
Across the Street, Bubbala’s on the Bay opens and puts all of their tables out front with a view of Commercial Street.
Everyone thinks they’re Crazy:
“How could they not put the tables in the back with a view of the Water!?”
“Who wants to look at the Street!?”
“I give it a Year!”

The Cast of FIFTH OF JULY at the Provincetown Theatre Company

I get to direct STUARD in FIFTH OF JULY at The Provincetown Theater Company, down at the Provincetown Inn with a perfect Cast!
JULIE HARRIS comes to see it, as she lives Up Cape.
Townies know that everything from Provincetown is Up Cape, as you need to head up and around before you head back down.
My Technical Director, GREG, is a Burly Hairy Man, quite able to handle all of the rigorous technical duties.
During Tech, the Costume Designer and I are dressing KYRA, the Young Girl who plays Dress Up within the show, and we lament that she really needs to have a Tiara.
Our Designer cannot find one in the company’s costume supply, and there is no budget to purchase it.
From atop a Ladder, we hear GREG’s deep voice, as he is hanging a light,
“I have a tiara!”
KEVIN SHENK is making her return to the stage and the town is excited!
NICK CURTIS, a Cast Member, is the son of TONY CURTIS.
As we break from rehearsal one Sunday Afternoon in June, he asks me if today is Father’s Day.
I tell him that it is, and he walks to the payphone and says,
“Hello, Dad? It’s Father’s Day, and I thought I would call…”
There is such struggle in his voice — as we have not heard during rehearsal.
He dies of a heroin overdose the next year, at the age of 23.

GALLERANI’s house is filled with Go-Go Boys who work at the Crown and Anchor;
They can afford the shared rent
And everyone enjoys their living together in a house with a giant picture window which faces the street, and no shades.
(This was in the time before reality television, you’ll understand.)

MICHAEL CALLEN dies, after living with AIDS for over ten years.
I am Proud to have known him.
The Provincetown AIDS Support Group has been running ten years, and is now needed more than ever!
So many are dying.
So Much CareTaking.
We are more than a Majority.
We are a Community.

# # #

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