Rabbi Hara Person (left, holding the Ketuba), & (right) Linda Dickerman & Barbara Hirsch (photo by Joseph R. Saporito), Joe Saporito, Peter B, & Bruce-Michael Gelbert (photo by Sherri Rase), and Victor Alfieri & Bobbie Scherffius (photo by Bruce-Michael Gelbert)
By Bruce-Michael Gelbert
Though not everyone agreed exactly how or where to go about it, September 16 to 18 was undeniably declared Wedding Weekend in Cherry Grove, by Violet Letter Publisher Denise Harbin and Grove Hotel Manager Sal Piro, among others, in the wake of New York State’s legalization of same-sex marriage earlier in the summer.
The climax of the Wedding Weekend Celebration at the Ice Palace/Grove Hotel, a venue where five couples—four gay and one hetero—celebrated their unions, was the wedding of popular Grove octogenarians Bobbie “Cobra” Scherffius and Victor Alfieri on the evening of September 17. Bobbie and Victor exchanged rings and roses during a ceremony, performed by Interfaith Ministers Alison Caiola and Mr. Fire Island Leather 2002 Peter B. (Boruchowitz), inspiring tears and laughter, on the beach off Ocean Walk. Best Man Angelo Carvallo and Maid of Honor Tony Bondi were at Bobbie and Victor’s side and much of the community turned out to see the couple cap their 58-year-and-counting relationship by making it legal. Bradshaw Smith, video camera in hand, and a host of photographers recorded the proceedings for posterity.
Guests repaired to the Ice Palace for a champagne-and-wedding-cake reception, at which Porsche, assisted by DJ Chuck McTague, sang “At Last,” “Falling in Love with You,” “Orange Colored Sky,” “Somewhere Out There,” and other songs, and called for group efforts in a conga, the “Macarena,” and the “Chicken Dance.”
Bells are Ringing in Cherry Grove–Barbara Hirsch & Linda Dickerman
By Sherri Rase
At 1 p.m. on September 18— a date this couple decided on even before anyone called for a Wedding Weekend, with 18 or Chai being a Hebrew lucky number, synonymous with life— Barbara Hirsch and Linda Dickerman, after an engagement of more than 10,000 days, tied the knot in the company of their families and closest friends. The wind was quite spirited, in fact it took about eight people to c’hold down the chuppa, the bower or canopy that is meant to represent the home the two newlyweds will create once they are married. While four people—Linda’s cousins, the brothers Ray and Ron, Linda’s niece Ariel, and Lynn Belensky—originally held the chuppa, chuppa c’helpers charged right in.
Bride Linda had decorated part of the chuppa that had to be on the leeward side of the wind, lest people in Sailor’s Haven would wonder where the tulle and flowers had come from. Barbara and Linda’s grandson Alex was the ring bearer and their granddaughters were flower girls, who scattered rose petals that likely did make it to Sailor’s Haven, Kismet and beyond. Then came the brides.
The crowd gathered on the beach far exceeded those who would continue on to the reception as, in Cherry Grove, a beach wedding is a community affair. Linda’s cousins Arlene and John gave her away, with her brother Andrew broadly beaming beside, and Barbara’s sons Farrell and Jason did the honors for her, as the couple and families joined legally in the State of New York what they had done spiritually decades before. Rabbi Hara Person performed the ceremony and read us the Ketubah (contract) that Linda and Barbara had signed. Lynne Tunderman was the Best Woman and Meryl Friedman was the Maid of Honor.
Babs was resplendent in a rose-colored dress that looked like a watercolor, while Linda wore purest white. The brides were barefoot during the ceremony, only donning shoes again when the ritual breaking of the glass occurred, trod upon by a differently matched pair of feet–one each from each bride.
Immediately following the ceremony, there was a toast with bubbly–champagne and seltzer both–and a bit of bread for all. While “mine, MINE!” was heard overhead, the guests managed to keep the gulls away from the bread, while the sun sparkled in the bubbles in the flutes.
Somehow, 80-plus people got close at long tables, on the back patio of Reste la Nuit, as Celeste entertained the wedding party with live music, as well as standards and sing-a-long favorites from the last 30 years, everything from Jane Olivor to classic disco. There was also a special cameo appearance by the Cherry-O’s—Lana Kelly, Wendy Lewis, Sallyann Piacentino, Sherri Rase and Lee Sharmat—reprising the “GLAY” hit “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” at the brides’ request. The answer by all was a resounding, “YES!”
And as the sun sank slowly in the West, multitudes of friends welcomed long term, yet newly married couple into open arms. In fact, the setting sun may have had a heart shape as it sank into the arms of the bay for a long day’s journey into nuit.
Bells Are Ringing in Cherry Grove–Bruce-Michael Gelbert & Joseph Saporito
by Sherri Rase
On September 17 at 2 p.m., a large gathering of family, both of birth and of choice, attended the nuptials of QNews Editor and Mr. Fire Island Leather 2001 Bruce-Michael Gelbert and his long-term partner Joseph Saporito, Mr. FI Leather 2005. Bruce-Michael was given away by his dear friend Greg Klosek and Joe was given away by his mother, Ellen Saporito. Greg is known to many of us in the community, but those of us who’d never met Mrs. Saporito immediately adopted her. She shortly acquired a great number of “new” children, as she said she’d done ever since her children began bringing home their friends.
The day had dawned clear, cool and bright, but soon some scudding clouds added character to the outdoor ceremony. The extended—and extensive—family gathered at Bruce-Michael and Joe’s apartment, at the house named Christopher Street, to meet and greet, and Peter B., began the first part of the ceremony. Resplendent in his black leather and black tuxedo shirt, Peter spoke words that were full of love for the couple. The convocation got everyone’s mind to task and most important, made Ramses and Amun Ra, who are beloved family pets, part of the proceedings. These feline fellows were taking care of Peter B., prior to adopting the Gelbert-Saporitos. Ram and Moon did their part and were rewarded first with Greenies, then with peace and solitude, as the rest of the family proceeded to the beach.
Greene Walk runs from Bayview across Cherry Grove, across Lewis Walk, and to the beach. The family moved purposefully to gather on the beach for the next part of the ceremony. There was a sense of something momentous about to occur and even the ocean seemed hushed and respectful. A light breeze stirred and, throughout the service, we were reminded that we are a community, and a united family, who embraces the new couple, as well as nurturing and supporting them as they continue their journey. This support is critical to the health of any relationship and the families had embraced one another immediately.
Bruce-Michael had requested yours truly to sing the aria “Let the Bright Seraphim,” from Handel’s oratorio “Samson,” as had been sung at that other iconic wedding, Princess Diana’s to Prince Charles. A special arrangement was made in his honor. Bruce-Michael also graced the ceremony with his rendition of Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me,” which he sang to Joe. That may be when the first handkerchiefs came out of pockets. The final selection in the musical portion of the proceedings was a special performance by Porsche, joined by the family, of Arlen and Harburg’s “Over the Rainbow” as the clouds moved in finally to obscure the blue.
Almost as soon as the last strains were done, the ocean roared in a riotous roller and it seemed as if the sound had been turned up as the earth celebrated the completed union. The group then made their way to a gala reception at Cherry’s On the Bay, by which time the high pewter-gray clouds cooled everyone off. We enjoyed Cherry’s delicious buffet that featured Italian specialties, with some appetizers sent over by Top of the Bay, and a cake, selected, purchased, and transported from the North Shore by Jane Testa, Barbara Campagna, and their 15-year-old son Michael Jo Campagna Testa—also the ring bearer, that had two of the most amazing custom-made grooms the group had ever seen. Several paparazzi joined the official photographer in documenting the delicious work of art.
Always working, Bruce-Michael dashed off from his own reception, as he and Joe, and their family went to witness another wedding, that of Victor Alfieri and Bobby Scherffius. That’s what I call sharing the love!
Wedding Weekend in Cherry Grove–a Tradition is Born!
By Denise Harbin
On June 24, 2011, when New York passed the law allowing gay marriage in the state, we in Cherry Grove were ecstatic! Finally we could be legally WE, giving hope and recognition to so many couples who had been together for so many years, as well as to questioning youth who knew they could have a happy future.
After I was at a dinner with many couples, where we discussed our new legal status, I looked at a calendar and saw a “dead” weekend in September. It was near the end of the season, after Miss Fire Island, when we sometimes feel we have lost “our” town, and a week before the Arts Project of Cherry Grove’s end of season Ball. That made it a perfect weekend to celebrate the recognition of some of the long-term relationships in Cherry Grove! I announced “Wedding Weekend” and couples soon got on board. I was delighted that my neighbors and “brothers from other mothers,” Joe and Bruce-Michael, decided to join together on this weekend, bringing so many of their family and friends together to experience the heaven we call Cherry Grove, in perhaps a quieter and saner time post-season. And the neighbors on the other side, Barbara and Linda, decided to have their ceremony on Sunday. Our block was in a whirlwind for days, clipping and polishing before the big days. As I said to Linda and Barbara, it turned out to be everything I had hoped for and more! And Linda agreed!
I told my idea to Wendy Lewis, Operations Manager at The Ice Palace and she took me to see the owner, Dr. Frank Liguori. He loved the idea! And soon Sal Piro was busy planning a festive weekend at the hotel, complete with our favorite, Porsche, as the wedding singer! The Ice Palace eventually hosted five couples’ weddings, including that of Victor and Bobbie, who are fixtures in Cherry Grove, having been together for 58 years.
When “Wedding Weekend” was planned, we had not yet been faced with the sudden death of longtime Grove resident Michael Guerette, nor had we taken the beating from Hurricane Irene. Returning after the mandatory evacuation of Fire Island, so many people then packed up and left, for the season, that the town felt a little desolate. Unknowingly, when we planned Wedding Weekend, this was the boost we needed to get back on our feet. So many people told me it “brought joy back to the Grove.” One person even said “it put a coda on the summer.” Now I am not the best musician, but in my experience the coda brings you back to a part of the music that sums it up in repeating the theme. Opera singer and Grove resident Eric Coyne explained it further, and I found it to be a perfect description of what had happened that weekend. Again, we were all bonded, in a love for our town, for our beach, for our friends and family. As Rabbi Hara Person proclaimed, at Barbara and Linda’s wedding, “We are gathered here at God’s beach, where it meets God’s ocean and God’s sky.” We were forever changed and bonded by the love shared by all these couples.
I can’t wait to celebrate Wedding Weekend again next year … when it will unite more couples and we will add the words Anniversary Weekend!
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