THERE ISN’T ONE PERSON ON FIRE ISLAND (CHERRY GROVE) OR NEW YORK CITY WHO HASN’T HEARD THE NAME JOHNNY POOL. HE IS PROBABLY ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS AND AMAZING BARTENDERS IN THE ENTIRE WORLD! CELEBRATING HIS 50TH YEAR ON CHERRY GROVE, JOHNNY IS TRULY A LEGEND…AND NOW, HE HAS ALSO BECAME A RADIO PERSONALITY ON THE ELVIS DURAN SHOW ON Z100 IN THE MORNING.
HE HAS LED AN EXTREMELY INTERESTING AND EXCITING LIFE, BEING RESPONSIBLE FOR THE INFAMOUS BARTENDERS BALL EACH YEAR, AND HAVING ALSO BEEN RESPONSIBLE FOR MAKING THE ICE PALACE WHAT IT IS TODAY. IT WAS A PLEASURE GAINING SOME INSIGHT AS TO THE ANIMATED PERSONALITY OF JOHNNY POOL. AS HE PUT IT HIMSELF ON THE EVE OF HIS 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, “I’VE NEVER BEEN THIS FAMOUS IN MY LIFE!”
Johnny, when did you first come out to Cherry Grove?
I came out here in 1964. I started as a pool boy. At that time there was no bar at the pool. I used to get cocktails from the “Sea Shack,” a restaurant that used to be on
the beach. Then over the years it kept getting bigger and bigger until I moved to a tent. Then I moved upstairs and made a bar on the outside, and then on the inside, and then it is what it is today.
That is what we all know as the Ice Palace.
I named it the Ice Palace. We had the biggest disco in the entire East Coast. I was there for 35 years, and I designed the bars in it. Then after 35 years, they let me go. They wanted to go in a different direction, and now its a “drag” place, which is nice. I was up there for the first time in 15 years for my 50th anniversary. I wanted to see
what they did with the place, and I enjoyed it.
And then I came down here to Cherry’s, and I’ve been here for 15 years, and it’s been great. I’ve been here on the island for the ‘60s, the ‘70s, the ‘80s, the ‘90s
and the 2000s, and recently in the past two years I’ve become a celebrity on the Elvis Duran show on Z100 radio.
How did that come about?
I was introduced to Elvis by his boyfriend Alex, who I’ve known since he was 18. He’s now 34. They have been together for four years. After the first year of meeting him, he asked me to come on the show and start making drinks, and this is the third year, and it’s been going great. I love it. I get everybody drunk in the morning.
You also organize and host the famous “Bartenders Ball” each year in New York City. How did that begin?
About 38 (or 39, I gotta check) years ago, 12 of us (they are all dead now, except me), between New Jersey and New York bars started the Bartenders Ball.
Since then, Kath Hogan has been helping me with “Tree” and “China.” I pick a bartender of the year to honor and an icon of the year. Someone everyone knows that works with the gay community, and we pick a bar of the year. It’s a fun night; we all get together after the season. It’s nice to get all dressed up and have a ball. And that’s what we do!
What does the future of radio hold for you?
Just to continue making drinks and enjoy. I love them; they are my family. I’m having the greatest time of my life. I’ve been very fortunate to have great friends and to be able to have done everything I’ve done in my life. I’m going to do this as long as I can.
You can visit Johnny at Cherry’s on the Bay in Cherry Grove on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from noon to 8 p.m. Don’t forget to get drunk with him on Z100 with Elvis Duran in the morning.