By John Stein
In his second collection of humorous essays, Greg Scarnici recounts some of his most shocking and scandalous experiences over 25 years of summering on New York’s Fire Island. From tea dances in Fire Island Pines to drag competitions in Cherry Grove, nothing is sugar-coated in his new book, “Dungeons and Drag Queens.”
“If I were to explain Fire Island to someone who’s never been there, I would describe it as a bathhouse on the beach,” Scarnici explains. “Or Provincetown with more meth.”
He spills all the hot tea from riding aboard a ferry of drag queens for the annual Fourth of July Invasion to getting innocently lured into a sex dungeon. He discusses his adventures in the notorious Meat Rack and dancing until the sun comes up at the island’s annual beach celebration, Pines Party.
We spoke with him from his Manhattan home.
Does any place on earth compare with Fire Island?
Hmm. Fire Island really is its own unique, gay paradise. The closest towns to compare it are obviously Provincetown or Key West, but they’re more of real towns with actual streets and cars, unlike the secluded hamlets of Fire Island, which makes it so special.
Where do you stand on Pines versus Cherry Grove?
Both towns have their merits and detractions, and to be honest I feel like the two towns are starting to seem a lot more alike. While I love the housing stock and the finely-built men in The Pines, there is something to be said for the carefree, fun-loving vibe of The Grove, which is why I’ve made it my home the past 10 years.
As a full season share renter, what are the rules for being a houseguest on Fire Island?
Don’t show up with a half-drunk plastic bottle of Georgi vodka.
Can you recall your best and worst summers?
I actually loved the summer of 2018, because we finally got an inflatable hot tub, which has changed my life! As for the worst summer, I’d have to say that summer I didn’t place in Drag Attack!
You’ve been named the island’s WORST drag queen four times, yet you seem to wear the title like a badge of honor.
So many drag queens—especially pageant queens—try so hard to be perfect and brown-cow stunning, and I think there’s a lot to be said for fun drag that just makes people laugh, which is why Drag Attack!—which has crowned me the “Worst Drag Queen” four times—is so important to me. It’s more about wit and fun and having a good time.
Of all the colorful characters we meet in “Dungeons and Drag Queens,” who is the most memorable?
I’d have to say China. What’s not to love about an 80-something drag queen who can still werk, serve and turn it?
Why did you feel the need to dedicate the book to every drag queen who has ever graced the boardwalks of Fire Island?
I did that to honor all of the drag queens who have come before me, because I don’t want people think, “Who’s THIS bitch showing up late to the gig?!”
How would you like the island to remember you?
As the prettiest, most convincing female impersonator to ever grace the boards of Cherry Grove.
“Dungeons and Drag Queens” is available on Amazon and at select bookstore retailers. Visit gregscarnici.com.