It’s Fashion Week in New York! In honor of this twice-yearly event, now called American Collections Week, we’re posting a photograph from the 1950s to show off Montauk’s own version of ingenuity and high design.
We believe Bill’s Inn is the venue where this annual Montauk Fire Department dinner was photographed. To provide entertainment at these dinners, a musical skit was devised every year by Vinnie Grimes, who also masterminded Montauk’s Blessing of the Fleet and the Montauk Horse Shows. The idea was to dress up like women and sing popular songs whose lyrics had been altered. Piano accompaniment was provided by Doc Robin, Montauk’s general practitioner. Volunteer fireman Joe Jaccarina played accordion.
We don’t yet have an identity for the gentleman wearing the wig in the extreme left margin of this picture, but moving from his left, the line-up includes Vinnie Grimes, Craig Tuthill, Ed Ecker, Sr., Dick White, Sr., and Gil Keller. “The firemen’s wives helped their husbands prepare for these performances by applying makeup and choosing the jewelry,” says Dick White. “I remember my mother working on my father’s chest.” She was in charge of manipulating the brassiere until everything was lined up perfectly.
Of course, as the evening progressed, things could get a little out of hand. The lyrics might become racy. Then there was the annual throwing of the custard pies, baked by Vinnie Grimes’ wife and topped by mountains of whipped cream. Pie plates went sailing through the air as the men sang, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s … ” slam! “One year the fire department had to pay a large dry cleaning bill because the curtains were covered with custard and whip cream,” Dick White remembers.
“One doesn’t want fashion to look ridiculous, silly, or out of step with the times,” says Vogue editor and fashion icon Anna Wintour, “but you do want designers that make you think, that make you look at fashion differently. That’s how fashion changes. If it doesn’t change, it’s not looking forward.” The annual fire department dinner was an opportunity to have some fun and show a creative side. We suspect Ms. Wintour would find something to inspire in the Montauk firemen’s innovative attire. (awakenthegreatnesswithin.com/40-inspirational-anna-wintour-quotes-on-success).