Last weekend on Fire Island in New York, far from the bright lights of Broadway, Patti LuPone performed at the Ice Palace nightclub for some of her most adoring fans. These die-hards, sometimes called LuPonettes, included a man who had seen Ms. LuPone in the 1979 production of “Evita” and another who had a caricature of her tattooed on his back.
Ben Rimalower, who arrived hours before doors opened, stood at the front of the line. “I first fell in love with Patti when I saw the ‘Evita’ commercial,” he said. “I’ve now seen her live hundreds of times, but never on Fire Island. Nowhere else will Patti get an audience that understands her like here.”
Opened in the 1970s, the Ice Palace is an institution in Cherry Grove, a Fire Island hamlet known as a summer haven for New York’s gay community. In addition to its Friday night Underwear Party, its stage has hosted Chita Rivera, Liza Minnelli and Alan Cumming.
“Patti has played the greatest venues in the world, but for her to play here it’s about connecting with her most fervent fan base,” the club’s co-owner, Daniel Nardicio, said. “Her fans will scream and cry for her here.”
Ms. LuPone, 74, put on two sold-out performances of “Songs from a Hat,” in which she sings tunes plucked at random. Accompanied on a white piano by her musical director, Joseph Thalken, she gave her all to staples like “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “Meadowlark.” When she did the Sondheim number “I Never Do Anything Twice,” she brandished a riding crop.
In the edited interviews below, her fans reflected on why they can never get enough LuPone.
Why do you love her? I’m a fellow Long Island girl, just like Patti. Her power as a performer is so unattainable that you can’t help but be in awe.
When did you first see her live? It should have been when I was 12. I still hold a grudge against my family. My parents took my sister to see “Gypsy” for her Sweet 16, but they didn’t bring me because I was too small. My mom told me I have to get over it. I told her, “I will never get over it.”
Why do you love Patti? Because she’s an ally to us in a way others are not. Lots of celebrities are part of the battle, but she’s been with us a long time. For an artist like Patti to come out here and do a show for us at the Ice Palace, that says something about her allegiances.
If you could spend a day with Patti, what would you do? I’d love to sit and have cocktails with her and Mandy Patinkin. Just to listen to the two of them talk. About anything.
Bartender and playwright
What’s the story behind your tattoo? Years ago, I decided I wanted to cover myself with the divas I love, and I’ve been adding Broadway legends to my back ever since. This Patti is from “The Baker’s Wife.” I’ve also got Liza Minnelli and Elaine Stritch.
How did this show come about? We basically wooed her to come out here and eventually she said yes. Sure, we have the famous Underwear Party, but we also have greats like Liza Minnelli and Chita Rivera here. Gay men have a deep relationship with these women, so they’re always appreciative to see them, and that’s why these women are willing to come out here and do these shows at the Ice Palace.
When did you first see her live? I saw her do “Evita” years ago and I was mesmerized. I don’t even like musicals. I’m not like the guys here.
What do you make of her performing here? This place started out as a sea shack for good times by the ocean. Everyone was doing poppers and having fun. But Cherry Grove has been changing. Lots of straight people from the city have been buying places here, changing our community’s culture.
Any song you’d like to hear? Anything from “Sunset Boulevard.” It holds a special place for LuPone fans because Patti was infamously fired from her role and replaced with Glenn Close. So hearing Patti sing anything from it would be special and rare.
Why do you love Patti? Her ferocity. Everyone throws that term around now but she’s the real thing. She’s a tiger. Patti would cut you. Whereas Minnelli is there to delight, Patti commands you and makes you afraid of what you might miss if you take your eyes off her for even one second.
If you could spend a day with Patti, what would you do? I wish a reality television show camera followed her. I would watch it all day.
Why do you love Patti? Because her voice is a unique musical instrument and she’s maintained it to an astonishing degree. When other stars do cabaret shows they can sound diminished, but not Patti. She’s also old-school in a way that Broadway doesn’t reward so much anymore. She plays by her own rules.
Retired property manager
Any tune you’d like to hear? “The Ladies Who Lunch.” There’s no one like Elaine Stritch, but Patti is the only one who can sing it with the same feel as Stritch.
Michael Fisher and Gary Sacks
Cherry Grove residents
You’re longtime Cherry Grove residents. What do you make of Patti’s playing here?
M.F.: The Ice Palace is where gay men used to come to discover their sexuality. It only makes sense for Patti to play here, to perform for her most devoted following.
G.S.: We love Patti and it’s beautiful to see her come to our community. I hope she sings “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” Because when she sings that, I want to cry.
Alex Vadukul is a city correspondent for The New York Times. He writes for Styles and is a three-time winner of the New York Press Club award for city writing and a three-time winner of Silurians Press Club medallions for his feature writing. He was a longtime writer for Sunday Metropolitan and has been a reporter on the Obituaries desk. More about Alex Vadukul
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