INTERVIEW: Michael Moran, President, Arts Project of Cherry Grove

Michael Moran
APCG President, Michael Moran.
Courtesy of Michael Manhattan Moran.

A decade ago, Michael Moran won the title of Arts Project of Cherry Grove (APCG) Homecoming Queen. His drag persona being the glamorous “Whore D’Oeuvre.” Now, 10 years later, he is President of APCG, ushering in a new generation of Homecoming Queens and taking the 75-year-old Not-for-Profit in new directions.

Fire Island & Great South Bay News (FIN): Before we talk about the Arts Project of Cherry Grove, let’s to talk a little about you, who you are and what brought you to Fire Island?


Michael Moran (MM): Okay, great. What brought me out to Fire Island was my parents. They started coming out to Fire Island in 1974. They fell in love with it. Then they fell in love with the dance music at the Ice Palace. My father was very curious about the Belvedere. So, one day he knocked on the door of the Belvedere and said he and my mom wanted to stay there. Of course, however, it’s a men’s only hotel. Still, my dad struck up a conversation with John Eberhardt and they hit it off. John and a fellow named Joe Guino owned some buildings in the city, they just became friends with my parents. My parents’ friendship with John continued. My mom was one of the few women ever allowed to sleep at the Belvedere in the 1970s and 80s.


I grew up with knowing them as my uncles. They came to my first talent show, but I had very little talent. You know, “I’m a little teacup,” which I didn’t do very well. Even Craig, [Eberhardt’s companion] babysat me when I was young. So, I have a great history here.


John and Joe always knew that I would love Cherry Grove. They teased my parents about it. Fast forward to 1990, I called John up and asked if I could stay with them in Cherry Grove. They said, our home is a male, guest house, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I said I knew. Then he asked what boat would I be on. That was the story I had a wonderful weekend. I ended up staying with them for two weeks. I turned 21 out here that summer. I fell in love with Fire Island.


FIN: What eventually made you want to lead the Arts Project of Cherry Grove?


MM: As a young kid coming out to Cherry Grove for the first many years, I was at the bars and at the beach and doing the normal things that a young gay guy would do. Eventually I discovered the Charry Grove Community House. I won the title of Homecoming Queen in 2014. [Whore D’Oeuvre.] That was 10 years ago. And I got on a board, I believe that year, and worked together with APCG and a lot of the board members and did lots of new things with them and became much more, I think when I was homecoming queen I became, and I cemented to the community more than just being at the bars all day.


A lot of them became family and children to me. That’s when I really called it home, if that makes sense. Now to take over as President was kind of unexpected. I was voted in by the nominating committee and the membership as Vice President. Then JoAnn Orfanos stepped down as President for our own personal reasons. It was a wild winter planning everything with a relatively newborn board. We changed up a lot of things, because I think that a 75-year-old non-for-Profit Theater and Community House has to reinvent themselves the next 75 years in order for us to keep moving forward.


We pay rent to our landlord. Most not-for-profits do and rent goes up, especially when insurance goes up. But more importantly is we have this beautiful building that was not being used to its capacity. We have this gorgeous roof deck that looks over the Great House Bay, and it’s only used every once in a while. It should be used all the time. So instead of just doing events on Saturday nights, we are doing yoga on Saturday mornings, fire department meetings, we are hosting Al-Anon meetings, there are tea dances on the roof and Sunday Night Bingo.

We are bringing Broadway actors and performers coming out to perform to Cherry Grove. We are doing Sunday, Monday, and Thursday night cabarets with great performers. We’re doing Friday night shows. Grammy Award-winning legend, John Pelli and his quartet coming out to perform for us. We’re utilizing the space almost every day.


There’s something for everyone in our community, and we’re not just inviting community members – we’re inviting day trippers, people that rent, people from across the bay and other communities. We need them to come over and enjoy what we’re offering. We’re the oldest running LBGTQ+ theaters in the country for sure, and possibly in the world.


FIN: One thing that I noticed when attending this year’s Homecoming, which you MC’d, is that you really know how to work a room. Where does that come from?


MM: Growing up, I was really shy. I had a crooked eye and was very introverted. I didn’t really like myself too much. It sounds funny, but I think years of therapy helped with that. Doing drag for benefits for breast cancer and AIDS awareness also helped me. I think being surrounded by people like me in Cherry Grove, out and proud gay people also helped me. My chosen family are here and an inspiration to me.


Editor’s Note: The June 7, 2024 print edition stated that former APCG President Thom Hansen stepped down for personal reasons, leading to Mr. Moran’s elevation to Board President. On June 11, 2024 a correction was made in our online edition to reflect that it was in fact JoAnn Orfanos who stepped down from this office.