Talisman: A Resort Whose Luck Ran Out (Fire Island News 6/2/88)

It was, according to one writer, “the kind of place where girls like Holly Golightly and Lorelei Lee might rest, away from the hunting grounds of the Riviera and the playing fields of Cartier’s.”

It was the kind of place where the flags of 20 nations flew at dockside, ready to welcome its international clientele and the original brochure announced that “Club privileges will be granted to the Chiefs of Mission of the United Nations and their families.”

It was the kind of place where, on any given summer evening, Samba music emanated from hidden loudspeakers all over the club grounds and an endless Conga-cum-bongo drum line wove its way across the clubhouse and into the pool.

A Jet-Set Resort

It was called Talisman, and, alas, except for a few of its striking Japanese-style houses, it is no more. Founded in 1960 as a self-consciously jet set resort — at a time when the jet set were actually beginning to take jets — Talisman lost its buzz, and its least, only two years later. Today, this former playground of the rich and beautiful, located 3,000 feet east of of the Pines dock, is the sober domicile of Park Service personnel assigned to the Fire Island National Seashore and winter home for the chief ranger.

But while the fizz lasted, it was, according to veterans of those long-ago Camelot summers, someplace else.

“I guess you could just sum up the whole atmosphere as ‘Pucci simple’,” one ex-Talisman resident recalled for a reporter in 1962. “I mean someone once said all you needed for a weekend at Talisman was a Pucci in a Gucci and a Benzedrine in your purse. Everything was divinely unorganized. Most of the time we’d just slosh a couple of peaches in some champagne and invite a few friends over.”

A New Twist

The Twist was introduced to the United States at one memorable Talisman affair during the summer of 1961. “Somebody hired Carl Holmes and his Commanders to play for dancing,” the same burned-out jet setter said. “Anyway, this girl who was there had just returned from Paris and at about two in the morning, she started doing this absolutely weird dance. My dear, do you know that it was the first time the Twist had ever been done in America? Nobody slept that night until we all learned the awful thing.” Naturally, she continued to our rapt correspondent, “the were absolutely divine parties devoted to the theme. You know, such as Tahitian or Calypso? Everybody was always imaginative about what they wore or didn’t wear. I remember getting dressed one of those costume things, I wore a fishnet and I believe I carried a tambourine for effect.”

A Sort of U.N.

It was, writer Michael Braun summed up in his essay about Talisman in his 1962 report to the members of the Islands in the Sun Club, “a sort of United Nations sur la plage, with everybody relaxing in 20 languages in a magnificent setting with no Hamptonized rules of what and what not to do.”

So, the next time you happen to be boating by the island’s Park Service reservation and you think you hear Samba music, clinking tambourines, and manic, foreign repartee, don’t worry, it isn’t the Park Service: it’s the spirit of the Talisman.

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