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Background photo by Don Sylor
provincetownVoices-3

He took the Kennedys out here, he took the sheriff from the James Bond movies, Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway—he helped film that movie The Thomas Crown Affair. Back then, it was more of a thrill ride, so he kept coming through here: the Devil’s Dip and the Oh-My-God Hill. One day, he came down and everybody just looked to the right. There was his buddy in a small airplane, flying just over the sand dunes like it was going to land there. He looked down, they kind of waved at each other, and he flew away.

It’s a pretty intense atmosphere out here. I’ve seen it calm and beautiful, and I’ve seen it so severe. I’ve driven through here with the sand hitting the windshield and said, “I’ve got to get out of here. This is too much.” I’d never want to be stuck out here with a bad nor’easter with the wind kicking up.

The beach huts were built in the 1850s and 60s, when the Massachusetts Humane Society put them in and stocked them with dry clothes, food, and water so any survivors from ship wrecks could make it out there. In the 1900s, a lot of artists and writers built shacks and came here for inspiration. A lot of different people built out here for different reasons.

In that shack over there, Tennessee Williams actually put some of the finishing touches on A Streetcar Named Desire. I had always heard this and I just thought it was an urban legend, but Marlon Brando walked all the way across the dunes to audition for his role in that shack. There are some diehard Tennessee Williams people that swear it’s true. And they’d know better than I would.

When I was a kid, it was probably a similar mixture of people, but things weren’t as open. I remember a cop going up to two people and telling them they couldn’t hold hands. It has become a live and let live town, and that’s what made it so popular. No one judges.

Provincetown is always going to have that outpost feel to it. Because it is feast or famine as far as business goes, so much of it closes up in the wintertime. When you’re here in the summer, it’s so much different than it is in February. It’s so different from the rest of the Cape. Every other place, you can get a cup of coffee pretty quickly and pretty easily. Here it’s not that easy.

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Jeff is the Managing Editor for Cape Cod Life Publications.

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