The Dunes, Celebrating 35 Years of being Gay!
1981 was a big year! Reagan was sworn in as the nation’s 40th president, the Iranian hostage crisis ended after 444 days and Walter Cronkite signed off after 19 years with CBS. It was also the year that both Reagan and the Pope were shot; Lady Diana Spender married Charles, Prince of Wales; and Sandra Day O’Conner became the first female Supreme Court Justice. MTV, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Beyonce were all born…. And, the CDC reported that five homosexual men in LA had a rare form of pneumonia seen only in patients with weakened immune systems. ’81 was a big year.
It was also the year that the Douglas Dunes first opened its doors to curious gay men and women in Douglas (Saugatuck) Michigan.
The original plan for the Dunes was to occupy a B&B space just as you enter the city of Saugatuck on Lake Street (the former Twin Gables). However, after a band of bikers burned the only gay bar in town, the city commissioners decided it was a good time to “discourage” any new “exclusively” gay establishments looking to “drop anchor” in town. As a result, the Dunes instead found welcoming arms across the bridge in the Village of the Douglas. Purchasing the drive-in Amity Motel, the Douglas Dunes was born with 22 hotel rooms, a restaurant, lobby bar and summer only outside dancing.
Over the years, entertainers from Pop (Weather Girls, Lauren Grey, Uptown Girls, Eartha Kitt, Pamela Stanley, Claudja Barry) to Porn (Jack Wrangler), have all brought their talents to the Dunes stage. Drag, leather, bears, trannies, circuit boyz, daddies, lesbians, couples, singles, bi, fags, queers, ladies, gents, curious, straight – whatever you might want to be called, the Dunes has over the years hosted them all. From rumors of murder, to the making of porn (Catalina Video’s Down in the Dunes), everything, and most likely everyone has been the topic of discussion over the years either on the dance floor or out back in the bushes. The Dunes has been, and continues to be, a Gay institution.
Owners Mike Jones, Danny Esterline and Greg Trzybinski purchased The Douglas Dunes in 1999 and renamed it, “The Dunes Resort.” Since then, the trio has worked tirelessly to perpetuate a gay safe haven while offering top-shelf lodging and entertainment. “When the previous owners started this in 1981, people came here and they fell in love. We wanted to enhance the Dunes experience, update it and continue its legacy,” says Jones.
Now crowned the largest gay resort and entertainment complex in the Midwest, The Dunes is heralded as Western Michigan’s premier gay and lesbian vacation destination and a pinnacle of the gay Saugatuck – Douglas community.
This illustrious coming-of-age process has introduced a metropolitan standard to the quaint surroundings of Saugatuck and Douglas. Sprawling over 20 acres, the Dunes Resort now features over 80 rooms, 4 bars in the main building (including West Michigan’s largest Gay Dance Bar, a cabaret with live entertainment and a game room), plus a fantastic outdoor patio bar and the area’s largest pool and pool bar.
Whether you prefer it progressive or hard, the beat from The Dunes’ on-site nightclub is uncompromising. Resident DJ Doug Roberts and an impressive 2016 guest DJ line-up including: GRIND, Tony Moran, Phil B, Drew G, Seth Cooper, Tristan Jaxx, Eddie Martinez, Joe Gauthreaux, Theresa & Hector Fonseca rivals that of any urban dance venue.
The Dunes is a rare and special place where people of all walks can find themselves, lose them selves and most importantly, be themselves. Circuit kids, scenesters, couples and retirees all blend with ease in a congenial, come-as-you-are atmosphere. “You get to leave the real world for a little bit. You can hear fantastic music or come to the cabaret for a great show. Sing Karaoke or watch strippers. You can be gay, straight, old or young, and feel comfortable here. It doesn’t matter who you are, everybody is welcome,” says Jones.
2016 is a big year! “After 35 years, the Dunes just keeps getting better. If you’ve never been, now is a perfect time (a complete remodel of the main bar and game room). If it’s been a while, you’ll be surprised with what we’ve become and if you’re one our “regulars,” thanks for being you!” says Jones.
The Dunes Resort is open seven days a week, twelve months a year. The summer season kicks off with the 35 Anniversary Party (May 13-15, 2016) and continues through Labor Day Weekend. Major events are held year-round.