ARCHIVE: Don’t Open til Dunesday

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Overall’d local yokel Bruce Springsteen joined Dunesday decider Brian Kirk on the open-air stage in 2009.

By TOM CHESEK (First published on Red Bank oRBit July 22, 2009)

Dunesday! It’s a holiday you won’t find listed anywhere on your Heroes desk calendar, although it’s been happening pretty dependably toward the end of every July for the past 16 years. Like many a more familiar holiday, it’s an occasion to get out under the sun and stars and dance, party, socialize, indulge in drink specials — all while keeping in mind the serious underpinnings that brought us all together this day. Unlike most other holidays, it’s a day when the serious underpinnings change each time out.

Yeah, folks here on the Shore can get pretty proprietary about their Dunesday — and none more so than Brian Kirk, the partyband provocateur and toastmaster general who devised and organized the first Dunesday bash in the mid-1990s. Hosted every year at Donovan’s Reef, that last-of-the-Mohicans Monmouth County beach bar where Brian Kirk and the Jirks enjoyed a long stand as de facto house band, the annual fundraiser has drawn the likes of John Easdale (solo and with his Jersey-born cult band Dramarama), Men At Work’s Colin HayFrente and an up-and-coming cat named Bruce — while delivering impressive checks to a variety of charitable causes.

Beginning at noon this Saturday, July 25, Dunesday returns to the Reef with an outdoor entertainment lineup that boasts Dave Tucker (12:45pm), the Billy Walton Band (1:45pm), The Richelle Show (2:45pm), The Screaming Nudes (3:45pm), Arlan Feiles and his Lone Orchestra (4:45pm), reggae residents Random Test (5:45pm), Kirk & the Jirks (6:45pm) and returning wannaBeatles The Liverpool Beat (8pm). Then it’s back inside the bar at 10pm for more music by Kirk and other acts to be announced.

This year, the proceeds from the Dunesday program are being earmarked for a sensitive issue with both local and international repercussions — Bring Sean Home.org, the nonprofit fundraising organization dedicated to the efforts of Tinton Falls resident David Goldman to regain custody of his son. If you’ve been following this story in the national media, you’ll know Goldman as the man whose wife took her son on vacation to her native Brazil a few years back, only to divorce him, remarry to a wealthy lawyer and die in childbirth last year. The stepfather and his family, with whom Sean resides, have continued to fight Goldman’s custody claim, and the case has attracted the attention of politicians, presidents and kings — Larry King.

Red Bank oRBit spoke to Brian Kirk at his business offices, and found the famous purveyor of party songs to be a serious guy when it comes to the future of Dunesday, the Goldman case, and the logistics of putting on a show. Read on.

RED BANK ORBIT: Making the Sean Goldman fund the focus of this year’s Dunesday is sort of a departure from previous years, when you’ve stuck with medical-related causes, or disaster relief drives. This is more of a hot-button issue, even if public opinion is overwhelmingly with David Goldman here. It’s a cause that’s got some delicate political aspects to it, so I’m curious as to how you arrived at the choice.

BRIAN KIRK: They actually called me to do a benefit at Pier Village in Long Branch, this September or October — and what got me to agree to that was the fact that I’m now a father myself; I’ve got a two year old girl. I put myself in this guy’s position, and I just had to do it.

My introduction to this case was through one of my first business clients in Red Bank, Trish Apy, who’s David Goldman’s lawyer. I actually saw her on Larry King, just came across the show with her on it, and stopped to see what she was talking about. I got a call not three, four days after that from the organization, asking me if I wanted to be part of the Pier Village thing. I told them I’m gonna do it solo, and not only that, I’ll do ya one better — we’ll make your cause the beneficiary of this year’s Dunesday.

So who generally selects the charity each year — you, or a committee?

It’s basically me for the most part — I’m usually the persuasive one, although one year we were just completely tossed between two choices. In 2004, we actually did two Dunesday events, including one for the Hurricane Katrina victims. Typically, though, one cause really stands out, and in this case it was Bring Sean Home.

You’ve had some serious beneficiaries through the years, but from what I’ve seen the atmosphere is kept pretty light; it’s a party vibe first and foremost.

I usually read something from the organization that we’re raising money for, at various points throughout the day, so you sort of know it’s for charity at all times.

Last year we chose the Mitochondrial Foundation, primarily because of this particular family in Middletown, where all of the kids in the family have this disease. But the family insisted that we make it about the national organization rather than about them.

Now, is David Goldman scheduled to make a personal appearance?

We’re bringing in one of Sean’s best friends from when he went to school here. But as far as David Goldman, I’m aware that he did modeling and such, but I’d imagine he doesn’t want to be out in front of the media all the time.

I’m aware that Dunesday is your baby, but it’s also very closely identified with Donavan’s, just like you and the Jirks were closely identified with Sundays there for many years. Is there a chance that Dunesday might one day wind up at a different location?

I didn’t start the Sunday thing, that was going on long before our band — but I did start Dunesday, and it’s my concept. Even though it’s closely linked to Donovan’s, it could conceivably move somewhere else someday.

Every year when we do this I think, ‘this is gonna break records this year,’ but we’re limited by the bar’s capacity, by the fact that you can’t drink on the beach back there.

One idea that’s been kicked around is to make it a town-wide thing — involve at least some of the other bars in town, have different acts playing in the different places. At that point, it’s not going to be just me. And I keep eying places like Pier Village and the Ocean Place Resort also, although they’re actually too busy for us at the time of year that we like to do this thing. Still, Dunesday has to grow to someplace where it’ll continue to have an impact, get people’s attention.

Have you ever entertained the notion of becoming a partner at the bar?

I did think of buying in a few years ago, but decided against it. I’ve been involved in real estate since about 1991, ‘92, when the band was really going strong — I bought a lot of houses around Red Bank. But I saw it turning around in 2004, 2005, did the numbers on investing in the bar, and I just figured no way could it work. Even though they have a goldmine there with that location, when you have a rainy June, like we just had, the bar business just gets killed.

There are people who make it all work somehow. I hope to be able to take the Tim McLoone path someday — the way he balances everything, the restaurants, the charitable work, the band. He’s kind of my idol!

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