Illustration by Luci Gutierrez
I was one of the lucky ones who got to grow up at the Jersey Shore. My family lived a block from the bay in Wildwood. I was a 10-year-old tomboy, the second-youngest of five, whose favorite hobbies included fishing and crabbing. After school and on the weekends you would always find me down at the bulkhead with my pole and nets trying to reel in something brag-worthy.
But one day I met Mr. Davis, an elderly gentleman who had a house with a private dock where he invited me to fish and crab whenever I wanted. I started showing up in my usual tomboy attire: Converse high-tops, a Phillies jersey and denim shorts, topped with a raccoon hat. My parents never liked the get-up, but it was my favorite. And deep down I thought I was a boy and, ultimately, had no problem convincing Mr. Davis of that either.
The first time he saw me in the raccoon hat, he asked, “Where’s your sister Stacey?”
I wanted so much to be a boy back then that I lied and told Mr. Davis that I was Stacey’s twin brother Mickey.
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His life reads like a celebrity tell-all, complete with all the drama and humor one might accumulate over five decades in entertainment. “I was a kid model at four years old,” says Robert “Sandy Beach” Hitchen. A native of Atlantic City, the towhead cut his teeth doing catalogs and conventions for a line of kids clothing based on the Bat Masterson TV show. A serious case of acne sidelined his teenage dreams until he was tapped for a dance party show broadcast from Steel Pier. “There were these teenage girls throwing themselves at me,” he says. “One girl overdosed on aspirin because I wouldn’t go out with her.”
Then came a very influential summer at Bucks County Playhouse, where he got his first real kiss—from a man. “We were at the cast house for a party,” remembers Hitchen, when an older actor treated him to an “acting” lesson. “The next thing I knew he threw his lips on me,” he says. “A few seconds later, I kissed him back. And then I kissed him for a long time.”
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