My Journey to JAWSFEST ‘05

The date and place was June 3 -5, 2005, island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. One of the greatest 3 days I ever spent and most fulfilling pilgrimages I have ever been on. How could I not be there? It was the 30th anniversary of what I consider the greatest film ever made. Many of the original cast, production team, extras and locals would be there, and a chance to visit the location of a movie that in 1975 easily changed my life. I could mingle with, chat, ask questions, and seek autographs from so many that brought and were a part of a mega-movie. This of course was “Jawsfest ‘05”, the 30 year reunion and anniversary of the filming of the 1975 epic blockbuster film, “Jaws”.

Thirty years later, the film “Jaws” still scares people who enter the ocean. It lives on with those that first saw this film, and frightens future generations who see it for the first time. Since June 20, 1975 when the film was first publicly released, based upon the brilliant writings of author Peter Benchley, a 26 year old Steven Spielberg introduced to the big screen a leviathan of terror that at the time, was the largest grossing film ever made. Fans loved it, and “Jaws” hysteria in 1975 was everywhere. I, as an 11 year old kid, saw the film 7 times that summer both at walk in theatre’s and at the local drive-in. “Jaws” swallowed me whole, and motion pictures would never again be the same. Perhaps it was the Cape Cod style setting, the realism of the characters, the pulling me in to the story itself, the believability of the horror of that shark, or simply the intenseness of John Williams Oscar winning score, or probably all of it, that easily hooked me for life. I am sure I have seen “Jaws” well over 300+ times. From the first release on Beta Max tape, to VHS and later DVD, to re-watching it on all the cable and network channels, to any chance possible when shown again on the big screen in re-release and/or at a revival theatre, I am there. So traveling 3000 miles across the United States to Boston for a 2 hour bus ride south followed then by a ferry ride across the Vineyard Sound for a 3 day weekend, was a journey that I just had to take.

On Thursday, June 2, 2005, my wife and I flew from LAX to Boston’s Logan airport, with LP’s, paperback books and other items of “Jaws” memorabilia in hand. A two hour or so bus ride on Peter Pan buses, then a ferry ride across the channel, and we arrived in the harbor side village of Vineyard Haven. A short ride via the excellent and dependable island shuttle bus service to Edgartown, we were instantly transported back in time and in “Jaws” lore to Amity Island. Getting settled and checked in to our hotel, The Clarion, we then set out to get acquainted with Amity, and it’s very beautiful island. After a nice, but bit expensive dinner, we flagged a cab and were driven all around to island from Edgartown to Menemsha to Aquinnah and back. I literally saw myself for the first time on the set of “Jaws” looking at virtually undisturbed location scenes, and no longer in my living room or at a theatre watching the film. The Menemsha harbor where Quint’s shack once stood and the Orca sailed out to sea, was at my footsteps. The “Welcome to Amity” sign was long gone (actually only stood erect the one day allowed for shooting), but I stood tall now in its place at the open grass field in Aquinnah near the Gay Head light house. I stood there in hollow quiet listening to hear Brody tell Mayor Vaughn how, “were not just gonna have to close the beaches, but were gonna have to kill the shark”. With fog beginning to roll in as night was descending, we headed back to Edgartown under now a blanket of mist and our first night in a New England island community. Tomorrow was Friday, and the opening of the Jawsfest ’05 festivities. All my dreams and all that was “Jaws” that I had watched and re-watched and re-watched for the last 30 years was just a night’s sleep away.

We arrived about 9:00am at the parking lot where Main Street ends in Edgartown. Setting up was the very friendly and very hospitable Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce. Shortly before 10:00am, faces that I never meet, but seen for 30 years began to pour in. Jeffrey Kramer, who played Deputy Lenny Hendricks, Jay Mello (Sean Brody), Jeffrey Voorhees (Alex Kintner), Robert Carroll (selectman), Joe Alves (production designer), the very beautiful Susan Backlinie who played the helpless Chrissie Watkins, as well as many others such as Carl Gottlieb, Mrs. Lee Fierro, and Mr. Peter Benchley. Peter Benchley, the man who brought us all to Amity back in 1974 with his number one bestselling book, 30 years later saw fans, actors and crew all gathering for “Jawsfest ’05” and relive all that he created.

Sadly, this turned out to be Mr. Peter Benchley’s last public appearance. The great writer who wrote “The Deep”, “The Island”, “The Beast” and so many other fine books of literature, was in frail health but knew the importance of being at Jawsfest ’05. He knew the island wanted him, and the fans would be there in numbers to greet him. Though he couldn’t possibly sign autographs, especially in such great numbers as he had to take things at a very cautious pace, Mr. Benchley very much brought all the spirit and warmth that made this man indeed so very special as he spoke to his legion of fans. It was great to have him there as it was this man, who took an idea after reading up on the 1916 Jersey shore attacks and about a 4000 pound shark caught off of Montauk, and created Amity Island. Mr. Benchley wrote the story, later had a bit part as the beach reporter in the film, and then blessed his fans and the festivities of “Jawsfest ’05” by being such an honored guest. Mr. Peter Benchley died on February 11, 2006, just 7 very short months after his visit to Amity, from pulmonary fibrosis. We as fans that weekend were very fortunate to have him with us.

Friday June 3, 2005 was opening day of “Jawsfest ’05” and a day scheduled full of events and interaction with the cast and crew of “Jaws”. After the red ribbon cutting ceremony at 10:00am, cast and crew then strategically scattered to various parts of the island awaiting eager fans and hoards of media. Carl Gottlieb and Bill Gilmore drew large crowds at the 10:30am signing at The Harborside Inn, and Joe Alves presented a wonderful animatics display with discussion on just how all the effects were created. Mid-day, a huge attraction was the gathering of Mr. Benchley at the Tabernacle in Oaks Bluff to hear him speak and talk about his experiences during the writing of and the filming of “Jaws”. The crowd of several hundred listened in almost a church like sermon setting, reverent to the words and stories of Mr. Benchley.

Later still, buses could take you all around the island, and with the handy maps ready for fans to plot and plan their Amity site seeing adventure, and a day of warm low 70’s sunshine by midday, Amity was again a setting for a movie. My wife and I went to State Beach and Sengekontacket Pond, the sites of the famous “he made me do it” fake fin scene, and Brody running the rocks that lead to him jumping off the American Legion Memorial Bridge in an attempt to grab his son out of the water is the classic estuary scene. After a late lunch in Oaks Bluff, we once again made use of the island shuttle and ended up at the beach at Owen Park for the giant outdoor screening of the film that we all shared a common passion for. It was time to once again relive the movie “Jaws”.

Universal Studios in partner with the weekend events and with the upcoming release of the 30th anniversary DVD of “Jaws” and the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce put on and provided for a giant Friday night party at Owen Park. Over 1000 fans and residents brought blankets and chairs, and jackets for the overcast and cool evening, and for the first time were treated to a screening with both cast and crew. Opening beach scene guitarist Mike Haydn played on the beach Friday night, much as he did 30 years ago. A giant bon fire ablaze, promo 30th anniversary DVD blankets given away for free, and anticipation of “Jaws” ready to be seen, was building fast. As the lights dimmed, and the opening credits began, a silent and intense hush came over the crowd. Just like 30 years ago, and some residents actually seeing the film for the first time, the crowds laughed when they were supposed to, cheered when they wanted to, and screamed when they needed to. The death scene of Susan Backlinie, Chrissie, brought out the first cheer as her scene ended, however such cheers and jeers were eclipsed by the roar of applause when Lee Fierro, Mrs. Kintner and her now famous slapping of police chief Brody’s face scene, ended. Mrs. Fierro both actress and local resident received the nights loudest ovation and deservingly so. As the movie ended and the credits rolled, the crowd stayed until the last credit cleared the screen and then everyone stood and stretched and applauded again. As we loaded into awaiting busses for the 20 minute bus ride back to Edgartown and out of the cold and into our warm hotel, it was indeed a day and night of everything “Jaws” with day two, Saturday still to come. Could it possibly have gotten any better?

Saturday morning started out with breakfast down stairs and a walk on Main Street in downtown Edgartown. Walking too, was Susan Backlinie out for a morning breath of the very crisp New England air. Stopping her for a few more autographs and photographs, Susan smiled and shared even more stories and was simply such a pleasure to talk to. Miss Backlinie and her very warm personality, could easily be much like a family member, a cousin or sister, as everything she said was filled with such enjoyment and pleasure. It was so good to have met with her and to have her part of the weekend. Equally too, was the former resident of Martha’s Vineyard, now living in Los Angeles, Deputy Lenny Hendricks, Jeffrey Kramer. Mr. Kramer as well has the personality that lights up rooms, and very much brightened the weekend as he was so incredibly nice and spirited with his “just one of the guys” easy going friendliness. Jeffrey was very welcomed and received by the fans that lined up to see him, take photos and chat with him. Personally, I must have bugged Jeffrey more than any other celebrity that weekend, however I just couldn’t at all help myself, as I always felt if I had been in the movie, it would be his role that best met my personality. Then to meet him in person and see what such a nice and humble man he was, I felt talking to him was like talking to a close friend or cool buddy. Not at all to be forgotten, the charm of the weekend absolutely came from the very beautiful Sheri Rhodes. Sheri, with her southern accent still, was the films much respected casting locator. It was her job to convince the locals of the island, that a Hollywood invasion to film a movie was a good thing for the island, and make comfortable the many yearlong residents who weren’t too happy about a shark invading their happy little island. “Jaws” was the first motion picture ever filmed on this prestigious island.

Next up, we went to the West Tisbury Grange Hall, where we could see the largest collection of “Jaws” memorabilia, props, and many of the artifacts still remarkably preserved from the original production. On display were many of the original photographs taken by author Edith Blake. Many of which appeared in her 1975 book, “The Making of the Movie Jaws”. These very well pristine photos gave you a personal freeze frame of the buzz and goings on, back in mid 1974 during the filming. These photos, some of which displayed for the very first time, were from the personal collection of Miss Blake. Also too, is the jaw dropping and unbelievably unequalled collection of Mr. Chris Kiszka. Mr. Kiszka has managed to assemble the greatest collection of props from the original movie. From the bell buoy that Chrissie so desperately tries in vain to hang onto, to the very sexy swimming pants she is swimming in, Chris literally has collected and now owns it all. The “Beaches Closed, No Swimming” signs (let Polly do the printing) to the yellow barrels, the rifle that Brody uses to blow the air tank, the tank itself, the bell from the Orca, the machete knife and fishing rod of Quint’s, to the plastic head mold cast of Ben Gardner’s helpless decapitated head, Chris is the absolute authority of Jaws memorabilia. Chris Kiszka is always looking for more authentic Jaws memorabilia, specifically props, as even 38+ years later there may still be a few floating around. You can contact Chris and his collection at his website Another great collection of Jaws memorabilia is found by buzzybean at You can view more of my photos as part of the buzzybean collection at Though some props such as Chrissie’s purse and the license plate pulled from the gut of the captured Tiger shark may be long gone, perhaps forever, Chris Kiszka has just about everything of what is left. His collection is amazing and must have been quite a task to lug it to the island for display.

Since our arrival on Thursday afternoon we had visited just about all the locations of the filming scenes, meet all the dignitaries and obtained, at the very least, several autographs from each. Actually, by Saturday afternoon and 2 full days of hopping from island spot to island spot, I accumulated almost 35 signatures from over a dozen cast and crew members. I now had signed books, posters, soundtrack LP’s, and a ton of photos and most of my questions happily answered. Of all the events of the weekend, it was time for the big bang party of the weekend. Saturday night out at the Martha’s Vineyard airport restaurant, was the ticketed event known as the party at the Hot Tin Roof. This really came to be the celebration of the weekend. Great live music, treats and eats (tons of desserts), and a silent auction of some very cool signed memorabilia. Cast and crew once again were well represented and each taking a turn addressing the crowd from the stage. More autographs still were obtained and more stories were to be shared. Then, various fans each took their turn recreating the speaking roles of characters from the film, and in their best Hooper or Quint voice, repeating classic lines. If only for the weekend, it was a chance to see once again, fellow “Jaws” fans that now felt like old friends as I had seen many of them all over the island for the last two and a half days. More stories, more impressions, laughs, autographs and simply a great time were enjoyed by all. It was a great party, and a great way for me to end the most fulfilling two days of interaction all brought about by my favorite film of all time.

“Jaws” to me, was more than just the summer of 1975. It has been every summer, and every winter since then. As we packed up our bags on Sunday morning and prepared for our return cross country trip, I turned and wished “farewell and adieu” to an island that took me 30 years to get to. Martha’s Vineyard, Amity, is an island that I had seen over and over and over again in film, but finally took such a wonderful festival to turn a dream into a reality. What started out as a fabulous book, then a blockbuster phenomenon, for me, know was a dream come true filled weekend. Tired and exhausted, my wife and I made it back to the airport in Boston, only to find out our connection in Dallas, was being seriously delayed due to a tornado watch. After a couple hours we switched planes and took a flight direct in to San Diego, where we then caught an Amtrak train up to Fullerton and a $90.00 cab ride finally very late that night back finally to our home.

“Jaws” continues to live on in films, and in all the various web sites. Probably the best Jaws web-site is, although there are many. Anticipation and talk perhaps of a Jawsfest in 2010, the 35th anniversary of the film, is very much rumored. I still continue to watch the film, though only about once a month now (okay, maybe twice). Many of my questions were answered the weekend at Jawsfest. I asked Jeffrey Kramer if it was in the script were Brody threw the tiny rocks at the window to get Hendricks attention, and though some scenes were improvised in the movie, this scene went as scripted. 30+ years later I still cannot tell you what it is about this film that I love so much, I just do. Sadly, as time goes on and the gap between the present and the date of the film grows wider, we as fans loose more and more of the cast and crew as they pass on. Amity lost its police chief, Martin Brody, and the world lost a very talented actor in Roy Scheider on February 10, 2008.

"Jaws”, in my opinion is the greatest and most enjoyable film of all time. The film contains so many classic lines, and so many classic scenes. I have seen it well over 300 times and been able to meet and greet many that were associated with bringing this giant film to theatres. It’s not often in life that one gets to step back in time and revisit something so special to them and so meaningful. Thanks highly in part to all the very hard work of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, and fans from all over the world, cast and crew came together for 3 days bringing back so much of the magic that has been 30 years of the 1975 motion picture, “JAWS”.


Lee Fierro
"Mrs. Kintner"

Opening Scene Guitarist
Mike Hayden

Edith Blake

Yours truly getting interviewed
58 seconds in.
More of me with those darn posters
at the 3:49 second mark.

Home  |  Autographs  |  JAWSFEST '05  |  JAWSFEST: The Tribute|   The Shark Is Still Working  |  Collectibles  |  Contact Me / Links
Copyright © Stephen Duncan. All Rights Reserved.
Website by Shaun Furlong