Transformation of Drag
Kid Rock & Wanda at Kid Rock’s Party at Prive on September 26, 2003
Miami Beach, FL – June 13, 2013 – The recent passing of the notorious local drag queen Wanda stirred feelings of nostalgia for South Beach’s over-the-top drag scene. There was once a time when Washington Avenue’s strip was rampant with towering amazons strutting their stuff in the highest platforms, with the biggest hairstyles, most svelte legs and outrageous makeup. There was a time when any club or party on the beach was not a legitimate party until a drag queen showed up in all her grandiose glamour. They became an essential part of South Beach nightlife, dancing and entertaining on the same stages where now David Guetta and Afrojack do their DJ sets. But these queens weren’t just entertainers on a platform, they enjoyed interacting with the crowd and made friends with the biggest celebrities and socialites. It’s this time, from the mid-to-late 1990s to the early 2000s, that Miami Beach had what many people—drag queens included—look back on fondly as the “golden era.”
As South Beach has grown up, however, many of the drag queens who once walked down the strip have faded into the background. Those who have remained cannot only spin stories on their days tottering on heels on nearly every nightclub’s floor, but also how they, like South Beach, have evolved. Surviving that evolution is Elaine Lancaster, one of South Beach’s most famous drag divas. Elaine’s own evolution mimics that of South Beach’s. She arrived at a time when the scene was fresh and new. And she, like South Beach, has come into her own, honing her craft and treating the nightclub scene like a business. It’s been a long road coming for James Davis, as she’s known when she isn’t dolled up as Lancaster. Davis, the well-groomed gentleman from Dallas with a little southern drawl and good family values, who dresses immaculately and has the best dewy-looking skin, says he and Elaine are two separate people: Elaine being the character he created. “I don’t like Elaine to talk business. I have an assistant, or I give people my card. If you ever see me out as Elaine Lancaster, it’s because I’m getting paid.”
Birth of Elaine Lancaster
Elaine Lancaster at Federation at Level on June 22, 2001
Davis created the character Elaine for a Halloween costume contest in college. With his good looks and attention to detail, he, to his own surprise, won the contest and was put front and center on the school newspaper. He instantly became a local celebrity at the University of Kansas and was actually well accepted amongst his peers, given that it was the ’80s and guys dressing as women were something most people hadn’t seen much of before. For Davis, dressing in drag gave him the ability to feel like a woman and show off all his beauty to the world. It also allowed him to realize who he was inside. In college, he experimented with heterosexuality, but, in the end, felt more of an emotional connection with women, rather than a sexual one. As the world became more progressive and the taboo of homosexuality and dressing in drag lifted, it’s allowed Davis and others who dress in drag to feel more comfortable in their own skin—foundation covered and all.
Since college, Davis dedicated his time to developing his craft and character, Elaine. He cites Jerry Hall as his biggest inspiration for creating Elaine. It’s about being this big, tall, Texan blonde. He would scour the pages of magazines, books, tabloids—all the pre-Internet modes of research—to finally decide that Hall was the woman he wanted to emulate. Davis also admired what RuPaul was doing when she first gained public attention and had the “if he can do it, so can I” mentality. He remembers a marketing professor in college explaining the importance of consistency in selling any product, and Davis’ product was Elaine. She needed to have big hair, a big smile, always be friendly and have people flatter her with flashbulbs. It was a matter of selling an image, a personality and a pretty package all done up. It’s an art a form of entertainment. And Davis, like most queens, has always been an entertainer. Even growing up, he would perform magic shows for his deaf grandparents. He learned at an early age the power of visual stimulation and how to keep an audience’s eyes all on him at all times.
The Versace Era
Once Davis realized he could turn Elaine into a business, he decided to pack his bags full of high heels, dresses, wigs and makeup and move to Miami, which was at the “height of its gay,” Davis says. He came here on vacation in 1994, but Elaine recalls the exact day she moved here: July 15, 1997. That’s because it’s one of the biggest dates in Miami Beach history: the day world-famous fashion designer Gianni Versace was shot and murdered on Ocean Drive outside his mansion. Coincidentally, it was Elaine’s first morning waking up in her just-moved-into corner studio on Nineth Street and Collins Avenue after moving there to work for the Versace family. The girl she was subletting from told her what was going on, and she ran two blocks to see all the commotion. Elaine, now without a job and faced with the Versace tragedy, headed to a club called Warsaw for a memorial it was having. She walked up to the rope all done up, and Maxwell Blandford asked who she was, said she was beautiful and asked if she wanted a job. The rest, so they say, is history. Elaine began hosting the amateur strip contest on Wednesday nights at Warsaw for $150.
This was when Elaine, standing at nearly 7 feet tall, was really “born” into the spotlight. During that time, she went to all the popular spots: Amnesia, Liquid on Friday nights, Shadow Lounge, Paragon, Icon and Federation at Level—the big gay night. It was in these clubs that she met her fellow divas- Sexcilia, Connie Casserole (“who was rotund and had scary but immaculate makeup”), Paloma, Kitty Meow, Daisy Dead Petals, Damian Divine (“who’s now a transsexual in Paris making millions”), Alanna Star, Violetta, Chyna Girl, Adora, Leslie Quick, Fantasy, Lady Bunny and, of course, the notorious Wanda. As she began making friends—and the occasional enemy or two—Elaine started to come into her own. When club owner Chris Paciello told her he was opening an ultra VIP lounge called Bar Room and wanted her to come and host each night for $375 in cash, Elaine was elated. She recalls Tommy Hilfiger launching his new line at the grand opening party, and Cameron Diaz telling her she was the “most beautiful thing she’d ever seen” before giving her a kiss. It became the “it” spot, and Elaine sat and talked to everyone from Madonna to Quincy Jones at the club.
Elaine Lancaster at Vivid on August 5, 2000
Elaine Lancaster at Level on September 23, 2000
Elaine Lancaster & Boy George at Federation on December 29, 2000
Elaine Lancaster & Duran Duran at Level on January 4, 2001
Elaine Lancaster & Paris Hilton at The Forge on October 6, 2004
Elaine Lancaster, Nicky Hilton, Richie Rich, & Lauren Foster at Miami Vice Premier & After Party at Sushi Samba on July 25, 2006
Lauren Foster, Richie Rich, Hulk Hogan, Joe Korniew, & Elaine Lancaster at Miami Vice Premier & After Party at Sushi Samba on July 25, 2006
“Elaine opened doors to places where there never was drag … Don’t give people what they want, give them what they never thought they wanted. I don’t make or break the night, but I certainly enhance it. I take it from ordinary to extraordinary.” - Elaine Lancaster
Elaine Lancaster & Courtney Love at David LaChapelle’s ‘Rize’ Premier at Mansion on July 9, 2005
Elaine Lancaster & Lauren Hutton at Level on August 3, 2001
Elaine Lancaster at Level on January 2, 2000
Elaine Lancaster at Federation at Level on January 7, 2000
“It’s not the gay mecca that it once was. I think it’s shifted … I’s not necesarily a gay boy party destination; it’s still an enclave, but it’s not a gay ghetto. We have one of the best gay and lesbian chambers in the country. There are a lot of powerful movers and shakers in the gay community here as opposed to how it used to be with all the drugs and clubs. It was such an international destination for drag and debauchery, now it’s gone more corporate—almost Walt Disney World-like.” – Elaine Lancaster
Elaine Lancaster at Mansion for Eric Milon’s Milon Rouge Birthday Party on August 5, 2006
Elaine Lancaster at Phantom of the Opera at Federation on September 29, 2000
Elaine Lancaster at Thierry Mugler Fashion Show at Level on March 31, 2000
Elaine Lancaster at Level on February 4, 2000
Elaine Lancaster at Federation at Level on July 7, 2000
“When I first started doing drag I thought I had to do celebrity impersonations to become successful. Then I realized creating my own drag persona was the ultimate key to my success. Viva la Lancaster!” – Elaine Lancaster
Elaine Lancaster at Gerry Kelly’s Birthday at Level on June 14, 2002
Elaine Lancaster at Gerry Kelly’s Birthday on June 2, 1999
Alan Roth, Elaine Lancaster, & Maxwell Blandford at the Rumi Opening on August 2, 2001
World Red Eye: How did you meet Elaine?
Maxwell Blandford: Elaine was in South Beach for the Gianni Versace memorial party. A few days after his murder, Elaine arrived in drag to pay her respects. I saw her and asked who she was and offered her a job as co-host for an amateur strip contest Wednesday night. And we’ve been working together and best friends ever since. We have traveled to various places on the Elaine Lancaster tour that included my favorite, Romania, where we were chased by a pack of wild dogs. I have never really seen James as a drag queen or even a female impersonator but as an actor with a fully developed character: Elaine Lancaster. The character has a complete personality and there are things that would be very out of character for Elaine, like drinking beer or wearing something from Ann Taylor.
Elaine Lancaster & Maxwell Blandford at ‘The Crew’ Premier Party at Level on August 21, 2000
“I have accidentally set Elaine on fire a few times. Once, when she was performing “I Will Survive,” and we accidentally exploded the pyrotechnic too close and her hair was ablaze. She remained in character and most people thought it was part of the show. The other time, was a special surprise for socialite Lady Monica. We placed Elaine in a gigantic cake covered in flares. I opened the cake too early, and Elaine popped out ablaze in flames.” - Maxwell Blandford
“Elaine remains one of the most professional and booked queens in the world. I have a profound respect for her professionalism and loyalty. While many of the queens have a hard time separating the party from reality, James has bought a building, traveled all over the world, acted in films and continues to further his career unlike any other.” - Maxwell Blandford
Elaine Lancaster & Tara Solomon at Desperate Housewives Party at Anna Bella Boutique in Weston on March 15, 2006
World Red Eye: You were big with Elaine and the other queens at the time. How do you view her?
Tara Solomon: Under that mountain of wiglets is one very smart gender illusionist. Not only is Elaine clever and quick-witted, making her a favorite emcee for any event especially a somewhat stuffy one, but she’s a talented DJ as well. I love when she turns on her southern charm for straight men of a certain age, as she did when she flirted with my octogenarian father, who was thoroughly bemused.
I must have been a drag queen in a former life—I’m far too fascinated by the entire genre. In South Beach in the 1990s, I documented all the girls and the drag show supper clubs for my Queen of the Night column in The Miami Herald: Adora, Paloma di Laurentiis, Marvella, Mother Kibble, Taffy Lynn, Sexcilia, Connie Casserole, Maddy Madness, Chyna Girl, Daisy Deadpetals and, of course, Kitty Meow, who “came out” one night at the karaoke night I emceed at the private club Semper’s. Before becoming the flamboyant Kitty Meow, he was Sean Palacious, a mild-mannered fashion student.
WRE: What are your thoughts on the dwindling of drag on South Beach?
TS: I miss the drag shows. I miss the creativity. I miss the girls. It was a moment in time in South Beach’s evolution. We couldn’t help but live in the moment because every night was a Fellini film come to life. I feel very fortunate to have lived in South Beach during those very wild and carefree days.
WRE: Any Wanda memories to reflect on from her recent passing?
TS: I first saw Wanda performing at a drag show at Mulberry Street Café. She was on stage, and then, without warning, went into the audience and picked up an unsuspecting male tourist and carried him back onstage in her arms, like one would a sacrificial offering. It was very, very funny. She knew how to work a crowd without saying a word.
Dennis & Drag
Something that there’s been much talk and speculation about during Elaine’s career is her relationship with former NBA player Dennis Rodman. Elaine met Rodman when he played for Detroit. She was dressed in drag, and after they met, he called her on the phone frequently. It was more just wanting someone to talk to because, as Elaine tells us, he was “a very shy person.” Rodman always admired what Elaine did, and even experimented himself, having renowned makeup artist Kevin Aucoin do his makeup for $2,000 in 1996 while he wore a white wedding dress. When he opened a nightclub in Dallas, he asked Elaine and RuPaul to do the grand opening with him, and that was the first time she appeared on Entertainment Tonight.
Elaine and Rodman have been close friends for years, and she even played a central role in the big, supposed “fight” he had with Carmen Electra. According to Elaine, they had all gone to Chaos, ended up at The Forge’s bar and the couple got into an argument. They were staying at the Bentley Hotel on Ocean Drive, and because Carmen had screamed in the argument, a neighbor called saying it “sounded like bloody murder,” and they both went to jail. Elaine called Roy Black the next day, and he bailed them out of jail. There were camera crews waiting outside their hotel. Elaine talked to Dennis about what happened, and he told her, “Do what you want to do, I trust you.” So she went out and told everyone it was all a big misunderstanding. Elaine says it was the court order against him that made him more sad than anything.
Dennis Rodman & Elaine Lancaster
Dennis Rodman & Elaine Lancaster at Jessica Simpson Swim Show After Party at Sky Bar on July 14, 2007
Dennis Rodman, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Elaine Lancaster, & Scott Sartiano at Jessica Simpson Swim Show After Party at Sky Bar on July 14, 2007
Elaine Lancaster & Dennis Rodman at Fergie’s Birthday at LIV on March 27, 2009
Since her days as the grand hostess at clubs, Elaine has accrued a lot more attention, and spotlight, as her character has grown. With her growing popularity, she was told she needed to be in New York City or Los Angeles to make it big. After a brief stint in L.A. where she filmed a 24-hour gay and lesbian talk show in 2004 called On Q Live, she returned to claim her throne as the mega-model of Miami Beach. People hire Elaine to attend the biggest birthday parties, galas and events as an emcee, DJ, host, entertainer or even just as a fabulous guest. Says Davis, “Elaine opened doors to places where there never was drag … I don’t make or break the night, but I certainly enhance it. I take it from ordinary to extraordinary.” It’s this extraordinary personality that gets her flown all over the world to do what she does best—showing everyone a good time. More recently, Elaine is a co-star on the The Real Housewives of Miami, and just wrapped filming for season three. With regards to that, she simply says, “You never know how you’re going to be portrayed. It’s television, it’s not live.”
All in all, Davis says Elaine has been great for him. It’s a career he absolutely loves—one of those situations where you won’t have to work a day in your life if you find something you love and can make money doing. He’s been able to see how people like Pamela Anderson or Elton Jon live, made friends with A-listers and still managed to stay true to his roots. It takes time and patience to accomplish, but it’s something he can also take off. He admits liking the duplicity of it all, keeping James and Elaine two separate, fabulously tasteful people.
Elaine Lancaster & Fergie at Fergie’s Birthday at LIV on March 27, 2009
Elaine Lancaster at Paper Magazine Presents Absolut Disco at Mokai on October 21, 2008
Richie Rich & Elaine Lancaster at Pamela Anderson Hosts PETA After Party at WALL on October 14, 2009
Elaine Lancaster & Amanda Lepore at Amanda Lepore Fragrance Launch at Aqua on December 6, 2008
“What’s the secret? Hunny, I’m not gonna give you the family recipes- I’m still using them!” - Elaine Lancaster
Elaine Lancaster & Paula Deen at Paula’s Poker Party & Casino Night at South Beach Wine & Food Festival on February 21, 2008
Elaine Lancaster, David LaChapelle, & Marcel Wanders at David LaChapelle & Arne Quinze After Party at the Mondrian on December 2, 2008
Elaine Lancaster at Chambord Launch at the Mondrian on August 23, 2010
“I love it. I celebrate drag. It’s my bread and butter.” – Elaine Lancaster
Queens of South Beach
Elaine was surrounded by many other fabulous drag queens during the Versace Era who all became friends. It was a time where everyone strutted their stuff and celebrated the fabulosity of it all, though there was some drama from time to time. Here, we have her peers weigh in on their friend, those special years, and the recent passing of one of their own: the notorious Wanda.
Fantasy, Adora, Leslie Quick, Paloma, & Elaine Lancaster at Federation on March 10, 2000
Wanda, the drag queen best known for her balloon bust and obsession with Whitney Houston, was a fixture at Amnesia’s Sunday night party back in South Beach’s drag heyday. She was a larger-than-life character (literally) in the nightlife scene, but she came swathed in drama. Fighting with club owners, starting beef with customers and getting banned from parties—these not-so-glamorous assets Wanda flaunted gave her the reputation for being trouble. And, sadly, that trouble caught up with her in Tampa in late May of this year when Anthony Jermone Lee, the man behind Wanda, was shot and killed outside the home of a friend. Here, her sisters in drag reflect on what Wanda was the South Beach’s drag culture.
Wanda at G-Spot on March 2, 2000
Wanda at Delano on December 22, 1999
Wanda at Ocean Drive’s Anniversary on February 25, 2000
Tommy Davidson & Wanda at Ocean Drive’s Anniversary on February 25, 2000
Shelley Novak at Ocean Drive Magazine Anniversary on February 25, 2000
World Red Eye: What was your nickname?
Shelley Novak: My drag name is Shelley Novak, taken from Shelley Winters and Kim Novak. It conjures up images of big-breasted, loud-mouthed jewesses on the ‘50s.
WRE: What happened to Paloma?
Shelley Novak: Every year you would hear Paloma died. This went on for a decade, almost to the point where it had become an urban legend. So when I heard she really had died a year ago, I didn’t want to believe it, but it was true. What an amazing person. Paloma would always grab me and line my eyes correctly for me. She was a class act and will be missed—yet I don’t know the real cause of death—just another part of the mystery that is Paloma.
Shelley Novak at Crobar on January 31, 2004
WRE: If Paloma was the queen of South Beach, are you the godfather of South Beach?
Shelley Novak: In the sense that I was a lot like James Gandolfini in a dress, yes.
WRE: What do you think about the growth of Elaine Lancaster?
Shelly Novak: When Elaine Lancaster came to town, the drag scene was a mix of clown drag and club kids. People were horrified and screaming, “She’s going to take our gigs.” But I was never worried, because, honey, no one is going to say, “We can’t get Shelley, let’s use Elaine,” or vice versa. We were never in competition. Elaine was like nothing we had ever seen. I was convinced she was Jerry Hall incarnate. And watching him evolve and grow has been a trip. Being on a Bravo TV show is just the next step in his evolution, the natural progression of his fame. Hell, I couldn’t name one of those hags on Real Housewives of Miami, but I can tell you the most beautiful housewife is James Davis—and he’s a man.
Shelley Novak at Crobar on February 25, 2004
WRE: Where are you now and what are the shelley novak awards?
Shelley Novak: I’m in Boston where i have won my year long battle against cancer – which should make the 21st year of the Shelley Novak awards more of a comeback event than I had ever planned or wished for – the award show is a mock academy awards for the drag queens on the Miami scene -an evening where they are celebrated and honored – it started it as a lark and its now in its 21st year at score nightclub on lincoln road – I am a very lucky man to have the friends and family and fans that i do – my life has been a series of happy, lucky accidents and I’m blessed to be able to make people laugh for a living.
Fantasy at Federation at Level on June 16, 2000
World Red Eye: When did you and Elaine Lancaster meet?
Fantasy: We met in early 2000 when she moved here. We worked for a couple years at Level Nightclub; I was the performer, and we bonded then. She was always the go-to girl: always had her craft together, very dependable and would guide you through any problems in the entertainment world.
Fantasy at Federation at Level on July 7, 2000
WRE: What’s the best part about doing drag?
Fantasy: I love entertaining. I love when I get on the stage and see the reactions of people dancing with me.
WRE: How would you describe your look?
Fantasy: Sexy chic: stilettos, long hair—blonde, black—the sexier the better.
Fantasy & Wanda at Gerry Kelly’s Birthday at Level on June 1, 2000
WRE: How did you know Wanda?
Fantasy: Wanda was my roommate. We were roommates with Chyna Girl—I’m Chyna Girl’s best friend from high school. She was like a showgirl; she would come during the season to South Beach and stay with us. She wouldn’t hold back.
WRE: How has South Beach changed since then?
Fantasy: I was in South Beach from 1996 to 2007, and let me tell you, it was magic. It was like the hidden pearl. Now when I come down to visit, the whole scene has changed. It got very hip-hop. Gay clubs are disappearing, and it’s too commercialized. So I moved to Orlando. I blame the whole RuPaul Drag Race. Drag used to be so unique and special—now everyone just wants to be a drag queen. Everyone wants to be a boy in a dress.
Fantasy at Studio 54 at Level on October 5, 2000
WRE: What was your best memory from those days?
Fantasy: When I landed the Bacardi ad in 2000. It was Kitty Meow, Chyna Girl and myself. We traveled to other countries. I was one of the first three drag queens to have an ad campaign with a major company.
Lady Bunny at Elaine Lancaster’s Birthday at Level on August 24, 2000
Lady Bunny & Elaine Lancaster at Elaine Lancaster’s Birthday at Level on August 24, 2000
World Red Eye: What is Elaine Lancaster to South Beach in your opinion?
Lady Bunny: She’s mean to everyone everywhere she goes. (laughs)
Elaine Lancaster & Lady Bunny at Dancestar Awards on March 9, 2004
Lady Bunny at Belvedere & V Magazine Present Marc Jacobs After Party at Hiro at Maritime Hotel on September 14, 2009
Elaine Lancaster & Lady Bunny at Susanne Bartsch Presents Erika Jayne’s WMC Party at The Setai on March 23, 2007
David LaChapelle, Calvin Klein, & Lady Bunny at Arne Quinze After Party at the Mondrian on December 2, 2008
Lady Bunny & Ingrid Sischey at Arne Quinze After Party at the Mondrian on December 2, 2008
Kitty Meow at The Cafeteria at Big Time Studios on November 22, 2002
World Red Eye: What do you love most about what you do?
Kitty Meow: The flexibility to be able to change, always being able to create something new and entertaining. I love that. Never being pigeon-holed or becoming complacent; I love to re-inspire others and be inspired by others. The change of it all.
WRE: What’s your secret to that meow-tastic look?
KM: To never take it too seriously. Always remain in the moment. That’s the secret.
Boy George & Kitty Meow at Federation on December 29, 2000
WRE: How has South Beach changed from where it was with the drag queen scene 10 years ago to now?
KM: Everything is cyclical. I believe what’s currently going on right now is a resurgence of newcomers and the interest of drag. There’s a whole crop of performers at the Palace—Noel Leon—she’s stunning. There’s a whole new renaissance in the artistic, glamorous, chic girls who are the ones to watch. I’m excited to see South Beach once again welcome everyone from every corner of the Earth. It had its peak and went down, leveled off and now there’s a fresh new budding bouquet of girls who are out there and going to do everyone proud and bring a lot of spotlight back to the beach.
Kitty Meow at Anthems at Crobar on July 16, 2000
Kitty Meow at Gerry Kelly’s Birthday on June 2, 1999
WRE: What’s your wildest memory from South Beach?
KM: During the White Party, we did a taping for E! News. Elaine and I were on camels with a harem, all in this huge entourage going down on the sand from 14th Street to 10th [Street], and it was mind-blowing. Traffic was stopping, it was one of the highlights of being a part of that whole scene; it was a spectacular time.
Kitty Meow at Shadow Lounge on November 29, 1999
Elaine Lancaster & Kitty Meow at Esteban at Bar Room on April 28, 1999
WRE: How did you and Elaine Lancaster meet?
KM: Elaine and I met when she was a male professional model out of college and came to visit South Beach on holiday. She arrived at a club I worked the door at, Paragon, and our repsonisiblity as door hosts was to let the hot people inside. So, of course, James Davis at the time, arrived head-to-toe in Versace, just stunning. He had the most immaculate skin and glowing blonde boy hair, so I walked over, introduced myself, and said ‘Please come ahead, would you like to be my guest?’ He would return on a regular basis, and I discovered on the second or third trip that he was also a drag queen. I was completely blown away by the transformation. It’s very inspiring to see how meticulously it was done. I was impressed by the dedication Elaine had to her craft.
If you don’t want the truth, don’t pursue her for an opinion. She speaks nothing but the truth, and she’s so insightful in such a proactive way. She’s one of the most giving, tremendously generous individuals you’ll ever meet in your life. She’s introduced me to so many incredible individuals—artists, athletes, pioneers—in their field.
I love Elaine, needless to say. I think she’s redefined what the meaning of professionalism and drag is in South Florida. For a very long time, we had a shock value where everyone was trying to outdo each other and look outrageous. Elaine completely took it to Chanel. She brought a new sophistication to it. She’s revolutionary when it comes to taking drag to the next level and never forgets where she comes from or the relationships she’s forged as the young up-and-coming Elaine. I call her teeth ‘The Chiclets’ because they’re perfectly shaped.
Adora at Federation at Level on November 26, 1999
World Red Eye: How do you know Elaine Lancaster?
Adora: I know Elaine also since she got here when she moved to South Beach. We got along beautifully, from the very beginning. We go to Home Depot together; I like her very much. She’s a very smart person.
Adora at Federation at Level on January 7, 2000
WRE: What’s the difference from how drag used to be and how it is on the beach today?
Adora: Now it’s a different town—totally different. The scene has changed a lot, obviously. It’s mainstream mostly, kind of like going to a mall and seeing a drag show in a mall.
Adora at Hotel Nash Opening on March 9, 2000
WRE: Did you know Wanda?
Adora: I knew Wanda from the very beginning when she came to South Beach. She was a troubled girl, but I never had any problems with her ever. She respected me very much, called me Miss Adora, but I always knew that she was trouble.
Adora at Rumi on March 28, 2002
WRE: What’s your craziest memory from the Wanda days?
Adora: I remember working at the Kremlin and being on Lincoln Road seeing Wanda getting into fights—a knife fight—each one of them pulled one out, and they wanted to kill each other. So I got off duty and told them to not stab themselves because it might get blood on my dress. And it’s a brand new dress—I can’t afford dry cleaners.
Adora at Supper Club at China Grill on June 16, 2004
WRE: What do you love most about what you do?
Adora: I’m blessed to get paid for something that I love to do. I don’t think many people can say that. I’m doing something that I really, really love to do. It’s my career. I think it’s a privilege—being on stage—it’s acting. Being in front of an audience, people will like me no matter what. It could be drag, it could be anything, I need to be in front of an audience. I was a dancer and actor all my life, so I’ve always been in front of an audience.
Kim Kardashian & Adora at ShoeDazzle One Year Anniversary at Hotel Bentley on March 24, 2010
WRE: What’s the Adora signature look?
Adora: Big teased hair in any color that you can find in the rainbow. Lots of glamour. The biggest ring, shoes, hair … If it’s big, I like it. Everything big!
Leslie Quick at Level on March 16, 2000
World Red Eye: What’s your relationship with Elaine Lancaster?
Leslie Quick: Elaine moved to the beach 12 or 13 years ago, and she’s now like my auntie because she had more experience than me in drag when I started doing this. She had it tough when she first moved here, the other drag queens in town gave her shit. She stuck to her guns and didn’t back down for nobody, so she’s earned her spot on our version of Hollywood Boulevard.
WRE: How would you describe your look?
LQ: Space Boy meets Bettie Page.
Leslie Quick at Fever at Vivid on June 23, 2000
WRE: What was your relationship like with Wanda?
LQ: Wanda is another auntie, but she’s more like a grandma to a lot of us. When I first met her, she had a lot of street smarts. Certain people I was talking to, Wanda would pull me aside and say ‘Girl, don’t talk to him, he’s only wanting to get your drink tickets.’ I started doing drag for a year or two when I got close to Wanda. So [her death] hit me pretty bad the past two weeks. Wanda wasn’t loved. She was a character on the beach who was so loud, but in my case, I wanted to get to know this person. I was raised in Pembroke Pines, so I wanted to see that side of what he was talking about. Because of the lessons he taught me, I stayed out of a lot of bad situations.
Leslie Quick at Level on December 4, 1999
WRE: How has the drag scene on the beach changed from the days of Wanda?
LQ: Our time—Infinity, Kitty Meow, Adore, Elaine, and myself—I considered us the ‘Versace Era’ of drag in Miami Beach. We were around during the whole Versace tragedy that happened in the ’90s, and Madonna had a strong influence on South Beach. It was a really different time—it was like Paris, but in the microcosm of the five blocks of South Beach. Now it’s so commercial—we have reality stars, basketball wives—the Versace glamour is gone, and we’re trying to bring it back. It’s still fun, but it’s not the same. The city of Miami Beach should buy the [Versace mansion] back and turn it into a museum; it’s a landmark.
WRE: What’s your craziest memory from the “Versace Era?”
LQ: Marilyn Manson and The Smashing Pumpkins were in town touring together, and [Manson] pulled me aside and goes ‘I like you, you look great,’ and he French kissed me! I was a little drunk, and it just happened. We were at Groove Jet. It was nothing more than that, but it was just one of those moments. Also, we had this couch Donatella [Versace] gave to the club, Warsaw. This queen was lying on the couch drunk off her ass one night, we don’t know what drugs she was on, and she shit all over the couch. She crapped the couch up. They had to throw a fabric over it because they didn’t want her to notice. To this day, the girls still talk about the couch incident.
Leslie Quick at Under The Water at Fever on July 28, 2000
Paloma, Kitty Meow, & Chyna Girl
WRE: What do you love most about what you do?
CG: I love all the glitz and glam, the performance and just being a part of the alluring nightlife.
WRE: How did you get your name ‘Chyna Girl?”
CG: When I was a club kid back in Orlando, many club-goers would always ask, ‘Who’s that Chinese girl?’ So the first name, Chyna, was chosen and Girl because she is easy breezy, sassy and fun. That’s Chyna Girl.
WRE: What was your relationship with Wanda?
CG: My friendship with Wanda goes 18 years back. Because Wanda and I are so different in our demeanors, many people are surprised knowing that we were close friends. I was her personal glam girl whenever she needed her hair and makeup done for special events. I’m dealing with her passing right now. It’s still very surreal knowing that she’s not here blowing up my phone or causing commotions at a club. I miss her dearly.
Chyna Girl, Elaine Lancaster, & Fantasy at Level’s 1 Year Anniversary on November 16, 2000
WRE: How did you and Elaine Lancaster meet? How is she viewed by other queens?
CG: Elaine and I first met back in ’97 when I was working at Lucky Cheng’s, and she was a new girl in town. I can’t really speak for other queens how they viewed Elaine, but I see her as the high society queen amongst us.
WRE: How has South Beach changed from where it was with the drag queen scene 10 or 20 years ago to now?
CG: The South Beach drag scene was big in the ’90s to early 2000s. Clubs and club promoters would always have two to four girls working the party weekly. We were more visible on any given club night throughout the beach. It’s kind of like the ’90s supermodels with fashion designers. The ones that keep themselves relevant still grace magazine covers and editorials. Same goes with drag queens in clubs and events.
WRE: What’s your wildest memory from South Beach?
CG: I would have to say parading down the beach with a camel and us drag queens dressed as Arabian princesses. Another would have to be when Leslie Quick and I were dancing with Madonna in the VIP at Liquid nightclub.
Paloma at Federation on October 13, 2000
“Paloma was the fairy godmother of the drag community on Miami Beach. She was stylish and extremely talented. I was lucky to have her as my friend.” Elaine Lancaster
Paloma & Fantasy at Federation at Level on May 19, 2000
Paloma & Elaine Lancaster at Phantom of the Opera at Federation on September 29, 2000
Paloma, Fantasy, & Elaine Lancaster at Federation at Level on June 16, 2000
Paloma, Fantasy, & Elaine Lancaster at Noche Blanca at Federation on November 24, 2000
Elaine Lancaster at Federation at Level on August 18, 2000