My 9/11
My 9-11-01 started out like any other September Morning, except I was up at 4:00am to make sure I had everything I needed for my United Airlines transcontinental, non-stop flight MIA-LAX.

I had been invited by Christopher G. Ciccone to come celebrate the closing party of his sister Madonna’s ‘Drowned World Tour’, and he said he had also invited Farrah Fawcett to join us, which I was equally excited about getting to meet. I knew it was going to be something I’d never forget. A once in a lifetime event.
Once on board my flight, I lifted up the armrest in row 21 center seats & made a nest for myself with blankets & pillows planning on sleeping all the way to LA. About an hour and a half into the flight the flight attendants came hurrying through the cabin waking everyone up telling us to sit up we were landing the flight in Dallas, TX.

(I knew the purser on the flight because I had hosted her 40th birthday party several year before so when I boarded we made small talk)

She came back and told me a plane hit the world trade center & a bomb had gone off. She told me to call my family on my cell phone & for some strange reason it worked. I told my mother & my sister we were landing in Dallas and I was okay.

My sister, Sabrina told me the Nation was under attack to get off and away from the airport as soon as I could. I then called my friend Charles who lives in Dallas & asked if he could pick me up and I wanted to stay with him.

When we landed the televisions were on and they kept showing the planes flying into the buildings and announcements were being made that there were Chaplains available if anyone needed to talk.
Everywhere I looked people had a look of disbelief. I got so upset sitting by the curb waiting for Charles that I just threw up several times.
What started out as a day of celebration & excitement turn into tragedy and despair. I don’t know really what happened that day, but I do know it’s a day I’ll never forget. We must Never Forget! God Bless Us All.
Diva-licious Miami Beach Pride Emcee

(Photo Credit: Howard Austin Field)

By Rafa Carvajal

Elaine Lancaster is one of the most beloved and enduring personalities in South Florida entertainment, a drag diva of the first class and a name synonymous with irreverent and colorful performances, whether live or on television.

Born James Davis, Elaine took her stage name from a pair of characters in a Jackie Collins novel, demonstrating immediate diva tendencies. Elaine arrived in South Florida in 1997 and has been an iconic emcee, hostess and performer every since.

Although one of the most sought-after hostesses in South Florida, Elaine travels the country wherever the work – and a chance to share her fabulousness – takes her. She has worked with the likes of RuPaul, Kevin Aviance, Lady Bunny (who has been a dear friend since childhood), disco legend Thelma Houston, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Martha Wash, Loleatta Holloway and Dennis Rodman.

Elaine Lancaster makes for quite a presence onscreen as well. She has appeared on Entertainment Tonight (four times), Deco Drive, the NBC sitcom Wings, A Current Affair, Inside Edition, Ocean Drive Television and Hard Copy. Elaine was also hostess for Wild on South Beach, a one hour E-TV entertainment show. She was also featured in the HBO documentary Drag Time, which aired in January 1998. She made her feature film debut in The Versace Murder, which was released as a television movie in the United States after a Cannes debut and a theatrical run in Europe in 1998. Her role in The Real Housewives of Miami continued her ascent, and other roles continue her way as Elaine emerged a multi-faceted performer.

Elaine will be the emcee for this year’s Miami Beach Gay Pride. I sat down with Elaine to talk about Miami Beach Pride, life, career, The Real Housewives of Miami and much more.

Rafa Carvajal: Tell our readers about yourself and what you do for a living.

Elaine Lancaster: My name is Elaine Lancaster and I have made Miami and Miami Beach my primary residence since July 15, 1997. I moved to Miami Beach to work for the Versace family, but sadly that was the very day Gianni was murdered in front of his home. I was subletting a studio apartment from a girlfriend, Frances Lorden, I had met during a prior vacation. I was living on 9th Street and Collins Ave., and awoke to Frances’ phone call telling me Gianni had been killed. Naturally I said she was wrong. I pulled on my shorts and ran around the corner to discover it was all true and I was in shock for about four days. On the next Wednesday, the hottest gay dance bar in Miami Beach, Warsaw, was having a memorial tribute to and celebration of the life and memory of Gianni since he, Donatella, Elton and everyone in that time period used to make Warsaw the place to hang out. Maxwell Blandford was standing inside the lobby of the club welcoming guest, so when Elaine Lancaster walked in, Maxwell said, “Who are you?!” I said, “My name is Elaine and I’m new in town.” He wanted to know if I was visiting or if I lived in town. Then he offered me a job on the spot as the co-host of the World Famous Amateur which was on Wednesday. Little did I know how coveted the job was. Kitty Meow and Paloma were the hosts, and when I appeared on stage the following week, I was instantly hated by the other queens in town, who would have killed for the position. I have not stopped working from that fateful evening, walking through the doors of Warsaw and meeting Maxwell, who became a champion and a dear friend. Then other club owners came calling. I saved every dime I earned for about five years and bought real estate. Now I manage my investments, operate my own cosmetics company, www.ElaineLancasterCosmetics.com, DJ, host major corporate & Fashion events and work my tush off to keep it all fresh.

RC: What does Miami Beach Gay Pride mean to you?

EL: Being “Proud” means taking responsibility for oneself. Not being ashamed of who you are. Knowing as a member of the LGBT community that we are not better than anyone else, but also nobody’s any better than us either. Demand the equality that is afforded to other American’s.

RC: Why do you think it is important for the LGBT community to celebrate Pride?

EL: This is something that I think is very important. Sometimes people say, “Oh Elaine, why do all the gays need to have a Pride parade and march in the streets?” I say, it’s because we’ve had years and years of systematic organized heterosexuality on TV – shows like Leave It to Beaver, the family with a mother and a father and 2.3 children. You never see gay people. It’s like they don’t really exist. One year, when I was in college at the University of Kansas, an athlete friend of mine said to me, “When I was little, we used to think gay people were like Martians – you hear they exist but you never actually see them.” That’s why getting into the streets and being seen is so important for acceptance. It’s so important, especially right now with places like Russia, where they’re trying to imprison gays; like Iran, where they think gay people don’t exist; like Uganda, where they’re trying to kill gays. It just blows my mind. It’s human rights, it’s civil rights, we’re all human beings, and we’re all entitled to equality no matter how you express your love.

Miami Beach is a microcosm, an enclave of the gay community, like New York or San Francisco. I think it’s very important that we have a strong presence, and I can’t think of anyone better to be the leader of the band than Elaine Lancaster. I love this town. It’s helped to promote and facilitate the characters I’ve created and given birth to since the day I moved here. I’m so proud to be the emcee. I think I will probably get there around 4-4:30 p.m., and I’ll be there until the fireworks take off.

(Photo Credit: Dale Stine)

RC: What are you looking forward to the most as this year’s Pride emcee?

EL: I think it’s just seeing all the people come together. It’s not about being Latin or Cuban or American – it’s about being human beings. That day, we all have a common thread and that’s our humanity. Celebrate life; it’s so short, and the older we get, the faster it goes by. I’ve always said life is like a roll of toilet paper – the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes. I hope everyone comes out and has a good time. We all know that the gay community knows how to have fun, so hopefully on the 13th, they will let her rip! Let’s have a good time and kick up our heels. What’s the purpose of being a queen if we can’t kick up our heels and have a fabulous time?

RC: What would you like for people to know about you?

EL: I never give up. I fight for what is right for myself and for those who are not able to fight for themselves.

RC: What three words would you use to best describe Elaine Lancaster?

EL: Loyal, dedicated and determined.

RC: What do you think about the future of gay marriage in Florida?

EL: I think gay marriage will become law for gays and lesbians in Florida soon because there are a lot hard-working men and women working to see to it that Floridians will have marriage equality. I also hope we will be allowed to adopt children that need a loving home.

RC: What has been the best thing about being part of The Real Housewives of Miami?

EL: It was an overall fun experience. I got to spend a lot more time with my girlfriend, Lea Black, who is co-hosting the VIP Reception with me at the W Hotel this Thursday, April 10. The iconic Gloria Estefan, who is a Grand Marshall and a friend of mine, will also be there to share the love with everybody.

RC: What is your favorite memory of The Real Housewives of Miami?

EL: That it’s over. If there is another season, I will not be a part of it. There are only two or three women who are authentic and the rest are pretenders, wannabes. They focus on trivial bull crap and I’d rather spend my precious time doing good works with great folks. There are a lot

of insecure and sad people out in the world who would rather hate then love. I’m a lover!

RC: Is there anything else you would like to share with Wire Magazine readers?

EL: I hope everyone comes out to the various events during Pride weekend, but especially Sunday the 13th for the Festival and Parade. DJ Alex Infiniti kicks things off. Then crazy ass Lady Bunny – she and I have been a friends for about 30 years – will be DJing on the TD Bank Main Stage while I emcee. I will be inviting all the professional female impersonators to join me on stage because we are family! There are several surprise guest entertainers too. We also will have, as the entertainment headliner, the delightfully talented Courtney Act, who is a contestant on Drag Race this season.

This article was originally published in Wire Magazine, Issue 15, 2014

Perspectives On Pride

(Photos for this story were provided by image1stmiami.com, Henry Perez, Juan Saco Mironoff and Dale Stine)

Edison Farrow
SoBe Social Club

What is your most memorable Miami Beach Pride moment? At last year’s Pride, a family of tourists approached me (mother, father, son, daughter – all straight) to ask about the Festival. I was wearing a “committee” t-shirt and a headset. They were very excited that this amazing event was going on and wanted all of the details about the event and the entertainers that were scheduled to perform. I was so impressed that they all wanted to be a part of our Festival and felt comfortable participating in our celebration.

James Cubby
Writer and Photographer

What are you looking forward to the most at this year’s Miami Beach Gay Pride? I always look forward to the Miami Beach Gay Pride because it’s a true celebration of the community with floats and cars representing all the local organizations. The performances are always great and I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Adam Lambert this year.

Robin Schwartz
Executive Director, Aqua Foundation for Women

What is your most memorable Miami Beach Pride moment? Being the vice chair of the first Miami Beach Pride and seeing the board’s vision and efforts come to light.

Matti Bower
Miami Beach Mayor

What is your most memorable Miami Beach Pride moment? During the first Parade, I remember seeing so many happy faces lining Ocean Drive, from all facets of our community, young and old, gay and straight alike. Everyone that first day, from those who were in the Parade to those just watching, felt so happy to be themselves. The feeling of happiness, togetherness and love that permeated the first celebration is something I will never forget. That Pride glow continues to today!

Karen Brown
Executive Director, LGBT Visitor Center

How do you feel a Pride event has affected the local LGBT community? Having lived in Miami Beach for more than 17 years, I have seen a lot of change. I feel that Pride has unified the community like no other event. Even though we are a tourist mecca, we are essentially still a small town. So it’s wonderful to see everyone come together, for the same reason, waving to those we know in the parade, and feeling like a local in a very international place. I think Pride has had an emotional and financial impact on our city and is now a linchpin for the gay community.

Richard Murry
President, The Murry Agency

What is your most memorable Miami Beach Pride moment? Four years ago, my first year representing Pride as its PR agent, I was waiting at 5th and Ocean for Grand Marshal Sharon Gless in order to escort her to a pre-parade media reception. I was wearing my “committee” Pride t-shirt and a Pridelines Youth Services pink hardhat because I’m on the Pridelines board. Sharon had gotten there early and popped her head out of a nearby bodega and asked if I wanted a latte. I said “sure!” So before we went to the media reception, she and I shared a latte and she told me all about her wonderful career as an actress. Then she stole my pink hardhat and wore it in the parade!

Elaine Lancaster
Entertainer, The Real Housewives of Miami

What does Pride mean to you? Pride to me is something I have daily. I have been attending Gay Pride events since 1981; my first was when I moved to NYC for four months before starting my studies at the University of Kansas. The parade route went down 7th Avenue and turned west down Christopher Street and that year the “Legends of Stonewall” closed the parade. For the readers who may not know: The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay community against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. This was widely considered to constitute the single most important event leading to the Gay Liberation Movement and the modern fight for gay and lesbian rights in the United States. To see these gay men, lesbian women, drag queens and transsexuals who were there and took part in changing the course of the Gay Rights Movement forever was very emotional for me. I’ve been asked by some of my straight ‘friends,’ “Why do gay people need to march in a Pride Parade?” Even in 2013, it is important to get out in the streets, show our faces, and lift our voices because we live in a country that for generations has tried to make us feel wrong through institutionalized discrimination. Although the winds of change are blowing in the right direction, there will always be haters, but until we (LGBT) are afforded the same rights as every other American, we have to continue to march. We are telling the world that we are not ashamed, we are proud!

Michael Gongora
Miami Beach City Commissioner

What is your most memorable Miami Beach Pride moment? My most memorable Pride moment was in the very first year back in 2009. I was not serving on the commission at that time or running for public office, however, I could not miss the opportunity to celebrate the advancement of LGBT causes. The sense of belonging I felt with so many reached a peak when I was called upon and recognized by my friend Marky G. A year later in 2010, I again was humbled when I was recognized along with Mayor Matti Bower, and there was a coronation ceremony for the King and Queen of Miami Beach… and by the way, I was recognized as King! Every year brings forth a new and special memory as we celebrate the advancements of our community, from the right to adopt children to being allowed to serve openly in the military to having our relationships have the same and equal treatment under the law as marriage. Miami Beach was one of the first local communities to embrace the LGBT community and offer domestic partnerships to our residents. I could not be any prouder of Miami Beach!

Missy Meyakie LaPaige
Drag Entertainer, Miss Miami Beach

What are you looking forward to the most at this year’s Miami Beach Gay Pride? What I’m looking forward to see this year is the amazing floats that are put together with some outstanding ideas and all clubs and bars coming together as one!

Babak Movahedi
Chairman of the Board, Miami Beach Gay Pride

What is your most memorable Miami Beach Pride moment? That would have to be from the very first Miami Beach Gay Pride. I was sitting with Mayor Bower in her convertible as we drove up Ocean Drive. We had anticipated maybe 5,000 people showing up. More than 20,000 actually showed up! Seeing the tears in her eyes as she waved to the crowd, and people running up to the car to thank her was a very special moment. It made all the hard work worthwhile.

Cindy Brown
Executive Director, Miami Beach Botanical Garden

What is your most memorable Miami Beach Pride moment? The most memorable moment was the first year. We had prepared for about 5,000 people and were nervous hoping that people would actually come. Watching the parade start and looking around to see the mass of people, the police reported around 23,000 people that first year. I will never forget that moment.

This article was originally published in Wire Magazine Issue #15, 2013