By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
By Frank Owen
By Allie Conti
Are you ever paid to make appearances?
Very infrequently. When I appear in an entertaining persona such as Karaoke, yes, it's a job. If I hostess an event and my name is a part of the promotion, yes, then I do get paid because it's something I prepare for, take seriously, and I view more as a night job, but it's just more fun than my day job. It seems that lately everything I do involves a microphone, so I have no fear of speaking to an audience, and that has singled me out in that respect. I will be starting Karaoke at Regine's in the Grand Bay Hotel in January, and also cabaret night Thursdays at the Butter Club. And so just within the last two weeks I have increased my one night a week to three nights a week, still maintaining my day job. More beauty sleep will be needed.
Have you always worn wigs?
I used to wear my own hair at night more than wigs. And now when I'm performing - when I'm at Karaoke or going to something like a nighttime social function - I usually wear a wig. Not that I hate to wear my own hair or th way my own hair looks. It's just that a wig is like wearing a hat. It's just a big accessory. My own hair is very thick, and when it's piled up, it creates a large topknot atop which my wig sits, therefore making the wigs appear higher than they really are. Sometimes, however, I do use a Styrofoam ball as a styling aid. I did not today because I knew we would be sitting outside and i was afraid the wind would blow my hair to reveal this Styrofoam lump. Not very attractive.
How many wigs do you own?
Actually only about ten or twelve. But I do need to make some additions to the wig vault.
Have you patterned your look after anyone in particular?
Ideas come to me from anywhere. I may watch an old Cleopatra movie and that will be an inspiration for the next evening's ensemble, or it could come from some obscure passage in a book I'm reading. Ideas come from everything. I try to wear something that I think is suitable but which has a certain sense of humor. I can't go out naked, can I? If I'm going to wear something, I might as well wear something that's amusing to me. I dress for myself. At Karaoke we do theme nights, and so I have to come up with an outfit every week that I can only wear once. For instance, one night we had evil-twin night, so I dressed as Serena, evil twin of Samantha Stevens from Bewitched. It's patterned aesthetically after a character that fits the theme, which is anywhere from Chanel homegirl to Addams Family meets the Munsters to Diana Vreeland night. I cannot tell you how few people knew who Diana Vreeland was, but then again, that's why they were at Karaoke and not home reading a book. We've had Valley of the Dolls night, in which I bored the audience to tears by reading passages from the Jacqueline Susann novel. Served them right.
What is Karaoke?
Literally Karaoke is Japanese for "band without a lead singer." It translates into a wild singalong party every Wednesday at Semper's, where I hostess. There is a microphone, a TelePrompTer, a song book, and a music machine with CDs and cassettes without vocal tracks, only the music. The track is played, the words appear either on the TelePrompTer screen or in the song book, and the person who is singing uses his or her own voice with the lyrics and microphone.
How do you feel about the "causeway crowd"?
The bridge-and-causeway crowd that we sometimes poke fun at relates more to a suburban, small-town mindset. They just happen to live across the causeway. For instance, at Karaoke I'm constantly harassed by inappropriately dressed, air-guitar-playing Kendallites who have apparently strayed from the Clevelander bar. They view this South Beach avant-garde scene as an oddity, almost like something out of a Fellini movie, which is not so far from the truth. But as opposed to being able if not to empathize, then to enjoy the scene, they instead forget whatever manners they may have learned, and act up and do gross things.
So you would just as soon they stay away?
Usually. However, I do have a few friends that live south of Dadeland.
Is the popularity of the Beach as a destination point for nightlife still on the rise?
Oh definitely. Of course, right now I think the recession has affected going out, and for that matter retail shopping, on the Beach slightly for the time being. But I think with the new year, things will resume the normal frenetic pace. I don't think Miami Beach's full potential has been yet realized. A lot of people from New York are just finding out about the Beach, as strange as that may seem, and they come down for a visit, or friends go back to New York reporting on this wild Bohemian paradise in which we live, and they're amazed. People are freer on Miami Beach, and even New Yorkers who come down are not as jaded when they are here on the Beach. The snobbish, self-absorbed attitude really doesn't work here. There is a certain freedom here you can't find on the mainland. Miami Beach fosters that environment in which eccentricity can bloom. Not only do we accommodate eccentrics, we encourage them. We're very open-minded, very much alive. There's an electricity on the Beach that cannot be denied.