The Great Lesbian Club Wars

Ugly accusations. Cutthroat business dealings. Verbal assaults and handguns. South Florida's lesbian nightlife is beginning to look more and more like a combat zone.

Relations between Cox and Caroline Clone initially were cordial. The younger woman decided that rather than battle her more experienced competitor, she would try to cooperate with her. According to several women who knew Clone in Los Angeles, that was a mistake.

Two L.A. lesbian promoters, Robin Ganz and Sandy Sachs, say that although they competed with Clone, they never personally had any trouble with her. "That's because we stayed away from her," explains Sachs, who with her partner promotes "Girl Bar," a Friday-night party in West Hollywood. "She has a reputation for being vicious, and we didn't want to get in a cat fight. She didn't bother us."

But others were bothered by her, Rita Boyadjian among them. Earlier this year Clone sold Boyadjian a coffeehouse called Little Frida's, a West Hollywood establishment catering to lesbians. Though the sale went smoothly, Boyadjian says she couldn't resist throwing a party to celebrate Clone's decision to leave Los Angeles in April. "Speaking of goodbye Ms. Clone," reads a report of the party in Female 411, a Los Angeles lesbian newsletter edited by Boyadjian, who recently changed its name to Female FYI, "Little Frida's hosted a 'Ding Dong the Cappuccino Queen is Gone' party a few Sundays back to celebrate its hip new owners and the long overdue riddance of Caroline Clone. Two hundred lesbians from all over town came by. We celebrated Ms. Clone's departure by beating open a wicked witch pinata, signifying her wicked ten years in L.A."

Boyadjian confirms she did throw the party, but offers only a vague explanation for why 200 people showed up. "I can't really comment," she says, "except to say that [Clone] wasn't very well liked in Los Angeles."

One source of conflict derived from a business dispute between Clone and a woman named Shelley Spevikow, a promoter with whom she worked. At issue was disbursement of the proceeds from a successful March 26 event they organized at the Palm Springs Convention Center, which featured comediennes Ellen DeGeneres and Kate Clinton.

Spevikow did not return several phone calls to her Los Angeles office, and her attorney, Jacqueline Mangum, says she cannot comment on the affair except to say that Spevikow is no longer contemplating a lawsuit.

Clone admits she had a contractual dispute with Spevikow but says it has been resolved. As for Boyadjian, Clone contends that the woman still owes her $10,000 and that she improperly took control of Female 411, which Clone claims she backed as a silent investor.

Her success in Los Angeles, she adds, was bound to fuel the jealousy of upstarts like Boyadjian, Sachs, and Ganz. And in fact her former competitors all admit that Clone was the queen of L.A.'s lesbian promotion scene almost until the day she left. Among other accomplishments, Clone had owned Palette, a posh West Hollywood club, which Ganz calls the most successful lesbian nightspot the Los Angeles area has ever seen.

Whatever problems she may have had in Los Angeles, Clone asserts, they had nothing to do with her decision to leave. Today she resides in a clean, white-tiled Miami Beach apartment, which seems to hang in the air over the sunlit sand.

Clone has furnished the rectangular living room with curved and oval objects -- a bowl filled with large marble eggs, a wooden console with a bowed faaade, an amoeba-shaped coffee table. Clone's words are as soft-edged as her decor. She recounts how she first visited Miami at the invitation of a friend. "I was overwhelmed by South Beach," she recalls, adding that she almost immediately decided to stay. "It's so different from any other place in America. The different cultures make it very exciting. And I've got a girlfriend here with whom I'm madly in love."

But love was not the only, nor even the prime, motivation for Clone's decision to move to Miami in early May. "Naturally I saw an opportunity here," she confides. "I felt there was the possibility of doing more for the women here. The 'Girls in the Night' parties were irregular. So I decided to test the market with a regular Friday-night party. And the response was amazing."

Clone insists, however, she did not intend to pick a fight with Lisa Cox. "I didn't come here to take away anybody's business," she says, arguing that the club-going lesbian population, though limited, is large enough to support her and Cox. "I'm not greedy," she insists. "If I were interested only in making money, I would have stayed in Los Angeles. I'm crazy about South Beach. I'm here to stay." That statement pleases some women in Los Angeles. "We're very, very happy that Caroline likes Miami so much," Robin Ganz laughs.

In the weeks before the June opening of "W.O.W. Bar II," Cox helped Clone promote the planned Friday-night parties. Both Ganz and Sandy Sachs flew to Miami from Los Angeles to check out the Miami lesbian scene and attend the opening. "We saw Lisa doing things like giving Caroline her mailing list, and we said, 'Oh my God, this is bound to turn ugly,'" Sachs remarks. "We wanted to warn Lisa but didn't feel it would be appropriate. And besides, whenever we spoke to her, Caroline was always hovering."

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