Strolling through South Beach on a clear night, you enter a lush garden. You pass a horse-drawn carriage only to be greeted by a dazzling bearded lady on stilts; behind her a lit fountain sparkles with flames from a fire juggler. Everyone is wearing white. Just as you marvel at the vividness of your dream, you're tackled by a brawny bartender who wants to know why you stiffed her for the White Russian. Okay, it's not your dream; in your dreams, drinks are free. But it is the tantalizing vision of 27-year-old Yesi León (promoter of Pandora, the weekly party at Timba) and her 28-year-old partner at Kiss the Girl Productions, Carmen Benard. "It's going to be Cirque du Soleil style: fireblowers, acrobats, mimes," says León of Kiss the Girl's premier event, Cirque Blanc. She adds, "There might be an albino alligator coming. It's just going to be extravagant."
Cirque Blanc is one of three officially sanctioned female fiestas lined up for White Party Week (WPW), the annual fundraiser that culminates in a huge Vizcaya glamfest. Fifteen years ago the White Party was conceived by Miami's Health Crisis Network (now referred to as Care Resource, following a merged partnership with Community Research Initiative), local gay businessman Frank Wager, and a core of volunteers as a way to help finance the fight against AIDS.
Women's WPW has brought local promoters, such as León, Benard, Mary D, Julie Garrity, and Shescape's Alison Burgos, together as a community, creating a camaraderie that hasn't always existed on the Miami nightlife scene. Burgos, who is hosting Wednesday's Shadow Lounge spectacular featuring MTV-anointed DJ Tracy Young, says, "You see promoters in clubs really go after each other, and it's nice to be working together on a very positive, focused event and goal."
Traditionally women have represented a small fraction of WPW attendees. León believes the group's marketing contributions will bring ladies out of the woodwork this year, not only changing the face of the White Party, but also reflecting the changing face of today's AIDS crisis. According to Care Resource, over the past five years the focus has shifted to people under age 25, black women, and senior citizens. Further, Care Resource reports, "In Florida during the past year, more than twice as many women between the ages of sixteen and twenty were diagnosed with HIV than young men."
Lest you shun the new Women's WPW as a lesbian-separatist thang, León explains, "We want everyone to come. We're going all out for this, for the cause. It's about AIDS; it's not about being gay." Despite some last-minute sponsor-seeking, León promises Cirque Blanc will be a great party, including flashy sights by lightmaster Pete Diaz, awesome sounds by DJ Alex H, a substantial silent auction of Latin-American art, and a host of other treats. Just keep the mimes away from us, and we'll be happy. Exhibitionists take note: León says the whole circus will be preserved for Internet broadcast thanks to Soft Core Media.
Care Resource's development team has upped its expectations an even $100,000 over the formidable $625,000 raised by last year's WPW festivities. And though it may not be a march on Washington or an ACT UP demonstration, León insists the circus has a purpose: "Women are very involved. We have a lot of friends who have died or are dying. Women love to be involved in charities. This is a great opportunity."