Miami Drag Show Brunch calls out BS on DeSantis ‘political drama’

MIAMI — Every table at one of Miami’s most popular weekend brunches was taken Saturday morning as a mix of LGBTQ regulars and out-of-town straight women celebrating bachelor parties of girl showed up before the main event. Crowds at R House Wynwood, a restaurant known for hosting raucous drag shows featuring some of the city’s longtime transgender artists, showed up in droves just days after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has publicly declared war on the restaurant, claiming it poses a “disturbing” problem. threat to children.

Saturday brunch attendees were unfazed by his complaints: They gulped down bottomless mimosas, mojitos and deliciously potent cocktails with names like “La Reina,” while munching on sliders, boneless fried chicken , croissant sandwiches and quinoa salad.

Tiffany Fantasia, the statuesque host of R House’s weekend drag brunch festivities who’s been performing in drag for more than 15 years, emerged from the bar in a sequined zebra-print ensemble as RuPaul’s “Cover Girl” sounded through the audio system.

“Welcome to the R house!!!” Tiffany shouted into a microphone. “Make noise!!!!” She explained the house rules, which include clearing a path for drag performers while they dance around the tables and keeping alcohol quiet.

“Whatever you do, don’t lose the white girl,” Tiffany warned.

Kenny Villalet, a 40-year-old Miamian, her husband and their 3-year-old twin daughters were among the first customers to line up for a table for the drag brunch which DeSantis says is an attempt to ‘sexualize’ children . For him, coming to R House on Saturdays has become a normal family outing, and there’s nothing sexual about it. “It’s amazing,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with bringing kids to a drag show. They are people who have fun and enjoy the company of friends.

Kenny Villalet, her husband and their 3-year-old twin daughters attended Saturday’s drag brunch at R House Wynwood in Miami.

Francisco Alvarado

DeSantis, who is all for parental rights when it comes to not forcing children to wear masks in schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19, is on a mission to strip fathers like Villalet of their rights.

At a press conference earlier this week, DeSantis filed a lawsuit with the state Department of Business and Occupational Regulation against R House for allowing children to attend the restaurant’s drag shows, claiming that they were subjected to “lewd behavior”.

R House is just the latest target in DeSantis’ culture war against the LGBTQ community, especially transgender people, thanks to LibsofTikTok, a social media account that regularly posts photos and videos of LGBTQ+ people and events. to arouse outrage among the far right. The governor’s complaint came shortly after LibsofTikTok shared a clip of an R House performer wearing nothing but a thong stuffed with dollar bills and pasties on her breasts holding hands with a petite girl. girl at an evening drag show.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, DeSantis said the presence of children at drag shows was not in accordance with Florida state law and called it “a disturbing trend in our society to try to sexualize these young people.”

DeSantis argued with reporters and state Democrats over the Republican-led Legislature’s Parental Rights in Education Act, or the “don’t say gaylaw as critics have dubbed it. The law prohibits public school teachers from discussing topics involving sexual orientation and gender identity with students in kindergarten through third grade. Earlier this week, the Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr.who was appointed by DeSantis, called on school districts statewide to ignore recent Biden administration guidance expanding Title IX protections for transgender students or risk violating state law.

In his lawsuit against R House, DeSantis noted the drag performer’s attire claiming the restaurant violated state laws for disorderly conduct and prohibits operating a business for obscene purposes. He also cited a 1947 state Supreme Court ruling that “men impersonating women” in a “suggestive and indecent” manner constitutes a public nuisance.

R House has 21 days to respond to DeSantis’ complaint after the state business regulatory agency threatened to revoke the restaurant’s liquor license for corrupting ‘public morals’, according to WPLG. The restaurant called the whole controversy a “misunderstanding” in a statement earlier this week.

Tom Connors, a 45-year-old part-time Miami Beach resident at R House Saturday Brunch, said he was offended by the governor’s comments. If DeSantis is really concerned about exposing children to restaurant workers wearing sexually suggestive outfits, he said, he should go after chains like Hooters, based in Clearwater, Fla., where waitresses must wearing skimpy tube tops and revealing shorts as uniforms.

“They haven’t done anything like Hooters, where you can take pictures of little boys with scantily clad women,” Connors said. “Drag is an art form and it’s good to expose kids to the art. And ultimately, it’s up to the parents to make those decisions, not state officials. It is only the parents’ rights when it suits their needs.

Meanwhile, R House spokesperson Larry Carrino told the Sentinel of the Sun said the drag shows would continue and “there are no plans to change operations”.

During the Saturday brunch, the party definitely raged. Tiffany Fantasia featured a quartet of drag queens who shimmered and lip-synced to songs by Whitney Houston, Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira and Aretha Franklin. The audience roared in approval every time the performers did cartwheels and splits.

The performers mostly wore dazzling outfits that didn’t reveal too much skin, except for one queen who ripped off her costume and finished her ensemble in a beige one-piece bodysuit with a thong.

A waiter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because management had issued a no-media order, said R House didn’t deserve to be caught in the middle of DeSantis’ culture war. “We have no control over parents who bring their children here,” he said. “We have gays and straights working here. We are a family. For us, the possibility of losing our jobs because of political drama is not fair.

Villalet, the twins’ father, said drag shows are a mainstay of Miami’s entertainment scene. “To be honest, the governor’s complaint is a lot of BS,” he said. “It feels like we’re back in the 1800s as we live in the 21st century.”

Being an LGBTQ person in Florida is scary right now, Villalet added. “With the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, it’s like everything is against us,” he said. “We don’t know what else is going to happen.”