P-Home: The rise and demise of a legendary homosexual resort

Marco Poneto

CO-WRITTEN BY SCOTTIE CAMPBELL

Orlando was a boomtown within the Sixties. All-American model, Tupperware, selected it as the house base for its world headquarters from which it bought its merchandise to over 100 nations all over the world, Lake Eola amphitheater was about to open in Lake Eola Park, Colonial Plaza had simply turn into one of many state’s first indoor buying malls, and I-4 had simply been completed. Enter stage left, Parliament Home, the fanciest resort venture Central Florida had ever seen which might someday turn into a hotbed for intercourse employees, drag queens, and folks (principally males) on the hunt for a superb time. 

Mid-century Orlando was a wierd mish-mash of native navy bases, cattle farms, and citrus groves; a stepping stone to the flashier cities to the south of Miami and Key West. Earlier than Disney World, the highest three vacationer sights in Central Florida had been Cypress Gardens, Bok Tower, and Silver Springs. Downtown Orlando was anchored by the Angebilt Lodge, the Beacham Theater, and a few family-run retail retailers. The Metropolis Stunning was quiet, quaint and, if the classic postcards on show on the Orange County Regional Historical past Middle are to be believed, stuffed with flowers and fruit bushes. 

Initially named the “City Home,” a brand new 120-room resort improvement attracted plenty of consideration when it was first being in-built 1961, on a 10-acre tract of land on the shores of Rock Lake on Orange Blossom Path, on the far fringe of Robinson Road heading west out of downtown Orlando. New York actual property investor, Jack P. Schleifer, who additionally bought the historic Metcalf Constructing downtown in 1958 for half 1,000,000 {dollars}, bought the motel property from native banker and orange grove farmer, John N. Huttig, for an unknown quantity, however on the time, chins had been wagging that it was an exorbitant quantity, and all eyes had been on OBT to see what he could be constructing.

The million-dollar Parliament Home motor inn was designed by architect Alan Berman and Hodes and Cummin and, on the time, was seen as a significant win for Orlando and the encompassing neighborhoods. On the time, it was the one motel inside metropolis limits to have a swimming pool, a cabana membership and placing greens, a lakefront seashore, an onsite restaurant, and a cocktail lounge and when it opened on January 15, 1962, there have been a whole lot of individuals lining as much as tour the property, based on stories by Orlando Night Star. 

Parliament Home was the primary in what was anticipated to be a nationwide chain of resorts alongside the strains of Vacation Inn however hit a mouse-shaped roadblock in 1971 when Walt Disney opened his theme parks exterior of metropolis limits. The parks utterly shifted vacationers out of downtown Orlando and over to Lake Buena Vista, the place a whole lot of latest resorts had been popping up quicker than grasping seagulls at a beachside picnic. 

The mayor on the time, Mayor Carl Langford, is quoted as saying, “There’s not a mayor on the planet who wouldn’t be delighted to have Disney World subsequent to his metropolis, even when it does convey just a few issues.” The issues he was speaking about included all the pieces from huge will increase in visitors to spiking actual property prices, and crime charges. 

Within the shadow of The Mouse, Orange Blossom Path quick turned an out-of-the-way periphery of the family-friendly vacationer hall, the place extra illicit actions may thrive. With the vacationers gone, hookers and streetwalkers took over the strip, the odor of orange blossoms was changed by the odor of automotive exhaust and low cost cologne, and Parliament Home slumped into disrepair, like a fats outdated man asleep in his recliner, lined in crumbs and remorse. But, miraculously, the resort was bought by Michael Hodge and Invoice Miller in 1975, rich queer traders who noticed potential in reworking the unhappy resort property into a superb new gay-geared venue. 

The property buy occurred just a few years after an rebellion at New York Metropolis’s Stonewall Inn, which is extensively thought of to be the beginning of the trendy homosexual rights motion. Hodge and Miller, who had opened Orlando’s first homosexual bar, The Palace Membership, in the identical yr because the riot, had already established themselves as figureheads within the native homosexual group, together with three different native bar operators: Jan Koren, Wally Wooden, and Sue Hannah – who had been affectionately (and doubtless unaffectionately relying on what dinner desk you had been at) known as “The Homosexual and Lesbian Gang.” Their second enterprise was a bar known as Diamond Head, which opened in 1972 on the second flooring of the Opera Home on Court docket Avenue, and the success of their ventures helped them transfer on to their largest venture but, turning the defunct Parliament Home homosexual. 

Below their stewardship, Parliament Home went from a bankrupt resort to a thriving homosexual resort and leisure hub, with a number of bars onsite and a disco room. The resort rooms went from internet hosting vacationing households within the ‘70s to closeted businessmen and folks searching for a superb, albeit fast, time. Regulars performed a recreation known as “Balcony Bingo” the place you could possibly peek from room to room searching for tips to fit your style in all ages, shade, and wage vary. 

There was nothing prefer it within the area and also you’d be compelled to drive all the way in which to Miami to discover a gay-owned resort with reside leisure and a number of leisure venues on website. Folks had been flocking to the Parliament Home to get away from the pressures of heteronormativity and have interaction in some sizzling consensual intercourse with out the worry of being came upon by a relative or coworker. It was like a Homosexual Narnia, made all of the extra entertaining because of its proximity to the Happiest Place within the World solely half-hour away.

Disco was utterly shifting how Individuals danced socially. On the time, most venues would require friends to enter with somebody of the other intercourse, and music compelled most individuals to bop as a pair. Disco let folks dance as people and skirt round native ordinances that might have prohibited two males or two girls from getting too shut on the dance flooring. Which, as you may think about, made Parliament Home all of the extra widespread with its homosexual patrons. 

Throughout its time, the resort drew expertise and guests from all over the world with big-name acts like Eartha Kitt, Charo, Cyndi Lauper, and Lil’ Kim, all gracing its levels alongside native and visiting drag queens. When Parliament Home celebrated its fortieth yr, native filmmaker David Bain of the GLBT Historical past Museum of Central Florida, launched a brief movie documentary in regards to the property, sharing behind-the-scenes tales from patrons, former workers, and native queer icons in regards to the impression of the house on the native scene, together with a narrative about Michael Hodge having to get bailed out of jail for spanking somebody on the underside within the restroom. 

“I keep in mind the primary drag present I noticed on the Parliament Home was, Rusty Fawcet, doing ‘Don’t It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue.’ In a type of massive rattan fan-back chairs…It was the ‘70s. I imply, folks in silky shirts and pocketless pants. And massive bell bottoms. A number of polyester. A number of enjoyable.”

– DOUG BAASER, 40 YEARS OF PARLIAMENT HOUSE

Native bon vivant, longtime Parliament Home customer, and generally worker, Doug Baaser, shared with us in a separate interview that there was a group of people that lived, partied, ate, and slept on the property and by no means left. Partly, as a result of they weren’t thought of “satisfactory” or “CIS-assumed” so that they felt extra snug staying on property the place they wouldn’t stick out or get hassled. 

The documentary exposes extra than simply the nice instances that had been had at Parliament Home, corresponding to how the membership helped to attach the homosexual group in Orlando within the ‘80s, and the way integral the institution was to holding that group collectively through the AIDS disaster, hurricanes, and modifications in possession.

Miller died in 1987 on the age of 53 because of problems from AIDS and Hodge adopted swimsuit 5 years later on the age of 42. Whereas Hodge died because of liver failure, he made no secret of being HIV+ himself within the time main as much as his loss of life.

A portion of his memorial, printed within the homosexual month-to-month newspaper of the time, Triangle, learn as follows:

“Mike was one of many best supporters of homosexual and lesbian life that Orlando has ever had. His support to teams like Hope and Assist, CENTAUR, Act-Out Theatre, and the entire different establishments is famous. And, he gave hope and encouragement continually to people who wanted assist, in addition to to the teams that all of us flip to for socializing, leisure, and most significantly, for medical help. He was all the time reaching into his deep pockets to assist folks, whether or not or not it’s to pay overdue lease or electrical payments or no matter.’”

Baaser shared how each Miller and Hodge would assist longtime bar patrons and group members with their medical payments proper up till they handed away.

“The turnaround was like 4 weeks between analysis and loss of life and people payments might be overwhelming,” mentioned Baaser. “There was a cloud over the constructing at the moment. A cloud over all the pieces. The music modified. Folks you had been used to seeing on the bar would disappear and also you’d ask the place they had been and also you’d discover out they’d simply died. However for essentially the most half, it was all the time a spot to collect and dance and be with your mates and never take into consideration AIDS or the folks you’d misplaced.”

Straight Canadian couple Don Granatstein and Susan Unger entered the image in 1999 from Las Vegas, the place that they had been concerned with the short-lived resort and timeshare venture led by Debbie Reynolds. They bought the property from the property of Michael Hodge whereas it was perched on the point of closing, with aspirations of including a neighboring timeshare improvement and the nation’s first homosexual retirement group, neither of which got here to fruition. 

For a time, Parliament Home flourished below the couple till 2010 once they confronted foreclosures and filed for Chapter 11 chapter in July 2014, when its stakeholders accredited a $14 million debt aid plan. 

Miami-based Lion Monetary, LLC. bought the property from the couple in February 2020, for simply $300,100 in a semi-closed public sale, as a part of an elaborate technique to preserve exterior traders from swooping in and kicking Granatstein and Unger to the curb once they discovered themselves in debt once more, this time for over $4 million. 

Granatstein had beforehand tried to promote the property for $16.5 million however did not seduce any patrons and was compelled into foreclosures on the finish of 2019, which is when Lion Monetary confirmed up with a deal he couldn’t refuse, specifically to assist with the debt and to lease the house again to him. At the moment, Granatstein instructed Orlando Sentinel that Lion Monetary would serve solely as a landlord and that Parliament Home “… wouldn’t be going wherever.” However that plan hit a snag.

Parliament Home workers had been knowledgeable of its pending closure at a shock assembly held on the morning of Tuesday, October 28, 2020, when Granatstein shared that he was taking a look at new venues in and round Church Road to maneuver the nightlife portion of the enterprise to, efficient instantly.

Lion Monetary is now transferring ahead with a plan to redevelop the property to accommodate a group of three new four-story, 306-unit condo complexes adjoining to Rock Lake, with a 2,000 SF ground-level retail or small cafe use, below the banner of “Lion Gardens Flats.” Parliament Home was demolished in November of 2020 to make method for the venture. There was no point out of any nod to its storied queer previous.

Granatstein has since introduced that he’s constructing out a brand new venue in downtown Orlando below the identical Parliament Home title and branding, however the jury continues to be out if the brand new house may have the identical impression as the unique. To some, it’s like tearing down a constructing as legendary because the Alamo and pondering you may recreate it elsewhere with the identical title. One other concern is security. The spot for the brand new venue is on the nook of Orange Avenue and Pine Road the place nightlife tends to be a tad virulent and unruly; a far cry from the seclusion Miller and Hodge’s resort supplied on Rock Lake.

“I’ve labored with the entire bars downtown for years. Once you have a look at Orange Avenue, it’s a very completely different beast by way of entry and security,” mentioned former membership proprietor Blue Star. “Security is a matter on Orange Avenue, and that’s not an opinion, that’s a truth. The Metropolis of Orlando is doing what they will…however we’re in an actual transition with bigger venues like Impartial Bar transferring out of downtown.”

Star, the previous operator of Haos on Church, an “LGBTQIA+ ahead venue” situated within the historic Church Road District in downtown Orlando, shared that whereas her venue is situated within the coronary heart of town, she’s benefitted from being situated off of Orange Avenue, the principle thoroughfare of downtown. She says establishing Haos as a protected house was on the core of our enterprise and it ought to all the time be thought of when opening a queer house.

“You gained’t be seeing anybody enjoying Balcony Bingo downtown,” asserts Star. “You may’t have the expectations that it’s going to be the identical factor. They’ll must reinvent themselves and adapt.”

Haos’ close by neighbor Hamburger Mary’s is an instance of such adaptation. The LGBTQ+ restaurant has been in operation for roughly 13 years on Church Road and made a reputation for itself by being family-friendly, even curating its drag performers and weekly recreation nights so it may catch visitors from followers strolling to the Amway Middle simply up the road on their strategy to hockey matches and Orlando Magic video games.

The demand for queer areas has dropped dramatically over time since Stonewall because the LGBTQ+ group is greeted with larger acceptance throughout the nation. Bars and golf equipment used to function incubators for radical protests that had been the constructing blocks for political motion for equal rights. When police raided homosexual bars within the Nineteen Fifties and Sixties, they compelled particular person patrons right into a unified resistance.  Whereas queer folks nonetheless discover themselves battling towards political opportunists and homophobic insurance policies, bars and golf equipment play much less of a job within the wrestle. The ’90s discovered LGBTQ+ venues like Parliament Home which as soon as served as harbors through the thick of the AIDS disaster turn into the informal place to observe the newest innocuous episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race or a whacky spot to host a bridal bathe.

These venues have slowly turn into out of date as hookup spots as properly. Homosexual golf equipment have been closing in rising numbers up to now decade and social apps like Grindr and Scruff enable queer – and closeted – folks to work together with one another always of the day whether or not at residence or in the course of a board assembly. 

To ensure that queer-focused venues to proceed into the long run, even these with worldwide renown like Parliament Home, they nonetheless have to safe an area the place their friends can really feel protected to collect, be themselves, and specific themselves. And historically, that hasn’t been one thing that takes place within the coronary heart of a enterprise district. However right here’s hoping we’re fallacious.

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