Reprinted from Blue Boy Magazine, June 2000
Orlando, Featuring The All-New Parliament House
There’s Disney, EPCOT, MGM, Warner Bros. And FAIRYLAND! It’s all part of Gay Friendly Orlando.
When you really think about it, why wouldn’t Orlando be a very gay city? After all, gays are the creative geniuses behind almost every “Fantasyland” ever created…including Broadway, movies, the ballet, theater, painting, fashion, acting…you name it.
We’re sure you’re aware that the Disney organization recently passed their own version of gay rights legislation, announcing that they would extend all insurance, employee medical and housing benefits to domestic couples (meaning gays). The firestorm from the religious right was pretty fierce, but Disney stuck by their guns. And why? Well, we suspect, aside from the humanitarianism, that is because if all the gays who worked for Disney were to walk off their jobs, the entire organization would fold.
And then there’s the question about Walt Disney himself…the “bachelor” genius who never married…
But, we divert ourselves from the purpose of this article and that is to introduce you to GAY ORLANDO!
To those in the know, Orlando Florida has long been a gay vacation destination. This is due primarily to the founding of the legendary Parliament House Resort over 25 years ago when a couple of gay brothers purchased a financially troubled straight resort on the fringe of Orlando’s “hood,” and turned it into one of the wildest all-gay resorts in the country. The Parliament House was, and still is, a unique gay enclave. Situated in a decidedly “dicey” area on Orange Blossom Trail near downtown Orlando, the large, motel-like complex was perfectly suited for sun, fun and sex. The sun would be had by the shores of a small lake, part of the property, or by the spacious outdoor pool in the inner courtyard of the U-shaped complex. The fun was in the form of the three bars, a full theater (long the headquarters of Florida’s drag queen performers), a disco and a restaurant. And, as to the sex…well, this is where the Parliament House really excelled. It was totally hedonistic. The two story complex has running walkways on both the inside and outside of the building, ideal for strolling and glancing into the rooms, each having wall-to-wall, floor to ceiling windows. The guests could loll on their beds or sit at the window and cruise back, inviting those who they found appealing into the room for, well, whatever. And this went on from down till dawn, leaving the guests and the gays who visited there for the sun, fun and sex, exhausted after a couple of day of non-stop orgy-ing.
You can imagine, after 25 years of benign neglect (the brothers died about ten years ago, both of AIDS and a straight brother inherited the place) what the place looked like. It was falling apart…peeling plaster, filthy carpets, neglected plumbing, tattered draperies…and still the place was packed every weekend. It was still the most popular gay resort around, with drag queens performing all weekend in the tattered theater, mediocre food served lackadaisically by tired waiters, and hustlers and other sex-seekers prowling the corridors. The tired old Parliament House, through, had finally reached about the end of the road by 1999.
And, then, a miracle happened! After years of being on the market, the Parliament House was purchased by developer and entrepreneur Donald Granatstein in partnership with the Parliament Partners and they immediately began making plans for some revolutionary changes.
The rumors flew! The old “P” house was about to become a straight resort. The place was going to be torn down and a new straight resort built, all of the sexual activity was going to be stopped! And on and on.
“Nonsense,” says Mr. Granatstein who, with his wife Susan Unger has already wrought miracles with the place. “We intend not only to keep the Parliament House gay, but we plan to make it one of the most luxurious and desirable gay resorts in the country.” They also plan to tear down the 10-acre trailer court at the north of the resort and build over 200 time share units, for gays. And, they intend to keep costs (and room rates) as low as possible. As for the sexual activity? “Well,” Donald tells us, “we are going to try to make it more safe for cruising and get the blatant nudity and sexual activity off the balconies, but that’s it. We want a safe atmosphere for everyone.”
In a mere few weeks before a huge New Year’s Millennium Bash, Susan Unger, the driving force behind the renovations, has the inner courtyard closed to traffic and turned into a a true courtyard with gardens, trees, chairs and umbrellas; the theater was completely remodeled into a “Las Vegas” type supper club, the bars were refurbished, the restaurant refurbished and a total renovation of all the guest rooms begun.
The New Years Eve bash was incredible, with the legendary drag queen Miss P, dressed as a aged and overly made-up Peter Pan, descending into the courtyard form a helicopter where she proceeded to emcee a non-stop show for the hundreds of celebrants. Aside from a few rearranged coiffeurs from the helicopter blades, it was all wonderful fun.
And, what of the rest of Orlando? Is The Parliament House “it?” Not on your life, although many people check into the P House and never see a need to leave. Orlando is decidedly gay friendly (witness the fact that the city flew the gay flag throughout the entire city during the gay pride week last year -and the religious right screamed again). There are bars galore, so plan your next vacation at Orlando Florida. There’s a lot more here to enjoy than Mickey and Goofy and the gang!