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Hotspots Exclusive Interview

Parliament House, Orlando’s largest LGBT nightlife complex, was originally a motor inn serving travelers and vacationers. In 1975, the complex became a gay mecca of sorts not just for Orlando’s community, but for people from around the world. Michael Hodge and Bill Miller bought the resort and turned it into the place we all know and love today. Don Granatstein and his wife Susan Unger saved the iconic resort from the brink of closure in the summer of 1999, and in the past sixteen years they’ve owned Parliament House, it has hosted some of Orlando’s largest gay parties, with live entertainment flying in from all over the country and the world to Phouse-40_copy2mingle with the resort’s loyal clientele.

This year, Parliament House celebrates their 40th anniversary as a gay resort, and there are lots of fun events in store. On Saturday, July 18, Parliament House will host their annual South Beach Invasion night, featuring performances by well-known South Florida queens TP Lords, Erika Norell, Champagne Bordeaux and Shanaya Bright. Some of the hottest dancers from Boardwalk Bar in Fort Lauderdale will also be there to get everyone in a great mood.

On Monday, July 20, the long-awaited Footlight Players reunion show will finally take place, featuring over 30 past and present Footlight Players who have graced the Footlight Theatre’s stage over the past four decades. The show begins at 9 p.m. and tickets cost $25. You can buy them online at parliamenthouse.com (only a limited quantity are available).

On Friday, July 24, Parliament House hosts their 40th anniversary homecoming night. All rooms in the motor inn are $40 for the night, cover will cost only 40 cents, and there will be 40 fabulous prizes to be given away. Proceeds from the homecoming party will benefit the Hope & Phouse-40_copy1Help Center of Central Florida. There will be a screening of the GLBT History Museum documentary “40 Years of Parliament House” at 9 p.m., followed by two Footlight Players shows at 10 p.m. and midnight. Carmella Marcella Garcia and Kandy Ho will be the Footlight Players’ special guests for the evening.

Saturday, July 25 begins with a special one-time-only performance of the popular play Little Miss Parliament House, written by Jeff Jones and starring Douglas White, Doug Ba’aser, Addison Taylor, Carol Lee and Divine Grace. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. in the Footlight Theatre. Tickets are $10 if purchased in advance and $15 at the door. Go to littlemissparliamenthouse.com for advance ticket purchases. Finally, Canadian recording artist Deborah Cox will be the headlining performer for the 40th anniversary celebrations, which will go on throughout the evening. She will sing some of her greatest hits, such as “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here,” “Absolutely Not,” and “Beautiful U R.” There will also be two Footlight Players shows, one at 10 p.m. and one at midnight. Cover is $10.

I talked to owner Don Granatstein about the history of Parliament House and why people love this resort 40 years on in this exclusive Hotspots interview.

How does it feel knowing that Phouse-40_copy3Parliament House has made an impact on Orlando’s gay community for 40 years?

When I realized what things were like for the community back in 1975, I then knew how brave Michael Hodge and Bill Miller had been to open the largest gay resort.  It served as a safe haven for so many. I give thanks to the two of them for giving us all the Parliament House and for letting us be a part of it.

Gay Days this year was absolutely wonderful. Were you impressed with this year’s turnout?

It was a great Gay Days. The acts were all thrilled with being here.

Phouse-40_copy4Last year you told us you really wanted to reunite a lot of the Footlight Players for a big show. How easy was it to get people to return?

Everyone wanted to be part of this momentous occasion.

Deborah Cox will be performing, and she’s been at Parliament House a few times. What do you like most about Deborah’s performances?

She’s a perfect dance diva and she’s timeless. I’ve appreciated her loyalty for 20 years.cently Parliament House added Sonique, from RuPaul’s Drag Race, to the Footlight Players lineup. How impressed are you with Sonique’s performances and work ethic?

She takes the energy of the show to another level. We love her and Sonique has completed our cast.

Out of all the events you’ve put on since you’ve owned the resort, which one was your favorite?Phouse-40_copy5

My favorite was the big event in 2000, when the late Miss P was brought in to the complex by helicopter.

Now that you’ve reunited dozens of the Footlight Players, which entertainment acts would you like to bring to Parliament House who have never been here before?

I definitely would like to have Adam Lambert, Missy Elliott and Culture Club. 

Can you give us a few hints as to what to expect from Parliament House this next year?

We will undergo a complete renovation, and maybe there will be something very exciting happening next door on The Gardens property.

Parliament House is located at 410 N. Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando. For more information on Parliament House, visit parliamenthouse.com. “Like” Parliament House on Facebook at facebook.com/ParliamentHouseOrlando and follow them on Twitter @PHouseOrlando.

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Mike Halterman
Mike Halterman has been the editor of Hotspots Central since its launch in July 2016. He joined the Hotspots Media Group family as editor of Hotspots' South Florida magazine in June 2013. A former "40 Under 40" honoree in The Advocate magazine, Mike lives in the Tampa Bay area.