Here are SFGN's "Best of 2019" winners in thePeople category in Broward County.
Local Celebrity & Muscian
The sight of Tommy Lee swaying in his seat, drinking a martini, and singing along to Broadway is common when Jennifer McClain, this years Best ‘Local Celebrity & Musician’ is the host.
McClain for the 5th year in a row wins Best Musician. This year she also was honored by also being voted in as our Best Local Celebrity.
If you talk to anyone who is anyone within the South Florida Gay community everyone seems to count Jennifer as their friend, meanwhile she herself counts all of the south Florida LGBT community as her extended family.
McClain has been singing professionally for more than 20 years and has performed everywhere from curse ships to Fire Island and does not see any end in sight.
Her shows are up-beat, and full of every show tune new and old that make you just want to sing-a-long.
She does have a busy schedule but does perform locally. McClain has nights at Georgie’s Alibi, Tropics and Roosters.
Local TV Personality
The anchorman for WSVN, Craig Stevens, is a longtime South Florida newsman.
“Very professional, very polished,” said one Miami Beach gay activist. “He’s been the AIDS Walk Master of Ceremonies before…has definitely paid his dues.”
In his careerStevens, has covered an array remarkable events, notably the 1995bombingof a federal building in downtown Oklahoma City, Okla. -- to this day the largest act of homegrown terrorism. He was on hand in Havana, Cuba as the Obama administration raised Old Glory for the first time since 1961 and has reported on Papal visits, the Versace murder and the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
He’s had fun too – leading Pride parades, AIDS walks and hosting fundraisers for the Harvey Milk Foundation and Pride Center.
At WSVN, a Fox affiliate, Stevens co-anchors the nightly news. He also teaches in an adjunct role for the University of Miami in Coral Gables.
Stevens grew up in Massachusetts and graduated from American University in Washington, D.C. He started his journalism career in the mail room at NBC News and soon found himself working the assignment desk during the 1988 Presidential election.
A bachelor, Stevens, 50, lives in Miami with his loyal pooch Parker.
Local Politician & Local LGBT Activist & Attorney
He must be doing something right.
For the second straight year, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis has been voted “Best Local Politician” by SFGN readers. This year he’s also been voted Best Activist and Best Attorney.
Trantalis has proved in short order to be deft on the issues that matter to Fort Lauderdale residents. He is notably, but not annoyingly, visible and accessible – and constituents find him very relatable.
The ridiculously youthful 66-year-old is intimately involved with matters that affect the LGBT community.
He was the first openly gay Fort Lauderdale city commissioner in 2003 and his landslide mayoral election in 2018 made him the first openly gay Fort Lauderdale mayor.
Trantalis immediately began work on infrastructure issues, and expertly handled communications regarding the crippling Fort Lauderdale water main break last summer.
He’s also tackled the complex issues of development and homelessness and others that emerged, like how the city should handle the arrival of scooters to sidewalks and streets.
And he manages to be a nice guy through it all.
But he’s not just a politician, he’s also a noted local attorney as well.
If you’ve ever been to Wilton Manors, you’ve likely seen the towering neon red letters: “Trantalis & Assoc.” at 2301 Wilton Drive.
Law and politics have been intertwined for much of his life – starting with a political science degree at Boston University in 1975 and a law degree from Stetson University College of Law in Deland in 1979.
Trantalis has practiced law in Broward County since 1982.
Being a lawyer has helped him become an activist for the LGBT community as well.
A taste of the issues he’s worked on include Broward’s efforts to pass a human rights ordinance; defeating a petition drive to enact a law that would have prevented enacting gay rights laws; and the defeat of a petition drive to overturn Broward’s human rights ordinance.
Trantalis also helped lead efforts toward same-sex marriages in Florida and the passage of Broward’s domestic partnership law.
Today, his firm primarily tackles real estate, wills and trusts, probating estates, bankruptcy, business brokering and landlord/tenant relationships.
Dick’s Service Station
3528 NE 12th Ave.
While Darren may have won the award for Best Hairstylist he considers himself a “Hairlusionist.”
“I take what you have and make it look its best,” he said on his webpage. He added to SFGN, “I work really hard at listening to what the customer’s wants are and executing it.”
Darren has been its Dick’s since the business started in 2016.
“Darren is a great guy. We consulted with him on the business from the very beginning,”said Christian Santiago, co-owner of Dick’s. “He always goes above and beyond. He has a very strong loyal following of customers. He goes the extra mile inside and outside the shop with various charity events.”
For Darren it’s not all about the hair though — it’s about community.
“The whole intention for us is just pay it forward it,” he said. He points to one program of theirs called the Heaven Cent program. Their prices are set at the .99 cent level so they can collect pennies each quarter and donate the proceeds to a different charity such as the Pet Project, Humane Society and Poverello. Dick’s then matches the donation.
Santiago said Darren is true joy to work with.
“He is, in a very good way, the center of attention,” Santiago said. “He really makes the shop a pleasure for all of the crew pit members and customers. He just has a very fun personality.”
It’s clear Darren loves his job.
“I’m just the luckiest guy in town,” he said. “I can’t say that enough.”
As for his win this year?
“I’ve been on the list every year so I felt like Susan Lucci,” Darren said chuckling.
Richie Rich won in the best local DJ category. Rich deejays for several local bars. Their packed dance floors, and parking lots testify to his skills. He has worked as a deejay since the late 70s.
A good deejay knows how to read a dance floor to understand its mood and beat. They know what to put on next to take that mood and beat to the next level. They have to do this in a matter of minutes. It’s a unique skill set. A good deejay like Richie Rich learns how to “connect with crowd and please them with the music they like to dance to.”
Rich finds his biggest challenge in “trying to please everyone as people have different tastes." Rich, however, loves a challenge.
Some of his fans travel long distances to hear Richie Rich deejay. Rich knows his fans are loyal and he gives back with his skill in the deejay booth.
DrYnk bartender Frank Ciliberti has won for the first time in this category.
This isn’t a side gig; he considers bartending his true craft, with 32 years of experience under his belt.
Ciliberti credits much of his success at DrYnk to the fresh ingredients and wide variety of spirits and liquors that are available at his fingertips.
But to understand why he was tops in the very competitive category, let’s go to the social media comments. (There are lots of exclamation points).
“Frank made my birthday extra special when one of my friends took me out for an afternoon celebration. He is always ‘on’ and when we ask for a suggestion for a new drink, he always has one on hand. His personality and drink-making abilities makes him a great bartender!”
“Frank is beyond compare! Serving up the best in cocktails, banter and sarcasm ... Absolute perfection!”
“Frank was amazing. This guy has a great personality, energetic as can be and makes a mean ass cocktail.”
Brooke F. was hired by the Alibi as a bartender in 2011 and currently works happy hours at the Alibi’s patio bar.
Brooke says her “everyday mission is to prepare beverages for our bar patrons, while interacting with the customers, taking their orders, and serving them their requested drinks. My top priority is to assess and remember our patron’s needs and preferences so that they feel welcomed, appreciated, and special, all at the same time. To me, bartending at the Alibi doesn’t feel like a job because, for the most part, I feel as though I am serving my friends and family.”
Folks who remember the Alibi from the old days will be surprised to see a woman tending bar at the Alibi, traditionally a “men’s bar.” Brooke does not see it that way. “The Alibi welcomes everybody: gay, straight, bisexual, trans, drag queens, etc.”
To our Ms. Brooke, working as a woman at the Alibi “is AMAZING because they let me be me behind the bar, which is very rare to come by.”
To Alibi regulars, Brooke F. is a friend, not just a bartender. In the words of Alibi regular Juan, “I only come here for that girl (Brooke). Every time I see her I get a smile.”
To Bobby Pavlick, “Brooke is the Alibi’s Cocktail-Mixologist Supreme. You never wait long for a cocktail, great conversation and of course her fabulous hair. She’s the Queen of the Alibi Monkey Bar Patio Bar. Name your drink and she will make it with a smile.”
Charlie De La Cruz (Charlie D.), who serves dinners on the patio at the Alibi, is a quiet, modest person and possibly the best server that you will ever meet.
Part of the wait staff at the Alibi since 2007, Charlie describes the job as “60 percent job description (to serve meals and beverage) and the other 40 percent as the guest connection: to let the guests forget about their day for an hour and enjoy the food, music and laughs at the Alibi-Monkey Bar.”
Though grateful for the honor, Charlie is quick to acknowledge “my management team, supervisors and bar owners who keep all of our team motivated.
Among Charlie’s talents is knowing what each guest wants and needs. If you are a regular, Charlie knows how you want your burger cooked and what brand of beer you drink.
Charlie’s guests know and appreciate this.
To Ron Farago, “Charlie is the best waiter because he knows that I am a Chocoholic who loves his chocolate cake, with fudge frosting.” To Bobby Pavlick, “it’s a pleasure dining with Charlie at the Alibi Monkey Bar. He always remembers your drink or the way you like your food ordered. Charlie’s service is always with a smile and Charlie will go out of the way to make everyone feel at home. The Alibi Monkey Bar with Charlie is like a home away from home!”
Josie Smith-Malave @ Bubbles
Bubbles & Pearls
2037 Wilton Dr.
Hunters conquered the nightlife scene again.
Hunter’s is a five-time champion in the “Best Bar” category. This year, the Fort Lauderdale nightclub took four awards: Best Bar, Best Karaoke, Best Theme Night and Best Business Owner.
“Hunters Wilton Manors was voted best bar because we have the best customers in the world,” said co-owner Mark Hunter. “If it weren’t for them we wouldn’t be Hunters Wilton Manors. Also, we have an amazing team at Hunters Wilton Manors and as the saying goes……it takes a village. I want to recognize my co-owner Patrick Volkert, our general manager Bruce Howe and our manager support team of Randy D’Agostino, Natasha Ribas and Kurtis Solomon. I also have to mention our stellar bar staff members. They are kind, efficient, friendly and are all great people. Electrum Branding is our new media company and they have been doing a great job in getting the word out. Thanks to all!”
Mark, an accomplished ballroom dancer, and Patrick, a systems engineer, were a couple for many years, owning nightclubs in Chicago and California. Now just business partners, the men bought Hunters in 2013, ordered a complete renovation and built its street cred by helping local non-profits and sponsoring recreational teams.
Mark travels back and forth from his Palm Springs club regularly. Hunter’s Palm Springs, located in the southern California desert, is highly regarded as well. SFGN readers also voted Mark as Best Business Owner in Broward County. The recognition comes as the nightclub installed new signage at its Fort Lauderdale location.
Mark has been in the bar business for 37 years. This year Hunter’s was the presenting sponsor of the Wicked Manors Halloween block party.
“There is no doubt that we should be supporting the community,” Mark told SFGN publisher Norm Kent on the Oct. 30 episode of The Norm Kent Show.
Mark said gay bars today are becoming more and more diverse and open to more lifestyles. What was once predominantly male occupied spaces has evolved in a gender fluid realm. Although there are many options for LGBT nightlife experiences in south Florida – particularly on Wilton Drive – Mark views the market as stable.
“I don’t look at the other businesses as competitors, I look at them as compliments,” Mark said. “The bigger the pie, the bigger the piece. The more thriving businesses that we have on Wilton Drive the healthier the business atmosphere will be.”
Hunter’s karaoke operation takes place on Monday and Tuesday nights. Sunday’s Tea Dance won for Best Theme Night. It’s a big night with DJ Richie Rich running sound. The dance floor section of the club has it all. Lights, fog, dancers, a big screen projector and music help to get your feet shuffling. Climb the stairs to get a glimpse of those sweaty dancers from Sal’s Starlight Lounge. The lounge is named after the late Studio 54 bartender Sal DeFalco, who helped Hunters open. A visit to the lounge during high tea is one way to fulfill Hunters’ promise of “Spirits Elevated.”
Debbie Wasserman Schultz
A longtime supporter of LGBT rights, Wasserman Schultz was first elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2004. She currently represents U.S. congressional district 23 (Broward & Miami-Dade) in Washington, D.C.
“I am deeply humbled to receive this award, which means so much to me as an ally,” Wasserman Schultz said in a prepared statement. “While I’m encouraged that our nation has made tremendous progress with LGBT rights in recent years, the Trump administration and many state legislatures have made attacking LGBT folks – and especially transgender folks – one of their priorities.”
She continued: “The LGBT community continues to face everyday violence and discrimination that no American should ever face,” Wasserman Schultz continued. “That is why we need to pass legislation like the Equality Act now. I am proud to stand at your side in this fight to make the United States a more just and equal nation, and I will never waver when it comes to defending LGBT rights wherever they are threatened.”
Born in New York, Wasserman Schultz is a University of Florida graduate and married mother of three. In addition to her support for LGBT rights, Wasserman Schultz, 53, is an active member of the National Jewish Democratic Council and Planned Parenthood.
Misty Eyez works as an educator and case manager at SunServe. What started as a part-time role has blossomed into a full-time professional passion. Misty’s responsibilities and aspirations continue to grow.
“We're doing more trainings with police officers and medical establishment students,” she said. “Knowledge is power and we're sharing as much knowledge as we can with as many people. Our department is growing as well. We just hired two new case managers. I'm super excited just to see the potential that our department has and we're already brainstorming and expanding our minds to see the new and outrageous things that we can do.”
Misty is going back to school and hopes to earn her master’s degree in social work on her way to one day becoming a licensed clinical social worker.
“I just love what I'm doing so much,” she said.
What she’s doing is assisting trans people in many different ways. “It’s client-led wrap around case management,” she explained. “If you come in here and tells us you need help with something, we’re going to help you with it.”
2215 Wilton Dr,
Claudia Castillo won in the Best Artist category. Her studio, the “Castillo Art Studio,” won In the Best Art Gallery categories. She said she likes “being an artist and enjoys meeting and welcoming people to my studio in Wilton Manors.” Her art boutique welcomes everyone. Once there, they can browse its selection of artwork, gifts, and jewelry.
Castillo finds sharing her art to be very rewarding. She appreciates it when people connect with the emotions that inspired her art. Her customers give her love, warmth, and energy. When people place her art in their homes and businesses, she feels honored. Her biggest regret is lacking the time to “explore, develop, and paint” all that inspires her.
On her website, she describes her process as being emotionally inspired by nature. She depicted the outcome as “instinctive and spontaneous: simply colors and forms.” Her art includes bracelets, paintings, and sculptures. In a YouTube video, she portrayed her art as expressionist, emotional, and spontaneous. She “tries to bring joy and happiness to this world.”
For Daisy Deadpetals is good to be the queen. 2019 marks her fifth consecutive win in the Best Drag Queen category.
Success has not gone to her head. She’s as sweet and humble as ever.
“I’m so grateful for this honor,” she said. “It’s so wonderful to hear.”
Thanks to her wardrobe, attitude, and hilarity that is equally intelligent and silly, Daisy Deadpetals is the picture of drag queenly perfection. Blondes may have more fun, but audience members watching Daisy have the most fun.
Daisy’s done every look and done them well. (Madonna is a favorite!) And let’s face it, she looks great in just about everything and the highest of heels don’t get in the way of her dance moves.
Daisy knows how to work a crowd, and her staying power is a testament to all of her skills. When she’s not performing, Daisy stays busy writing. Her day job is working as a writer for Helix Studios and 8teenboy.
You can catch Daisy Deadpetals entertaining performances at The Manor of Fridays, Lips on Saturdays, Camelot in West Palm Beach on Sundays, and once a month at The Pub for Show Girls.
Roberto Nocifora knows how to touch a man. That’s probably why he won this year’s award for Best Massage Therapist.
“l really do love what I do for work, and it shows in my touch. Energy is everything,” Roberto explained. “On my own I do a range of modalities. I custom massages to a client’s needs.”
Roberto specializes in everything from deep tissue and body scrubs to a light Swedish massage.
Roberto works at the Grand Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale. This year the resort was nominated for Best Guesthouse and Best Spa.
He’s been in the massage business for over 20 years and his clients range in age from 21 to 104.
Daniel @ Storks
Stork's Bakery & Coffee House
2505 NE 15th Ave.
Daniel at Storks won in the Best Barista category. Daniel credits his success to developing relationships with his customers. His success involves both knowing both the business and his customers.
He stressed listening to the customer to learn what they want. That way, he can provide them with the best possible service.
Daniel said “It’s about patience, listening, and understanding.” It will make the customer happy and the business grow. Daniel feels that when dealing with people, everything is about relating to each other.
When customers have special needs, it can present a challenge. Daniel works with the them to come up with something not on the standard menu.
Daniel likes it when customers are direct and “tell him what they like.” He also likes it when they show gratitude. He likes it when, as a customer is leaving, they say “Daniel, thank you, The sandwich was great.”
It doesn’t always involve money.
Jimmy Cunningham @Remax
Realtors are a special bunch – they memorize square footage, lot size, closing costs, amortization … you get the idea. Oh, and they are basically available to their clients seven days a week.
So we salute Jimmy Cunningham of RE/MAX Experience in Wilton Manors for taking top billing in the category this year. He’s won before, which makes it even more remarkable.
He’s a ridiculously nice guy, too.
“I have always believed in giving back to the community that I love and that has been so supportive,” Cunningham said. “To that end, my partner and I contribute and participate in over 10 local charities and community organizations and regularly support, advertise and support those causes.”
Those groups include the Pride Center, Equality Florida, Island City Stage, Latinos Salud, Gay Men's Chorus of South Florida, Lambda Legal and the Pet Project.
“I believe the top level of achievement is giving,” he said.
Check out all of SFGN's 2019 Best Of's @
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