The Mix hosted a benefit for Haiti on February 20, hosted by the ever smiling Rayda Menendez and her brother Freddy “The Karaoke Guy” Torres.
“We got off to a late start, but it seems everyone is arriving later anyway,” Menendez told me energetically before introducing me to her mother, brother, and cousins. Food was donated by Rosie’s Bar & Grill, Humpy’s Pizza, and – keeping things a la famiglia – Rayda’s friend Gloria.
“Eat something,” she implored, “sit at our VIP table while I get you a drink.” Of course I complied.
Her energy was boundless! A few minutes later she took to the stage herself and performed a Salsa duet. Having not heard much Latin music since leaving Miami it was a welcome diversion. Estoy encantado!
Robert Joshua personally handed Menendez a check for $1,000.00. His impetus behind the donation was simple. “I saw her ad in SFGN, called her, learned of her emotions. They matched mine exactly. In terms of donations Rayda was getting the odd $25.00 donation. So – despite these tough times – I found the money. I have been so blessed that I had to give back.”
The event felt more like a family party, than a benefit. Grace McDonald, of Victoria Park, manager of The Mix, was so affable I sat down with her.
“I think Rayda has done just an incredible job of bringing together some very diverse entertainment. That’s exactly what The Mix is about,” she said. “I am so pleased to see this community come together. It’s just wonderful that the money is going to the Red Cross. They were there first,” said McDonald, “and they will be there longest.”
In terms of entertainment since my arrival here I haven’t seen anything so well rounded. There was a hip-hop dance troupe made up of fifteen teenagers, a young Cuban-American songstress named Melanie, and the incomparable Jackye Goldner of Miami. Her rendition of “Il Dulce Suono,” the very difficult mad scene from Lucia di Lammermoor was met with equally mad applause.
Royalty was present too, in the personage of Kennedy Davenport, mistress of the Voodoo Lounge and Miss Gay Black USA for a few more days. “Rayda Menendez contacted me two months ago about this. I’m very excited and always willing to donate time to a good cause,” she said.
It was also a time to let Freddy “The Karaoke Guy” Torres’ amateur crooners take the stage. Peter Orlando is one of his karaoke regulars, but he’s not quite an amateur. The Orlando native used to play guitar with performer Jennifer McClain. “I was also on Talent Quest,” he said, “it’s like American Idol except it’s not televised. I made the top 10.”
The family feeling that was present extended to SFGN as well. When I arrived I pulled out my camera and – of course, voila – the batteries were dead. Massuese Noe Rivera, of Healing Hands, kindly took all the pictures for me. “Just make sure you get a picture of me and my friends in,” he said with a smile.
What’s a little bribe here and there!
Despite the carefree and fun atmosphere let’s not forget the benefit was to raise money for Haiti.
“Oh, I am exhausted after last night,” Rayda said Sunday morning. “But it was worth it! We had about 250 guests throughout the night, we raised $3,000.00 for the Red Cross and more is expected from clickclickexpose.com,” a website who broadcast the event over the internet. “I even had one donation come through on the phone for $50.00,” she beamed.
It seems that in addition to performing and planning events Rayda might have a career hosting televised benefits. I think Jerry Lewis retired, hasn’t he?