It’s never a drag to be at Banana’s … except, of course ….

Breakfast is served all day at Banana's, including this Eggs Benedict dish, and Sunday mornings is the Gospel Brunch time. (Photo by Brek Dalrymple.)

ORLANDO – In the competitive world of new, start-up restaurants, finding something unique that draws in customers can be the difference between a thriving business — and closing your doors.
At Banana’s, it’s not just the Eggs Benedict meals available all day, or the burgers and sandwiches that have made this restaurant on N. Mills Avenue a favorite lunch spot. It’s the fact that the staff goes out of their way to be …. well, positively entertaining.
How entertaining? Ask Joshua Eads-Brown, who has a dual role at the diner, as both a server …. and an entertainer.
If you think Banana’s wants to be laid back and low key, think again.
Or, more specifically, think about Sundays.
Sundays are fast becoming a genuine talent night at Banana’s, Eads-Brown said – you show up, and you perform. If the crowd likes you, you’re a hit. If not, remember they have food on their plates to toss at you.
“Sign up is from 6 to 6:45 (p.m.),” he said. “Then they perform from 7 to 9:30.”
What exactly can the performers do?
“Anything,” Eads-Brown said. “You have five minutes to do it.”
Banana’s opened last December, just before New Year’s, right next to an upscale restaurant by the same owners, the Funky Monkey Wine Company. From the start, Banana’s has strived to be fun, and, as Eads-Brown noted, they seem to have made a strong connection with Greater Orlando’s theater community – including Eads-Brown himself, an actor, singer and drag performer who just finished a run performing in “Evil Dead-The Musical” at Theatre Downtown.
That’s why they’re opening their doors on Sunday nights to performers.
“It’s a great thing,” Eads-Brown said. “We want to bring more of the theater community in here.”
Banana’s will also be doing some juried shows in the future, with a $3,000 prize package to the best performers, he added.
On Sunday mornings, the diner hosts its popular Praise the Lord and Pass The Liquor Gospel Brunch, presided over by Sister Hunter and Sister Markstone, with shows at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. As Eads-Brown noted, it’s not for the easily offended or faint of heart.
But it’s not the only night when Banana’s … well, goes a little bit bananas.
Starting on Monday, Aug. 16, the diner will be hosting “QueenGo” – or what Eads-Brown called “drag queen bingo. Me and Trixie Deluxe, we host it. Literally all we do is play the regular bingo games – in drag.”
If that sounds like fun, come back on Tuesday nights for something a bit different – musical fun for the entire family. It’s Broadway at Banana’s, with shows at 7:30 and 9 p.m.
“Tuesday nights are our only family-friendly night,” Eads-Brown said. “We do a full Broadway revue. We’re still in drag, but we don’t curse at the microphone.”
Fridays and Saturdays the diner offers “24 hour drag service,” and there are future plans on Wednesday evenings for a drag version of the daytime talk show “The View.” The regular Banana’s crew will offer their take on the ladies who host that show.
“We’ll probably be dressing up like Whoopie (Goldberg) and so on,” Eads-Brown said.
Banana’s Diner is at 920 N. Mills Ave. in downtown Orlando. The diner is open from Mondays through Thursday from 7 a.m. to midnight and 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays. The diner stays open on Sunday until midnight.
To learn more, call 407-480-2200.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

From community theater in South Florida to the gay baths in Orlando, Janine Klein is ready to be a “Gay Bar Star” once again.

ORLANDO – Janine Klein has always felt a strong kinship with two things: theater, and the gay community.
The fact that those two entities often seem intricately linked helps quite a bit.
“As a kid I grew up with theater parents,” said the native of West Palm Beach. “My father was a director and my mother was an actress, so I have it in my blood, pretty much. I’ve been performing since I was a child. We were always doing shows, that was our whole life, that was the way we always got along together.”
Klein, who now lives in Orlando and works at Universal Studios, remembers meeting and becoming friends with a lot of gay people during her years performing in South Florida’s community theater world.

Janine Klein sings her heart out in "Gay Bar Star," her campy cabaret show about a diva in a gay bathhouse.

“With theater comes gay people,” she said. “There’s a couple of reasons why I identify with gay people. I was this theater geek and never felt like I fit in. I always related to gay people because I felt like they were the underdog and I gravitated to them. I love gay people.”
Klein’s love of both performing — and performing before gay audiences — hit a peak in May 2010, when she had the premiere of her campy, sexy cabaret show, “Gay Bar Star: Return from the Big House” at the Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival. The show, written by her friend John Ryan, was tailor-made for gay audiences, and it’s one reason why Klein is reviving the show this month, at the Footlight Theatre at the Parliament House Resort.
“I have a really big Broadway, Ethel Merman-ish quality that gay audiences love,” she said. “This show is about an aging diva that performs in a gay bathhouse, and John wrote this great script and we took these songs that were well known songs, but changed the words so it fit with a gay diva star. It has a little bit of a Bette Midler feel to it when she was singing in the bathhouses and got her start. It’s campy, it’s sexy, it’s making fun of myself.”
It’s also been a hit. After her run at last year’s Fringe festival, Klein got an invitation to bring the show to the Footlight Theatre by its director, Michael Wanzie, and audiences immediately embraced her performance.
“They just love it,” she said. “I get a lot lof repeat people who come to see it. They’ve found it just so fun, with those familiar tunes but with the different lyrics. It’s like a show written for them. But straight people can enjoy it, too.”
Klein will be performing the show on Saturday night, but in an abbreviated form. Her 30-half performance will be the lead in for “Mr. Charles, Currently of Palm Beach,” another comedy show that got its start at the Orlando Fringe Festival back — this time, in 2006 — and then found a second home at the Footlight Theatre. Frank McLaine is reprising his role as the “deliciously queer Mr. Charles” in a new interpretation of the Paul Rudnik play, directed by Wanzie.
“Coming up for this month, I’m running with ‘Mr. Charles,’ ” Klein said. “For the first half hour before his show, I’ll be doing a medley from my show. It’s like a, ‘Hi I’m back, but I’m doing the same songs I did in the first one’ show. Then I’ll be doing my own show the whole month of August. It will be the second version of ‘Gay Bar Star.’ “
“Gay Bar Star II” will be performed on Saturday nights at 8 throughout August. The Footlight Theatre is at 410 N. Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando. To make a reservation, call 407-540-0317, or log on to www.FoothlightTheatre.com.
At the moment, Klein said she’s staying put here in Orlando and doesn’t have the time to take this show on the road – although she admits that eventually she would love to tour with “Gay Bar Star.”
“It’s a show that can travel,” she said. “I’d love to take it on a gay cruise. It’s an hour and it’s fun, and I think it’s an enjoyable experience for people who go on cruises and like to hear shows. I do feel as I get older, that possibility will come up. I’m kind of planted in Orlando now. It’s a comfortable place.
But I’d love to go to all of the gay-friendly areas where they have shows,” she added, “from P-town (Provincetown, the gay Mecca on Cape Cod in Massachusetts) to South Florida and in Tampa to the gay district over there.”

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

Upcoming Tantra class teaches couples to rediscover intimacy.

Sean Ramsay, who runs the Blissful Lotus Erotic Boutique in downtown Orlando, says the upcoming Tantra weekend helps couples rediscover intimacy. (Photo by Brek Dalrymple).

ORLANDO – They call it “Learning to live in Bliss,” but in this case, bliss can best be described as improving relationships between couples.
“It’s a passion and a purpose,” said Sean Ramsay. “This is not a sexual weekend. It’s not about sex. This is about yourself.”
Blissful Lotus Erotic Boutique on Orange Avenue is sponsoring the event, known as the Ipsalu Tantra Weekend Intensive, and subtitled “Better Relationships for Life.”
The weekend retreat will be held on April 15-17 at Yoga Shala in Winter Park. Nayano Burdine, a certified Ipsalu Tantriko instructor, will lead the classes, which run on Friday from 7:30-10:30 p.m., Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Ramsay, who operates Blissful Lotus with his wife, Stacey Murphy, said Tantra is an intimate way for couples to learn more about themselves.
“Tantra is a mix of sexual and spiritual energies,” Ramsay said. “Spiritual not as a religion, but as a greater power and practice, a unity of male and female, with high energy. It’s a lot of physical exercises and energy points, and a lot of it is very focused.”
Ispalu Tantra Yoga is billed as the practice of couples uniting their bodies, minds and spirits to bring them to a place of balance and wholeness. It’s a way to heal emotional wounds, to expand their consciousness, and to learn how to accept and cherish their bodies.
Ramsay said he and Murphy discovered Tantra during an intensive weekend in Fort Lauderdale a few years ago, and after opening Blissful Lotus, they decided to host a similar event.
“The weekend Tantra intensive is using the actual teacher we had,” he said. “That was before Blissful Lotus. Our experience with it was very positive. It was a good way of tapping into your own authentic self.”
Whereas yoga is associated with a healthy body, Tantra is more often associated with a healthy mind.
“When talking about sex, it’s not the act of sex that’s important,” Ramsay said. “It’s being in a union with someone on a deeper level.”
The weekend will touch on a wide variety of topics, including living in true intimacy, releasing emotional blocks, rediscovering your original innocence, transcending inhibitions that are blocking people from being happy, deepening relationships, utilizing techniques to prolong and deepen lovemaking, and learning to be more present and less critical.
The weekend is open to couples or singles, and they’re encouraged to wear comfortable Yoga clothing suitable for plenty of movement, and to bring along a comforter and Yoga mat, a meditation pillow or chair, blanket and towels, and water and snacks.
“Tantra is a practice that goes back thousands of years,” Ramsay said. “Tantra is more of a practice and a philosophy. On a more modern level, Tantra is about ‘no goal’ lovemaking. Tantra is about incorporating the entire body. A lot of the Tantra stuff is creating an experience incorporating all of the senses. You have to push your comfort zones.”
By sponsoring this event, Ramsay said, “We want to be a resource to women and couples who want to expand their relationships. We’re amazed at how little people know about themselves.”
Their boutique already serves that purpose, he said. A lot of what they sell is aimed at helping couples find ways to strengthen their relationship, and not just in the bedroom. Sometimes it’s as simple as learning how to communicate with one another.
“We want to provide a space for people who want to engage in a conversation that a lot of society says ‘Oh, no, you can’t talk about that,’ “ he said. “We want to be a destination, a place people can go to get these questions answered.”
What they’re not, he stressed, is an adult book store.
“We don’t have porn in here,” Ramsay said. “We do have some erotica, because erotica stirs the mind. As soon as people walk in the door, we get, ‘Oh, you’re not such-and-such.’ This business is changing, because the days of the sleazy bookstore are over. We really tried to create a space that’s welcoming and chill. I think we’ve brought something very positive for the area.“
The cost of the weekend is $275 for singles, $500 for couples, and $200 for repeaters. To learn more, log on to http://theblissfullotus.blogspot.com/2011/01/ipsalu-tantra-weekend-retreat-learning.html.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

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