Hoping to put a fun Edge into Sunday nights, a former bartender delivers with Jungle Sundays.

Tony Edge went from bartending to organizing Jungle Sundays at The Monkey Bar at the Wall Street Plaza in downtown Orlando.

ORLANDO – Ask anyone these days about what it’s like coping through these tough economic times, and more than a few will tell you, it’s a jungle out there.
Tony Edge fully understands that. But he thinks that’s a good thing – at least, during Jungle Sundays, anyway.
“I wanted to go with a jungle theme,” Edge said. “So I came up with the idea for Jungle Sundays. We have guys behind the bar, they wear underwear and sometimes less than that, as long as it’s legal. We have go-go boys, and catered food, and a D.J. It’s like a topless bar. We have a good time.”
A former bartender himself, Edge jumped from behind the bar into his own company – Cutting Edge Events, a promotional firm based here in Orlando. He also manages Jungle Sundays at The Monkey Bar in downtown Orlando, an opportunity for gays, women and anyone else who likes handsome, buff bartenders to enjoy a drink and some eye candy, and to have a good time in a section of downtown, the Wall Street Plaza, that’s getting hotter every day.
“My intention wasn’t to compete with any other bar in downtown,” Edge said. “I wanted to bring something new to the Orlando scene. To me, it’s not about competition. I wanted an alternative spot people could go to.”
The Monkey Bar seemed like the ideal location for the kind of fun gay night event that he wanted to organize.
“This is an everybody bar,” he said. “It’s not pretentious. It’s a different crowd that comes there. It’s definitely a unique venue.”
Jungle Sundays started on June 12 at The Monkey Bar at 26 Wall Street Plaza, beginning at 8 p.m. There’s never a cover charge, and the evening promises a free Tapas buffet, drink specials like $3.50 Pinnacle Vodka flavors and $2.50 domestic beers, and, of course, “wild boy dancers” – a nice way to cap off the weekend before the Monday morning grind starts up the new work week.
“The Monkey Bar is a cool ultra lounge combined with a tiki bar,” Edge said. “The venue has pictures of monkeys with jungle scenes around it, and the owner of the Wall Street Catina got a metal crate from off a ship, and brought it over from Ghana, Africa, and the entire bar is made of that wood. Everything in it has a jungle scene.”
What Cutting Edge added on Sundays was buff, and attractive.
“My bartenders are fun and friendly,” he said. “They don’t just look good, they have a great personality. It’s a fun place where anybody can go and hang out and have a few drinks and some shots. It’s not a high drama bar. We have a place where people can go and dance. It’s not your typical gay venue. It’s a very cool little bar, up and out of the way from the entire street, and not a lot of people know it’s up there. It’s kind of a unique little place, like all of Wall Street Plaza is.”
Edge, who also writes the “Edge of Fitness” column for What’s Happening magazine, and is a personal trainer with a private training studio, knows a thing or two about the world of bars and nightclubs.

A former bartender, Tony Edge is a fitness trainer and now an events promoter.

Starting Cutting Edge, he said, was “the next logical step for me after bartending. Bartenders have the potential to be master networkers because of all the people we come in contact with every day. It’s a great opportunity to bartend, and that’s how bartending led me to be a promoter. I try to learn something and take something with me from every field I’ve been in. I’ve been in bank retail and book retail, I’ve been a dishwasher and prep cook — I’ve done everything you can do in restaurants.”
Observing how bars and restaurants promoted themselves, he learned quite a bit, which is how he moved on to his new field, promoting events for profit.
“Cutting Edge Events was something I came up with last year,” he said. “When I started Jungle Sundays at Monkey Bar, I wanted to bring something new to the city of Orlando as far as events go, whether it be charity events or for profit events. Now I’m moving forward to the next stage, getting my own office.”

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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.

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