Club Heavens “The Rebirth”

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes she emerged on the night of February 11, 2012 LGBT history was made under new management, with new interior designs, new and some old staff members returning and certainly a new lease on life after closure for some time now due to a rapid decline in interest as other spots within Kingston and neighbouring parishes took center stage, other mitigating circumstances and a much younger and discriminating audience who also have an aptitude for mainstream entertainment offerings that also seem to appeal to LGBT senses but it was good if not refreshing to see the old haunt revived and kicking once again.

The north western Jamaica spot is up and running again and it’s hoped that it will remain open with steady loyal patronage for years to come.

The name supposedly came about as at that time the issues with stop murder music, the repetitive homophobic incidents and the missing entertainment spots around the conceptualizers wanted to find and run an outlet for release so the term Heaven(s) was used to bring a kind of relief and happiness as was thought implied in the term as it related to a religious perspective to the spot.

(due to the limited photo policy I cannot show you more than the basics)

The simple yet effective decor was a fierce start upon entering, new acoustics, lighting, security arrangements, fogging, VIP section and the free admission for opening night were part of the clever marketing ploy to re-introduce persons to the spot and open up another offerings to first timers, in fact it is to open on Sunday night as well with a $500 admission. Club Heavens which officially is now the longest running LGBT entertainment spot/club in local terms if one is counting we could assume some 7 years or more between the closings and reopenings.

It’s original conceptualizer the late Kirk Lester who was murdered in 2007 whose funeral made international news after the stoning incident that took place marring the final rights in Mandeville opened the spot in early 2000 and at that time there were few permanent spots for fun and socializing with peers. Individual party promoters were offering their own brand of private shingdigs while the defunct Entourage Nightclub was no more as we recall after its closure due to pressure from the surrounding business district and a series of sensationalized articles in the tabloids of the day on supposed happenings there then the awful murder of its proprietor and co founder of  a noted LGBT entity Brian Williamson in June 2004 a small attempt was made to revive the brand but was reprised for safety reasons and for memory of him.

At or around the original opening of Club Heavens as well we had lost two major disc jockeys on the circuit due to that infamous party DVD that made its way to the mainstream and was sold on the streets with the outcome being the jocks identified by their voices as they worked in the mainstream as well, then came the backlash which compromised their safety also resulting in a lull in offerings for some time out of fear of exposure hence the no cameras policies or limited photo/video capture that are instituted with some events to this day. So the market responded by attending this new spot in droves weekly which also catered to a wide cross section of the LGBTQIQ2S communities as well thought out themes were offered and well received at the time.

Club Heavens also had come to represent the tradition of drag entertainment and has hosted some noted internationally recognised divas including Harmonica Sunbeam and the legendary Michelle Ross and also our version of the Miss World pageant and Oscar typed award shows recognizing persons in LGBT entertainment locally. This was not lost at the Rebirth and old and new divas strutted their stuff on the stage with appropriate short sets this time around, Diva Nastacia Waugh legendary performances was welcomed as she lip synced to Whitney Houston’s “I Look To You” in the tribute segment and the fab one BeBe from western Jamaica proved that 6 inch pumps are a breeze for a tall lady. It was Nage Trendsett that dominated the performances however proving yet again the calibre of shows she has been serving since last year, she delivered a three song set including two tracks from Beyonce where she lip synced flawlessly with only a chair in the centre of the stage as a prop. Her ability to have her audience transfixed during multiple songs was proven yet again, no one moved and no one gawked and there was no heckling as often follow some other queens, her use of space to enhance her performance had not gone unnoticed and her eye contact with her loyal subjects was commendable, all the above are traits some performers need to tighten up on and hold patrons’ attention. Four major DJs served the beatz including yours truly and Dr B from western Jamaica was a toast for the kidz and of course DJ David with hot Peppa.

A packed house rocked as persons from just by the look of it all walks of life were present and the mingling was good to see, also what was evident were the rural faces some of whom have not been seen in ages proving that the club has the pull to cover the tiles. Influentials could be seen darting about and other party promoters were present too to show their support, I know the late Kirk Lester would have liked that real unity as some persons from that era reminisced on his impact on the club’s development. Persons recalled his own antics darting about the floor seeing to the smooth running of the activities especially the bar sales and his own brand of drag often taking the stage himself with that infamous Tina Turner wig and gesticulating to his favourite Diana Ross song “The Best Years of my Life”

Also not to be outdone in as far as reminiscing goes was Mr. Gareth Henry who took over management after Kirk’s departure from us and carried it until he moved to that infamous villa on the north coast where the old party DVD was shot of a previous private LGBT event, scenes of which are still on Youtube and the subsequent threats on his life from a public incident he was involved in at a pharmacy that caused him to seek asylum elsewhere among other things. I will not mention too much of the ugly history of the club during the tumultuous period of its immediate past manager but it is water under the bridge as she too was in attendance to shake a leg.

The brand also changed hands with the likes of former Crisis Interventions Officer from the J, Miss Artis who now resides elsewhere, the property’s owner at one point, a former promoter from western Jamaica and of course legendary Macey Antibellum Grey before its rebirth in 2012.

The shenanigans of the hypermasculine brothers (thugs/heaviots) are not to be left out of this summary as they too made their presence felt at the spot which has usually attracted them in better numbers than elsewhere. International vogue queens were also present a few of which made the trip to Jamaica just for the reopening/reunion as described by the masters of ceremonies during the drag show presentation.

here is more in audio:

Club Heavens The Rebirth 12.02.12

There were just two dark spots in the scheme of things, the alcohol inventory had ran out and there was a small skirmish after the proceedings ended on the outside with minor injuries but overall the rebirth was flawless. I guess some things won’t change so easily eh?

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It has indeed fulfilled its mandate in a sense and so appropriately named as the spot for some time also doubled as a spot for church services for the Sunshine Cathedral Jamaica services in some instances, offering an LGBT version of heaven on earth through Jesus Christ, literally after a busy club night sections are cordoned off, janitorial staff go into action, chairs are erected a podium placed and covered with the banner and other paraphernalia, a large Bible is laid, a chalice brought out, tambourines, wine and communion wafers are placed when needed, candle sticks and the collection plate. As one lead pastor from the mother church in Florida puts it “it was church from a box.” From LGBT entertainment including raunchy teasing strip shows to spirit filled services attracting two different audiences, talk about functionality.

Let us hope they grow from strength to strength and continue this long held tradition of offering a wide array of entertainment for us.

Peace and tolerance

H

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Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

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