At the eleventh hour fourteen years ago, Don Granatstein and Susan Unger, a heterosexual couple from Toronto, purchased the Parliament House, saving it from certain closure. Granatstein and Unger, who owned time shares in the Orlando area, spent millions of dollars renovating the resort and succeeded in rebuilding its reputation as an integral part of gay Orlando nightlife…
Parliament House Celebrates Its 38th Anniversary: A Special Interview with Owner Don Granatstein
At the eleventh hour fourteen years ago, Don Granatstein and Susan Unger, a heterosexual couple from Toronto, purchased the Parliament House, saving it from certain closure. Granatstein and Unger, who owned time shares in the Orlando area, spent millions of dollars renovating the resort and succeeded in rebuilding its reputation as an integral part of gay Orlando nightlife.
Parliament House has a clientele that ranges from circuit boys, to twinks, to bears, to muscle queens, to the outrageous, and to the neighbor next door. Parliament House has been an institution in Orlando’s gay community for the past 38 years. The 130-room motel and 10,000 square foot entertainment complex on Orange Blossom Trail is known far and wide for its Vegas-style drag shows, its theme parties, Wanzie’s Broadway-style productions, and just being a fun place to go, seven days a week.
It was a pleasure to sit down and interview Don as P-House celebrates its 38th anniversary.
What made you purchase the Parliament House?
Fourteen years ago, we were working with the gay community with the Debbie Reynolds show in Las Vegas. When the lease for Parliament House came up for grabs, we jumped on it. Susan wanted to own a gay resort.
Has it grown the way you wanted it to over the years?
Yes, it has. It’s now much more inclusive and we’re just starting a new renovation to bring everything up to date.
What other plans do you have for the future?
In addition to starting our complete renovation of rooms and to the entertainment complex, we want to open the very first gay country club, on the adjacent garden property.
Who are some of your all-time favorite guests who have performed at Parliament House?
Cyndi Lauper, Chaka Khan and Salt N Pepa. The audience response was what sealed it; everyone seemed to love them. That’s always our aim. If customers are happy, we’re happy. Our motto is “expect to be entertained” so they have to love what we bring in.
How different would Orlando’s gay scene be without a resort like Parliament House?
I think the scene would struggle to exist, since all the bars are spread out throughout the city. I think Parliament House brings a sort of “hub” to gay Orlando.
The 38th anniversary events kick off on Friday, July 19 with a Miss P Tribute Show at 10 p.m. in the Footlight Theatre. A $5 donation is requested and a live auction will be held, both of which will benefit the Paul Wegman Memorial Scholarship Fund.
On Saturday, July 20, the Rock Hard All Male Revue, produced by Wanzie, will titillate and excite audiences at 8 p.m. in the Footlight Theatre. Later in the evening, singer Abigail will be performing her hits “Let the Joy Rise,” “If It Don’t Fit,” “You Set Me Free,” and her new single “Surrender.” The Footlight Players will also be performing their shows at 10 and 12.
On Monday, July 22, the Footlight Players will hold their 38th anniversary reunion show, bringing back past performers Aysia Black, Hurricane Summers, current Miss Gay USofA Shae Shae LaReese and current Miss Continental Elite Kourtney Van Wales. Showtime is at 9 p.m. in the Footlight Theatre.
Finally, on Wednesday, July 24, the annual employee turnabout show will be held at 9 p.m. A $5 suggested donation is requested and all proceeds will benefit Joy Metropolitan Community Church.
For more information on the anniversary week’s events and more, go to www.parliamenthouse.com.