Club Czar in Ybor City returns to its roots for one night this week to celebrate Tampa's golden days of drag.
The reunion event will star the same queens who performed there in the early 1980s when the bar, then called El Goya, was the only gay nightspot in Ybor.
Organized by Stephanie Shippae, Tuesday's El Goya Reunion will feature original cast members Melanie Minyon, Bobbie Lake, Gilda Golden and Candy Kiss. They will recreate their old costumes and perform many of their favorite routines.
"It's going to be magical again," said Minyon, who works as a hostess at Streetcar Charlie's and still does drag locally. "I've had so many people come through the restaurant and say, 'Melanie, we remember you from the Goya and we wish we could have a taste of it again because it's never been the same.' "
El Goya closed about 20 years ago, disappointing members of the gay community who considered it like home. It later became Tracks, then Pleasuredome and now Czar.
In the '80s, the bar was one of the few places that was open past dark in Ybor and where gays felt comfortable letting loose.
"For thousands, this was their first gay bar," Golden wrote in a MySpace post about the reunion. "Many people who felt lonely, misunderstood and lost entered this safe haven and found themselves."
When El Goya closed, the drag scene in Ybor died with it. Recently, with the emergence of several gay bars, drag shows have returned.
But for the original Goya girls and their fans, the old days were unforgettable.
"Some of it's a little blurry," Minyon said with a laugh. "Without a doubt those were some of the best days of my life."
Susan Thurston can be reached at email@example.com.