Happy Hour with Henrietta, Queen of South Beach
I had seen Henrietta at Twist many times, but never really had the opportunity to speak with her until one day last year when I sat down next to her for a quick happy hour drink. I ended up having a fascinating history lesson about South Beach and Henrietta’s life for several enthralling hours that could fill a must-read biography book. What a life Henrietta, the Queen of South Beach, has lived!
Henrietta’s mom was an Italian Catholic and her father was a German Jew in Boston, back in a time when many did not believe in mixed marriages. According to Henrietta, when her own grandmother found out he was a gay boy she said, “See what happens when you mix blood.” Henrietta wanted to be herself, so she ran away from home and came to South Beach, where her uncle Mario owned a very popular Italian restaurant with ties to the mob. There, she honed her abilities to cook delicious, mouth-watering Italian dishes. Mario took Henrietta under his wing, and she hasn’t been out of drag since 1958.
Those were the years when the mob ruled the beach and its influence reached all the way into the police department. Among the many stories Henrietta shared with me, she remembers fondly how when the cops ever raided an establishment where she was, they would take care of Henrietta and provide a police escort and ride home — in deference to her uncle Mario and his Italian friends. She also recalls with a smile going to Gianni Versace’s home for parties and making homemade lasagna.
This Sunday, March 24, Henrietta will be celebrating her 72nd birthday at Twist from 4-9 p.m. Stop by for a few drinks. Henrietta will also be cooking some of her delectable signature dishes!
Publisher & Editor in Chief
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Photos provided by Henrietta)
This article was originally published in Wire Magazine Issue #12, 2013
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