That's Condo-tainment!

The stars of South Florida's condo circuit may not be the most youthful performers, but oy can they sing

She then picks out a short, frail man in maroon dress pants and a sensible sweater. His name is Marvin. "You're just dying to touch me, aren't you?" Borne teases him, vamping her ample body. After some prodding, Marvin reaches up to the stage to take Borne's hand, only to be slapped away. "You animal!" she cries. But not long after, Marvin is up on stage shaking his tush as Borne implores, "Sock it to me, Marvin!"

I slip backstage as another couple takes the stage, singing… Gershwin! Borne has already shed her stage costume and is on her way out the door. Her face glistens with sweat from the vigorous performance. Makeup runs down her cheeks. She describes her act as a combination of Totie Fields, Ethel Merman, and Sophie Tucker. "You could say I'm the last of the red-hot mamas," Borne notes. A retired professor from Malden, Massachusetts, she has been performing semiprofessionally for 30 years.

"I want to work here," says Borne, who recently became a North Palm Beach-based snowbird. "That's why I'm doing all this, paying my way. I want to break into this circuit."

Gerry Rainbow's forte is providing entertainment for the hundreds of clubs that thrive at condominiums
Sherri Cohen
Gerry Rainbow's forte is providing entertainment for the hundreds of clubs that thrive at condominiums

Out front the show continues. The Riffs momentarily stem the onslaught of show tunes with some doo-wop numbers, but they are followed by back-to-back performances by the twin Phantoms of the Opera. One Phantom distinguishes himself by tap dancing, the other by emotionally tearing off his mask at the climax of a song. When Rachel Paston is introduced two and a half hours into the showcase as a veteran of 11 Broadway shows, it's time to leave.

Apparently I'm not the only one sucked dry of tolerance for Gershwin, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Borscht Belt humor. Out in the lobby one man queries his friend, "How much longer do they have to go?" The only half-joking answer: "Oh, they're about halfway through."

Day 3: Where are Liza's genitals?

Liza Minnelli steps onto the stage at the Bonaventure Town Center Club in Weston clad provocatively in a fishnet dress over black leather bra and panties singing "All That Jazz." Over the course of the next hour and a half, the diva will don more skimpy outfits than a Milan runway model. Liza is joined by a small stable of dancing beefcakes with a predilection for suspenders (but not shirts) and female dancers in elaborate costumes.

Last I'd heard, Liza was doing just fine on yet another comeback romp through the New York City cabaret scene, but apparently she's made time for South Florida.

The performance builds to a medley of songs from Cabaret. Liza trots out many of the classics from her Oscar-winning performance as Sally Bowles. She is joined by an impish Joel Grey-like character in top hat and cane. "Mein Herr" is ably performed, as is the classic title song ("Life is a cabaret, old chum…").

Then Liza is alone on stage, singing "What I Did For Love" from A Chorus Line. "Won't forget… can't regret… what I did for love," Liza belts out.

Suddenly she's ripping off her clothes, exposing… well, a man. Although one that, at least to my naked eyes from the rear of the banquet hall, appears strangely genital-free. The man-who-just-a-moment-ago-was-Liza then puts on jeans and a work shirt, pulls off his black wig, rips off his fake eyebrows, and scrubs off his makeup. This is greeted with thunderous applause, a near-unanimous standing ovation, and numerous screams of "Bravo!" The oldsters are eating this drag queen up. Apparently transvestite revues are no longer just for gay men.

The show is Liza 2000. It features a Cuban guy with a remarkable ability to imitate Liza Minnelli, both vocally and physically (although it must be said that his thighs betray him).

After the show Bob Fedderwitz, executive director of the Bonaventure Town Center Club, is enveloped in a hug by a grateful patron. "You've done it again, Bob!" she gushes. "That was wonderful!"

Fedderwitz, who is responsible for booking entertainment, worries that the show was too good. That he may have peaked too soon. "It's too early in the season," he says. "Now they're going to compare everything to that show."

Fedderwitz has some ideas on how to top Liza 2000, though. "I always tell people I will have Ricky Martin here," he says. "2040 to 2050, that's what I'm aiming for."

Outside in the parking lot, a gaggle of old-timers is contemplating the mystery of Liza's genitalia. "But what does he do with it?" wonders one mystified woman.

Her husband answers curtly: "He hasn't got any."

Day 4: "Who thought they were gonna see Connie Francis? Connie Chung?"

Twenty minutes before showtime and there's already a ten-minute traffic jam entering the parking lot of the 1600-seat Century Village East clubhouse, the Carnegie Hall of condominium concert venues with its luxuriously cushioned seats and massive stage. The car models tend more toward Lincoln Town Cars and Oldsmobiles than the typical South Florida profusion of S.U.V.s and convertible Mustangs.

The occasion is a concert by Connie Stevens, the 62-year-old, onetime wife of Eddie Fisher. She is perhaps best known for her role as Cricket Blake in the '60s TV show Hawaiian Eye, and nowadays Stevens spends much of her time hawking her Forever Spring beauty products. About the only time her name has been seen in print recently (usually right after the words faded starlet) is for an alleged long-ago dalliance with presidential hopeful John McCain. Stevens is nearing the end of a 20-show run on the Condo Circuit. According to one entertainment buyer, her fee is about $5000 per show, so she's hauling a pretty penny out of South Florida.

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