By Denny Patterson
Stilettos is a weekly two-hour event at The Pub Wilton Manors on Wilton Drive. Beginning promptly at 8:00PM every Monday, local drag star Candy Cox, along with fellow sisters RaeJean Cox, Mitzi Ross, Verandah Lanai, and Leila Cox, take the stage to offer audiences a classic and old school drag show.
The host of Stilettos rotates each week between the queens, and the host is always responsible for booking special guests. There is no intermission, and each performer sings four songs. Stilettos has a loyal following, but newcomers are always welcome. Candy advises to arrive early. It has become a one-of-a-kind staple in Wilton Manors, but some changes have been made thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. OutClique caught up with Candy to find out what they are and learn more about the show’s history.
Denny Patterson: Hi, Candy! Thank you for taking time to chat with me about Stilettos. When did this show begin and were you a part of its inception?
Candy Cox: In a couple months, this show will be celebrating six years. Yes, I was one of the initial entertainers along with RaeJean Cox. We are the only two original cast members. We started as Mamma Mia Mondays at The Stable about five and a half years ago. When The Stable closed, we moved to Scandals Saloon as Country Queens at Scandals. Booking local queens to do country was a challenge. After about six months, we changed the name to Stilettos at Scandals. When Scandals closed temporarily, The Pub approached us and said they wanted Stilettos at The Pub. We took a two-week break and began performing there in June 2018. Moving to The Pub was a win-win for everyone.
DP: Why did you want this weekly performance to start?
CC: We had been performing on Saturday nights at The Stable, but patrons were missing the previous Monday night cabaret style that Lady Fancy had hosted for several years. We asked management if we could bring the Monday shows back, but it would be different from the Saturday night show. Saturday shows start later and are more adult themed.
DP: What do you personally enjoy the most about Stilettos?
CC: The ladies I work with. We are each different, but we respect each other and strive to give our patron a great show each week. The real show is in the dressing room [laughs]. Drag opened up a world to me. Early on, I was super shy in my male persona. Doing drag opened doors for me and helped my confidence in everyday life. I have met hundreds of people who I have never met if I were not a drag entertainer. I would not trade it for anything.
DP: How is Stilettos different from other neighborhood shows?
CC: We respect everyone’s time, so therefore, we start on time. We have always given a two-hour show, nonstop. Six girls, four songs each. That equals 24 different songs each week. That may be a lot, but we have an amazing DJ, Bill Hallquist.
DP: Did Stilettos go on hiatus for a while due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
CC: Yes, we shut down in March 2020 and reopened in July 2020. The Pub asked our show to be the first show to come back and test the restrictions and CDC guidelines for masks and social distancing. The Pub is amazing at enforcing and respecting the guidelines. We had to think outside of the box due to limited dressing room space and social distancing codes, and we initially reduced the show to 3-4 entertainers. Several concepts were tried, such as two one-hour shows in order to roll over the tables and allow more patrons to see a show of sorts. We are almost back to normal. We are running two-hour shows again.
DP: Are the restrictions still in effect?
CC: Yes, following codes is a priority. Social distancing is still enforced, and seating is still not at full capacity. The staff wear masks at all times, and patrons are asked to wear a mask if they are out of their seat for any reason. “A** up, mask up!” The entertainers are required to wear a mask to and from the stage. While performing, they are to remain on the stage and cannot move through the crowd. Since we cannot work the crowds, we put small tip bags on the tables and bars. We let patrons know that all tips are split equally between the entertainers. This has worked well for our show. I think patrons are feeling safer and they miss the interactions. Some are starting to approach the stage where we have tip buckets.
DP: What did you miss the most about performing in front of a live audience?
CC: The interaction and moving around the crowd. Having to stay on a small stage limits you more than you know. It is challenging to do fast songs standing on a box. We love our patrons and miss that personal touch, but the break was a chance to rest, regroup, learn new songs, and get creative.