Seasoned hams 


It's happening everywhere, but not like this. The mimosa brunch has become the new 30-something weekend outing -- has been for years, really. There's little guilt in the quickness of a champagne buzz easily killed by an afternoon nap and likewise absorbed into the hollandaise of extravagantly priced eggs Benedict. But the "Global Brunch," fronted by local luminaries Sam Singhaus -- aka Miss Sammie -- and Julian Baines from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sundays at The Globe, adds a welcome dose of camp to an already welcome dosage of champagne, and the gabby conversation that comes with it.

Two thrusts of a martini shaker, and you may even catch Miss Sammie on roller skates, flinging around the room to Olivia's "Xanadu," as orders are taken and diners consume. It's that bizarre. But more than the silliness the roller skates imply (although roller skates are always funny), the "Global Brunch" has become a phenomenon of suitably linked local promotion, with such gay-friendly fare as the Orlando Opera or the SunTrust Broadway in Orlando series offering free tickets and due themes for the fanfare. And it is also a fairly interesting meeting point for two of Orlando's more interesting native characters. Both Singhaus and Baines spent many years traveling in various parts of the country as entertainment foils and just happened to land back in Orlando brunch country for our digestive pleasure and drunken enjoyment.

My personal toast to the duo drags out a history longer than a roll of toilet paper, involving New York and South Beach, ballet and club kids, and, well, Debby Boone. Read on.

"Well, I did a show at City Theater, having grown up in Colonialtown right here in Orlando," remembers Singhaus. "I decided to go away and take dance classes at the `New York High` School for Performing Arts, went away to summer study in New York and got a ballet scholarship in Richard Thomas' company. So I stayed and really enjoyed that. But I sing, too, so I decided I really wanted to do musical performing, and started working at Radio City Music Hall -- did a bunch of shows for three years -- then went away to "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" in a summer-stock thing with Debby Boone."

Who, apparently, lit up his life.

"We opened on Broadway and lasted three weeks in New York. They killed us. I guess Debby Boone was just a little too provincial for New York."

But Miss Sammie is not too provincial for Orlando; Singhaus eschews typical drag bravura in favor of creating a friendly, approachable -- even self-deprecating -- hostess du jour.

"I love musicals," he says. "I stayed around New York, did some television and industrial work, and then I got La Cage aux Folles, the original run. In the show, we had to be men, and we had to be women. So I had to do drag in the show, for that. We had a great five-year run with that, and when it closed, I moved back to Orlando."

Here, he owned and ran the infamous Big Bang club downtown from 1989 to 1993, sans drag persona.

"I never did drag there," he says. "When the Firestone people came into town, we decided it would be best to join forces with them. There was a need for entertainers there, so that's when I became Miss Sammie. The only reason I have the name Miss Sammie is because, although I usually do a different character every week, for advertising purposes they just wouldn't know what to put on the fliers."

Later, he hooked up with Julian Baines to host a game-show night at Southern Nights, and they developed their schtick. When I offer "Sonny and Cher," Baines offers "Steve and Eydie," reflexively. Whatever, Singhaus and Baines wear well together. But the real question is whether a gay brunch is too much for downtown.

"Not really," says Singhaus. "With all the gay television going on -- "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," "Will & Grace" -- I'm just amazed at what the climate is; that you can walk around down here." By contrast, he says, "I don't work down here much on Friday and Saturday night, because of the phobia."

He means homophobia.

At the "Global Brunch," all phobias are left at the door.

"What we wanted to do is bring together a community, not excluding anybody. That was our theme. We looked around at all sorts of places, but this place seemed to be the most friendly -- there's an outside, an inside. Physically it's a good place, it is downtown, so it's a little cutting."

For Baines, the rail-thin straight man of the team, although no less bawdy, and a Florida native, the path of the "Global Brunch" has been more of a promotional jaunt. You can tell that by talking to him, even, as getting a word in edgewise is playfully impossible.

"Well, I went to theater school down in Miami, where I was getting my B.F.A. in theater," he recalls. "In the burgeoning late '80s/early '90s, I got into doing club stuff. At that time, South Beach was all mom-and-pop, and you could make a difference. But anyways, there was a small group of people that introduced me to the gay scene, which then kind of meshed with a straight scene. But then all that led to a radio show, which was called "Just Julian."

"Because of that, when all the celebrities came to town, we'd get to host them, and because of that we got a gig on the FOX station there. So they made us like Ã?South Beach Brats' -- sort of like the "Hollywood Kids." So I got a lot of club gigs, and actually did my first game show down there."

Then Julian came back to town for what was supposed to be quick visit, ended up falling in love, stayed and did a couple of episodes of SeaQuest, and met up with Sammie at Southern Nights for the game-show thing. Keeping up?

"In January of '99, I left Firestone, and I was looking for a new challenge. I went to New York for a year, then, of course, 9/11 happened and everything fell out from under me. Which is OK," he says reassuringly. "So I'm back here -- came back to Orlando to visit some friends -- and I was sitting at Hue for a brunch ... on Sunday and had the best time. And I got the call at brunch that I didn't get a summer gig on Fire Island, because the place was closed. So I had no summer gig, and sitting here with a cocktail -- I love mimosas -- and I said to the owner there that this is great. I'm coming every week. I called Sam, because I never work alone. We looked at four places, and `The Globe` was centrally located, where the whole development thing is going on."

Which brings us back to the brunch.

"What I tell people, maybe who don't know, is every week we make a scene, and in most weeks that scene supports something in the community," Baines says. "The softball league was here, so we did a Ã?Sports Brunch.' We plan games, shows, shenanigans. Sort of like an outdoor party at a good friend's home."

An outdoor party that draws an estimated 200 people a week, after seven months' going. Proof enough, says Baines, that "it's not about being intrusive, it's about being inclusive."


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