Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-06-09



LGBTQ HISTORY: Century of Gay Rumors Surround Miami's Iconic Vizcaya Estate
by Christiana Lilly

This article shared 1993 times since Thu Oct 29, 2020
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

An opulent manse in Miami, James Deering's Vizcaya has played host to many a wedding, elaborate engagement shoot, and field trips of schoolchildren learning about Miami's past. But it also played a prominent role in local LGBT society as the setting for the White Party from 1985 to 2010 and then again in 2018.

But does its gay history go back further?

In short, the answer is "perhaps," but Julio Capó, an associate professor of history at Florida International University and the author of "Welcome to Fairyland," has been the foremost expert on our region's LGBT history.

"I was really interested in learning more about how differently LGBTQ history would look like if we hadn't censored the voices of mostly Black and brown people who had otherwise often been left out of the general narrative of LGBTQ history," Capó said.

His research took him to Vizcaya when he was studying the Black Bahamian laborers who built the estate. Deering, an agricultural tycoon, began work on the sprawling property in 1912. He moved in four years later, but even at his death in 1925, the home was not complete.

According to Capó's writings in "LGBTQ America" for the National Park Service, as Vizcaya is a National Historic Landmark, people have long wondered about Deering's sexuality and if his luxurious home was party central for gay men.

"Vizcaya has been the site of a lot of interest in terms of LGBTQ history," Capó said. "But a lot of it is unsubstantiated. There's been all these kinds of rumors of James Deering and his potential sexual appetite."

The historian pored through records and memorabilia from Vizcaya, but he was not able to find any concrete evidence that Deering was actually gay. However, there were insinuations that seem to keep the rumors going. He was referred to as a "bachelor," and Capó also found a 1961 newspaper story that went as far as to describe him as a "prissy bachelor who preferred bourbon to women." It also states that he "staged wild parties" at the home.

In his research, Capó has since reframed the question from, "Is James Deering gay?" to "Why are we asking this question in the first place?"

"Some people commented about his sexual behaviors and preferences during his lifetime and after, and some things are just unanswerable," he said. "A lot of people just didn't fit the mold, of the expectations of masculinity, especially for white masculinity for this period, and words like 'eccentric' and 'bachelor,' these are often coded words."

However, there is evidence that those in Deering's circle were gay, including Paul Chalfin, who served as the interior decorater and an architect for the home. According to Capó, he lived openly with his partner, Louis Koons, into the early 1920 — far from the norm at that time. In fact, the late Florida journalist, naturalist and feminist Marjory Stoneman Douglas has written about seeing the two attending a party as a couple.

Capó notes an important fact about Chalfin and others in Deering's circle: being white and wealthy, they had the privilege to live more openly than perhaps the Black Bahamian men who built the mansion on their backs.

"He was such an important part of Vizcaya's image and as far as the record shows, lived fairly openly. Almost as an open secret," he said. "It was kind of understood many ways, and in other ways, celebrated or tolerated in some circles."

For decades, the queerness of Vizcaya simply lived in the rumors and memories of those who believed Deering to be a forever bachelor because he was gay.

Then, in 1985, the home returned to the LGBT spotlight when it served as the location for the inaugural White Party, the signature fundraiser for HIV/AIDS healthcare organization Care Resource, then known as the Health Crisis Network. It was hosted there until 2010, and then again in 2018.

"People suddenly kind of reimagined or created new memories of Vizcaya with very little evidence for it," Capó said, a sort of mirage of raucous Saturnalia parties at the level of Jay Gatsby with throngs of gay men in attendance.

Capó does remind us that being gay in the early 20th century would not have been the same as it is today. Queer culture in Miami was limited and "very few people understood themselves primarily through their sexual identity in the way that we think of today."

"Who knows if James Deering did have same-sex loving affinities, and again I could find no clear evidence of it at all, nor was I looking for it."

Christiana Lilly's foray into journalism began at 11, when she put together a one-page gazette for classmates recounting field trips, announcing the lunch menu and other important news. Today, she's a freelance journalist who covers a plethora of topics, including contributing regularly to South Florida Gay News. There, she covers health, religion, law and activism impacting the LGBT community. Her reporting has been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists Florida chapter, Florida Magazine Association, and Florida Press Club, including stories on human trafficking, teen suicide, conversion therapy and youth homelessness. Christiana grew up in Asia as the daughter of a foreign service officer, and now calls Pompano Beach home with her husband and rescue dog.

This article shared 1993 times since Thu Oct 29, 2020
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Chicago History Museum to mark Juneteenth with event, free admission 2021-06-14
- The Chicago History Museum will celebrate Juneteenth with free museum admission for all and a virtual event, "Resounding Liberty: Remembering Juneteenth." The virtual celebration includes a civic talk on the history and national impact of Juneteenth; ...

Gay News

First gay Black man elected to office in Texas 2021-06-06
- On June 5, Jalen McKee-Rodriguez was elected to represent District 2 for the San Antonio City Council—making him the first openly gay Black man elected to any office in Texas history, reported. McKee-Rodriguez, 26, defeated ...

Gay News

National AIDS Memorial brings leaders of AIDS movement together to mark 40 years 2021-06-05
--From a press release - San Francisco (Saturday, June 5, 2021) — Leaders of the AIDS movement came together in the National AIDS Memorial — the nation's federally-designated memorial to AIDS — to mark forty years since the first cases of ...

Gay News

Mayor Lori Lightfoot to kick off "A Legacy of Pride" June 7 2021-06-04
--From a press release - The Legacy Project and Rep. Lamont Robinson will present "A Legacy of Pride" at Chicago's Legacy Walk Outdoor LGBTQ+ History Museum/Jane Addams Memorial, 3600 N. Halsted St. on June 7 at 10:30 a.m. Mayor Lori Lightfoot ...

Gay News

Wisconsin LGBTQ History fundraiser honors 60th anniversary of LGBTQ uprising 2021-06-01
--From a press release - Milwaukee, WI - As Pride Month kicks off today across America, the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project is launching a campaign to celebrate the birthplace of "pride" in Wisconsin, recognize a turning point in local LGBTQ history, ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Press secretary, LGBTQ passings, poll results, Pride items 2021-05-30
- Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre made history as the first gay woman to lead a White House press briefing in the James S. Brady Briefing Room, and the second Black woman to do so, LGBTQ Nation ...

Gay News

Remembering Kay "Tobin" Lahusen 2021-05-29
- Much of LGBTQ history, and history in general, has been lost. Even after photography was invented, the lens (and pen) was often directed subjectively, documenting what the mainstream media thought were the significant moments of the ...

Gay News

Thompson Coburn LLP hosts virtual tea with history-making Judge Jill Rose Quinn 2021-05-29
- Thompson Coburn LLP hosted a Citywide Pride virtual tea event May 26 that featured Cook County Circuit Court Judge Jill Rose Quinn. Quinn made history last November when she became Illinois' first transgender elected official. She ...

Gay News

Loving: The Exhibition, A Photographic History of Men in Love 1850s-1950s 2021-05-18
--From a press release - Hogarth Worldwide (, world leader in creative production, will host the inaugural exhibition for LOVING. A Photographic History of Men in Love in their 30,000 square foot facility in midtown ...

Gay News

Tina Turner, The Go-Go's among 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees 2021-05-12
- The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame revealed its 2021 inductees, calling this class "the most diverse list of inductees in the history of the organization." In the Performer category, inductees include The Go-Go's, Tina Turner, ...

Gay News

TELEVISION Jasmine Davis returns to 'The Chi' 2021-05-11
- Actress Jasmine Davis has a past history with Chicago, Illinois that continues into the future. Growing up in the Windy City has certainly paid off for the transgender performer throughout her career. After attending Kenwood High ...

Gay News

Jonathan Ned Katz talks new book, LGBTQ history, state of the world 2021-05-05
- Author, historian and activist Jonathan Ned Katz will come out with a new book, The Daring Life and Dangerous Times of Eve Adams, on May 18. The biography is centered on the life of Adams, a Jewish lesbian immigrant, and also ...

Gay News

Home of LGBTQ pioneers Phyllis Lyon, Del Martin first San Francisco lesbian history landmark 2021-05-04
--From a press release - SAN FRANCISCO — On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance authored by District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman to designate the former home of pioneering LGBTQ and civil rights activists Phyllis Lyon ...

Gay News

Northalsted plans to hold Market Days Aug. 6-8 2021-05-04
- The Northalsted Business Alliance plans to host Market Days August 6-8, adding a Friday night edition, the first in its 38-year history. As vaccinations increase and Illinois begins planning for stage 5 reopening, organizers of the ...

Gay News

1971: The Chicago Daughters of Bilitis 2021-05-03
Excerpt from Chicago After Stonewall: Gay Lib to Gay Life - An excerpt from Chicago After Stonewall: Gay Lib to Gay Life, a new book by St Sukie de la Croix. You can buy the book from, all good bookstores, and for a signed copy, ...


Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.