Only months ago, we remember lying across a pillowed sofa in a sunny corner of the pool deck at the incredible Sunday tea dance at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa (717 Breakers Avenue, Fort Lauderdale). The place was packed with hot twinks in Speedos and elegant gentlemen with caps and Panamas to protect their aging skin for the hot Florida sun.
As a live DJ spun house tracks, patrons crowded the pool bar with its muscled bartenders in their tight Royal Palms teeshirts. Crisp white stucco provided the perfect complement to the brushed silver wall lamps in a décor as impressive as anything in South Beach. It was a fantasy that we foolishly took for granted, thinking this creation from the mind of Swedish developer Par Sanda would last forever as the gay resort it had become.
Sanda had converted two 50s-style motels, previously owned by mover and shaker Bob DeBenedictis into the Royal Palm, helmed by legendary hotelier Richard Gray. Under Gray’s magic wand, the Royal Palms had become the first local gay resort to earn a five-star rating. In addition to the bar, the hotel had a restaurant, a spa, masseur, and fitness center. There were two porn channels on the TV and enough cutey-pie employees to keep even the most jaded queen amused.
But Sanda, it seems, ultimately had other plans for the resort which is still listed among the top gay destinations on most LGBT websites. What was one-time the crossroads of tropical sensuality and chic urban design was about to do more than just start showing its age. The icon turned straight.
Now gone are the DJs, the cushions, and the class. No more porn channels; in fact, the TVs now only receive a shadow of their former channel selections all around. The paint is chipping, the lamps are rusting, and the gays have moved on to the Grand Hotel and Spa down the street, where the welcome mat is not only out, it’s cleaned daily under the watchful eyes of owner Casey Koslowski and his resort manager Edward Otto Zielke. In true LGBT style, when one fantasy fades, another rises in its place without missing a beat.
Trip Adviser reviewer John S. from Charlotte North Carolina said it best when he wrote two weeks ago: “To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I was so looking forward to just being free to be me whether I was at the pool or the bar or in my room. Upon checkin, the gentleman was nice and helpful, but clearly not gay. Neither was the bartender and there were non-gay couples at the pool. I thought, well at least I hope they kept the rooms up and the crisp clean nature of the place had stayed. This was mostly true. Clearly, the room (1207) that I was upgraded to was spacious with plenty of light, a nice big bathroom and shower space. And it seemed clean. Until I pulled the luggage holder from the wall and saw brown spots on the wall behind it. It was clear that the luggage holder had rusted and bled on to the wall. Later that night when I went to pull the sheers and blackout curtains closed.
“It was obvious that they hadn’t been cleaned in some time. Other things… the grout in the shower was showing its age; the chrome on the lights by the bed was beginning to fade away and one of the lights had a non-functioning bulb. The wifi was free, but weak. The TV no longer has the “special” channels. In fact, what it does have is your standard issue bad connection that you find in second rate hotels elsewhere. And while the bartender was very nice, the prices for what they serve are ridiculous – and certainly not on par for taste as what they used to be. The main pool area was a bit unkept as well. Leaves and bird droppings on the patio and lounge chairs. And almost one entire side of the pool has had the lounge chairs removed in favor of cafe tables. And they only serve food until 5 PM. Had I known that I was not going to be at a gay exclusive resort with better kept accommodations and cute guys around, I would have just booked the Hilton and been right on the beach.”
Only the memory remains.