Metro Weekly

Wife of Drag Ban Sponsor Hosting “Sultry” Burlesque Show

Florida State Rep. Randy Fine couldn't tell media whether his wife's charity fundraiser could be considered an "adult live performance" under his bill.

Wendy (left) and Randy Fine – (left) The Space Coast Rocket – Original photo: Spring Forward for Autism; Florida House of Representatives.

The wife of a Florida Republican sponsoring a bill to criminalize “adult live performances,” primarily aimed at restricting drag shows, is slated to host a “sultry” burlesque show that could potentially be criminalized under her husband’s legislation.

State Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) is sponsoring a bill to prohibit government entities from issuing any permit allowing an “adult live performance” in public or in a space where minors might view it.

Individuals found guilty of violating the law can face fines and potential jail time, and establishments that host such shows and allow minors on the premises can be fined even more harshly and have their business or liquor licenses suspended or revoked.

Critics contend that the proposed law serves as an effective ban on drag, as it would likely leave owners of restaurants, places of lodging, and theaters or performance spaces to cancel drag-related events out of fear of being fined or harassed by overzealous state regulators seeking to enforce the law.

Earlier this week, Fine made headlines after a clip of him defending the bill from critics, who claim it unfairly targets part of the LGBTQ community, was shared widely on social media. 

“They’re the ones that are saying this definition applies to them,” he said, referring to members of the LGBTQ community. “Well, if it means erasing a community because you have to target children, [then] damn right, we ought to do it.”

But critics of the bill soon pointed out that Fine’s own bill, if made law, could potentially criminalize a charitable fundraiser that his wife, Wendy, is co-hosting, accusing Fine of hypocrisy.

According to the local Florida news site The Space Coast Rocket, Wendy Fine is listed as the co-host of an upcoming burlesque fundraiser to raise money for a Florida children’s charity called Spring Forward for Autism.

A flier advertising the event — which was removed from Instagram after the story broke — promises an “evening filled with sultry performers.”

Wendy Fine also allegedly performed in the 2021 gala, during which female dancers were photographed wearing revealing costumes and lingerie.

Under Fine’s proposed bill, an “adult live performance” is defined as “any show, exhibition, or other presentation in front of a live audience, which, in whole or in part, depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or specific sexual activities,” and prohibits the attendance of children at such shows.

As noted by The Space Coast Rocket, a YouTube video of the event was taken down for violating the platform’s terms and policies.

According to some who attended the event, there were minors, including some with special needs, in the audience at last year’s events.

A toddler can be seen in a video taken at the event, and photo collections from the 2018 and 2019 gala suggest that at least one child was present, with another child even performing with adults at the 2018 gala.

The event’s website does not say the fundraiser is restricted to those over 18, nor did the now-erased-from-the-web event flier.

However, under Fine’s bill, not expressly prohibiting children from attending could result in both the performers or the venue — in this case, the Hilton Rialto in Melbourne, Florida — being fined or prosecuted by authorities.

Rep. Fine, who is listed as one of the prominent sponsors of the “Spring Forward for Autism” gala, told Business Insider that he has attended the event “several” times and cannot remember a child ever being there.

“It isn’t an inexpensive ticket and isn’t billed as family-friendly,” he said.

But Fine couldn’t answer a question from Business Insider about whether the autism gala would be criminalized under his bill — perhaps speaking to how the bill’s vagueness in defining “adult live performances” is actually left up to individual people’s interpretations of the term and their personal biases.

“To qualify as an ‘adult live performance’ under the proposed law, an event has to meet many criteria, and without knowing exactly what they are doing, I can’t answer your question,” Fine said. “That said, whether this law passes or not, I would agree that children should not be invited to an event involving ‘sultry performers.'”

When NBC News sought comment from Wendy Fine, she said she was dialing in her husband, who was heard telling her, “Just hang up.”

Neither Fine nor his wife responded to subsequent requests for comment from NBC News.

Fine’s critics note that even if the organizers of “Spring Forward for Autism” gala reverse course and restrict admission to those 18 and over going forward — or even if they scrub the event’s Internet history — state officials have been less forgiving of similar mistakes or oversights when it comes to LGBTQ-related events.

For example, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation — incidentally, the exact department that would be tasked with enforcing the ban on public drag performances — recently revoked the liquor licenses of two venues in Miami and Orlando for hosting the touring drag show, “A Drag Queen Christmas.”

The department also launched an investigation into a theater in Broward County for hosting the same show, based on complaints filed with the state alleging that the performances contained “lewd, indecent or obscene content.”

But as the online newsletter Popular Information reported, at least in the Orlando case, the official complaint exaggerates what occurred at the drag show, which conflicts with details contained in the supporting reports submitted by undercover DBPR investigators — who were sent to the show watching for any content that could be deemed objectionable.

Besides objecting to the content of “A Drag Queen Christmas,” those filing complaints claimed, in the Broward case, that the Broward Center for the Performing Arts initially said “A Drag Queen Christmas” was for “all ages” and contained a warning and disclaimer about possible adult content, leaving it up to parents to make decisions for their own children.

However, the theater later edited its website to clarify that the event was intended only for patrons 18 and over, and sent out a “Know Before You Go” email to all ticket buyers warning them of content that might offend some theater-goers.

Despite what appears to have been a mistake, state officials — including DBPR employees who fall under the purview of the DeSantis administration — gleefully went after the Broward Center, threatening to impose sanctions and yank its three liquor licenses based on assertions that the drag show was “marketed to children.”

Some Twitter users accused Fine of hypocrisy for targeting drag shows as problematic while sponsoring the burlesque show fundraiser for autism.

“‘Rules for thee, not for me,'” wrote one user. “So it was ok for Randy Fine’s wife to participate in a sexually charged burlesque show with underage kids in attendance, but drag time story time is just too much. Sick of these goddamned hypocrites.”

“rep. randy fine is clueless. A Florida Republican who sponsored an anti-drag bill ‘can’t answer’ whether his wife’s charity event featuring ‘sultry performers’ would be criminalized under his own law?” a second Twitter user wrote, referring to the Republican lawmaker’s comments to Business Insider.

State Rep. Randy Fine‘s wife is hosting ‘an evening filled with sultry performers.’ ‘There’s no mention of the event’s excluding minors.’ IOKIYAR strikes again!” tweeted a third, using an acronym for “It’s OK If You’re A Republican.” That phrase has been used since 2006 by members of the online Left to highlight what they see as a mainstream media bias at the local news market level, in which left-wing or progressive lawmakers or political movements are condemned or criticized, but identical or similar behavior from right-wing politicians or movements is ignored. 

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!