Clayton Mercieca spoke with Laurence Spiteri, an ex-manager who took care of the Entertainment programme at the Paradise Bay Resort Hotel. Laurence talks about how chance brought together a group of queer individuals that took Malta's & Italy's drag scene by storm.
It was the 1980s and in his capacity as the Entertainment Manager, Laurence explains how he had to come up with a 15-day programme as is usual for the Christmas period for the hotel. Whereas he had managed to fill up 13 days of the programme, he couldn't find artists available for the remaining two, which were for the opening and the closing.
By chance Laurence saw one of their employees, Fiona, passing outside the office, singing and prancing and called her in. He asked her if she could gather other people she knew to create a fashion show for the first evening and a competition with singing and dancing for the final evening. Fiona was super excited about this and indeed the show was a huge success so much so that they became resident artists every fortnight at both the Paradise Bay Hotel and the Golden Sands and where eventually called "The Sunshine Girls".
One evening, an Italian guest at the hotel proposed to Laurence to take the girls to Sicily to perform at his restaurant, il Girasole, all expenses covered and obviously the girls agreed with a lot of enthusiasm. Once again the show was such a huge success that they were invited again and again.
Back in Malta, the General Manager of the hotel was also requested an Italian TV broadcaster to record one of the shows and Infact this was shown multiple times. Laurence recalls how he felt proud to have been part of this change in attitude towards trans people as they gained more visibility and respect.
The rise and rise of the Sunshine Girls eventually came to a halt with the AIDS pandemic. Unfortunately the misinformation at the time, cast a dark cloud on anyone who was trans or gay. As a result, the shows were stopped.
Listen to the full interview in the video (in Maltese, with English Subtitles).