if you want to see glamorous girls and stylish boys, you have to visit the tropicana club in havana. the tropicana, opened in 1939, was flashiest cabaret and casino of its day, seating 1,700 patrons and featuring the “sequin and feather” shows that were subsequently copied in paris and las vegas. josephine baker, paul robeson and carmen miranda all played there, and stars like sammie davis, jr., maurice chevalier, and marlon brandon were frequent visitors. the tropicana also was the haunt of famous wiseguys santo trafficante, jr. and meyer lansky, if you know what i mean.
alas, all good things come to an end, at least somewhat: after the revolution, the government closed down the casino and nationalized the property. still, the tropicana continues to operate, and today it caters primarily to tourists.
what if you want to see glamorous girls in colorful costumes, but you can’t make it to the tropicana? in that case, you can always catch a local drag show. which we did. we couldn’t photograph the performers on stage, but we were allowed into the dressing rooms, and we shot the goings-on beforehand.
next: how we ended up at a cuban drag show.