The LGBT+ nightlife in São Paulo is full of curious stories and striking passages, largely due to the trendy nightclubs in the 70s and 80s. Retrieving memories of gay nightlife, it is impossible not to mention the importance of names like that of businesswoman Elisa Mascaro (1940-2019), owner of three of the most prestigious nightclubs of the time:K-7, Medieval and Corintho.
Chronologically, in 1971, Mascaro founded Medieval in São Paulo, considered the first point for gays. The K-7 also emerged in the 70s, but it was a small space, yet it was still suffering police “raids” motivated by intolerance. In 1985, Corintho emerged, which, like Medieval, became legendary places, a kind of gay Studio 54 (which, unlike the American, did not stop anyone at the entrance) and that marked a generation that goes out to dance, have fun and flirt.
Medieval had a decoration inspired by the castles. It was “chic” and also expensive, with notable trans and crossdressers shows, attracting even those who were not LGBT. Thematic parties were an event, everyone wanted to see and be seen there. The nightclubs of the time invested heavily in shows, inspired by French productions with dancers and a glamorous figure with gala costumes.
Medieval closed its doors in 1984 and the following year Corintho entered the scene. Located in Moema, some say that Corintho was more successful than its predecessor – in fact, the house was huge and had a large dance floor, which filled and sang the sound of the main hits of the time. Fabulous costume, carnival and New Year’s parties became memorable for those who lived that time.
The figure of Elisa Mascaro goes far beyond the business side, she was “the mother that all gay people would like to have” and did much more than give a formal job to crossdressers, something unprecedented at the time. The businesswoman broke taboos: at the height of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s, she imported drugs from the United States to help friends who had tested positive. She also made burials, since family members preferred to ignore them.
Both Medieval and Corintho have fun stories, some already revealed in the documentary “São Paulo em Hi-Fi”, by Lufe Steffens. Well-known personalities of the São Paulo night, did everything to appear in the literal sense of the word, anything was worth, from arriving on an elephant or inside a glass coffin. Famous people also attended nightclubs, such as Chiquinho Scarpa, Wanderléa, Elke Maravilha, Clodovil and several other artists.
Drag queen Kaká di Polly fondly remembers her business friend and her nightclubs: “Medieval was a dream. All gays had a place to enjoy, have fun, watch wonderful shows. They had parties that stopped the entire street and everything was incredible. Corintho was also a dream, it had divine shows that, at times, would be on display for a year or more. Elisa was a mother to me, a person I loved. I was one of the only people who go out with Elisa up and down, I was very sorry for her loss. I have a lot of love when I say the name Elisa Mascaro ”, said di Polly during the creation of this article.
More than 20 years were dedicated to providing entertainment to the gay community, when the military dictatorship still persisted. In one of the spaces that received up to 2 thousand people, Mascaro provided a unique spectacle, with memorable performances by artists from the gay scene. The iconic figure of Elisa Mascaro in front of her ventures helped to popularize the transformation art, giving space to those who did not have it.
Widowed, Mascaro had to deal with the loss of her son in 1991, choosing to stay away from the night and spend seasons abroad. His life yielded a biography, entitled:“Elisa Mascaro – The businesswoman of the shows in São Paulo’s nights”, by Marcelo Bértoli. Elisa Mascaro died at the age of 78 in 2019, a victim of cancer.