Take it from an ex-Brooklynite

Hello readers. Allow me to introduce myself! My name is Rai Guerra-Nelson. I’ve been a resident of Asbury Park for almost 20 years. I moved here from Brooklyn, New York, when I bought my first home. Having been born and raised in a big city like Brooklyn, I thought I’d be here for a year, flip the house and go the hell back home. Boy was I in for a surprise! What I found in Asbury Park was a gorgeous beach, great restaurants, but also an incredible gay community unlike any I’ve ever known. A community that really comes together to protect and support their own when it is most needed. Whether it’s someone who needs a heart transplant, someone who has been recently diagnosed with cancer and just needs their “chosen” family to raise a little money to help out with day-to-day expenses, to just needing a ride home after a night at the bar with copious amounts of alcohol – they’re there!

This is the same community that inspired me to leave a career in corporate cosmetics, and discover a newfound passion for integrating fundraising into my work, a way of leaving my own mark on the community. In 2015 I started “Infamous Brands Incorporated,” a socially conscious company that gives back to the community. Within the corporation’s umbrella is “Asbury Infamous,” a brand of apparel to bring awareness and benefit Project Real, an LGBTQ youth drop in center here in Asbury, and “Sir! Beard and Body,” a line of men’s beard and body products where a portion of the sales benefit the Leather Heart Foundation.

Asbury Park is home to venues such as Georgies Bar, Hotel Tides and Paradise, and the Empress Hotel – hosting some of the city’s most successful fundraisers and yearly events.

On May 5th, Hotel Tides will host their fifth annual gala, Pink Prom, an event created by Eric Pinckney and Ryan Jimenez, the establishment’s general manager. The event has raised thousands for charities such as Pride Network, Pride Center of New Jersey, Project Real, Spectrum Support Network, and Glsen. Hotel Tides is also home to one of the finest restaurants in town. Executive chef Jeff Parenty never ceases to amaze diners with his deliciously imaginative creations. Amongst my favorite of his creations are his braised Lamb Shank, and French Onion macaroni and cheese.

In 1999 Shep Petitbone opened up Paradise, one of the hottest nightclubs on the Jersey Shore, and home of one of the most illustrious drag pageants, Miss Paradise, the Copper Bar and Grill, and the Empress Hotel. Catch the newly crowned Miss Paradise, Victoria Courtez, every Friday night for the best in female impersonation. Paradise continuously opens its doors to the N.J. leather family and is the host of the Mr. and Miss New Jersey Leather contest by Dragonslair productions and Mid-Atlantic Drummer contest. The complex’s pool is a favorite destination in the summer for out-of-town guests from all over the Northeast.

A favorite local gay bar is Georgies. To us locals it is known as “the gay Cheers.” While a lot smaller in size, this watering hole sure has an action-packed week! On Sundays Pissi Myles hosts “Lipsync Battle.” Tuesdays they have the most scandalizing all-male revue with up to ten exotic dancers with great beats by DJ Mick Hale. Wednesdays and Saturdays, Ted Smits holds the most popular karaoke nights in town. Thursdays, Miss Liberty Continental 2016, Lady Maria hosts her “Glitter and Glam” show with performers from the tri-state area and resident DJ Stanley Stylez. On the first Friday of every month, however, Joe Cole and Dragonslair productions bring you “Bulge,” Asbury’s “infamous” men’s night. A night full of debauchery, scantily clad men, and cheap drinks to boot! What’s not to love?