Ramp Divas is celebrating seven years of partying on the 31st of July, making it Joburg’s longest running gay club still in existence.
The Boksburg club has seen its fair share of controversy and hiccups over the years but it remains as popular today as it was when it first started. Derided by some as being too cheesy and often mocked for its endless parade of sash-wearing pageant winners, the reality is that few venues have been as consistent or successful.
Ramp Divas is managed by the ever-present hostess Miss B (despite a fallout and a spell managing the late Legends, she was welcomed back with open arms) and is owned by brothers Rudi and Kayce Keyser. Together they have assembled a formidable community of clubbers who are committed to loyally partying at the East Rand venue every weekend.
Mambaonline spoke to Kayce about the past seven years…
Why did you decide to start the club? How did it come about?
It was actually by chance… I was always a huge party animal – I loved [the long-running Braamfontein club] Champions – and I was at Apollo, an existing gay club on the East Rand, when the manager asked me if I was interested in buying the club. One thing led to the next and I bought it. We were there for three months. But I wanted more out of a club and knew there must be something bigger and better out there. I heard about another venue that was open but it was a huge risk because nothing had really worked there before. I took Miss B there to view the venue and her words were: “This is amazing! Let’s move today!” I followed my gut and opened Ramp Divas a week later…
Who are the people behind Ramps’ success?
Well, I’ve always believed that everyone plays a role in the success of the club, including the owners, managers, clubbers, DJs, barmen, cleaners… they all form the links that make the club tick. My mother and brother have always been involved through thick and thin and, of course, Miss B, who is my right hand.
What has been the biggest challenge of going for seven years?
Reinventing the club – keeping it fresh and new without upsetting the balance.
How would you describe your audience?
We have always catered for the gay community – we have a diverse mixture of gay clientele of all ages, races and gender. Of course we do have a percentage of straight and bisexual clubbers too.
What makes Ramp Divas different from other clubs?
We believe in preserving our gay heritage and gay culture. Our vibe is really amazing. Clubbers are very friendly, and the atmosphere is electrifying yet relaxed.
Why do you think Ramps Divas has been so successful over the last seven years?
Lots of hard work! Devotion from staff and pageant winners, loyalty from clubbers – and keeping things constant yet fresh.
How has the gay clubbing scene changed during that time?
There’s a lot more acceptance to being gay, there’s definitely more openness. And there’s a younger generation moving in although the older crowd are still there – which is great; clubbing should have no age limit!
What has been the biggest high of the last seven year?
There are almost too many to mention: meeting fabulous people; Pride; New Year’s and birthday parties; exciting theme parties; Mr and Miss Ramp Divas pageants; charity events; and the club winning various awards…
And the biggest disappointments?
I’ve lost a lot through break-ins and theft. And I’ve even been beaten up! We organised events for certain groups who have asked for specific events and then not getting support from them, which was disappointing. All these have taught me to never lie down but to get up stronger than before.
Miss B in action on stage
Does running a nightclub interfere with your personal life?
What personal life? (Laughs) The club becomes your life! I do like to try and keep a balance where I can, but it isn’t easy.
Where do you see Ramp Divas in the next seven years?
As a gay owned clubbing franchise! It’s always been a big dream of mine to branch out all over South Africa.
What can people expect at the big birthday bash?
The biggest gay party of 2010! We are going huge this year, including ten of South Africa’s top clubbing DJs, two dance floors, outside areas, celebrities, glitz and glamour and, of course, the best gay party vibe!
Ramp Divas – located at 154 Anna Bella Road, Bardene, Boksburg – celebrates its 7th Birthday on Saturday 31 July. Doors open from 7pm.