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Facebook 'Pioneers' group celebrates what members call the heyday of South Beach

By AUDRA D.S. BURCH, aburch@MiamiHerald.com

It started out as the precious, archived memories of a few who came of age as South Beach came to be known for something other than, something livelier than, a retirement destination with a water view.

Now, in their 40s, 50s and 60s, they call themselves the South Beach Pioneers. They recently created a Facebook group — a technologically modern way to capture and safeguard vintage moments. In posts and pictures, they celebrate the Beach of two decades past — the 1980s and 1990s — before the big-box stores, coffee shop franchises and chic hotels. They fete the fabulous scrappiness of the Beach, the struggle to preserve its Art Deco bones, the blossoming gay culture, the modeling movement and the relentless, hedonistic parties at long-dead grande dames like Warsaw Ballroom and the Paragon and later Liquid.

The pioneers call it a “digital town square” a place that is both familiar and comforting and, perhaps permanent — the seeds of memories and photos might someday be the foundation for a coffee table book that chronicles the cool of yesteryear.

“In some ways, this is about nostalgia, about remembering friends when the grass seemed greener, the sky seemed bluer and the seas were calmer,” says Elaine Lancaster, a drag-queen extraordinaire who has built a dazzling career on the stages of Miami Beach and elsewhere.

“But it’s not about living in the past, it’s a snapshot of our lives 15 or 20 years ago,” says Lancaster, who helps administer the group.

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