23 December 2014

A Christmas Referendum

It began in early November, slowly and subtly, but before the month was even halfway through it was everywhere – Christmas. Carols and songs piped through every store I visited, decorations and gift ideas in my face at every turn and Christmas foods pushed in supermarkets as if they were everyday staples.
You see I am not a great fan of this time of the year. Like many in the community, separated from family and without a partner, it just doesn’t seem to click. In fact, I am one of those people who would be the first to announce, ‘I don’t like Christmas’. Indeed, my last family Christmas was exactly forty years ago. Look, I always have a nice day spent with friends and other Christmas orphans feasting on yummy food and working my way through the offerings of almost every champagne house, but really, I’m happy to see December 26.
I reckon I’m an expert at looking into the faces of people I pass in the street and picking those of the same view. I would go as far as to say if a referendum were held next Saturday and the question, ‘Do you like Christmas – yes or no?’, was put to the people, then I’m not convinced you would get a majority of ‘yes’ votes.
That said, it’s December and Christmas is overflowing from the shops onto the streets, just like the last throws of an election campaign in the lead up to polling day. And it was in this scene that I was unexpectedly reminded of what Christmas is all about. 

21 November 2014

The Sydney showgirl talent keeps on flowing

The DIVA Board held a tremendous Awards event a few weeks ago with Minnie Cooper, as this year’s host and headliner, getting reviews that will be remembered as some of the best.  One aspect of the show that really interested me was that Minnie had awarded the weekly winners of duets week at her current talent quest ‘Drags to Riches’ with a DIVA performance – can you just imagine?

Talent quests have been one of showgirls main sources of ‘being discovered’ since regular drag shows became popular on the scene. The prizes can vary from a holiday, to cash, to casting in a show - but the biggest prize is being seen.
We learnt in the recent SX interview that the 2014 DIVA Hall of Fame inductee, Keren St James, got her start through a talent quest called ‘Search for a Tragedy’ at The Albury Hotel in 1984. I’ve discovered that Amelia Airhead won the ‘Supermodel’ talent quest at The Flinders Hotel in 1994 and she has 12 DIVA trophies in the pool room.  Charisma Belle our new Entertainer of the Year got her breakthrough from Mitzi Macintosh in 2002, when she won the role of ‘Janet’ in a talent quest to find the cast of ‘Rocky the Drag Show’ at the Imperial Hotel.
Talent quests have had a resurgence in popularity since RuPaul’s Drag Race became a massive hit all over the world. It may have the biggest prizes - a cash prize of $100,000 and the title of ‘America's Next Drag Superstar’ but the winner can travel the world for years as a ‘new’ headline act.
With Bianca Del Rio, photo In the Dark
I got a moment to chat with Bianca Del Rio, the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6, after her spectacular performance in Sydney some weeks ago. Del Rio told me she has been performing regularly in various New York City nightclubs for the last ten years - but here she was playing to thousands of adoring fans in Australia because of the opportunity this particular talent quest has given her.  

21 October 2014

DIVA 2014 - Celebrating the past - looking to the future

It’s time for the annual meeting of the tribe, high on glamour, back slapping and celebration of community. Yep it’s the 24th annual Drag Industry Variety Awards, DIVA.  It’s amazing to think when we first met at DCM nightclub in 1991 that today we would have a record to evoke the best of a drag industry that tells a wonderful and colourful story of Sydney’s gay life.

Enormous credit belongs to David Wilkins, Penny Clifford and Ian Jopson, who wanted to organise an event to celebrate Sydney's amazing drag queens, their work, and the many talents of the people who made up the local gay entertainment industry. They kicked off a community organisation that has existed because of the effort of many volunteer board members over the years, with support from numerous community venues, media and small business.
Ian Jopson    Penny Clifford    David Wilkins

Penny recently told me “I am very proud of being a part of a small group of hard working people that started DIVA in 1991 and that its legacy continues today. If there is one achievement in this community I’ve had in my life that I am proud of, it would be the DIVA Awards”.
As a community organisation DIVA has had its business highs and lows over the years; I was proud to be part of it all as a board member in the 00s, but prefer to recall DIVA history through the fabulous performers whose wonderful talent we’ve celebrated.

16 September 2014

Hello Young Man

Out and about on the Sunday arvo of Bingham Cup weekend and the atmosphere was great. Went to the beer garden for some shandies, people watching and cool tunes – the place was shoulder to shoulder and going off.
When it came my turn to shout I dug deep for the journey to the bar and back, grabbed one of the guys to help carry and started to ease my way through the throng. Manoeuvring around the different groups as we went with nods and smiles and a greeting here and there.  As we passed by a large group of guys I made eye contact with a chap who just beamed back at me although I didn’t think I knew him.
“Excuse me, I’m Alex and I’m sure you won’t remember me but in 1992 when I was ‘coming out’ you were so sweet to me and made me feel welcome, I’ve never forgotten it”.
So turns out Alex as a young 20 year old had arrived in Sydney to become himself and the first place he found on his journey was Friday nights at the Flinders Hotel.  


8 September 2014

Welcome Spring

The annual David Jones Flower Show at the Elizabeth Street Store in Sydney is in its 29th year. This year is really the biggest and brightest it’s been for years and that’s a huge surprise given all the trouble DJs have had of late.

Featuring a wide variety of 150,000 live flowers, the David Jones Flower Show has been created by a team of 30 specialists florists in over 10,000 hours. This year the theme is Attraction, celebrating the powerful sensory engagement of flowers and their distinct scents. It’s very girly and wonderfully sophisticated.

Here is a selection of phots I’ve taken, to tempt you locals to go see and for friends not in town who might enjoy. All happening until Sunday 14 September.


15 August 2014

Having Pride in Sydney Showgirls

Recently I went to the Pollys 50th anniversary dance and show at the Roundhouse, which was the most wonderful celebration of Pollys, the longest running gay social club in the world. I love it as it’s my chance to catch up with my sister showgirls from way back in the day, who I only get to see at these dances and naturally we all end up round one table to share our gossip and the what’s what of the moment.
After a few ‘well in our day’ kind of stories the conversation dipped into what’s happening now, and I was delighted to hear just how much the old girls had an eye on the current scene. One of my girlfriends turned to me and said “come on Colleen you know what’s happening – anything bona (good) we should know about”.

Well yes I began; just in the last few weeks around the Pride weekend, Sydney drag was punching well above its weight on a global stage.  Courtney Act, who has recently moved into a whole new drag queen stratosphere, was on a float in the New York Pride Parade.  I told the girls all about Courtney’s fame ride,  being a contestant on Logo TV’s RuPaul Drag Race and how she did so well to win third place and gave those US queens a little taste of the Sydney drag experience.  Following the Parade she was one of the headline acts at The Official NYC Logo TV Pride Party, along with a few of her sister drag race finalists, hosted by Michelle Visage at the Broadway Liberty Theatre. “It’s all on You-Tube girls, go vada (look) the Courtney Act Channel” I told them.

How Kitty Glitter, who has become the world’s hottest drag DJ, was the final DJ of the day at the World Pride 14 Toronto T-Dance along with some of the world’s biggest gay DJ’s.  Playing a City’s Pride Parade after party is big business but to play following a World Pride Parade of some 12,000 marchers in the massive Dundas Square, Toronto’s biggest public space was something else. Everyone screamed in delight acknowledging just how well Kitty is doing, always decked in the finest drag and a great ambassador of the Sydney showgirl scene. “I’ve got one of her free podcasts, there fantabulosa one of the girls screamed!”    

27 June 2014

Celebrating Carlotta

Thursday 19 June saw Carlotta the movie win the ratings for the most watched   program in its timeslot on Australian TV that evening. It’s not surprising as many Australians, and covering a very broad age range, are fascinated and fans of Australia’s ‘queen of drag’.

Carlotta, or as I know her Carol, have been friends since 1975 when I was lucky enough to be a Les Girl. I’ve watched this seedling of an idea blossom and grow to the fabulous celebration of Carlotta’s life this bio pic is.  Based on her two memoirs; He did it her way, 1994 by James Cockington and I’m not that kind of girl, 2003 with Prue MacSween this bio pic takes bits and pieces, binds them, shakes them up and creates an exciting theatrical insight to what it was like to be a drag queen, or more correctly a female impersonator as we were then, in the sixties and seventies.  


The movie shows Carol growing up in the fifties, the gender confusion and more so the response to it, before she flees the suburbs and begins a showgirls life which has seen her become the most famous queen in Australia and yes ‘a household name’. This movie handles the more confronting and challenging aspect of this life, those out of the spotlight, with great sensitivity and gives an accurate insight to what it is to grow up and live a Trans life.  

Of course the entertainment factor is that of Carlotta the star of Kings Cross Les Girls. Les Girls ran for three decades and the movie captures the very sixties essence of its run.  It was a successful show and drew visitors from all over Australia and the World to marvel “could these girls be really boys”.

Carlotta has been well received by the critics and viewers alike. The most controversial aspect I’ve seen is that of Carlotta was played by a girl.  Shane Jenek aka drag queen, Courtney Act, was initially linked to the project but after a change of production company and with Carlotta on board as a consultant the role went to Jessica Marais.

15 May 2014

Bravo Conchita Wurst!

It’s a given that the Eurovision Song Contest is the campest show on earth but who would have thought it could deliver one of the strongest messages of diversity and difference to the world - all wrapped up in the wonderful drag persona Conchita Wurst.  

Conchita Wurst was born Tom Neuwirth on 6 November 1988 in Gmunden/Austria. The young artist had always dreamed of a career in showbiz. It all really started in 2006 when he took part in the talent show Starmania. In 2007, he joined the boy band jetzt anders which however only survived for less than one year.
Tom graduated from the Graz School of Fashion in 2011 and created his drag persona Conchita Wurst who came second in the Austrian preselection for the Eurovision Song Contest 2012. Conchita uses the she when in drag and has recoded three singles so far including Rise Like a Phoenix. A modest journey – till now! 
Winning Eurovision this week ensures Conchita a place in the GLBT pages of history and deserves all of our respect and thanks.  She was faced with some protests before the competition, highlighting a rift between Europe’s progressive liberal side and the traditional values and nationalist rhetoric of Russia and some other nations taking part.

17 April 2014

Your she-mail bounced

The numbers suggest that Season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race is the most watched of the series, and the benefits of course are incredible. It can educate, enlighten and enlist a whole new world of support for the drag industry.  Yes that’s what Drag Race is - an avenue of entertainment featuring Drag!

The problem is when the joke backfires or causes controversy it attracts the kind of attention that can have unreasonable consequences. Here amongst all the fun and glamour of Season 6 we have the perfect example of one bad taste segment affecting the whole show profile.
In a recent episode they had a mini challenge, a game called Female or Shemale, pitting the contestants against each other in a quest to determine whether they were being shown a picture of — as RuPaul phrased it — ‘a biological woman or a psychological woman.’
The contestants laughed as they guessed whether or not the body part they're being shown belonged to a cisgender (nontrans) woman. The problem was it stepped out of its remit of showcasing drag queens and brought transgender women into the mix as a source of ridicule – it was in bad taste and totally unnecessary.

5 April 2014

“When you wish upon a star your dreams come true”

Bernadette Peters in concert Theatre Royal Sydney 3 April 14

“When you wish upon a star your dreams come true” so sang Ms Peters and  they did for a packed Theatre Royal assembled to worship the Queen of Broadway, Miss Bernadette Peters, making a return visit to Sydney after some 15 years.  My excitement had been building for weeks as friends who saw her the first time round all acclaimed her in concert to be unforgettable – and on this occasion she was even more fabulous than the hype.
Backed by a stunning eleven piece orchestra we were treated to arguably a perfect pick of Broadway songs.  Some from the collection of Broadway shows she’s done, some from the brilliant collection of CD recordings she’s made and some, especially for her Australian audiences, written by Peter Allen, who we learned was a dear friend and colleague of hers (but more on that later).

Warming us up Bernadette showed off her witty side with a fresh as the morning version of Nothing like a dame from South Pacific and a sultry version of Fever draped atop the baby grand. Looking a million bucks in a gorgeous décolleté lilac beaded gown, with flashes of leg, Bernadette Peters was the ultimate showgirl.
photo Kurt Sneddon

3 February 2014

Mardi Gras Festival 2014 – top 5 shows you should see

It’s that time of year again when Sydney stages take on an altogether gayer hue. The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival will run from February 7 through to March 2. This year the Festival boasts big name stars in theatre and cabaret, and plays on main stages and inner city independent theatres.

I’m excited and looking forward to three weeks of fabulous LGBTQI slanted culture. For all the details visit
www.mardigras.org.au or pick up one of their cute little programs and get out and enjoy.

What am I looking forward to the most – well this is my five shows to see for 2014.


Marvin has left his wife and son for a male lover. Meanwhile, Trina has shacked up with Marvin’s shrink. Amongst this there’s also a Bar Mitzvah to organise. Is it too much to ask for everyone to get along? Wickedly funny lyrics accompany a live piano score in this quirky yet tender tale about family, growing up and what it means to be a man.

This Tony Award-winning musical about the original modern family is directed by Stephen Colyer who brought us the smash hit of last year’s Festival Torch Song Trilogy. It’s playing at the brand new Eternity Playhouse in Darlinghurst and has all the markings and promise of ‘must see’ all over it.

Appearing in the cast of Falsettos is one of our hottest actors right now Katrina Retallick, she was hilarious in the Addams Family last year and just won the Best Actress in a Musical for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Sydney Critic Awards. She has incredible comedic timing and can sure sing – can’t wait to see her in this.

24 January 2014

Voyeur - "guaranteed to leave you hot under the collar".

Who doesn’t like the opportunity to watch? Well this new show appearing monthly at Slide in Darlinghurst will be your complete delight as you become the Voyeur. The guys behind multi award winning Aussie Pole Boys display their many talents both on and off the pole, in a multi-media show focusing on strength, agility and the male physique.

Having been an integral part of many shows at Slide over the past 6 years, the Aussie Pole Boys present their most daring and ambitious show Voyeur – an adults only all-male burlesque show, spanning traditional to nouveau burlesque, aerial performance and pole dance and set against a purpose-built multi-media set with stunning lighting effects.
Slide is the perfect cabaret room for this show, first dinner is always divine, and then everybody is on top of the action in this intimate setting. What I particularly liked about Voyeur is its creative idea has been perfectly developed and at no time throughout the show does it wander from it. A mix of solo work, doubles and cast numbers, each bringing a different aspect of male sexiness and strength to the show.
Look it’s all good I was completely mesmerized, but a couple of highlights - the strength of David Aeon and Blue Phoenix who performed an incredible duo on the pole and the sultry sexiness of Steven Watson’s fan dance and hot aerial act.

The place was packed the night I and my friends went along and the audience, which was a complete mix, all lapping up the ‘look don’t touch’ playfulness on tap. Slide are on a winner again and this is a great addition to its variety of resident circus, performance art and burlesque cabaret. Guaranteed to leave you a little ‘hot under the collar’ so to speak.

14 January 2014

Yoko Ono - War is Over! (if you want it)

Growing up in Wales as a teenager in the late sixties The Beatles and all they got up to was fascinating and completely drove pop culture of the day. I became aware of Yoko Ono, of course, when she married John Lennon and I can remember their Bed Peace piece in 1969 which was absolutely massive. These two hippies staying in a white bed, in a white room for two weeks in the name of world peace.

So it seems that Yoko Ono has carried this thread as the driver for her art ever since and currently showing at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney is her first Australian exhibition and of course Peace is its central theme. The title comes from a text work by Ono and her husband John Lennon that first appeared at Christmas 1969 across public billboards in twelve cities worldwide, including New York and London.

Much of the work is installation based and to get the most out of your visit you need to get actively involved with the work. Many of the pieces were first created in the sixties and recreated in the last few years to form this show.
The whole problem is that you have to buy-in to this now quaint notion that sticking a post-it note on a wall will repair your relationship with your mother, or stamping the word peace on your city of choice on a huge map will ensure that place embraces peace, or taking a jigsaw piece of sky away with you in the hope that, one day in the future, the world can build a new sky together. All of which might have been moving in its day but now seems out of touch and silly for us cynics.