9 September 2016

The Benefit

It seems to come up often when I’m asked about different aspects of my life on the ‘Golden Mile’. And I seem to always say, “I have lived in the best of times and the worst of times”. It’s from these thoughts that I’m reminded of ‘The Benefit’.

A tradition of Sydney drag queens and showgirl performers for over three decades now, doing the benefit was born out of a sense of duty and passed on with reason and smothered in love.

It is traced back to 1985, when the newly-established Bobby Goldsmith Foundation organised the first Boys Own Bake Off at the Oxford Hotel and our performers rallied to do a spot number to help the cause. The inaugural event raised $8,000 and started a tradition of The Benefit still carried on today, raising serious money over the years for HIV/AIDS.

One of the first Benefits held at the Oxford Hotel
Many will recall the great sadness in the ensuing years that were to define our time, and the ways we all helped each other. So many of our friends and lovers were becoming sick and the services being established to help them were generally underfunded.

Our playground of pubs and clubs were mostly found around Oxford Street, and throughout the year every venue would take their turn to organise a benefit night. Their purpose was sombre but their form was celebratory, as is our way. Always at the heart of these events were the performers.