Sydney Drag Shows: THEM in A Fantasy Fable


“In the flower there was a fairy…and the fairy said…three wishes! Mother got a pool. Daddy got a horse. And I got a dress.”

THEM…in A Fantasy Fable, December 4, 1986 at the Newtown Hotel. (THEM – Terror, Horror, Excitement, Mystery – were (in this incarnation) Jay Jay Bailey, Robyn Lee and Tallulah Bright). This video is the first part of the show.

I think A Fantasy Fable might have been a bit too “out there” for most Thursday late-night-shopping punters at the Newtown. I remember quite a mixed crowd reaction to it at the time. A really bizarre mix of song choices and storyline from Jay Jay. Her creativity and wild thinking is quite apparent in this show. And trying to fit all this mayhem on the tiny, tiny Newtown stage was quite a challenge!

By this time I was working behind the scenes as a dresser for THEM. The day of the opening I was helping the girls out with last minute costume preparations by applying feathers to various costumes. Looking back through my old photos I’ve realised the reason I don’t have any of “A Fantasy Fable” is because I was working on the show at the time! Pity.

Jay Jay used two songs from Klaus Sperber, better known as Klaus Nomi, a German countertenor noted for his wide vocal range and an unusual, otherworldly stage persona.

Nomi was known for his bizarrely visionary theatrical live performances, heavy make-up, unusual costumes, and a highly stylized signature hairdo which flaunted a receding hairline. His songs were equally unusual, ranging from synthesizer-laden interpretations of classical music opera to covers of 1960s pop standards like Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” and Lou Christie’s “Lightnin’ Strikes”.

Jay Jay had previously used Klaus’ version of “Falling In Love Again” in an earlier THEM show, “Twisted”.

Two songs from Sid & Marty Kroft’s classic “PufnStuf – The Movie” (1970) were also used – “Different” and “Zap The World”.

A Fantasy Fable featured “Craving For That Kind of Love” which went on to become somewhat of a signature tune/triumph for Tallulah. Interestingly, she didn’t like the song when she first heard it and Jay Jay had to insist that she do it in the show. Her faux-strip tease to the song instantly became a crowd favourite.

A Fantasy Fable is also notable as it was the last show that Tallulah was part of as THEM. Tallulah resigned to move on to other shows and was replaced by Ginger Benson.

My Lost Gay Sydney

For the last couple of months I’ve been posting a lot of photos to the Facebook group called ‘LOST GAY SYDNEY’. Some 5,000+ people are in the group which is all about posting photos, articles and memories from the days when Sydney had a vibrant, living Gay scene and when Oxford Street, Darlinghurst really was ‘the golden mile.’

My era in Gay Sydney dates back to the 80s when I moved up from Adelaide to live and work in Sydney. Discovering the youth group ‘Young Gays’ and Sydney’s vibrant pubs and clubs resulted in a complete lifestyle change for me. I was out on the scene up to five nights a week – mostly seeing my favourite drag shows at venues like Patchs, the Honest Irishman Hotel, the Town Hall Hotel at Balmain as well as the Albury and many others which have now sadly faded into history.

I thought it would be fun to put some of the pictures I’ve scanned and posted into a video/slide show presentation with an appropriate song as the soundtrack. The song I’ve used is ‘Wonderland’ by Alcazar which is wonderfully evocative of someone reflecting back on their years as a young party-party-party boy. In fact, without getting morbid, I actually have told everyone I want ‘Wonderland’ to be the song played at my funeral.

Someof the identities/people in the video are…
Skye Brooks
Maggie Burns
Stefanie Powers
Penny Clifford
Chris Da Bonafin
Tallulah Bright
Dot Dingle/David Wilkins
Fanny Farquhar/Ron Handley
Caroline Clark
Marcia Monterey
Brenda
Rose Leaf
Cynthia Randall
David ‘Hilda’ Hiscock
Severe Inflation
Doris Fish
Dawn O’Donnell
Judy Glen
Ken ‘Çandy’ Johnson
Don Dailey
Pola Negri
Toni Jay
Trudi Valentine
Rodney Dean
Roxanne
Robyn Lee
Jay Jay Bailey
Ginger Benson
Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
Tobi Saunders
Christie McNicholl
Miss 3D
Maggie Kirkpatrick

Fruchocs are now in Sydney! And other Adelaide classics….Choccy Snakes & Choccy Froggys!

Mr Fruchoc

Mr Fruchoc with fans

Oh my god….if you wait long enough, anything and everything can happen!

I’ve been living in Sydney for almost three decades and yet I have to fly back to Adelaide if I want to enjoy some of the best Adelaide Icons. If you’re from Adelaide, you know what I’m talking about. Balfours Pasties, Woodies Lemonade and Menz Fruchocs.

But not anymore. Praise Jesus!!!!

Menz Fruchocs

Menz Fruchocs now available at Coles Supermarkets outside of South Australia.

They’ve had to change the name (to protect the innocent). They are now called Menz Choc Apricot Balls and you can get them at Coles Supermarkets in Sydney (and around Australia apparently). It’s a miracle! Ex-Adelaide people, REJOICE!

But it isn’t just Fruchocs…er Menz Choc Apricot Balls…it’s also another couple of classic Adelaide Menz Icons: Choccy Snakes and Choccy Froggys! My flatmate’s dream of losing weight may now be lost forever – he only has to walk to the local supermarket to get a hit!

Yes, the world’s most awful supermarket – IGA Dulwich Hill – is selling Choccy Snakes and Choccy Froggys! If they are then you can bet other IGA supermarkets are doing the same thing (only better)! And I do have photographic evidence…

Menz classics hit Sydney

Menz Choccy Snakes and Choccy Froggys are now available in Sydney via IGA Supermarkets

This is big! It’s about time these and more Adelaide Icons went national! So ex-Adelaidians get out your wallet and get into Coles & IGA stores now!

And for everyone else….it’s about time you tried the taste of some true Adelaide legends!

View From A Pig….can’t take anymore!

Suicide? Rape? War? Insanity? Yes please!

Could this be the 6 o’clock news I’m talking about? No?

What about pop music?

Well, if we’re talking Kim Wilde, the answer is most definitely yes!

I’ve always had a love of drama in pop music. Songs that tell a story – quite often a depressing story – in 3 1/2 minutes. The amazing Cher did it in 2 1/2 minutes in the early 70s – Dark Lady, Gypsies Tramps & Thieves, Half Breed, Carousel Man, I Saw A Man And He Danced With His Wife…in fact Cher’s original Greatest Hits is wall to wall high-drama!

But in the early 80s there was another artist who excelled in this regard. Kim Wilde. Kim’s early 80s career, with hits written by her brother and father, was awash with 3 1/2 minute pop dramas. And I bought all these classic singles back then. Couldn’t get enough of them!

My good friend John McKechnie always refers to “View From A Bridge” as “View From A Pig” because that’s what he really thought the song was called back then. Talk about misheard lyrics!

Wikipedia succinctly talks about this song thusly: “The song told the story of a girl committing suicide by jumping off a bridge”

Hardly Top 10 pop fodder you’d think. And yet, like all of Kim’s early classics, the pop sensibilities of the song were beyond reproach. Stunning music, confronting lyrics and Kim’s unique vocal styles all wrapped up in 3 /12 minutes of pop perfection.

“Child Come Away” was hardly a “I love you love me” typical pop lyric…..

“I read the story ’bout a week ago
They found her on the beach that night.
They said the light had gone out of her eyes
And no-one thinks she’ll ever be right.”

I could only conclude way back then that the girl had been raped and bashed by an ex-boyfriend. No sunshine, lollypops and rainbows in this little ditty! The video for the song only seems to emphasize the drama…police, witnesses, curious onlookers…it’s all there!

These songs were just perfect for gay boys with a flair for the dramatic. You didn’t so much LISTEN to Kim Wilde’s hits as IMMERSE yourself in them – they fired the imagination. You made up the visuals in your head and cast yourself as the lead in the story!

Of “Cambodia”, Wikipedia tells us “The lyrics, telling the story of the wife of a Thailand-based RAF, whose husband mysteriously disappears after flying out to Cambodia and never returns, are inspired by some of the tragedies that occurred in South Vietnam. In writing the lyrics, Marty Wilde imagined an American pilot flying in a F-4 Phantom II and getting shot down by a surface-to-air missile.”

Um, okay. So we’re not doing “I love you love me” this time either? No, apparently not!

He used to cry some nights as though he lived a dream.
And as she held him close he used to search her face
As though she knew the truth – lost inside Cambodia.
But then a call came through
they said he’d soon be home.
She had to pack a case and they would make a rendezvous.
But now a year has passed and not a single word
And all the love she knew
Has disappeared out in the haze.

Again, the video for the song adds to the drama….jungles, screaming soldiers, writhing snakes…

So um, yeah, you can see why I might have trouble with today’s mega chart hits that have lyrics like…

“Yeah, yeah
When I walk on by, girls be looking like damn he fly
I pimp to the beat, walking on the street in my new lafreak, yeah
This is how I roll, animal print, pants outta control,
It’s Red-Fu with the big ass fro
And like Bruce Leroy I got the glow”

Today, we’re all living in a dumbed-down world with dumbed-down music for dumbed-down people: everyone knows the cost of an iPhone but the value of nothing.

So, when the emptiness gets a bit too much, go back and rediscover the exquisite drama of Kim Wilde in the early 80s…

Very Best of Kim Wilde

Catching up with the past (or vice-versa)

The 80s!

Oh my god, it’s the last thing you want to happen when you’re out and about, not showered and looking like a car accident!

Of course my reaction was much worse than the actual situation but…what else is new?

What are we talking about? Well, running into one of your ex-boyfs unexpectedly. Now it isn’t that serious since today’s incident relates to a boyf from 25 years ago but anyway…you don’t wanna look like absolute shit when you run into someone from your past. Even if that person treated you like garbage for a year or so and permanently wrecked your mind. Oh look, there I go…over dramatising yet again! 😉 But we did break up 10 times and get back together 9. It was a very eventful, if horrible and embarrassing period of my life.

But still, it does make you think….it kind of hits you in the nuts a bit. I flashed back to then and suddenly started questioning my life and my bucketload (small bucket admittedly) of crap romances over the years. And you kind of think about the good times you shared with the ex and air-brush the bad times. Now given the bad times were about 90% of the time, that’s some amazing airbrushing! Photoshop would struggle! 😉

Yoda (my best friend forever) and I were out of the house on a sunny Sunday doing the usual haunts…Leichhardt…JBHiFi….and the fish & chip shop in Annandale (which I have been going to since 1989 when I lived in Annandale!). Now it takes 2 buses and a lot of determination to get there but still I do it. But anyway, who should I run into (well sorta) as we go through the door to get some lunch…yes that’s right – the “ex”. Probably the most important one (and that’s what shits me – having to admit that).

Anyway, it was all very “pretended I didn’t see him” and vice-versa. I sat in the shop making polite conversation with Yoda whilst thinking “arghhh…get me out of here!” I was surprised Yoda hadn’t noticed but, in fact, he had but thought the “ex” didn’t look enough like he did back then so dismissed it. “Wasn’t he really short?,” said Yoda, “He seems taller now.” I don’t fucking know…maybe he’s wearing heels! Yoda also remembered punching him back then too. Ah, crazy times..

Part of me was thinking “Oi vey! This was quarter of a century ago, so much has happened since and you’re not the same person…” and the other part of my brain was going “oh shit, I look terrible, he looks older and grizzled but still basically in shape.” And all that kind of rubbish. Seriously, this was all NUTSO thinking. I don’t really understand how things from such a long time ago can still cause such a reaction. Perhaps we’re all just a collection of our past insecurities and mistakes.

It was quite funny now that I think about it….I had assumed he would have left the shop before us. But our order was ready super-quick and we had to pass right in front of him as we left. Arghhh! But yeah, think of what you don’t want to happen and it always happens! I’m giggling a bit now as I type this.

As we caught the first bus back to whence we came, Yoda said “you’re not really upset about it are you?” and I replied “No, of course not, it was just unexpected and it just makes you re-live and re-think things, that’s all.” Then it became a bit of a joke “You’re not gonna go home and want to watch ‘Of Human Bondage’ are you?” The ex was very much like the lead character in that movie and so had been nicknamed as such many years ago. But no, I didn’t need to do that…I just needed to do a bit of a flashback for a while and verbalise it. And yeah, just had to think about what I’ve done in the last 25 years and the people I’ve touched and the mega-travelling I’ve done and the friends I’ve made. In a way, it was good because occasionally you need to remember how many fantastic things have happened in your life and how many opportunities you’ve had…it is very easy to forget the breaks you’ve had and only concentrate on the bad times. A bit of a mental and verbal gratitude journal happened.

Eventually the conversation moved on to other things and we continued on our merry way. I thought “I really want to write a blog entry about this but all I seem to write about is Swedish pop thesedays!” But screw it, it deserves a blog entry.

The past, past, well now let me tell you about the past
The past is filled with silent joys and broken toys,
laughing girls and teasing boys,
Was I ever in love? I called it love – I mean, it felt like love,
There were moments when, well, there were moments when….

Ooh dahling that doesn’t rhyme either!!!!!

The fabulous Jeannie Little released a single in the 70s “Dahling, Are You Paying Attention” b/w “Oceania Roll”. A one-off novelty hit and of course I bought the single at the time.

I love Jeannie. Thanks to a friend of the family, I went along to see Jeannie in “Jerry’s Girls” at the Footbridge Theatre many years ago. I met Jeannie backstage – she was wonderful and warm and very real. She even gave Yoda and I a lift back to Wynyard Station after the show and (apologised for not driving us all the way home!)  Umm, it doesn’t get much more genuine than that!

Recently, Yoda found an mp3 of the song and I thought “I’ve got to get that on the net, it’s a classic piece of Australian pop culture history.” So that’s what I’ve been up to day.

So here it is – a fab single and a tribute to a genuinely lovely lady.

Some facts about about the fabulous Jeannie from Wikipedia.org

Jeannie Little was born in Sydney, New South Wales. Little made her television debut on Network Ten’s Mike Walsh Show in September 1974. Invited on as a guest showcasing designer maternity clothes, she quickly became a regular, eventually (after a stint at Channel Seven) moving with the Walsh Show to Channel Nine. The Seven Network had attempted two short-lived shows featuring Little’s unique talents: Jeanne’s Little Show (a variety/chat series) and Cuckoo in the Nest, a situation comedy in which she played a wacky Auntie Mame-type character. As part of the Mike Walsh Show team again, Little wowed and won audiences for the next 15 years.

 She was a guest on the Midday with Ray Martin and her appearance on the BBC’s Michael Parkinson variety show so startled London critics she had the London Evening News saying: “What a woman! With her in the house you wouldn’t want a TV.” Among the overseas guests she has appeared with are Phyllis Diller, George Burns and Danny La Rue.

 In 1976 Little won the Gold Logie for most popular television personality and has won two other Logies for her work on the Mike Walsh Show. She performed at the Royal Command Bicentennial Concert before the Prince and Princess of Wales. Her stage career took off with Jerry’s Girls where American director, John Frost teamed Jeanne with Marcia Hines, Debra Byrne and Judi Connelli. Then came Legends with Kerrie Biddell, Toni Lamond and Nancye Hayes at the Sydney Opera House.

 Marlene, Little’s one woman tribute to Marlene Dietrich toured Australia and the US to critical acclaim, followed by More of a Little, currently on tour which is filled with song, chat and hilarity from the inimitable Jeanne.

 In the late 90s through to the mid-2000s Little appeared on the panel discussion show Beauty and the Beast.

 In February 2011, it was announced Little was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and is being cared for in a nursing home.

Is it just me or is all this Gay marriage stuff a load of old bollocks?

Glee Gay Kiss

Nice, different, unusual

The big topic that we can’t seem to get away from at the moment is Gay marriage. Why it needs to be legalised last week and why we all need to have it 3 times a day for breakfast, lunch and tea.

My thing is this: I couldn’t give a shit about Gay marriage. It will happen but it won’t happen overnight and I’m fine with that, As a card carrying fag, I care about real legal rights, financial rights, anti-discrimination laws and so on. And yes, I think it would be fantastic if a formalised, same-sex civil partnership arrangement was introduced in Australia.

But the idea of protests and marches and angst about Gay marriage just leaves me bemused. I wouldn’t get out of bed to make a protest about Gay marriage. I went to marches in the 80s when the issue was fags being bashed in the streets, funding for AIDS research & care and also to protest against Gays being treated like lepers because of HIV/AIDS. Those were dark days and real issues.

Gay marriage? My oft repeated line is “Don’t you realise there are kids in Somalia that don’t even have iPods?” I was really happy to see Lily Tomlin question the whole obsession with Gay marriage when she performed in Sydney a couple of weeks ago. Her position was really about why we would want to ape a heterosexual institution.

Some – many – think that legalising Gay marriage will solve all our problems. It will be like waving a magic wand and suddenly all will be well in homo land. But, as we’ve seen in the U.S., marriage can be granted and just as quickly taken away.

Before the 80s we didn’t have the right to be Gay. We didn’t have the right to march down the street without being bashed. For many years we could be legally discriminated against in employment and many other spheres of society. There is still some protection for religious organisations & schools to legally discriminate against us.

And until recently we didn’t have the right to our partner’s superannuation if they died – or any other financial/legal rights that a hetero couple – married or not – took for granted.

There was the “homosexual panic defence” which basically allowed straights to bash & kill us legally if they felt someone had “made an advance” towards them. Gay bashing at beats was a national recreational past time.

In the 60s, the police used to wait outside Gay clubs and, when drag queens arrived,  they would bash them and arrest them. For wearing drag. It became a competition as to how fast a drag queen could run from a car to the inside of a gay club to avoid being hit and arrested by the police.

To me these are the things that really matter. Not some bullshit about being able to drop $20k on a pointless heterosexual-copying ceremony.

There doesn’t seem to be any corporate history in the Gay community anymore. Everyone simply thinks the rights and protections we have today were always there. Possibly because a lot of the people screaming the place down in their demands for Gay marriage are GenY-ers who grew up taking these rights for granted and have never had to fight for the right to be Gay.

The Federal Government changed about 85 laws a year or so ago – to remove discrimination and the differences that treated Gays & Lesbians as second class citizens. To me that’s amazing, that’s real change and something worth fighting for and celebrating. 85 laws!

“Gay marriage” seems like a designer pair of underwear or the latest iPhone that every queer simply MUST have. Legal recognition of legal same sex partnerships is important but to me, “Gay marriage” itself, on a scale of really important G&L issues, should rate about #54.

People are changing their votes to vote against the very party that gave them all these rights in the first place. They’re slagging off the Government that gave us some real and absolute equality under law. I do not understand how someone can base their – very important – democratic vote on one single issue – “Gay marriage.”

Of course, you’re not allowed to criticise it or question it – the fag-erati will burn you at the stake and publicly shame you. We all have to be out there shouting and demanding “Gay marriage now!!!” Rah! Rah! Rah!

To me it smacks of a lack of perspective, a lack of understanding of history and a lack of knowing what’s real and what’s superficial. And it is a pity that it seems to be starving all the oxygen from any other debate on Gay issues.

Gay marriage will come in eventually and, when it does, it will be good for those people that want it. One day we’ll look back and find it hard to remember when it wasn’t legal. But making it the total focus, the all encompassing issue for Gays & Lesbians is just a load of old bollocks.