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.

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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

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.

Maxine: Case 1352

I received a tweet from Gen Z Gay-schlock comedian,  the out-of-control Rhys Nicholson last night. James & I are both convinced Rhys’s future concerns having his body found washed up on a riverbank somewhere or in a hotel room with a needle sticking out of his arm.

Thinking about him again this morning, “Maxine” came into my mind…and I couldn’t get the song out of my head. Maybe Rhys is 2011’s “Maxine”? Anyway, it is an absolute classic song and video.

Australia Day 2011

We had a terrific Australia Day this year with a bunch of friends at the Huntsbury hotel. It could have been a disaster since we’d organised for the day to be at our regular haunt, the Lewisham Hotel. Yoda and I had to go to IKEA first thing in the morning and, with luck and some amazing public transport connections, we managed to get to the Lewisham way ahead of the 1pm scheduled start time.

Only to find it was closed. You can’t imagine a hotel being closed on a day when everyone wants to drink and celebrate but you probably can’t imagine a hotel like the Lewisham!

I had to madly sign into the net via my mobile and send group text messages to everyone to let them know of the change of plans. We discussed which pub we should go to instead and the Huntsbury seemed the logical choice since it was only 10 minutes walk and most of our group knew where it was.

The two most difficult people to get a hold of were the two who the get together had been organised for – Cathy, who was coming down from Newcastle for the day and Donna. Donna had her mobile phone switched off (arghhh!) and Cathy didn’t hear hers.

We also worried about Big Dave since isn’t contactable and we didn’t know what time (if any) he would show up. Luckily that problem was solved when he turned up exactly at 1pm while we were in the middle of the chaos. I decided we needed to leave a sign on the pub door for Cathy & Donna to tell them where we were…but there was no sticky tape. We had pen & paper but no sticky tape.

I quickly trundled down to the nearby servo and all they had was electrical tape. It would have to do. We threw together a sign for anyone who we hadn’t been able to contact and bit off lengths of electrical tape to stick it to the Lewisham’s door!

Then we marched down in the humidity to the Huntsbury. Thank god they were air conditioned! These last-minute change of plan things can either go really bad or really well. Luckily, the day went brilliantly. Everyone managed to get there – and Cathy & Donna did see our sign on the Lewisham’s door. God knows what the pub manager thought when he arrived at 3pm (when the Lewisham was finally due to open!)

In the end, it didn’t matter….even baby Liam (who was the star of the day) caused an issue when he arrived since he wasn’t allowed in the main bar of the pub. We promptly picked up our stuff and moved en masse tot he bistro area and put a couple of tables together to accommodate our large group.

Throughout the day people kept turning up…James arrived from his trip to Canberra, Vanessa, Judy & Greg and, of course, baby Liam along with Mum & Dad! It was a really fun day and a great way to stay out of the heat and humidity!

There was a man there (see video) with a rather controversial T-Shirt. I just had to take a photo of it. It said “This is Australia. We eat meat, we drink beer and we speak fuckin’ English!” Ooh, a tad racist but he didn’t seem to be causing any trouble. Just another local I suspect!

Tonight, I’ve finally thrown together a quick slide show/video of pics of the day. The quality of the photos is awful because most were taken using the tragic camera on my Nokia e63. And because they were taken into the light, half the faces are in shadow. Oh well, that’s life – enjoy the vid!

(if it doesn’t play in this window, just click on it and watch it on Youtube)

They say time heals everything but I’m still waiting

With a story about (yet another) “possible” reunion of a certain Swedish band hitting the mainstream Aussie press yesterday, Grant and I were contacted by friends (again) about it.

It’s been 4 years now since the ugly incident with those Swedish c**** and their record company and yet people think we’re still “fans” and that we would still be excited about a possible concert tour.

You can’t be rude to friends who, after all, are just showing a genuine interest in you. But it does make us shake our heads sometimes and wonder “don’t they get it? how could they not get it after all this time?”

Always a lover of the shock one-liner, I texted back a friend last night, “the only reunion of those people I’m interested in is six feet under!” 

Anyway, as this reunion rumour brought everything up again, I was reminded of a song I played a lot during that whole ugly legal situation…it seemed to sum up my feelings and situation pretty well. The lyrics don’t exactly match of course but, overall, the sentiment is spot-on for how I feel. Who knew the Dixie Chicks would end up giving my so much solace over the last few years!

You may have to click through to watch this video on Youtube [thanks to yet another s***house record company 😉 ]

Birkenhead Point….very beautiful, very pointless

We went along to Birkenhead Point Shopping Centre/Outlet Mall yesterday in search of curtains. There was supposed to be a big Spotlight store there so we made the trek via a couple of buses and a walk in the heat.

Birkenhead Point is almost unrecognisable from the “downmarket” shopping market/area that I last visited over a decade ago. It has been completely modernised and rebuilt. They’ve taken the existing old buildings and simply built over them to give it a modern, outdoorsie, yet protected from the elements, kind of feel. Getting to the centre is not pedestrian friendly and signposting is confusing and inadequate. At one point we ended up in a car park underground with no way of getting out. I thought Sydney was trying to make everything more public transport/pedestrian friendly but not in the case of Birkenhead Point.

Once you’re actually inside the centre, the combination of old and new building contributes to a confusing rabbit-warren arrangement where we kept getting lost again and again. In the end it didn’t really matter because Birkenhead Point is completely pointless as a shopping centre or outlet mall. The shops were limited and the stock in the shops was even more limited. It was kind of a waste of half a day and we eventually gave up, caught a bus into town and to the Broadway Centre where we got a few things we needed for the new flat. Without the confusion and without getting lost!

Birkenhead Point’s claim to fame has surely got to be where it is located – situated on the water of Sydney Harbour near Iron Cove Bridge and the views are spectacular. Yesterday there was barely a cloud in the sky. We walked outside onto the terrace from the food court and couldn’t resist taking a few shots. Our city of Sydney was looking simply beautiful.

No need for us to ever visit there again…but at least we can say we’ve done it!

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