It's Mardi Gras time in Sydney. Pardon me if I pass out from the overwhelming excitement.
The story of how an act of political defiance turned into another crass marketing opportunity is still something that causes me some personal discomfort. That, I suppose, is the cost of caring.
In a rare gesture of immodesty, I shall quote myself from a long email written a few weeks ago. I'm confident the original recipient won't mind.
First of all, though, this is what it has come to. The night where 'the gay and lesbian community' inc puts on a show about 'our' 'identity' and this is what we get....
NSW Health Minister John Hatzistergos says one Sydney hospital registered a 53 per cent increase in patients with GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) poisoning during February compared with the previous two years
I feel an immense ambivalence reading that. It doesn't surprise me. It does concern me. As fucked up as the 80s were, we weren't taking GhB and falling over at random. That would not have been fabulous. Standards existed and plummeting into a semi-coma was considered bad manners.
What went on at the party after the parade was always bacchanalian by any standards. Perhaps what has changed now is that people go in order to take drugs and flip out. That's all wrong in my scheme of things.
A party is about seeing people, looking fabulous, feeling fabulous and letting go of worries for a few hours. What I see today is a hardcore of people who go on pharmaceutical odysseys of astounding ambition. There is nothing that exists beyond them and their particular groove. Some of this is the unspeakable vanity and arrogance of Sydney homosexuals. With meth so in favour and all the disassociatives they chuck in, they seem like zombie people. At least a freak on a speed rave is entertaining for a while.
I predicted a moral backlash at the height of the 80s excess, even as I squandered everything including reason in the quest for that elusive moment of transcendence on the dancefloor. The pursuit of fabulousness was an end in itself. Andy Warhol drew the template and then died when we needed his guidance most. Everything went of the leash. Way, way, off the leash.
For me, life as an endless party had to stop. Others were stopped by the sheer gravity of too much partying. It was when heroin made it's predictable debut that the death became too much for me. Like in most post-hippie counter-cultural circles, the arrival of heroin in mine signaled the end.
History would show that we had inherited the Studio 54 mentality from our elders, it was a way of life very literally dying off around me. The wisdom of retrospect allows me to see that to keep dancing and keep behaving self-destructively WAS a strategy of defiance. We were on a sinking ship, but at least we were having a damn good time listening to the orchestra as she sank.
I wish that I could claim absolute indifference to what is happening tonight. I can't. I have shed blood, sweat and tears in the name of Mardi Gras. I watched a community of people who believed in something build an organisation that we then lost to careerists and the slow creep of commercialisation.
I will inevitably stop at some time tonight and cry for the passed. The brave, the lost, the doomed, the true heroes and even a few ordinary people who I loved too much to lose so young. All of them were too fabulous for this grey world, God lifted the velvet rope to the VIP room for them.
Here's to the fabulous people! Now, more than ever, the world needs freaks, perverts and weirdoes.
I'll see you all next year at the Hallowe'en Parade.
immodest self quoting
Contemporary Will & Grace queers take so much for granted that they don't even have to understand how much of that freedom they owe to people like Jackie & Holly and the Chelsea queens who history show to have been the real Stonewall rock-hurlers. [I've often wondered if a part of the Christopher St thing is how 'close' it is to HC on the subway? That route must have been a major connection between the Chelsea and the Village.]
My most personal experience of this po-mo poisoned generation is the whole Rocky Horror thing. I was, at age 14, in the first Australian cinema cast. We only had mail contact with the 8th St crew in NY [yes, we were probably the second in the world!] and evolved a completely different way of 'doing' Rocky.
At that time, the archaic laws in this state allowed the police to harass us beyond reason. We endured 3 mass arrests and all this crazy shit about not having less than three gender appropriate garments on at any one time.
They would shut down the film to search all 870 people, we sold out every week in those days, and it was awful and scary but it was a part of being alive and being... dare I use, 'progressive'? We were too young to articulate it but there was action from a core of belief in something.
The last time that I went to 'anniversary show' where the old wood regathers to nostalge I was repulsed. Two nasty little twinks sat and very purposefully let me hear them deconstruct how overweight I am [I'm clinically underweight!], what I was wearing, the whole scene. After the screening, once I'd been IDed as a VIP, the very same children oozed false charm at me and tried tried to persuade me to take them to the grown-ups after-party. I've no doubt at all that one or the other of them would have gone down for a laminate. That in itself doesn't matter. It's quietly knowing that the little shits owe so very much of it to people who have known courage that they could only ever equate with their last waxing that tires me.
The last time that I went to 'anniversary show' where the old wood regathers to nostalge I was repulsed. Two nasty little twinks sat and very purposefully let me hear them deconstruct how overweight I am [I'm clinically underweight!], what I was wearing, the whole scene.
After the screening, once I'd been IDed as a VIP, the very same children oozed false charm at me and tried tried to persuade me to take them to the grown-ups after-party. I've no doubt at all that one or the other of them would have gone down for a laminate. That in itself doesn't matter. It's quietly knowing that the little shits owe so very much of it to people who have known courage that they could only ever equate with their last waxing that tires me.
And then, I saw that one can now buy mass-produced Rocky Horror 'Halloween costumes'. How much more corporatised and sanitised could things gets?
The same years were the early years of the unworthily famous Mardi Gras- when we were still illegal and it was still a gesture of defiance. It never occurred to me not to participate and, when the TV cameras pick you from the crowd, Monday morning at an Anglican School for Boys can be pretty tough.
Nothing stopped us pushing anyway.
There is nothing left to the parade now except a stream of cliches pouring along the road. This year was the final blow for any sense of political significance at all when they finally sold everything to corporate sponsors. MG long since lost any personal appeal and is always accompanied by a numbing sense of totally not belonging to whatever has formed from the monster we set free. I suspect I don't have to quote Lou Reed Halloween Parade to you but I will just because it says something I can't reach.
Our history has done so well at forgetting that it was the ultra-marginal Stonewall queens who fought back- the trannies, the speed-junkies and proto-punks. Walking Christopher St late at night and realising suddenly that there were no cobblestones where I was walking chilled me. It all came crashing home how much it meant. I walked back to the Chelsea and so many other people who must have taken that walk played in my head. I'm sure I sang Walk on the Wildside with my own lyrical variations for others like Brigid and Andrea and Taylor- the real freaks.
Renee Ricard was loitering around the lobby as ever and... it was too symbolic. I wanted some profound way to say thankyou but instead I added to my mystique by tearing up at him and making up a dumb story about bad news from home and rushing off. Maybe it's better not to say that stuff anyway.
Halloween Parade fron Lou Reed's NY album.
Theres a down town fairy singing out "proud mary"
As she cruises christopher street
And some southern queen is acting loud and mean
Where the docks and the badlands meet
This halloween is something to be sure
Especially to be here without you
Theres a greta garbo and an alfred hitchcock
And some black jamaican stud
Theres five cinderellas and some leather drags
I almost fell into my mug
Theres a crawford, davis and a tacky cary grant
And some homeboys lookin for trouble down here from the bronx
But there aint no hairy and no virgin mary
You won't hear those voices again
And johnny rio and rotten rita
Youll never see those faces again
This halloween is something to be sure
Especially to be here without you
Theres the born again losers and the lavender boozers
And some crack team from washington heights
The boys from avenue b and the girls from avenue d
A tinkerbell in tights
This celebration somehow get me down
Especially when I see youre not around
Theres no peter pedantic saying things romantic
In latin, greek or spic
Theres no three bananas or brandy alexander
Dishing all their tricks
Its a different feeling that I have today
Especially when I know you?ve gone away
There's a girl from soho with a teeshirt saying "i blow"
Shes with the "jive five 2 plus 3"
And the girls for pay dates are giving cut rates
Or else doing it for free
The past keeps knock, knock, knocking on my door
And I dont want to hear it anymore
No consolations please for feelin funky
I got to get my head above my knees
But it makes me mad and mad makes me sad
And then I start to freeze
In the back of my mind I was afraid it might be true
In the back of my mind I was afraid that they meant you
The halloween parade
At the halloween parade
At the halloween parade
See you next year, at the halloween parade