Mardi Gras 1997

Mardi Gras! What a fabulous time! More Singaporeans were there than you could shake a stick at…we were running into them every corner we turned…and I am sure there were more we did not know…SO MANY PEOPLE! And beautiful ones at that…I’d have been perfectly content sitting at the cafes alfresco “perving” (as the Aussies are wont to say), but there was so much to do and see!

Our group was about 8 strong to begin with. We started out with a fabulous dinner at an equally fab restaurant called the Bennelong…right at the Sydney Opera House. Think Mikado, think minimalism, think sublime. The food was incredible, the company even better. We played spin the bottle (actually more like spin the mobile phone) and learnt a few juicy secrets. The view was spectacular. We were psyched to be in Sydney. We got stares from others in the restaurant, but we didn’t care. We were here, and we were fabulous.

That night, and the next few, were non-stop partying. For the first 4 nights, I did not get home before 6 am…6 am, 8am, 11am, 6am….The night before Mardi Gras, Oxford Street was thronging with party-goers from all over the world…guys who had graced magazine covers (or should anyway), every shape and size imagineable…heady…we were in such a good mood…the high was almost tangible. Trolled the streets that night with thousands of others. Bars such as the Oxford Hotel, Gilligans, Albury, Flinders, were all overflowing onto the streets. It was crazy trying to get drinks, but we managed.

People watching was the order of the day. But this was only a taste of things to come. Clothed, these men looked nothing like the incubi they became on the day of the Mardi Gras itself.

Saturday. Camped out on the side of Flinders Street by 5pm waiting for the Parade which was supposed to start at 8, but didn’t till 40 minutes later because some queen had forgotten the frocks for the first float! What kind of a queen forgets her frocks! Hope she has comprehensive life insurance! The group of us entertained ourselves with 3 bottles of champagne, a bottle of Absolut Citron and Bombay Sapphire, pate and brie sandwiches, picknicking in high camp. Screaming our heads off at the huge caravan of dykes on bikes, there must have been more than a hundred of them! Some so masculine and handsome even I would consider dating them!

By the time the floats got going, the crowd was raring to go! Incredible. I have a video of the telecast on TV…ah…the hilarity of some of them. Drag queens on a carousel, the Qantas Queens doing a marching parody of the safety demonstration…the huge hair, huge costumes…the energy was infectious. I got more kisses from the marchers than anyone else my stretch of the road…what a heady rush! Guys in wedding gowns, girls in jock-straps…you name it, they were there. What an affirming experience to watch all these gay men and lesbian women, out proud…the world’s largest civil demonstration of gay pride. The live audience was estimated by the police to be 700,000 strong. The parade was 200 floats and 2 hours long…over 7000 participants!

After that, the mile-long walk to the party! Everyone changed by now into their costumes. Oh my god. Robert Altman should seriously consider documenting this…it was surreal as it was bizzare. People of absolutely every shape, form, size, color, in costumes that left little to the imagination, a circus of humanity….it was just incredible. The dancefloors were packed with 20,000 people, Chaka Khan and the Village People performed, the laser lights were the most amazing I’ve ever experienced. To walk on one of these dancefloors was to experience a huge sauna of gyrating, bare torsoed bodies, sweat pouring off everyone…you had no choice but to lose yourself, for if you didn’t you’d probably panic at the clautrophobia…so lose ourselves we did…In one of the halls, there was a chill-out space with a huge catwalk, the music from Inflight Entertainment playing, and anyone and everyone could get on the catwalk and do their thing, and they did…surreal, man. The dome was bathed with an indigo light…very soothing, what a contrast.

Walking home at 11am with 10,000 people, still in their costumes, right across town…was an experience that made it all worth while. Wow. Too bad I didn’t have a video camera. Strange, weird, what a trip. But so glorious. No one ashamed, no fear, no self-consciousness, just one big community, very defiant, very proud, very in your face. I am who I am and I don’t care what anyone else thinks. Also, “I paid a ton for this costume, and there’s no where else I’d dare wear it to…” Haha…My black patent PVC kilt was soaked.

The rest of the trip was eventful to say the least. Most of my gang petered out by mid week, leaving me to play in Sydney on my own. I got mugged, got thrown out of the place I was staying, went to Beauty and the Beast, listend to the Sydney Symphonic Orchestra play at the Sydney Opera House (Verdi’s Requiem), met some really wonderful people that I spent the rest of the week with.

More for next time. I’m back. Exhausted. People are not who they seem. We all wear masks…stripped away at odd and surprising times. Even barenaked, one has to endevour to peel away the layers that we erect to protect ourselves…patience wore thin, this trip…true colors were seen. Guess that’s all I can say. I hit an emotional high and an emotional low these past 11 days…it was intense, more than any other holiday I’ve taken.

Sydney makes my list as one of the most liveable cities in the world (that I’ve been to). It has so much to offer, employment, culture, social support, security, infrastructure, economic growth….shopping! The neighbourhoods remind me of Seattle and San Francisco. Too bad it’s tucked away in a corner of the world though…they really have to make their own fun (and boy do they do that well!).

That’s it…my MG97 story! Till next year…

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