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  • Fiona Prior

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2020

Mardi Gras is like LGBTQ Christmas. Happy, friendly people all over town, lots of interstate and international visitors, apartments start playing dance music late into the night, supermarkets and the gyms become pick-up venues … well, maybe not quite Christmas but Sydney is abuzz :)

image: 'Venus as a Bug' (detail) courtesy of the artist and National Art School

I went to Queer Contemporary opening night at National Art School. The theme was ‘Misfit: Collage and Queer Practice’ The artworks were not so much outstanding as exploratory, Deborah Kelly’s insect/plant/goddess hybrids were rather gorgeous and most visually arresting while Tyza Stewart’s images of self and others morphing delicately between different hormonal milestones were, to my eye, the most interesting works on the night. The group of attendees obviously hadn’t come entirely for the art and the opening was as much a social occasion as it was an art event; courtyard and exhibition rooms full of chatting people, with dance music and dance floor at the ready.

Myra Dubois: Dead Funny’ at Sydney Opera House was my next Mardi Gras outing. Now, Myra is a handsome gal; a celebrity, an icon, a star, an A-lister (as she prompted on the night), and self-admittedly all-giving. At her London guru’s insistence she is staging ‘Dead Funny’, a rehearsal of her funeral, so the audience can ‘give back’ and allow Myra to conquer the exhaustion induced by her continual haemorrhaging of emotional generosity. What better way to enjoy an audience who is completely there for you and more than likely saying nice things about you than inviting them to your funeral? For all that, DuBois’ performance ‘from the dead’ was side-splittingly bitchy and I’m so glad I wasn’t the young couple who arrived late. The unlucky young men were lacerated by the deceased diva in front of the audience and so humiliated they left … “Who cares” said Myra with a gesture of dismissal, “I already have their money”. For a pretend dead celebrity intent on rest, Myra worked the room admirably.

Sunday made my pre Mardi Gras week grow more and more curious. I had been invited to a event where a panel of porn stars would be discussing myths and legends. Wow, I thought, a porn star discussing 'Jason and the Argonauts', 'Helen of Troy', 'Arthurian Legend'! How exotic!

Silly me got that one wrong. It was a porn star panel at The Oxford Hotel discussing myths and legends from the gay porn industry. Unexpected, also, were the articulate,sweet and unguarded men of varied ages and stereotypes on stage (not quite 'Village People' but you could definitely guess their role castings) talking about their very different experiences. The questions from the audience covered an extraordinary range.The older of them (the 'silver' stud) mentioned that the advent of the internet had given him back a degree of negotiating power with his studio. The youngest panel member, to my mind was the only man on stage who you felt had been exploited, and thankfully he spoke from his retired status. The majority spoke of their lives as dream-fulfilling in one way or another. I couldn't help wondering how similar or different would be the experience of porn stars in the heterosexual scene?

This last event is the highlight of my Mardi Gras thus far, so much less about performance and heightened frivolity and more about revealing our common humanity through honest conversations.

Next Saturday Night is of course parade and party night.

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