Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Drag Star Carmen Laid to Rest

Some mourners flew across the Tasman for her funeral as the legendary drag star and Kings Cross identity Carmen Rupe was laid to rest today at Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney.

Carmen died last week of kidney failure at the age of 75.
At her service at the Sydney Anglican Maori Church in Redfern almost 250 mourners crammed in to celebrate Carmen's life and were treated to same memorable stories.

Such as when Carmen was summonsed by the New Zealand Parliament in 1977 to explain herself for for claiming on a TV chat show that there were many gay New Zealand MPs. How times have changed. Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark sent a letter of condolence and NZ television was there to record her funeral.

Lifetime friend Jacquie Grant, looking out across the congregation said "this looks like the best drag show in town"
Jacquie described how during the 1960s and 70s she and Carmen were hauled in by the Kings Cross police many times when they were spotted walking down the street in drag. Sometimes the police were brutal, sometimes very very friendly, but the 2 spent many stints out at Long Bay Jail.

Koko D'Vyne
Ribena arrives
Friend Ribena said "Carmen's life was theatre in action, so her funeral was always going to be a colourful event."
Said friend Koko D'Vyne:“It is a very sad day because who else do we know that was able to do things that Carmen did? Who was bold enough who was strong enough?”
Famous Oxford Street cabaret star Monique Kelly said :“I used to say ‘you’re to blame for all this influx of drag queens from New Zealand’,”
Carmen joined Abe Saffron's Les Girls in the 1950s and was a popular performer there during the 60's and 70s.

not all tears
 She was way ahead of her time and when she stood for mayor of her home town Wellington in the 1970s she advocated for gay and indigenous rights, legalised prostitution and abortion. Along the way she met Frank Sinatra's granddaughter Deana who became a pal.

As the mourners formed a guard of honour, commandeering the street and stopping traffic, Carmen's bright red casket slowly disappeared from view in a white hearse for her final trip to Rookwood to a rousing cheer and a soloist singing her favorite song Le Vie En Rose.