Showing posts with label Monique Kelly. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Monique Kelly. Show all posts

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.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Priscilla's Debut In the Big Apple

Tony Sheldon

On Sunday evening the successful Australian musical Priscilla Queen of The Desert opens on Broadway at the Palace Theatre with a host of Aussie stars in attendance including Guy Pearce who starred in the original film, Jackie Weaver and the show's writer Stephan  Elliot who will accompany Olivia Newton John to the premiere.

The brilliant Tony Sheldon who wowed them in London, Canada and New Zealand takes the lead role again and Better Midler is co-producer of this production helping fine tune it for a US audience

By all accounts the New York production has been receiving an enthusiastic reception during the week of previews.

What of the girls who inspired the original story and film ?.

Simone Troy and Monique Kelly were the two stars of Les Girls, the Kings Cross all male review that packed out a theatre in Sydney during the 1960s and 70s. Every night of the week the two drag stars trod the boards on a tiny cramped stage and presented a gala performance to a wide-eyed audience of heterosexuals who couldn't quite believe the dozen sexy, leggy gals with hips and boobs before them were all men.

Simone and Monique tried several times to leave Les Girls but the theatre's owner, the Kings Cross crime king-pin Abe Saffron had them both beaten up.

Eventually the pair managed to set out on their own  as the novelty of Les Girls wore off and the show went into a decline in the early 1980s.

Simone had ambitious plans and financing his own show set off to London and the Wimbledon Theatre with 12 strapping Australian lads who transformed nightly into gorgeous leggy beauties.

Wimbledon Theatre
 The production was a sight to see as the Shuttle did on the opening night. With little cash left Simone was unable to promote the show and the audience consisted of about 200 local residents of nearby nursing homes bussed in with free tickets.

What they witnessed resembled a Busby Berkley musical with a tall and colourfully lit staircase down which the 12 beauties-Simone leading the charge-descended in a flurry of long legs, feathers and sequins. Half way down the staircase turned into a waterfall as the audience sat transfixed.

Let's hope the New York critics are kinder to Priscilla than the one London critic who attended Simone's Les Girls Wimbledon premiere and who slammed the production in an outrage that female impersonators-and colonial ones at that., were  gracing the hallowed boards of Wimbledon
On the up-side the British travel company Saga Holidays that specialised in pensioner vacations gave the show a raptuous write-up and organised day outings to the show.

Simone eventually retired to the Gold Coast in Queensland and Monique still lives in Kings Cross.