A Queer Winter in Sydney


Axis of Evil with Annabel Lines, Mathew Stegh and Mat Hornby

Sydney is essentially a seaside town. Come winter, the pulse drops down to a low thick thud as we eek out three months waiting for the sun to come out. But these last months have been so hot we forgot all about needing the sun. The temperature soared, the snowball started rolling and I look at the drunken blur behind me and ponder— was that real? Or was the last 3 months a ride on Willy Wonka’s acid candy boat?

Just as things were winding down and the frost was starting to ice over our desire to get naked no matter how much people were paying, I was asked to strip for a very distinguished person—The Governor of New South Wales. Of course I said yes, what an honour!

So Sydney rolled out the red carpet for one of Australia’s most distinguished women so she could be entertained by Australia’s most distinguished degenerate— me!

She was in the front row— the woman who politically represents the most powerful state in Australia, along side of the Mayor of Sydney— just inches away from my stilettos. Her security were freaked out when I did the splits into a cream cake and a wave of splosh tumbled off the stage like a waterfall of spoof. To her credit she didn’t even blink— the old gal’s smile was solid… and she looked fabulous with all a few spots of spoof in her hair.

Later that same night, I also performed with the Jaded Vanities for their take on Star Wars Burlesque. The event itself was brilliant— like I said, Crazy Horse on the Death Star. It was smoking hot— with headliner Tasia doing to Jabba the hut what we would all like to have the chance to do to slug like men who drool too much on our bikinis.

Despite the sensual heat of the Vanities, doona* weather had hit the burbs and Sydney went still and quiet— for a whole heartbeat! Sydney’s Ruby Review had an impromptu visit by that glorious glamour gal Dirty Martini. The shows were all brilliant, the cast included some of Sydney’s best performers. Dirty is such a wonderful lady and Sydney was pumped to have her visit. Everyone was a-quiver with excitement.

Most high profile performers come to town with a build up of months and it ends up feeling like an orgasm that’s taken so long to reach that even the neighbours applaud when you get to the climax.

By comparison, this was like a hot one-nighter that was over and done with before you can ask for a second round. Short or not, the memory of this night will warm the cockle of many a heart when we are in adult sized diapers and applesauce. From there things just got better!

Just as I was coming down from that little snazzafrific snafflegrab I was booked for The Pussycat Club. The Pussycat Club is run by performance duo Fancy Piece. This club is the opposite of The Ruby Review and to me it is one of the few clubs around that actually honour the true roots of the Australian burlesque circuit. It’s queer, experimental and dirty.

The evening hosted myself, transexual performer Jade Star, performance artist Wife, Fruit n Vag and one of the original bad girls herself, Glita Supernova.

Glitta Supernova

Wife kicked off the night with an intricate performance piece. Wife, in picnic at hanging rock styled white, took off her clothes, tore up lengths of red silk, rolled them on her abundant thighs and then tied up her toes in Grecian bondage. I have no idea what the fuck she was on but I definitely wanted some. What I really enjoyed about this performance was the delicacy of it, Wife’s precision in her execution and her conviction. It was like looking into the world of a lonely spinster with a silk fetish—it was surreal and unfamiliar, just watching someone performing a bizarre yet spellbinding ritual.

Jade Starr followed. Jade is a transsexual rock goddess— except tonight where Jade Starr will return to her former gender for a comical rendition of I Started a Joke during which she/ he stabbed herself/himself repeatedly with a knife (don’t worry— No transsexual singers were harmed during the performing of this song.)

Then came my gal pal Glitta Supernova. Glitta is definitely one of the bad girls and I will one day dedicate an entire article to her. She is a constant partner in crime and one of the unacknowledged pioneers of the burlesque circuit in Australia. We opened our first burlesque club ‘Gurlesque’ in 1999, five years before even a whisper of the burlesque revival had reached Australia. Glitta’s style is highly visual, informed by camp culture, entertaining and whimsical.

“Femmebott” was the name of the act. Glitta played a Stepford wife styled housewife that has a melt down. As always Glitta presented an amazing costume to her signiture voice over styled soundtrack and as always she was just so darn quirky.

Fruit ‘N’ Vag was a trip as she performed a hilarious take on Dirty Dancing with Patrick Swayze’s head being played by a pupeteered watermelon… which the performer then fists into a pulp and eats his ‘brains’ to hungry eyes.

Fancy Piece did Broke Back Mountain— two dykes in drag butt fxxxing each other with strap ons always goes down a treat. I did a new piece called Fuck Head— an ode to Magritte’s painting ‘the Rape’.

I love that there is somewhere in Sydney that still hosts this style of work. Since the closure of Gurlesque women were in danger of losing a hosting ground for what I call The Sydney Style that was forged by The Bad Girls I keep referring to in the 1990s. But I’ll get to that in another article…

August arrived and I was kidnapped by The Glitta Militia. The Glitter Militia is the offspring of Man Jam, a queer boylesque night— the male version of Gurlesque. It is primarily the baby of Matty Hornby, Justin Shoulder and Mathew Stegh.

I love this clan dearly— I could compare us to a leper colony of hyperglam queer performance extremists… but that would just be a tease. The night at The Red Rattler saw the Sydney originals take back their stages with willies akimbo and many a bared boy butt.

But then we all went on tour to Brisbane for The Glitter Militia’s Clown Cult in Brisbane Festival. We got on a plane…. got drunk…. watched some horse porn…. watched evangelists in Tanzaneer giving a live feltching demonstration … we even learned about some cult in America that goes to servicemen’s funerals and sing songs about how god hates homosexuals because they eat poop… um… This was all before we had even arrived.

The Clown Cult show was amazing. These artists are astonishing. It opened with drag superstar Dallas Dellaforce doing an incredible transformation from an alluring sugar spun Marilyn to a demented hot pink clown with a balloon animal penis, into Justin Shoulder’s V— a visitor from an alien planet.

Justin Shoulder

My favourite act of the evening was Annabel Line’s as she told the story of a beautiful clown who gets caught in storms, is tortured by other clowns, forced into a plexiglass tube that slowly fills up with smoke— and disappears. Annabel is amazing… everything she does lately leaves me with my jaw on the ground.

Christa Hughes was next. Christa is the woman who bought up the horse porn … and the tanzaneer evangelists… and come to think of it she also bought up the cult that sings about homosexuals and poop. Christa also introduced me to hangover cure number one— pink grapefruit. So I owe her a lot.

Her character’s name is Crappo The Clown and Crappo is just that —completely fucking crap— until Crappo actually sings. If you haven’t heard Christa sing, you haven’t heard singing. It’s a roar! She really is one of the most amazing talents to come out of the Sydney fringe.

As for me I did two pieces – one where I eat dog poo (My ode to Divine) and the second where I deep throat a sausage with a fake vagina strapped to my head (Fuck Head— as mentioned previously).

The Glitter Militaia themselves bought the show home with The Axis of Evil. A clowns view on the ugliness of war.

So to sum up the night it was cross genre pollination between clowns and porn and monsters, and ventriloquism and drag and theatre and politics and sex and greed and a bit of fake dog poo sitting like a cherry on top. Delightful!

On the flight home I wondered what Brisbane made of it all, I also managed to sober up before seeing my husband and child again. From here I have a break where I can focus on my next big gig— The Burlesque Ball with Tigger! and Catherine D’lish. I hope to be normal again before then; sometimes hope is all we have.

Imogen Kelly, Australia’s notorious Queen of Burlesque, plaything of millionaires and first lady of the demimonde, has been stripteasing for 22 years and still going strong.   All photos are copyright protected and used here with express permission by Burlesque Beat.  Please do not use these photos without obtaining permission.

*ED: doona is ‘Strine for duvet. A duvet is English for a down comforter. (She means cold weather.)



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