I’ve been doing too much reminiscing lately. But what the heck, this is a blog. And it is nice to think fondly of people and things and events which, at the time of occurrence, did not look as rosy.
At my Kensington flat in Sydney where I lived with the Bungalee See Futt flatmate, I had a neighbour on the ground floor who was a drag queen, and apparently still is one. The Black Eena (his stage name) used to perform at a drag club on Oxford Street, where he’d belt out tunes while playing the keyboard. I used to be the guest of honour (straight gay-friendly neighbour mah) on nights he’d perform, and I’d get a front row seat and a bouncer who’d protect me from obviously unwanted advances.
By day, the Black Eena was a researcher at the Australian Film Commission, a boring job by the way he’d take a dozen sickies a month and come home early every day. Every time I came home from work or uni and walk up the steps to the building, he’d be in the kitchen either doing the dishes or peering out the window. Once he saw me, he’d wave, rush to his door and ask if I’d want a cup of tea. It was always a welcome treat, coming home tired and being made a cuppa and having a darn good conversation about life in general.
From our conversations, I learnt he had lost his best friend to AIDS, and was recovering from the long journey that friends of AIDS victims usually face. At that time, I was hitting a seriously unfunny patch in life, and I suppose it showed on my face.
One particularly difficult day, I sheltered at home, and there was a knock on the door which I ignored at first, but which was very insistent. Before I could open the door fully, The Black Eena and The Bodyguard, in full drag regalia, burst into the flat, scaring the bejeezus outta me, and then scaring me some more by grabbing me by the arms, saying, ‘Quick, darling, we have to go to your balcony and do an Evita!’.
My Kensington flat was on the top floor, and the back balcony was almost directly above the green on the 9th hole of the Australian Golf Club, where the Australian Open was being played that year. I think Greg Norman won and Tiger Woods was still on the ascendancy and on his first trip to Australia, but the gallery at every hole was packed nonetheless.
So, The Black Eena, The Bodyguard and me stood on the balcony and belted ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’, out, palms facing inwards and all, at our audience. Oh, and he had brought a wig for me to wear too, which I sportingly did.
Back in the flat and over a pot of tea, The Black Eena said he and the Bodyguard were wondering why I hadn’t ventured out of the flat, and figured they’d take a chance by cheering me up.
The Black Eena and Her Friends were also the funnest party animals, and once I received something in the mailbox addressed to all the building’s occupants, saying ‘We’re sorry for the noise we’ll be making this weekend, but please forgive me as I only turn 40 once. You can’t beat us, so please feel free to join us’.
The parties were a blur, and we also enjoyed terrorising the neigbours in the flat next to mine just because they were bible-bashing students. The balcony was a common one shared by two adjacent flats, which meant that sometimes, my neigbours would be out enjoying the sun shining on God’s Own Country and reading the bible at the same time. Until me, The Black Eena and sometimes Her Friends, would hold drag tea parties and Mardi Gras auditions on the same balcony.
“It won’t be easy you’ll think it strange…. you won’t believe me…. all you will see is a girl you once knew (as a man)… all dressed up to the nines, at sixes and sevens with you….
Don’t cry for me all you girlfriends, the truth is I’m just a drag queen, all through my wild days, my mad existence, I may be pretty, but from a distance….”
Glenn Osborne, if you are reading this, thank you very much for bringing ‘Disney on Acid’ to those dark days.