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Background

A wonderful night was spent with Ms Karen Thompson at the Mardi Gras and she kindly asked me to write a blog for her on the experience as a guest blogger. Initially I thought how could I but if you know Ms Karen Thompson, you realise she’s too sweet a person to refuse, and it was an honour to be asked. So, here is my blog on the event with Ms Karen Thompson.

The Idea

The Mardi Gras had always been an event I saw on television and over time it appeared on my “bucket list” to see in person. It looked a lot of fun and pizzazz to see with the elements of the Rio de Janeiro Carnival … so a MISS SEE! First task for me was to find someone to go with as this was something you shouldn’t go alone. Well that was not easy as I did not have a date to go with….no wait, that’s not true Ms Karen Thompson. The ideal person to go with – a regular goer to the Mardi Gras, wonderful company and someone I respected and got on well with, of course obvious! The hard part for me was to ask this lovely lady, I’m sure someone would have booked her that night. I politely worded an email to her asking her to accompany me to this event, and to look after me, really as I wasn’t sure how it would go and was experienced on what to do. The wait was really hard for her reply but YES the answer was YES….I was excited to have such beautiful company for an event like this would be memorable. I made all the necessary arrangements and waited for the time to arrive….Arghhh the long wait to see Ms Karen Thompson once again and the Mardi Gras!

Meeting Up

The arrangement was to meet early, Ms Karen Thompson was organising the chairs to sit on and tickets to the Diamond club, what a treat! She always thought of all the things to make the experience great for me and herself. A text arrived that she was running a bit late, but when she arrived, boy did Karen look awesome. She greeted me with a gentle kiss and I helped her with the chairs she had brought to my room, where we sat and talked about the plans to get a good spot and the directions to get there. Mid sentence, Karen stopped and leaned into me, my pulsed raced….a kiss on the lips, and then another, before I realised it we were kissing passionately. Without realising it my hand went to her bare leg, touching her sensitively, an “mmmm”  came from her mouth and she leaned back closing her eyes. Karen was enjoying this! I continued to touch her sensitively on the bare leg and arms, enjoying her look and pleasure. She sighed and leaned back in and the passionate kissing resumed, a slight pause….”I don’t think we’ll move from here”, Karen said with a knowing smile. Both of us dragged ourselves from the wonderful experience checking the time and realising it was time to head to the Mardi Gras. We gathered our things and the chairs Karen are brought and headed off.

Pre Mardi Gras

A quick 20 minute walk and seeing some interesting dressed people in outfits, we arrived at  Oxford Street, tad early for the parade but we opened up the chairs and sat down and observed the crowd passing by, and boy was it colourful. The people amazed me how they were so open and comfortable with themselves and unpretentious, really refreshing to see from my rather straight corporate lifestyle I led with the bravado and egos! I started to feel comfortable in this environment and was enjoying the party atmosphere. Karen checked her watch and decided to check whether the venue that she had kindly booked for us was letting in people. That left me alone to look after the things and continue observing people, a gentleman came next to me and stood there for a few minutes, I turned to him and he said “G’day” and said “G’day” back to him and jerk my head in acknowledge and turned back to my observation….wait a minute was that a pick up??? A looked again and the gentleman had moved on, nah maybe not. Karen then came back to say that the venue was opening so we packed up and headed there. We got some prime spots near the SBS stage and telecast and waited for the parade to commence.

Party Time

The representatives of the sponsors came down the street giving out Mardi Gras flags, Foam lights and …. and how embarrassing a handful of Sylk condoms in both our hands. I felt a little awkward, however Karen touched me on the arm and gave a little smile, she really knew how to relax a guy! The parade started with a rumble… Dikes on Bikes…. Wow loved the rumble of the Harley’s and seeing the ladies on the bikes in bra tops and some uh hum revealing tops. The crowd grew wild with cheering and lots of fanfare, it started to feel like a party, and the atmosphere started to get exciting. This was followed by the Guys on bikes, with some dare I say sexy outfits on them with butt cheeks showing…I was really starting to get relaxed.

A short wait than all the parade started to come past us with the First Nations, the indigenous group with cross dressers dressed in sequins outfits and outrageously colourful outfits. The colours were beautiful and really excited me as I love colour and spectacle…in fact I had forgotten would you believe! I was really getting into the atmosphere. From our vantage point we could see Magda Szubanski, Tom Ballard, Patrick Abboud and Faustina Agolley at the SBS covering the Mardi Gras and we wondered whether we would be on the coverage!! The 78’s then came past and the roar rose in the crowd when they came past, it really made me realise how the world had changed since then. It stirred emotions in me of what I would had thought at the time of LGBTI and my attitude. How I have changed in accepting them as they are, in spite of my religious beliefs but in line with my humanitarian, equality and fairness. The courage these people would have had at the time is amazing and now 38 years later, we are now talking about equality in marriage a barrier that is still remaining. I shed a tear thinking of the courage of these people and how proud they were waving and still supporting the Mardi Gras…admire them so much!!

The next float came past with a cross dressing as the head ornament on a boat with some beautiful dancers in blue. It was starting to feel like a party with the dancing in the parade and the lovely colour and flamboyance. The senses were getting overwhelmed with all the colour and action. Then I saw Ron Muncaster in a wonderful Aztec like customer, it was absolutely beautiful, he was not a young gentleman but it was wonderful to see him in the parade with his entourage. Teresa Kompara was next up, apparently a regular (as I found out from the SBS coverage – sorry I had to cheat to give you all the details J) wearing a wedding dress to symbolise that marriage is something that is what he is looking for still. The Sydney Irish Pirate queens were up next and wow I was so amazed at the wonderfully blue fabric, and the wonderful dancing sequences they exhibited. They danced beautifully and it was spectacular, a number of group broke away and they high fived us …. It was wonderful to see the interaction of the parade with the crowd. It made me feel so free and comfortable in this atmosphere of comradery, it was exciting! Oh la la, some of the ladies wore very little…and some were topless, surprisingly I didn’t feel embarrassed (as I’m pretty conservative) but it felt liberating and natural to see. I must say there was a lot of buff men, and topless women and it seemed a lot of the nice looking guys wore sexy shorts, had oiled bodies and tall!! I loved seeing this body beauty….and I’m not ashamed to say it LOL!

The Gayby Baby group came past it was wonderful to see the children and same sex parents together. I know in my kids school a lot of kids were mean to these kids, but at the end of the day the important thing is that these kids are like anyone else, they experience love from their parents and that’s important. It doesn’t matter whether you are in a hetro or gay family. The courage of the kids and parents to be public is something that tears me up with tears of happiness.. There was a great turn out by the NSW police, Ambulance, SES and the armed forces (Army, Navy and Air Force), all of these services still fighting for equality in their ranks but hopefully moving in the right direction. One of the many groups that impressed with their theatre, was a group with rainbow umbrellas the choreography was fantastic and the use of umbrellas brilliant. It reminded me of the famous Gene Kelly scene in “Dancing in the rain” and made me really happy, the party atmosphere was really growing in me and I realised I was dancing to the music from each float!! The crowd I was in and the people in the parade were touchy too! My butt was touched more than once and it felt weird as this doesn’t happen normally but strangely it didn’t seem out of place with the openness you felt all around you.
During the length of the parade Karen looked after me very well checking on me every 20 minutes or so to see if I was coping with a light touch on the arm or a whisper in the ear or a soft kiss on the cheek. She knew I disliked crowds and it was crowded. On a number of occasions, a gave her a hug, held her hand or a peck on the cheek. In between some of the floats we talked about the floats, I gathered her knowledge on some of the organisations. Karen as usual was the usual attentive hostess to me and ensured the comfort of me, and I respected her enjoyment of the Mardi Gras.

One of the sponsors float came past, ANZ and they were all dressed in wonderful costumes of an Egyptian theme, with they foam light rods all dancing. A lot of the support groups for diversity and LGBTI came past, making me realise how much support people needed in families, workplaces, getting work and coping with the mental trauma. It’s something you don’t realise as it’s still something that’s open but not openly talked about! The Reach Out float came out with a rainbow heart, followed a number of the Uni’s in Sydney. I loved the Facebook float with the rainbow thumbs up and the people with the rainbow flag following with the support of such a social network. I feel it’s important to have the social network support this and ensure that there is equality. One of the funniest floats, for me – not sure if it’s appropriate was the Gay & Lesbian Association of Doctor’s and Dentists that people dancing, with what looked like sperm… creative…J. It had some really tall sexy cross dressers wearing mini skirts, had me double taking whether they were girls or not.

The support in a number of floats for marriage was really strong and it was good to see, something that I have hope will happen soon. Satire was also in the parade with a Brownyn Bishop look alike dressed in a helicopter. The next few floats were surprising the Greens then followed by the Liberal group coming past, with a lot of boos from the crown that included a group of gay guys behind us. Really surprising to see the Libs after what the Abbott government did, being cynical I was wondering if this was a political statement to get votes. The Labour group surprisingly raised a roar and cheer, so they obviously have the support of the LGBTI community. Bill Shorten and Tania Plibersek were interviewed about a metre from us and I got a great shot of them!! Sport was the next theme with the NRL and AFL floats supporting. A Brazilian themed custom was next, that had beautiful costumes with lots of colour, and music that made me dance, I was really enjoying this experience more then I realised and expected. I gave Karen a hug, thanking her for sharing the experience with me, it was enlightening me and making me more aware of an important issue. I enjoyed sharing adventures with her and it made the dates with Karen more meaningful.

A lot more groups came past with the Lady boy superstars impressing with the elaborate costumes, followed by a lot of the Thai, Filipino and South Asian groups all with such beautiful costumes with colour. My eyes were loving the colour. The Qantas float was one of the last group of floats, but was followed by an amazing group with balloons as part of their costume with oranges, reds and yellows everywhere…love it! The Poof Doof float was a roman orgy with wonderful dancing and music. The last groups followed a Rio Carnival them and it was great to see the colour, music and fantasy of this festival. Christine McQueen was in also in the parade, looking magnificent with carefully placed hearts in ummm strategy place on her breasts. My eyes and senses were overwhelmed from all the music, colour, party atmosphere and a sense of freedom I haven’t experienced before….it was LIBERATING!!

Aftermath

The crowd disbanded quickly with Karen and I attempting to navigate through the crowds, her deft movements through the chaos was wonderful to admire, with me almost losing her a number of times. After 20 minutes we navigated out of the crowd and headed back, both of us hadn’t eaten and it was 10:30pm, so we looked around for a place to snack. It wasn’t until we reached the city that we came across somewhere to eat and grabbed take away to take back to our abode. Both of us were exhausted but in a wonderful mood from the music, colour and party atmosphere we had experienced. Karen and I arrived at the hotel an we settled down to eat, Karen’s feet were hurting from standing for 3 hours so I offered to give her a foot massage (something that she loved…remember that J) and this made her relaxed and comfortable. A quick shower and a change of clothes and we settled down for the night with Karen wearing my pyjama top….looking really sexy. The rest I leave to your imagination, as gentlemen don’t provide details of the encounters. All I can say, was that the night was one of the best things I had experienced in my long life and something I may considered coming regular for this spectacular event, well worth it and something everyone must see – the Mardi Gras that is ;-).

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One of the most fun events of the year in Sydney is the Mardi Gras parade. I’ve been a regular attendee now since the late 1980s. It is a little bit different every year, as the political and cultural messages shift and change over time and the floats become even more numerous and impressive. With movies like Pride coming out of England in the last year, it is fascinating to see how social and attitudes have shifted and changed within a lifetime.

The Sydney Mardi Gras is a very popular event and so it is a great idea to plan the best vantage points to see the show.

This year I was at the Sideshow which means there’s seating, toilets, a bar and food, ANZ was the corporate sponsor this year. ANZ have introduced the GAYTM in recent times in a bid to secure the queer dollar.

These days I am living in the city, so the travel involved a bus ride up to Central from Circular Quay, duck through the Devonshire tunnel and through to Chalmers St, onto a coach for paid tickets and up to Albion St, (avoiding the hill). All the while observing the colourful characters attempting to scale the challenging Albion St in a bedazzling array of wigs, sequins, feathers and fierce heels.

Unfortunately there was quite a wait to get in at the Sideshow but I wasn’t too worried really. Lately I have taken to bringing fold up directors chairs to these public parades and events which enables seating anywhere at the front on the fence line – a VERY good strategy!

After a while the parade began, Dykes on Bikes opened up, then Boys on Bikes, Indigenous Australians and the 1978ers bused by.

It was getting pretty exciting, I was standing next to six super hot gay men – this was an interesting experience in itself! Men in the parade would spot them and flirt with them and they did the same back. Kind of instant and predatory behaviour – all in good fun though.

There were so many highlights but I got a real kick out of seeing my exes solar powered Sunny Bin wheelie bin sound systems charging down the street – so perfect for events like this.

And stunning Christine McQueen unmistakeable and bewigged at the front with an Asian contingent of marchers.

And my gorgeous client Steven happily sailing by with Northcott, a very important representation in the march.

I LOVE Mardi Gras, so if you’d like to come with me next year and feel the Mardi Gras passion feel free to get in touch.

Mwah and air kisses.

Karen x

 

Last Saturday night in Sydney, we celebrated the 33rd annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. If you’ve never been, it is an enormous event, it has a fair day, a dance and several other events. The centre piece of the Mardi Gras is the parade. I am going to talk about the parade, comprised of around 135 floats which celebrate all the diversity available in the Gay and Lesbian community. Many people visit from overseas to be here. It brings millions of dollars into the Sydney economy. The Mardi Gras had humble beginnings as a march in 1978. My interest in Mardi Gras goes back many, many years. In my first job in the public service, I met a wonderful man “Paul”.

There were a few differences between us, I was a base grade clerical staff and Paul was the Officer In Charge. I was a teenager and he was in his early forties, I am straight and he was gay. Perhaps that is where our differences stopped. He lived in Dulwich Hill then and I live in Dulwich Hill now. It was the late eighties and we dressed outrageously and were fabulous, we both knew it so we got along famously. We liked all the same music and went to the same clubs. We were work colleagues who became personal friends. So it was heartbreaking when Paul was diagnosed with HIV + that became AIDS back in the late eighties. Not so much was known about it then. As he was a good public speaker with fairly high level job he did a bit of work talking about it on TV and media at the time. Paul was trialled on drugs like AZT but he didn’t know if he was getting the real drug or a placebo to treat his condition, it must have been a complete mind fuck. After he became to sick to work, I visited at him at home. I saw how his body visibally decombusted from the inside out. It was heartbreaking. The day he died I rang his phone but no one answered.

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Pauls’ wake was at the Mardi Gras work shop in 1990, celebrated by a group of his personal friends, he must have loved that. He gave me the poster you see in the picture, he is the guy in the orange veralls. Wow, that was what the Mardi Gras publicity looked like thirty years ago!

I always think of Paul at Mardi Gras. For a long time, I attended the Mardi Gras standing on a milk crate in Oxford St like everyone else. A few years ago I figured I could give something back to people like Paul who live with an illness but also the negative effects of discrimination, stigma and isolation.

The Bobby Goldsmith Foundation is a charitable organisation that helps to support people living with HIV +. It’s main fundraising event is the Glamorama area at the Mardi Gras. There are three areas at Glamorama, theres the Glamorama Stands, theres chairs down the front and there’s the Glamour Bar. I like the Glamour Bar best. I’ve been going for three years now, its full of warm wonderful people that are nice to you and you can have a drink and nibbles, there’s a DJ or entertainment and there’s clean toilets. This year, once again the MC was the amazing and totally FABULOUS Vanessa Wagner. Possessing a biting sense of humour and a sharp wit as well as being able to articulate another level of consciousness are the qualities that Vanessa has above others, as well, of course, as her obvious good looks.

There had been a late cancellation, my friend that was going with me has been sick and couldn’t make it, I absolutely understood the issue but I had to find another friend to take their place, luckily this was no problem.

My costume was very simple, a pair of Elton John Pink Flamingo glasses I picked up at Castro last year. This is them.

We prepared for the parade, Vanessa begins the commentary and we are taken through who are the real movers and shakers in the Gay and Lesbian community. As usual Dykes on Bikes lead, followed by the Boys on Bikes, then the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence on Sedgeways :O) An amazing spectacle of colour, sound and visual stimulation unfolded, Special shout out to the Whores, ACON and Clover Moore, great food was coming around and the bar was close by. All too soon the 78ers the orginal crowd that marched bused by. I thought of Paul once again.

Every couple of years I take up a straight job. Five years ago I worked as a Census Collector. My job involved dropping off and picking up data. I often met gay and lesbian couples asking the question why their relationship was not legally recognised? Well, don’t know, that’s an interesting question for the policy makers isn’t it? The issue of the discrimitive wording on the form and the interest in same sex marriage certainly was reported back to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Say something!

Happy Mardi Gras.