Gay Sydney – Australia 2002

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Sydney Australia

It’s the furthest destination us Brits can possibly travel to and spending a whole 24 hours in a plane makes sure for some certain mile-high-club action. And to top it off if you get a like minded dishy flight attendant, like I did, then it makes the trip a great deal more entertaining. However after 20 minutes of getting an earful of "I'll lose my job if we get caught" and then finding a queue of frowning passengers along with one of his work colleagues waiting out side when we emerged, I wouldn't recommend doing it again with a trolley dolly!

Darlinghurst is the main gay district of Sydney, the main bars and shops centred around Taylor Square on Oxford Street. I must say there are some excellent shops there which have a great range of gay accessories and clothes, especially speedos; after-all Australia is the Speedo capital of the world. Just 15 minutes from the city is the main coast, home to some beautiful beaches such at Bondi or Tamarama. These are also two well known gay hot spots which on sunny weekends get packed with beautiful well groomed muscle boys. If you time it right then you'll also get to see the sexy life-savers train. There's something incredibly sexy about a straight boy in tight red speedos, a vest and a little string tie hat.

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2002

Sydney's Mardi Gras is a month long event of parties, arts and community events, ending with a spectacular street parade and dance party. It's the largest gay and lesbian festival in the world; actually it's amazing to think it's not run by the American's! While I was there in Sydney, many of the local boys expressed how the event is not what it use to be, and has very much been turned into a lesbian event. This is because a large proportion of the Mardi Gras committee and organisers are lesbians themselves. Personally I felt that this is a true point, but we have to remember that the event is there for both gay men and lesbians equally. However when watching the Web Cast of the parade it does focus very much on the lesbian side and I was amazed when one of the commentaries started slaging off some of the sexy muscle guys who were dressed in just tight underwear. She didn't think it was a good look or costume!! Personally when I vision the parade in my mind, that's exactly what I think about, sexy muscle boys in tight underwear/hot-pants dancing around looking fabulous. Anyway girl-power seems to be ruling, so come on boys lets get a bit more boy-power in there for next year!

This year's parade was out to make a political statement and cause a little bit of controversy. The lead float featured a replica of St Mary's Cathedral, and was accompanied by a cast of angels, devils and cardinals, as well as an effigy of Archbishop George Pell and the Spice Girls. It ridicules the church's stance on homosexuality as well as the narrow-minded attitudes of institutions in general. Parade director Mark Barraket said "It's a bold float that will no doubt add more than a little `spice` to the parade, the float is there to make a very political statement about institutions and the way in which they view our community."

Colin Polwarth the designer of the lead float had this to say about his design: "My hope is that the 2002 lead float causes a laugh, some mischief, and some positive action for our community. The lead float was designed to challenge and to remind Australians of the incessant discrimination homosexuals face through irrelevant moral judgement. I confess to having had great fun putting it together and am completely fired up about the response the workshop artists, cast, crew and volunteers, the parade committee and Mardi Gras board have dedicated to making the concept come alive."

He continued: "The message this parade will send out to the international community is that queer Australians are world leaders in the fight against discrimination. We do care about the plight of our brothers in repressed societies. We fight domestic and international discrimination at the highest levels. Many beyond our shores depend on us to achieve greater freedoms. The Australian queer community is a light to many where there is none."

Almost 7,000 people were involved in the 171 floats entered with almost 700,000 people lining the "golden mile" through Darlinghurst to watch it.

Twelve hundred parade officials lined the streets on the night to handle the crowds and deal with emergencies, they were identified by tee-shirts bearing the slogan "Walk a mile in our shoes". The reason for this slogan said Mark Barraket was "to encourage the straight society to consider the issues that we, as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, face in or lives - issues such as youth suicide, unequal age of consent and the fight for religious acceptance. It's important to acknowledge that walking in our shoes can be absolutely fantastic. We are successful in our places of work, on the sporting field, in the way in which we form meaningful and loving relationships and most of all, in our ability to celebrate and party".

Unlike most other Pride/Mardi Gras parades around the world it takes place after sunset, kicking off at 8pm. It was my first time ever in Sydney and so I had never experienced this style of parade before. Rather then doing the done thing and watching it, I went in head first and ended up organising Gaydar's entry in the parade. It was truly an amazing experience making our way up Oxford Street dressed in just skimpy white Gaydar briefs. People tightly packed the pavements waving, cheering and flashing there camera's every inch along the parade route. Some people start getting into position some 4 or 5 hours before the parade starts, so if you're going next year to watch it I'd strongly recommend booking a seat in the special viewing stands if you want to be guaranteed a good view. 

The parade finishes at Fox Studios where the Mardi Gras committee lay on the largest gay party in the world. There's 4 dance arean's, a fair, drag shows, bars and shopping area. Canadian songstress Deborah Cox wowed the crowds at 1am with her hits Nobody’s Supposed To Be Here and Absolutely Not!, the latter song performed with the assistance of 21 Chanel-clad drag performers. At 2:30am, Popstars graduates Bardot took to the stage to perform their single I Need Somebody in a James Bond-themed show which also featured 20 Pussy Galores and four drag king 007s. Arguably the campest moment of the night was to come at 4am when Human Nature belted out Wham!’s high-energy hit I’m Your Man, complete with George Michael styling, 30 retro-clad male dancers and a shower of golden glitter. Swedish trio Alcazar performed their dance floor favorite Crying At The Discotheque just before 10am, bringing an end to the 12-hour party.

Entertainment was also on offer in the Hordern Pavilion, courtesy of a jello-wrestling pit which I personally got involved with too, and at the Diva Drag Bar, where the cream of Sydney’s drag industry strutted, pouted and generally put it about. Other partygoers made use of an expanded Bent Street precinct and a few hardy souls braved a ride on a giant bucking inflated penis.

Party director Glenn Horder said he was “really, really happy” with the party, particularly as it was his last in the role of Mardi Gras party director. “It was the best party I’ve ever been involved with,” he said. “I’m very happy to have been involved, but it’s time for someone else to take the reins and give the party a new direction, which is hopefully what I’ve done over the past few years.”

The weekend prior to the parade was that of the Harbour Party. This year it was held for two nights instead of just the one. After six years, the lease of the Britannic Gardens, where the party is held, has come to an end. The management has since changed and apparently are a lot more conservative. It isn't thought that another harbour Party will occur with-in the near future although the Mardi Gras committee did tell me that there are plans to put on another one in the pipeline. Here are 3 galleries of photos from the Harbour Party in 2002 and a short 9 minute movie to watch…

Over looking the city lights and opera house thousands of circuit boys (and girls) danced the night away in what was one of those magical experiences's I'll always remember. The DJ who headlined the final night along with many other dance events through-out the Mardi Gras weeks was our very own English bred Wayne G from Heaven. When asked what he most liked about Sydney he had this to say: "The hottest thing about the Sydney scene is the people. The vibe and the friendliness are like nowhere else. A lot of people say that the Ozzies are like the Americans, but those crowds are definitely not as friendly." The other main event where he drew the crowds was the official Mardi Gras recovery party called ICE. It was back in the first ICE party in 1999 when Wayne told of his most horny experience "It involved several people huddled in a group on the dance floor with me squidged in the middle on my knees and uh… that's all I'm going to say."

Any one who hasn't been to Australia or experienced the Mardi Gras parties I'd strongly recommend putting them at the top of your list of holiday destinations list. It's a fantastic country but don't forget that Sydney is just one city, there's so much more to go and see too. 

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