Boyers and Bitches

There was a real moment of history being in the audience for the speech delivered by the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, as part of The Boyer Lecture Series.

In the midst of a speech about celebrating the diversity of Australian life, the two most news-worthy (and much quoted comments) concerned her (hinted) support for same-sex marriage, and her low-key support for the transition of Australian from Constitutional Monarchy to Republic.

As was reported by ABC News…

Ms Bryce, delivering the final Boyer Lecture of the year on Friday night, said she hoped Australia might become a nation where “people are free to love and marry whom they choose”.

“And where perhaps, my friends, one day, one young girl or boy may even grow up to be our nation’s first head of state,” she said.

As I personally support both things, it was a welcome affirmation, though you can understand why those opposed to such things, and those who have differing views to my own about what a Governor-General should and shouldn’t say, have expressed their concern. It was a moment of history, and it was good to be there.

The Bitch Is Black at Corroboree Festival
The Bitch Is Black at Corroboree Festival

“Do you think we’re the only ones here tonight, who are about to head off to see an Indigenous drag show…?”, I asked my friend. We both giggled out loud, as the contrast between the two audiences could not have been greater. The Boyers audience was very Anglo, very top end of town, very serious. In contrast, the audience for “The Bitch Is Black” was very irreverent, very Indigenous, and featured a greater variety of people attending, though we did have a drink or two with a former Federal Minister of the Crown who was there with his Indigenous partner.

The basic premise for the show (re-titled after the Elton John song, once covered by Tina Turner) was a drag tribute to the great black American female singers of the last fifty years. Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Donna Summer, Diana Ross, Janet Jackson… you get the idea.

“Oh my goodness”, it’s my record collection”, I realised at one point. But for the three men performing the drag show (who said they grew up like lots of people singing along to their songs as teenagers), I’m guessing these artists had a lot of additional cultural significance due to the colour of their skin.

“We’d like to take the show on the road”, one of the guys told us later in the night as we chatted. Based on the reaction from the crowd – pure joy – I reckon the show would do well.

Though completely unplanned, we ended the night doing a bit of our own lip-syncing to great pop songs as Palms, the club on Oxford Street.

As we waited in line to enter the club we had a really bizarre conversation with a couple of guys. One of them was a little drunk, and so, a little unashamed blurted out, asking one of our friends if he was Aboriginal. When he replied yes, the guy then went on to say his grandmother was black, his father was black, his brothers and sisters were black, his cousins were black, and “some of his best friends” were black, but that HE wasn’t Aboriginal. “I think you might want to think that one through a bit…” we said to him. Life’s rich tapestry…

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