Newtown Hotel Drag

“Does anyone know the last time there was a drag show here at the Newtown Hotel?”, Minnie Cooper asked the crowd tonight. Instantly, my friend Graeme and I knew the answer.

On a Sunday afternoon in November 2007, Graeme and I were due to catch up for a beer, but to our surprise, the night before was the hotel’s final night after many years as a gay bar, and many years with drag shows.

For years, “The Newtown Hotel” had been a legendary “gay” pub run by the very famous/infamous lesbian, Dawn O’Donnell. It was a fun pub that you could hang out with your mates and have a laugh.

The pub re-opened five years later, as a predominantly “straight” venue, though definitely “gay-friendly”.

We were there tonight, due to a post by Minnie on “Lost Gay Sydney”.
Minnie Cooper reflected on the changes tonight, with a witty one-liner. “The straights voted for us a couple of years ago with marriage equality, so we’ve got to let them in now”, she said or words to that effect. It got a laugh.

Minnie told the story of how she had been in rehearsal for a show at The Newtown Hotel, when the sudden closure occurred. Tonight’s show, she told us, was the show she had been preparing. There were lots of great musical memories of the 80s and 90s, and so both Graeme and I enjoyed it.

As I sat and watched the show, I couldn’t help but reflect on my most recent unfortunate experience at Darwin’s gay bar, “Throb”.

A couple of years ago, there, I had a young gay Aboriginal guy refer to me as “Uncle”. For Aboriginal people, “Uncle” (or “Aunty”) are terms of respect for older people. I was both touched, and to be honest, a little concerned, I’d reached “that age”. In contrast, on my final night in Darwin, I had a young caucasian woman walk past me and say “What are you doing here, grandpa”? As I didn’t get the impression this young woman meant it in the same respectful manner as the young guy, I responded with what I admit, was a sexist derogatory comment I remembered from “Priscilla, Queen Of The Dessert”. “Was she drunk?”, my friend Graeme, asked me. “No, just rude”, I told him. Despite this rather unfortunate incident, the drag show at “Throb” was excellent.

Nothing like that happened tonight at “The Newtown”, thankfully. The crowd was friendly, and incredibly young, compared to us, who you might unfavourably compare to “Statler & Waldorf”.

It’s great to see drag back at “The Newtown”, and good luck to Minnie and others for the return.

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