Jonathan Smith profile
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[00:00:00] This program was funded by a generous grant from the gay Auckland Business Association charitable trust. For more information, visit gabba.org.nz said. [00:00:11] Hi, I'm Jonathan Smith. I was born in London back in 1954. And I moved to New Zealand in 1957, with my family when I decided to emigrate to New Zealand, so I'm one of five children, my mom and dad are now passed away, and I'm the youngest of the family still alive. I had quite an interesting schooling, I started my schooling in Auckland, at age five, like most boys would, and didn't like school at all, I didn't, didn't see I didn't find it very comfortable at all. And that was because my very first two or three years of schooling, I had a teacher who was quite resilient about me using my left hand and keep working my left hand and saying you got to use your right hand. So my schooling didn't start off very well, to the extent that my brother used to have to drag me down the street every morning to go to school and not a good staff. We moved to Seattle, just on the way home when I was about seven or eight, and again, I had quite a difficult schooling period, I came through primary school. And I think that was primarily because of a bad start I had when I was about five or six. From there, I moved to tiara college, Tara college was your typical small rural college theory, very sports orientated, wasn't oriented it in any way whatsoever towards the arts. And at that stage, I don't think I really understood that I was probably slightly different. I don't think I def definitely didn't understand that I was gay. All I did remember was that the school wasn't really working for me, and I wasn't working for the school. But I stuck the I stayed until the seventh form and got up. However, there was a really difficult time and the only thing that probably kept me going was the fact that I got very involved amateur dramatics at the local terror play theater. If it wasn't for that, I think my schooling probably would have been even with someone it was insane it however, it secondary school, I did have a really good drama teacher, who could see that I had students skills and other areas. So she cast me and the lead role of Andrew please on the line, while we fever all and that was when I was on the form. So here I am on stage, and a very sports minded rugby, and cricket sort of them environment, and I'm playing on the line, still don't realize I was a little gay boy. Again, so I probably wanted to be he knew that I actually hit potential and it was on the arts rather than engineering would work or technical drawing, which was the way I was forced to go. I lyst go and see what's form and actually applied to go to the theater school and Wellington and was accepted. Hello, the due to a number of reasons, my maturity, lack of funding, lack of confidence. I declined that offer. And I look back now I just don't believe that number one I was accepted. Because it was extremely hard to get into theatre school pick the net was about you know, 1960s. So I said no, and I went on work for the New Zealand post office, you know, hello, here I am artistically minded, living in terror, working in the post office. However, I think what it did for me was just helped me mature a little bit. However, being the youngest I can always remember, my mother and father and my brothers and sisters used to always be talking about London and everything they did in London, not from the perspective that they Mr. Because they realized that moving to New Zealand was actually the best thing they did. But because I heard my brothers and sisters continually talk about London, I felt as though I needed to go back, I needed to really discover what my heritage was about so much to the grief of my mother 19 I upped and moved to London. And that's when things really started to move for me. [00:04:08] In what way [00:04:09] in what way Well, I remember my second day in London here I am staying else at Tom Helmsley up by the airport. And I caught the underground and Piccadilly Circus, you know, he's a little boy a lot. You know, I wasn't that mature for 19 at that age, from tiara on the chief going to London go to Piccadilly Circus. I'm sitting on the train, and he's this guy sitting next to me. And he's reading k Express. And I can't remember I was caught at the London gay times, I think it was. And I was looking over his shoulder. And I was [00:04:44] reading it, and also looking at the pictures. And I was finding this really intriguing. Now remember, I'm 19 and [00:04:53] and then halfway along the trip, he turned around to me folded up the paper and said here you can take a hammer rated if you want. Well, it was shocked. got off the stage. Because the dragon Lyft, the newspaper on the train, jumped off. And I sit on the platform. And I probably stayed here for about an hour thinking What the hell is this about? And then I started thinking back to when I was much younger 12 and 13. Where I remember going up into the loft of the house. You know if a kitchen Do you climb through the house and under the house. And I came across this bundle of Playboy magazines that my older brother would lift up the you know, away from mom and dad. So I used to go out there with a torch staring at these playboy magazines. And I brought back all these memories of when I was 12 and 13 upstairs in the loft, looking at these magazines and realizing I wasn't actually looking at the girls but I was looking at the boys but and what the boys were doing with the but still the girls. And I think here I am sitting it believe it or not was caught in post New Zealand, sitting at Earls Court underground, jumped off this train said no to the gay times. And I think the penny dropped. And it dropped in a huge way. And I think for the next two or three months, I really started to understand things more and explore a lot more things in London on the London area. I don't think I still understood that I was actually gay at this time. [00:06:28] So prior to that point, were you just a sexual Did you have any knowledge of homosexuals growing up? [00:06:35] I think I was definitely a sexual though. [00:06:40] Maybe I was bisexual, but I didn't understand it too. Because growing up, you know what play around with the girls down the back of the deck of the rugby field around the back of the cycle cycle sheets. I also had a boy who lived next door, who was about three or four years older than me who I remember had an exceedingly large penis, asked me to come over and watch and play with it. And you know, certain things used to come out of it if I used to play with it. And I remember doing that sort of thing. And, and him sort of wanted to try try and play around with me. But at the same time, I was also sort of playing around with girls and I lost my virginity to a girl when I was about 18. So at that stage, I don't think I understood it. And being in a small town like that. You're just not privy to it. But you know, I look back now. And there was so many things that that I realized that really intrigued me and one of them was my drama teacher used to quite often come up to the movie theater and all come to this is you know, the 1960s. And because she knew most of the people working at the mercury would quite often go and meet the producer or the director amount of them Lyft and the spaniel apartments from the biggest thank heavens arcade. And I remember going in the once and who's saying, Oh, this place is so fluffy. It's typical of the way he lives his life raging raging Queen, because I didn't understand it. I didn't understand it. But now, when I was sitting at Earls Court station, I'm thinking all these things started to come back to me. And I realized that my Catholic I must have been gay. That's what she was meaning. So no, during that time, I suppose I played around with boys and girls, but I never really understood or identified with it. [00:08:20] So what year did you hit London? [00:08:23] It would have been about 1972 73. [00:08:28] And what was it like? And [00:08:31] it was unbelievable. [00:08:34] First of all, from the ads perspective, I suppose I read every single theater that I could go to I I you know, I did kind of be straight all those things and make the bangs nightclub and places like that. But I still didn't identify and still didn't understand I was gay. So for me, it was a huge eye opener. But I was also more about me finding out my roots, I went back to the house where I was born, I went back to the area we will left as its children. So that was more about finding out who I was as a person. Or probably might be, maybe I went back and found out much more than I thought it was gonna find out. But I only stayed there for about seven months. And then I moved to beat to Hamilton actually, and went back to work with the museum post office. And we're back and she had a fit with a really good friend of mine, a female friend, who I thought I had feelings for. So even when I came back at age 20, I was still extremely confused sexually, to the extent I tried to take my life by doing an overdose. But if I look back now, I wasn't trying to kill myself. It was really I was really screaming and screaming out for help. They'd helped him come. Although I would seem to see a psychologist. I don't think I understood why I was going to see him I don't think I understood why I tried to take an over I was now I look back and I totally understand what it was. So I stayed in Hamilton for about two years, then I thought no, this is that I've got to go back to London. And for me, because London was a place that I possibly identified that I was gay. Although at that stage, I didn't understand that I needed to go back to London to really understand this. And that's when I my second trip when I was 2121 was when I really started to understand who Jonathan was, and what I wanted to do as a career. So that particular that particular year, was very, very defining for me in so many ways that really defined me to find my career and to find who I was as a person as well. I think that's when I started to really ground myself, maybe, maybe, but coming out in London, coming out of London, knowing you're gay. At that age, there was a lot of kids up to date. And I tell you what, I had a good time in London. And I look back now and I think I just don't believe some of the things I did unbelievable. Such as well, you know, you feel as though maybe you've got to catch up on something. So you know, to put it on a nice to him, I was probably a right task. vape I'm being kind, I was an absolute Tad, I enjoyed myself, [00:11:27] I probably didn't look after myself. [00:11:31] Naturally back then at that time, HIV AIDS wasn't around. However other STDs were condom use was not prevalent. It wasn't it wasn't really pushed. So you know, you hit to be very, very careful about catching STDs, etc. in England. So I probably didn't take care of myself thing. I don't think I understood the importance of my work because I had an extremely good job with British Airways. Very good job. And sometimes I used to go out party so late that I couldn't go to work. That lasted for about two or three months, where I realized that this lifestyle was really having an impact on my work. And I had a really, really good career with British Airways. And if I carried on my pitch, it would actually ruin my career. So I really scaled it down. I still went out partying a lot, I made the most of all my travel, travel deals and free tickets. So I did a lot of traveling around Europe and North America, etc. So I made up for my party in the end when I was on holiday. But I had to scale up terribly when I was in London living in London [00:12:37] for a couple of years between the first trip to London and subsequently coming out. And the kind of confusion around the sexuality. Was that because I mean, what was was homosexuality seen as a negative thing. What Why were you feeling so kind of caught up and kind of suicidal. [00:12:57] The reason why I think I felt so confused and suicidal was that number one in New Zealand, I don't think there were any real role models. Anything to do with the gay or homosexuality was normally depicted on TV and a humorous way. So I couldn't look to bed, I didn't actually have anybody to talk to was nobody in the family, I had no friends or friends or family, the fate I was living or what but a woman who I thought I was having a relationship with. There was nobody or nothing that I could actually refer to. Maybe I didn't investigate that. But maybe I didn't investigate it. I just didn't know how. And of course going back to Hamilton, or going to Hamilton was no different to go to Tierra her much the same. Hamilton was a very, very small city. Maybe if I moved to Oakland, it might have been totally different. So I think it had a lot to do with the environment that I was living in. And still really, really unsure about my own sexuality. And the fact there was just nothing there that I could relate to. Okay, guidance from. [00:14:03] So can you paint more of a picture of what kind of gay life for you was like in the late 70s and early 80s. I [00:14:10] think that the best way to describe this was was the way I really understood the fact that I was was gay and I was actually okay to be gay. And I was very, very privileged and very lucky. The fact that I did get this particular job with with British Airways. When I went back to England. I was employed by Hamleys toy shop, the biggest toy shop in the world, in Regent Street. So this was also very artistic and I was was contracted another is a demonstrator. So any new toilet came on the market, I hit the demons right now i was i was killing it in a lot of shops type of thing. So for me as an artistic person, this is brilliant. However, every day, I used to walk past the British Airways office in Regent Street, and it was massive back then it was huge, huge office. And I got this desire, I don't know, maybe it was seeing the guys in uniform. Because back then there were those beautiful black double breasted suits with with gold braiding. And there was something about it that probably appealed. But the whole, the whole concept of air travel really fascinated me, flying to England and big twice for the next short period. And I was really fascinated by aircraft. I used to go to Heathrow Airport I didn't used to go to get work was get with a Gatwick was a no no big thing. I used to go to Heathrow and I was really fascinated. And I thought, Okay, I need to set a goal. And my goal was to work for British Airways. So I rang up and I said, Well, if you don't work for a travel agency, there's no way no way we'll ever recruit you. So I then decided to do a correspondence course, I was the first person in England, who'd never worked in an agency or worked for an agency that did this travel correspondence course, I got about 50% of the way through, and I was getting my 99 100%. Because I really got into this type of work. done on the Evening Standard. I noticed that British Airways for advertising for reservation stuff to work at the central reservation office in London. And I applied, and believe it or not, I got a job. So I was a first person I ever took on that did not work for an agency. Great thing was that they refund all the correspondence fees for me, which was wonderful. I didn't have to. And I remember at my interview, they said to me, where do you see yourself in two years time, and I said working in Regent Street. And they said that kind of takes us five or six years, I said it's fine. But I'll do it until one and a half years later, I wasn't in Regent Street. I was actually in the new flagship office and Oxford Street, opposite Selfridges. This was the new flagship, or the new branding, or the new publicity and media was based on this office. So I worked in an office with about 50 people 80% of us for guy, including the boss, that's the defining moment for me, here I'm getting my show you thinking about working in an office we are my boss was gay. My three supervisors were gay, and 80% of the other stuff, but guy was 13. And the moment for me where I could understand who I was, how to relate to other people, and really understand about the gay lifestyle in London, because I only ever saw it from a party perspective, you know, going to a nightclub. But by working with these people from all over England, not just from London, a lot of them commuted into London, I actually started to see the different side of what the gay community was, rather than the gay party thing was, and as I say, that was a major defining factor for me when I joined British Airways and your office. And so from me, where did you go from then I think I actually started to mature as a person I mature is Jonathan, I knew who I was and what I wanted, even though I think I achieve really well to get into this, that particular position within a year and a half, I didn't hit the set my goals even higher to make sure I was a supervisor, or even higher than that. So I took on any projects that I could possibly do, including working, Concord, working in the state. So I did a number of things that I'm today I'm really proud of that actually managed to do that. At the same time, I was really understanding Jonathan sexuality as well, and who I was and what I liked, with regards to men, and what I liked sexually, and in the fact that I could actually openly talk about this to other people and wasn't ashamed of it. I was able to go back to New Zealand for holidays and actually told my parents I was gay. Until my brother and sisters I was gay. And if I'd been living in New Zealand, I don't think I could have done that. I really don't think I could have actually told my parents [00:18:47] how did that go. [00:18:50] My parents were fine. They acknowledged it. They didn't talk about it. My brothers didn't really accepted. And my sisters, I can't really remember what happened the Academy to vape. But remember, I used to come home and I used to be in two weeks and then fly out again and stop in New York or somewhere like that on the way back to to London. So you know, it was a very flying visit New Zealand to say hi, mommy did it for a week or so then I got to go back to London. And I think I became more and more interested in the arts. Because of you know, you've got the Westin I used to attend a lot of things in the West End, I still used to enjoy myself as a single, single boy, I had a couple of relationships. One was for the accused Italian guy. And then I had a lovely relationship with a great guy. It's interesting, just saying that, that all my relationships with non English guys. I think the non the non English guys with the bongs, the relationships, the European beam, I found something really fascinating and exciting about European, especially Italian mean and Spanish mean. And even to this day, I still find them quite interesting. So I continue growing as a person growing sexually in understanding my gender and understanding who I was. And then I made a major decision to return to New Zealand. So that was after 10 years of being with British Airways, I returned to Auckland. And this was even after the Greater London council offered me the apartment that I was living and they offered me the opportunity to purchase the apartment because I was living in a council faith. So long story, but I managed to get a council flight. And that was because of my sexuality. This was during a time when the Mayor of London, Livingston, Kim Livingston guy, he was very pro housing, the gay and lesbian community. And there are a lot of council flats around London, that were very hard to live because of the position they were in here, Elephant and Castle and places like that where a lot of the families didn't want to live. So he said, right, we're not going to leave them empty. So you went to the gay and lesbian community and see if you can justify why you should get this apartment will help you so I put an application and, and I got much to my surprise a three bedroom apartment and Elephant and Castle. So of course all the New Zealanders used to stay you know what they like when they go to London, they stay with anybody and everybody. Then I decided I didn't want to live there anymore because it was a very unsafe area. And they were just building these brand new council flats on Blackfriars bridge overlooking St. St. Paul's Cathedral. And I put in a really good application and I got one brand new apartment on the river teams. I don't mean I don't mean hundred meters big I mean, on the river teams. And right next to it now is the modern tape, the tape modern, which everybody will know that used to be an old pal station. So when I was living in the apartment that was closed down. It was graffiti, the homeless people living in the city. It's just before I left England I was offered to purchase as fate and that also lend me the deposit. I don't believe it. I said no, I turned it down. So you know, that's probably my biggest quitting my life is tuning it down. Anyway, I left came back to Oakland, and was just adamant that I was going to get a job on the lines. But British Airways and Auckland didn't want to touch me. They said they didn't like London train staff, I think the reason for their scheme, because we knew so much. So I went and wait for Thomas Cook, which was revolting, and hated it. And then I got a job with the Pacific and eventually working with the New Zealand. And I was the up until about 20 years ago. [00:22:48] So how did you get from kind of working in the airlines to event management because that's quite a large jump. [00:22:55] It's a huge jump. I I wait for a New Zealand. Fact, with the New Zealand I did a lot of travel, I came back, I realized that there's a possibility that we're going to close the training school down. So I got a job at a UT in charge of all the Travel and Tourism programs. Whilst I was the my partner 14 years passed away to HIV AIDS related illness. I was infected by him. So 16 years ago, when I was infected, I then decided I needed to do a major career change. And I did some post great study, one of which was career development through our MIT and Melbourne and graduated and took over control or management of the Career Center and I UT whilst I was there, and after my partner passed away, I started to offer my services to the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, predominantly the Bennett center. Anything I could do, that day was so great to help me during the nine months at my job my nine months that my partner died. Leading up to the end, I said I need to give something back to you. Unless you've got you've got really good organization skills, you're really strong with Project Management, you've got a really good eye for detail. Would you like to organize New Zealand's very first a talk at CGS? So on a voluntary basis, I did it. I did it again. The second year, I was being asked if I would help coordinate the opening night of Phantom of the Opera the very first time it ever came to New Zealand. So I did that as a fundraiser with startup hospital. So that was three large events in a very short period. And I'm starting to think this is interesting. I'm really liking this. So I gave up my job at the Career Center and I became self employed overnight. And boy, that was scary. I gave up a job that was extremely well paid. And I just decided no, I need to create change. newly diagnosed, I don't know how many years I've got live, the fact that my partner was diagnosed empty nine months. And I had the same strain, which is quite a heavy strain. I thought I'm going to be the same way. What have I got to lose sight through the job and, and open up my own company called have into Meantime, and 16 years later, still doing it? [00:25:15] What was your first experience or knowledge of HIV AIDS? [00:25:20] My first experiences when my partner got diagnosed, what year was that? [00:25:26] 1994. Yeah, it was actually a really, really horrific diagnosis. Because we had a group of gay friends, we didn't really understand HIV and AIDS, we've been I've been in this relationship with him for 14 years. So when you're in a relationship like that, you're not always sort of connected with what was going on. And we kept a fairly sort of quiet life, we sort of keep to ourselves, we didn't really do a lot of key things in Auckland. So his diagnosis was really troubled, and it took them a long time to actually diagnosis was diagnosed with today. If I say to you, this person's got fatigue, lack of concentration, mouth ulcers, and losing weight, I don't think it would take much to work out that was HIV. So he went through a period of about a month feeling really ill. And it wasn't until he was driving home at night that he actually had an excellent in the car due to lack of concentration. And they put them in, they put them into hospital very soon after that, and did some tests on him and said, Are we going to teach for HIV, and we need to test you as well, even though we were in a so called monogamous relationship, and they said we need to test you as well. Well, his diagnosis came back with a quite an advanced reading, which means that he probably been diagnosed, probably been infected for at least two years. For me, they got a very unclear message and clear diagnosis, they said we can't tell at this stage. But the chances are, you might, he might have just been infected in the last month. And you'll probably see a convert if you are going to within the next month. So that was really our first introduction to it, which is quite scary, quite scary that we don't really know much about it. [00:27:18] So you didn't like in the mid 80s, you didn't have any experience friends or [00:27:27] I had no friends. Nobody ever and coming from England, New Zealand. If I'd still been in England, you know, I would have seen it quite differently. In New Zealand. Okay, there were reports, I was hearing things on the news. But at that stage, we didn't really see anybody will know anybody at that stage. So for us, it was quite a shock in me, especially for him, as you can imagine. [00:27:49] So how did you cope with it? [00:27:54] How did I cope? I did cope. I think the most important thing for me was the fact that he was very ill when he was diagnosed. He asked the specialist How long was sorry, he asked the doctor, how long did he have to live and the doctor said about nine months, and he died nine months one day later. So my focus really was looking after him. There was no way he wanted to go into a hospice, he didn't want to go into him by house, he didn't want to go up to the hospital. So we made the decision to bring him home. It wasn't even even with my diagnosis, diagnosis, which came two months after his. For me, I just put that into a little box and shuffling on my shoulder and I forgot about it. But there had a really defining moment on him, that he knew that he had infected me. I chose not to ask any questions, I chose not to ask him how he got infected. I didn't want to deal with it. I knew I wouldn't be able to deal with it in any way whatsoever. But it was obvious to me that he hadn't been fired vaping having sex outside the relationship. And I think a lot of it was probably when I was traveling overseas, he had a lot of time at home. Maybe he perceived I was doing things overseas when I wasn't I don't know. But I look back now there was a lot of things that were going on that I found a little bit weird. But he put it down to my paranoia. And effect, I've only just finished doing psychotherapy, what 15 years later, to deal with all this paranoia that he actually put on to me because somebody was doing outside the relationship. So for his death, I was fine. looking after him I was fine. Then after he died was when it really hit me because I then really had to deal with the fact that he'd been unfaithful, I had to deal with his death, I had to deal with the grief of newseum switch was teeth. And I had to deal with the fact that I was actually HIV positive, I had the same strain. And so before that I have nine months to go. So it was tough. It was really, really tough. [00:29:59] But I got through it got through it from a lot of help, a lot of help. [00:30:03] who supported you in that time, [00:30:05] the New Zealand AIDS Foundation Parent Center was my main support. And also my my friends and my close friends in certain members of my family, because I actually had an agreement with my partner that I was not going to tell anybody I was positive until after Steve, I look back now. And I think, why did I do there [00:30:29] is a lot of things. I could go back and Christian now you know, 16 years later? [00:30:33] So at the time, why did you do that? [00:30:35] I think it was out of respect for him, it really was for him and [00:30:40] he needed he needed a lot of care. He was dying, and it was a horrible death. And I I he needed to have all the focus on him. And I knew if I told anybody I was positive that ask how did I get them victims, then all the blame would start being put on him. And I think it would have really, really affected the way possible friends and family and actually dealt with them. I don't doubt in any way whatsoever. The Boone, it seemed it would have acted any differently in other seemingly professional how what he calls it or how he got and feet. And it's not important. But it would have had an impact on our friends for sure. And I didn't want me to to be detrimental to that period when he was dying. [00:31:23] So at that time, your life expectancy was, what nine months? Or were they? [00:31:30] I didn't ask questions, I chose not to ask that question because I was slightly different, [00:31:36] slightly different psychology to my previous partner. Maybe he had [00:31:40] he hit to ask that question, though, because there was some guilt attached to it. For me there wasn't, I just presumed that I had nine months. However, at the same time, I've got a very different mind to my previous partner. I'm a lot stronger, I'm a lot more focused. So I in the background, my mind I thought Yes, I've got a short period. But did I really think I had nine months? No. But I knew I had a very short period. And that was when I started to make some major, major changes in my life. And one of the things I did was the fact that I, I failed so terribly at school and school failed me. I felt as though I needed to go out and get a higher qualification. So I did my postgraduate and teacher education and passed it. And then I did a postgraduate and creative elements for Australian past fit. And I think that was really to prove to myself that I could actually do it. I didn't do it because I needed it for my job is just to prove that I could actually do higher academic study and to go straight into post grade without doing it. To do it without doing a degree was a huge move for me. But I did it. [00:32:47] So it was the sort of time when the new drugs were coming in. Was that that's in the mid 90s. [00:32:55] Yeah, it was this is about the same. Like primarily, when Gary was alive, I'm sorry, when Gary was diagnosed, AZT was the only thing that was available. And and fear philosophy was to pump it into people. And he would be taking 15 to 20 tablets a day. In hindsight, I probably bought on an early death, I don't know, possibly. So and the side effects of it was exceedingly bad. And then I chose not to go onto any medication. Even though my my viral load fitting that wasn't my viral No, because I couldn't make them my tea for count was was not super low. I just chose not to go into medications because I saw what it did to him. So I had a period of about two years with no meds at all. and enjoying it two year period was when all the antiretrovirals were actually introduced. So I had options sitting there. But it wasn't paying selling for me, I had on many, many a good fight with farmers, including my particular fight that he told me to get stuff. And I moved back to London, because I couldn't get the medication that I needed. So I was very, very lucky. And even today, you know, I'm very lucky that I've still got so many options of antiretrovirals that I can take. He didn't have those options at all. [00:34:17] At that time, was there a lot of discrimination or stigmatization? [00:34:23] Back then there was in even today there is, and I think, where I get where I receive the most discrimination against my status is from within our community. Even today, I don't I don't get it from outside. But I'm saying it to be fear. When I was diagnosed, I did use my coming out about being HIV positive, I use that at the first AIDS Walk for New Zealand. So I knew that I'll get media coverage for it. I knew that it could it possibly have a huge impact on me it I UT because I quite senior role there. But the head of a you to prove that I could do it. Approved. If he knew me didn't know that I would have done it anyway, but never mind. So I never got discrimination externally. But internally, there's a lot of gay guys that would not talk to me. And even today, I think this is still there's still some guys who are probably dealing with your own diagnosis, or maybe have got a little sort of question mark in their mind that they're positive. And I'm probably just too fat too much on their face. So, you know, let me explain something to that happened about two years ago. And this is when Queen of the whole universe was really at the forefront and was doing extremely well. I had a particular member of our community, a very well known member of our community, who said, Oh, I think you should start cutting back on some of your media and your exposure because you're sending the wrong message as you but you may say, Well, the an openly out gay HIV mean, and you're sending a message to our community that people grow and develop through HIV positive status. And I thought, I don't believe it. I don't believe that somebody would explain it to me. And this person didn't understand just how strong I was the fact that I would turn that around and user, but to be told by somebody, my community, tone it down, giving the wrong message, that it's okay to be HIV positive. And people actually grown develop, because [00:36:29] there was pretty damning, [00:36:32] but a really good example of we get preachers from within our community, and how did you respond to that? by exposing myself. Up until the night he gone feely quietly, for about five years, six years after my diagnosis, I, I did a lot of HIV fundraising, a hell of a lot of bad, I think I raised about half a million, and about a five to six year period, I did so many different event, I became the chairman of the AIDS Foundation, the first HIV positive human at the AIDS Foundation. And I was prepared to put my face out there and sale was positive, you know, this was a really strong message, the CI of the eighth Foundation was HIV positive. So I, I really put myself out there for about seven to eight years. And then in the last four or five days, I've just really turned a big I've gone, I haven't gone underground, I just don't make a big deal out of it anymore. There's a lot of new people out there diagnosed who can who can, who can talk on behalf of anybody or everybody that's HIV positive side and feel as though I need to do it anymore. [00:37:38] That drive for doing an amazing amount of fundraising. Where did that come from? [00:37:45] I think the drive to do the fundraising came is there was only one thing that really caused me to do that. And it was because of the huge support of the Burnet center Museum in a translation unit seem to gave me and gave to carry that I just felt as though I just hit to get big. And there was no doubt in the first two or three years. That was my drive. And then after that, I then realized, actually, I'm really good at this. And I'm actually really enjoying this. And effect. This is a little bit about what I wanted to do when I first leave school, it was about arts and event management. So I was almost going back to what I was wanting to do when I was 19. And here I am, you know, a lot of a lot older, really enjoying and working in an area that was project management and arts arts focused. So I think that's what the and became the driving force forward. And if I look at it today, that's still my driving force today is the fact that I'm doing something amazing, that's in the arts, but I'm also now being paid for it as well. And I wasn't through my own company. [00:38:57] And when you look at a lot of the events that you've done, especially things like Queen of the whole universe, a big part of it seems to be a lot of positive energy, a lot of self esteem and confidence and getting people out there on stage is that is that a big thing for the queen of the universe? [00:39:10] I think that the queen of the whole universe is it's got this, so many reasons for it. And I think it's become even more clear. And now that we're into our seventh year, ninth ninth show that Queen of the whole universe is very much about showcasing our community and showcasing our community in a really positive way. And I think back to something like the hero parade, which was very, very extensively successful. And it really did showcase who we were, even though maybe the general the straight community sort of mocked and sometimes, you know, we started to add on 50 300,000 people coming to watch it. So for me, it's about showcasing our community [00:39:54] in presenting in a really, really positive way. [00:39:59] I really want to show the general community as well that we can work together that we are a united group of people, that that a show like this can be put on on an annual basis that does illustrate to people the talent, the talent, the raw talent as well, that we've actually got within our community. And the other the other major thing for me for the show was naturally about, it's about raising awareness for HIV and AIDS, you know, that's a major thing. Okay, it's not in your face. But that's the way I've always operated. You know, we don't need to be standing there pushing this message down people's throat. But people know why it's the and we have little subtle things throughout the stage throughout the show that just remind people what this is about, okay, yes, we've raised we've raised a lot of money, we've raised just over $170,000, over a period since 2004. [00:40:59] When when started the show [00:41:03] was about the need mine need to put on a theatrical show. And again, this is taking me back to when I was 19. This is what I wanted to at 19. And here I am. Yeah, I 50s doing what I wanted to do 3430 years previously, and I was actually about putting on a huge theatrical event, and getting a chance to do this at Sky city, etc, etc. but was one of my real main motivators. But what's what's really happened over the years is the fact that it's now become a platform for taking people from our community, he wants to he want to give a have a go at it dancing, wanna have a go at doing drag, although I don't like to use the word drag for the shark explain it to you later about being with a group of like minded people being with a group of other gays and lesbians, transgender, bisexual, all working for the same goal, the same purpose, which is to put a show on. And what I've seen now is that we have 1819 year old to join the cast, I see 5565 year olds join the cast, some of these people have only just come to terms of being gay. And some of them they don't know who to look after you, they don't know how to how to live, how to be gay, that when you get these 18, or 19, and 20 year olds coming into the cast and see a group of people, male and female, all ages, all working together, you see the sort of look on their face, we're on my God. This is what our community is also about, it's not just about having a drink and about gay bar, it's not about necessarily going to a sauna. This is actually about being a group of people all working together for this one cause and to watch that, and to watch the self confidence and the self esteem grow, I have a three month period, and then to see them on stage. And after the show, huge amount of satisfaction for me, no matter how good that show is how much the audience has enjoyed the lock on these people's faces on that stage when that curtain goes down, as we get my sales pitch. [00:43:14] Where did the idea come from [00:43:17] 2002 I saw a documentary, which was based on either Los Angeles or San Francisco. I think it was Los Angeles. And it was called quest for the crown. And it was about a group of guys who every year get together the same group of guys who get together and compete for the crown. And this was a fundraiser for HIV AIDS and California. And they were raising sort of like a $1 million from the show huge amounts of money, something we could never, ever, ever copy and New Zealand. And I saw snippets of the show of this documentary. And it was so cleverly filmed. So clearly film that they focused on three or four people you didn't realize they were the three or four people that went through as the finalists at the end of the show. And I'm sitting there thinking, I'm just so loving this, this has just got so many good elements on it. This is not just about Craig, this is a theatrical show. It's a theatrical cast. Musical. And I'm sitting there and I met my partners on the other side. I mean, you know, Buffy, and bumbo, both of us together, sitting behind me was a couple of really well known drag queens. And I turned around to one of them. I said, I'm going to do this. I said, are you I said yes, I will do this. And they said, We will be enough you do it will be in it. So I thought right, what will work? What won't work in a New Zealand market, for example, they do this huge opening extravaganza. And they've got about 50 drag queens for beetle cast members, Kristen gray. And after the opening extravaganza, they're all basically kicked off the qualified kicked off, and you leave with five people. So you Only you only do the opening extravaganza, then you're gone. And I'm thinking, that's not going to work that's not going to work for for our market. If I want to buy people into this, I need to change the show. So I thought, right, I need to get these contestants on board, I need to keep them till the end of Act One, then I'll get rid of them, then we'll take most of them through to it to maybe a few read hearing. So I spent two years writing this, putting the concept together, thinking about the music battling with it for around the music. I'm getting sponsorship on board and one of the one of the key things for me, when it came to came to sponsoring the show, and I didn't want to put it on stage. And so I knew I had sponsorship, because I did not want to put at that stage the AIDS Foundation at risk because they were going to take the liability because it wasn't coming out of my company at that stage. So I hate to be totally risk averse. And I hate to be risk averse in the 80s, I had to have the sponsorship. And what I'd seen over all these years of doing fundraising was that we were continually going to organizations for the pink dollar. We're always going to the gay and lesbian run organizations or gay friendly. And I thought I can't, I don't want to do this, I won't go to a different market, I've got to go to the corporate market, or to the national companies throughout New Zealand and get the money from them, which I did. So that first show there was hardly any pink dollar in it. And they saw it all in there. And let's be my philosophy for the last seven years. So when I first presented this concept to the AIDS Foundation, the CEO said, No, I don't think this show will produce the money. It needs to be Joyce. And I think the liabilities too high. And advice I bye on a Bruce Mason senior and take a trainer which is a small theater because I contacts there. And then this was unbelievable. Six months later, I have a meeting with the new CEO, Rachel. And she said, Look, I know you're doing lots of fundraising events, blah, blah, blah. So she confirmed World AIDS Day that I was doing street collection I was doing. She said if you got anything else on the big boom, I said, Well actually, I got this little show called Queen of the whole Pacific bit them. And I'd really like to put it on and she said tell me about it. And I told her she said can you make it a run even at CGS? She said can you guarantee they won't be a loss of CD. She said I got home at 12 o'clock at two o'clock. This is booking it two o'clock. The woman who used to run the Bruce Mason seem to hit move to Sky city theater. she rang me and she said, I remember six months ago, you came to me with a show concept. Is it still on? I see. [00:48:01] Yeah, two hours ago, it's on? She said right? sky city theater in sky city cooperation would like to work with you to put this event on, and will sponsor the venue for you for three nights. And wow. I don't believe that. So that's how it started. So that was that was at the beginning of 2004 that I got an offer from sky study. So I went to Sky city, I hit the meeting, I had hit the meeting that afternoon. So this all happened on a day, signed a contract. And that's basically how Queen of the whole Pacific was born. And one of the problems I had leading up to the event and also getting the sponsorship was was that there was still a lot of question marks around the validity of hero and and what happened with the demise of hero. And there were a number of events that went belly up, there was the prey that went belly up. And there was a lot of questions about what actually happened. And you know that the publicity was not good. Without the publicity was right or wrong? I don't know. No, I wouldn't go the so when it started to actually look at getting funding for it. I was being questioned all the time about, you know, as a secure as a financially liable, where will the money be going? Is there a trust account for the money, that type of thing. So I was actually having to deal with a lot of negativity around around the publicity around previous events of it that of course, some problems. Anyway, the event happened, and this was in September 2004. And at that stage, I wasn't involved in emceeing and I remember, the show was ready to go. And I was sitting at the back of the theater. And I was watching people coming in. And it was some pretty predominant people from our community coming in. And all of a sudden, I hit this hot flash and thinking, Oh, heaven forbid, I'm going to be really judged. You know, this hero, people here heroes gone. And I felt really nervous. It was a really, really horrific moment for me. But the other thing that I noticed this was a picked out visa. We had people queuing to get tickets they couldn't get in. But what I noticed in the audience was it was predominantly straight. And even to this day, I still find this really, really fascinating that 65 to 70% of our audience base would be heterosexual. So you've got a predominantly a heterosexual audience, but on stage is very, very gay on stage. So and then it really hit me and I'm thinking is this sort of like, people can't go to the hero parade. So they are now perceiving that this is our, this is another avenue that we come and watch the gay community on stage. And I've never forgotten that point. I've always held that point. And I've always been sure I've always been sure that this show keeps a little bit of a catalyst, a little bit of a hero surprise, because it's obvious. That's what the audience want. On the Monday after the show, the show was on a Saturday night night. On the Monday after the show. My sponsors rang me never heard never heard this before, rang me and said, We love to we want to help you out bigger next year. And I thought, well, I didn't get a phone call from the edge. And they operated the community programs through the ancc to sue the ASB theatre. They said we'd really like this have you to be part of our community programs, can you come in and talk to me, I realized immediately that the show hit to grow, it did actually have to leave sky city, which was really sad because they were the ones that really gave it to me that really got Queen of the whole universe off the ground off the ground. So I went to the center to the edge and had a meeting with him. And yeah, that the following year 2005 we changed the name to Queen of the whole universe because we get to go bigger. And we peak week became part of the interest community program, which was huge, which meant he I got a lot of support from the twitch thing came under often City Council. [00:52:00] So is the show now run is a trust as a collective or is it you as an individual, [00:52:06] the way the show is set up, even to maintain which is my company owns the trademark so que Wu is trademarked. I couldn't trademark Queen of the whole universe because you can't trademark the word Queen, worldwide. So to W the symbol, which has become the logo, the brand is definitely registered and it's copyrighted. The show is copyrighted, and I own the IP on it. What I decided to do last year, to make sure that we're totally transparent, which I always have been, was to set up the queen of the whole universe charitable trust. So that trust actually contracts have into meantime to put that show on. They take the liability they take the profit. And there'll be a lot of people out there will be thanking you event to mentor gets paid. last three years intimate has not been paid one single seen nor have I. So this is something that my company offers to the trust on a fundraising sponsorship level. And I think the other thing a lot of people don't understand on faith that this didn't really hit me until March of last year when I was the giver. Organize organization of the month. When I got up and spoke. Most people see me and automatically think I'm Queen of the whole universe and I'm bimbo from Buffy and bimbo. And that's my life. And it was really interesting. When I say that stood up as the company of the month and said, Jonathan, I'm a dove into me into Queen of the whole universe is 5% of my time. The rest of the time. These are all the events that I do in the general community. And there was a shocked look on people's faces. My god, he's more than just Queen of our universe. And he's more than just bimbo or just a bumbo. He's actually got a really, really successful event management company. I actually got with me, it was very, very interesting. I got a lot of weight from it. So yep, the trust just a contract that so the trust is amount of he takes the liability. [00:54:12] Do you have any thoughts on the whole idea of kind of clicked of energy to to make something happen, you know, like either as a committee or an individual. [00:54:25] If cleaner, the whole universe has been done as a collective that probably would have closed in 2005 2006, you would have had a lot of people over their own thoughts, their own private agendas, trying to leave the show, without a clear direction. The way I run the show, I run it really, really tight. I make all the decisions. I don't ask for people's opinions. Because if you ask a quick me, let's put this into context. The show with with cast and crew is about 130 people other night. That's huge, huge cast and crew. So what I don't do is I don't ask people for their opinions and people now I understand it. And people are actually okay with it. Because they understand what directing us and I come in the end, I direct my biggest support. And where I get all my judgemental comments, and I say them really lovely way is from my partner. And Kevin is also a trustee of the of the queen of our universe. Trust, he's a person who would actually say no, yes, no. Yes. Have you thought of this? Have you thought of it. And there are a few people in the cast who are actually listen to as well, because I do understand theater. So no, I, I think if I if I'd worked in a slightly more democratic way, I don't think this would have lasted. And and I don't want that to sound beginners or controlling in any way whatsoever. But I knew that the show was successful, I needed to protect it as. And I think the defining factor here is I hit to operate it as a business. And it is operated as a business, no different to any other event that I would do for any other client. [00:56:11] However, I'm saying that [00:56:14] the show would not be where it is today, if it wasn't for the collective support of the cast and the crew. Without them, we don't have a show. And I've got people who have been on the show since 2004. And they've not missed one single show. I've got people that come and do one show and leave. Maybe they came I did it for a particular reason. They were fulfilled and they lift. I normally know why most people come into the show, I don't discuss it with any other cast member, somebody might actually be dealing with your sexuality, they want to work with a group of gay men or in lesbians. And they do that because they know it's a safe environment, because we do not put up with any nonsense whatsoever. They know it's a safe environment, they come and they feel good. And they leave because I think that I think they've discovered who they and they understand themselves more. I've got I've had guys come in who are who are cross dressers that normally dresses, women in the, in the confines of the bedroom at home with your wife, and your wife will say, if you want to go on the show, do it. It's really safe. You're on stage, you're being cast into the role as a woman, I don't mind you doing it. So I've had a number of cross pieces that have come in and done it. And the wives have been sitting in the audience and they've been really excited and proud of the apartment. So the show's work to so many different levels. So but without the cast and the crew, and that huge positive attitude, and then the commitment, the show wouldn't be where it is today. No doubt, no way. [00:57:44] A number of times you've mentioned drag and you've kind of screwed up your face a wee bit why why is that? what's what's that word? [00:57:51] The word the word [00:57:53] drag is been an interesting one. Because when I go out for sponsorship for funding, and I usually would drag people just switch off immediately. And I don't know why it maybe they've had a bad experience. Maybe they think triggers is about going to family bar and seeing a drag queen perform which is fine, you know, and I'm not putting drag down Hello, my tray cream myself. It's about taking it at a very different level. And I don't want people to think oh, what I could go into a nightclub and, and buy a drink and see a drink. So what people needed to understand was that this was a theatrical musical show, where we cast people in different roles. And some of those people I cast is women, women playing a drag queen. So I needed to get people to understand that the whole the entirety of the show is a theatrical extravaganza. And it's not just based on drag queens, if you look at it, too, which is the most demanding part of the whole show it to three or four or five guys, Tristan Drake, competing for the crown. Some of them will do a very typical trick please. Others will take a very very artistic, theatrical look at the catchy direct presenting and put something quite different together which is not create based. For example, if you look at Miss France, who won last year, her piece is is very comic. It's very bright, but I wouldn't call it Craig at all, I would call it a theatrical piece. If you look at somebody like Ireland, who's played Miss Morocco, miss all of this Bobby prawn. [00:59:42] Again, [00:59:43] she comes from the New Zealand School of ballet, she was with the ballet company for years. So what he does, when women and I face she when I say he, what he does, is very, very theatrical. I wouldn't necessarily call it trig. And that's why I need people to understand the show is beyond drag. And I don't say that in a negative way whatsoever. [01:00:04] Where do you get your positive energy from? I mean, you just seem to be this like bundle of positive forward moving energy that sparkles. [01:00:15] Where do I get my positive energy from? [01:00:19] When I when I'm talking about Queen of the whole universe, it's easy for me to be positive and and, and excitable because I feel so passionate about a name. And for me, if every, every show brings a new challenge for me, I have to think of a new design a new concept, new music, new styles. So that's where my excitement comes from. And also to see the pleasure on the audience's face. And to see the pressure on the cast and the crews faith that that's for me about achieving at a real high level. But it's making 19 again, it's me doing what I wanted to do when I was nine 20. But in a totally different way. I I suppose I perceive myself when I was 19, or 20, as being an actor was now I'm at the front being the director plus, myself and Kevin, Buffy and boom, boom, see it. So there's a lot of acting a mirror as well. So I'm really where I was, that's where I wanted to be as a child was where I was at 19. And I didn't even know who I was, I didn't know I was gay. And I think, Wow, now, here I am. 57 Look what I'm doing. And I think a lot of it's got to do with the fact that, you know, this is 16 years since I was diagnosed, I'm still alive. And you know that that's huge. For me, that's [01:01:43] I'm a firm believer [01:01:45] that I've got to live every week, every month, every year as if as could possibly be my last. And I just try and get as much as I can out of it and get as much as I can out of people becoming HIV positive. I don't want this to be sitting around me. So it has been a positive thing for me. It's really sorted me out who I am as a person. It's really grounded me it's really focused me and no way. Am I sending a message to anybody to be infected as please don't I'd rather not be HIV positive no way but I do I want to stay positive but I am. But it actually has been very enlightening for me in many ways. [01:02:27] This program was funded by a generous grant from the gay or con Business Association charitable trust. For more information, visit gather.org.nz id
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