This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity
Georgina Beyer: Well I came onto the scene, so to speak, and I’m talking about the twilight world of the Vivian Street scene I guess, in 1976. I had had a part-time job at the Royal Oak Hotel, which was a major hostielry of the day in Wellington, which had a couple of fascinating bars to it.
One was famously known as The Bistro Bar, which was populated by an eclectic mix of life, everything from drag queens to trannies to prostitutes – male and female – sailors, it was quite a sort of rough bar, really, but full of all of this color of life.
Next to The Bistro bar was a smaller bar called the Tavern Bar, and that was virtually exclusively a gay bar, gay men and women, but probably more predominately gay men. In fact trannies weren’t particularly welcome inside the bar, but we did go in there from time to time.
The rest of the hotel was conventional. Upstairs was a bistro sort of restaurant bar, which was where one of my flatmates, Rion McKenzie, worked as a maître d’, and a lounge bar and a typical hotel of the day in Wellington.
But a lot of nightlife emanated from particularly The Bistro Bar and The Tavern Bar. And it was on the corner of Cuba Street and Dixon Street in Wellington – it now no longer exists, it was pulled down quite a lot of years ago – opposite what was then known as the James Smiths department store.
And famously there was a jewelers shop on the Cuba street frontage of the Royal Oak Hotel where a dreadful murder of the jeweler happened. I think his name was Paul Miet, which was quite an infamous murder of the day happened there.
There used to be a routine when we had 10:00 closing that the bars would empty and everyone would sort of head on up Cuba Street heading eventually toward Vivian Street area.
And there were other hotels: The Imperial, and... oh God, I can’t remember the names of some of the others at the moment, and various nightclubs.
Gareth Watkins: Just to keep on with The Royal Oak, how did those two bars work in a time when homosexuality was illegal? How did they get on with, say, the police?
Georgina: Well, the police, yes, would be ever present certainly around closing time or anything like that. I think they sort of turned a bit of a blind eye. There wasn’t a hell of a lot in the way of arrests and that kind of thing. Yes, for drunk and disorderly behavior, of which there was quite a bit, and so they would be there for that kind of thing. But I don’t personally recall any arrests or such for being gay or anything at that time, so I’m not quite sure what the philosophy on the ground for the police was necessarily around that scene in those venues at that time.
There were... I mean, up on the street scene, yes, we would be arrested from time to time and processed, end up in front of the District Court on a Monday morning, I suppose and fined usually.
I got plucked once, as they call it, for frequenting with felonious intent, deemed as a rogue and a vagabond. And that was sort of a fairly standard kind of arrest-worthy thing of behavior because trannies at least, anyhow, they found it very difficult to be able to charge them with soliciting and prostitution I guess, because they didn’t quite know how to fit men who were dressed up as women who were selling themselves, and it was soliciting that was illegal, not so much prostitution as such. And so we would get picked up occasionally and we just sort of figured that it was our 50 buck fine. Well, you know, that’s a cheap tax really. And the ignominy I suppose of having to spend a weekend in the cells, which was unpleasant, and we were treated quite nastily I guess by the police who weren’t always friendly to us.
Gareth: In what way?
Georgina: Well, you can imagine a tranny who may turn up on a Friday night in the cells certainly wouldn’t be given anything for like shaving. You’d be wearing the clothes you’d gone out in on Friday night. You’d be put in with men and so you ran the risk of any kind of abuse and violence and sexual violence that might occur over the weekend during that. You’d look like crap when you turned up in front of the judge on Monday morning quite often. But it was just par for the course. It was just the way it was.
Sometimes some queens were particularly targeted by some police who just had this innate hatred of such people and would just fall short of being incredibly brutal to them, but very mean and nasty and threatening. And yeah, it was really sort of unpleasant, but that was just part of what you had to deal with in those days at that time and it was no use squealing to anyone for help me! help me! because you wouldn’t get it. And you just tolerated it, I guess, at the time. These days of course I’d throw the book at them and that wouldn’t be allowed to occur.
But some of the venues that we used to go to: The Sunset Strip which was owned and run by various people, but particularly Chrissy Witoko, who was a major figure in the transgender scene in Wellington at the time, was certainly a contemporary of Carmen’s – in fact probably predated Carmen as far as owning nightlife establishments. Although I never went to it she had a place called The Powder Puff, and we all called it the Powder Poof, and then had an interest in The Sunset Strip, which is a major nightclub which attracted not only those of us from the night scene I guess, but all the sailors and perhaps those who lived, you know, in the twilight world, the fringes of the criminal community, and other such alternative people. And don’t forget, after 10:00 closing sly grogging and all of that sort of stuff would be going on in these establishments. So it wasn’t exclusive to the so called undesirables you know, there’d be other people who would come along and go to those nightclubs too.
There was Ali Baba’s, later known as The Cave, which was in Cuba Street. It’s now a band venue I think called The San Francisco Bathhouse. That’s still there.
There was Johnny Coolman had a couple of establishments, but those names escape me too.
The strip clubs on Vivian Street at the time were The Club Exotique, The Purple Onion, The Hole in the Wall, were three sort of major ones.
And also Chrissy Witoko eventually had a much beloved sort of café, I guess you’d call it, called The Evergreen, which after Carmen’s Coffee Lounge era had finished and closed and Carmen had left New Zealand and gone to live in Australia, Chrissy opened up The Evergreen which was on Vivian Street there, and that ran for many years and became quite a favorite haunt of, not only of us all, but it was sort of a replacement for the Carmen Coffee Lounge era.
Carmen’s Coffee Lounge had originally opened at 86 Vivian Street. The building no longer exists, it’s right next door to the Salvation Army Citadel in Vivian Street and I think actually the site now is occupied by... The New Zealand Film School is now built there at the moment. And Carmen had acquired that building and ran it as a boarding house to begin with and then until she earned enough money I think to open it up as a coffee lounge. So she had a coffee lounge downstairs and she had rooms upstairs, which later became where some of our business occurred, if I can put it like that. She liked to cater to a wide variety of clientele.
Gareth: Hey, just before we get on to Carmen I’m just wondering do you know more about the history of Chrissy Witoko, like where she came from? That name has come up a number of times.
Georgina: Well, yes.
No. Chrissy is a major figure. She hid her light under a bushel, really. She wasn’t one for seeking any kind of overt publicity. She was quite opposite to Carmen in that regard. But she was a major, major figure as important, if not more important in some ways, than Carmen. And as I said, Carmen was a PR machine. I mean, you know, she was just an absolute PR machine. But Chrissy had – and similar things, you know – at least she provided places of safety and of work and of employment and to be able to be who you are.
Chrissy I think Maori, of course – Witoko. She’s from the east coast, probably NgÄÂti Porou, NgÄÂti Kahungunu, I’m not sure exactly what her tribal affiliations were originally. I understand that she had suffered some terrible abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse when she was younger. I don’t know what relevance that might have in her later life.
A strong, large woman, but while firm she had a huge streak of benevolence about her too, which was really helpful I guess at the end of the day. And a great person for hospitality – a lot like Carmen in that regards – and to provide a sort of safe venue for people to be and for all walks of life to feel welcome in. Yeah, that was sort of what I knew of Chrissy.
Gareth: Do you know how Chrissy got into the hospitality business?
Georgina: No I don’t. No, I don’t know how she got into it, only that I think it was her first establishment in business was this Powder Puff place, which I understand was sort of coffee bar-ish, which was popular. I mean it was part of New Zealand culture at that time. When, precisely, I’m not sure; I’m guessing it must have been in the ‘60s that that must have been happening.
I mean, another transgender person called Jacquie Grant had a takeaway bar, I understand, for a while.
And then of course Carmen emerged, but then Carmen burst forth, you know, with her establishment The Coffee Lounge and The Balcony, which was a cabaret show that she had, a mixture of drag queens and straight girls and guys. In fact my flatmate, Rion McKenzie, who I talked about from The Royal Oak Hotel, he did this “Sweet Transvestite” act. I can remember toward the end of the late ‘70s, and before The Balcony closed.... The Balcony was down in Victoria Street. Actually it no longer exists as a building anymore; the new Wellington Public Library is now on the site. And my flatmate Rion used to do this “Sweet Transvestite” act there in the late ‘70s.
And the last sort of troupe that I can remember working there before it closed down was Red Mole, which was quite a well known and well respected sort of entertainment group including Arthur Baysting, famously.
Gareth: Can you describe for me what the atmosphere in The Balcony was like?
Georgina: Oh, well you walked up a relatively long flight of stairs from street level and got to the top and there would be the counter to get in. You walked into the venue, a wide open room with a catwalk T-style stage, tables and chairs for seating, table service as far as drinks and light refreshments and things like that were served. A bit of a Las Vegas style show I suppose, sort of feathers and bras and G-strings, and the drag queens that worked in the place – or transgenders if you want to call them that – were always very beautiful, exotic, beautifully costumed, most of them were some with sex changes, some had their breast augmentation done. They were very unspring, as we called them. In other words you couldn’t tell that they were....
And this was sort of the gimmick, I suppose, that ordinary, straight hetero audience members would find it difficult to pick who was the drag queen and who was the real girl. And so sometimes a man might be smitten with a beautiful creature dancing exotically, either doing lip syncing songs or doing comedy sketches or those kinds of acts – burlesque, I guess, is really the style of the entertainment that went on there – and then you’d always get one of the queens that after they’d done their act they would whip off their wig and that would be the sort of gimmick, you know.
That wasn’t an unusual form of entertainment. I think in those days it was sort of titillating and filled curiosity factors and that sort of thing, but it was classy. You know, it wasn’t sort of.... It was nothing like a strip club, and they didn’t really strip; they might get topless and stuff like that, but it had class. It was burlesque. Yeah, it was more burlesque than just an outright strip show or anything like that.
Gareth: What about the clientele?
Georgina: Oh, a mixture. It’s a bit like the clientele that would go and see Les Girls in Sydney. You know, cabaret shows and dinner shows and things like that were not uncommon in that era as a form of just general entertainment. This just had the added twist that its proprietor was Madame Carmen and that you didn’t know whether or not the girls on stage were real or not. Yeah, so all walks of life, couples. Yeah, just all walks of life; there was no particular discrimination about that, and people were just going for a good night out. It was non-threatening in that sense. That wasn’t sort of overtly threatening or anything like that, otherwise it wouldn’t have lasted for the many years that it did.
Like I say, it was sort of similar in some respects to Les Girls in Sydney, which was hugely respectable as far as an entertainment venue was concerned. I don’t know whether the bus tours used to.... You know, in Australia and Sydney and Les Girls there was a Sydney by Night bus tour that people would go on, and one of the places that they would go to for a period of the tour would be to Les Girls, so Carmen’s Balcony was a bit similar in that sense.
I think probably the only show of that sort in Wellington, that’s for sure. There were other shows in Auckland: Mojo’s, and Auckland had a Les Girls as well, and probably some other shows but those were the two most well-known ones at that era.
Gareth: And what about the size of the audience? Was it packed or was it pretty thin?
Georgina: Well I wasn’t there all the time, of course, and on the times I went, yeah, it was pretty well attended. Toward the end of the era of The Balcony it became less and less so, you know, the audience more spartan. And I’m not sure why The Balcony closed, perhaps it just wasn’t making any money any more, but more than likely the lease on the premises probably ran out.
Gareth: And you mentioned earlier about Carmen’s International Coffee Lounge. Did that precede The Balcony or was that something that came after The Balcony?
Georgina: I think it preceded The Balcony, and then essentially at about the same time. But yeah, I’m not sure which came first entirely but I’m pretty sure that the Coffee Lounge came first and then The Balcony.
Gareth: Can you tell me about The Coffee Lounge?
Georgina: Oh, well, The Coffee Lounge (laughs). First of all you’d have been struck by its façade from out in the street. It was two-storied, and like I said, the ground floor was The Coffee Lounge and the upstairs was where we entertained clients and Carmen had had as a bit of a boarding house and sometimes lived up there.
The façade had been painted in sort of Mughal style minarets and very exotic sort of Eastern, Middle Eastern sort of exotica I suppose, and very colorful and bold, which stuck out like a sore thumb on the otherwise dour sort of street that it was down at 86 Vivian Street. And remember, we were right next door to the Salvation Army Citadel there. And it had an alleyway that ran down beside it also, where you had street-level entry into the upstairs part of the building.
You walked inside this small confined front door into a little entry, I suppose, and then there’d be a sliding door and you would go in there and that’s where you paid your ticket – you know, paid to get in. Always it was personned by some exotic looking queen, or intimidating, whichever way you looked at it.
And then you walked into The Coffee Lounge, which was sort of fairly small and intimate I suppose when you think about it. But all red comes to mind as a color that predominated around the place; big huge gold and red Chinese lanterns with tassels, big gold tassels hanging on them; exotic wall hangings and tapestries, paintings of Madame Carlie [sp?], those velvet paintings, you know – Nefertiti, that kind of thing; yes, lots of sort of lushness really, in that sense; and dimmish sort of lighting; formica tables and chairs and things like that, and just your sugar bowls and all of that sort of stuff on the table.
You went through into a kitchen area which led on to where the toilet area was. So, if you were on your way to the bathroom you’d probably come across doing the dishes the fabulous Lola, a tall, slim pakeha – I think she was of Lebanese or some kind of race like that – always dressed in sort of Audrey Hepburn short dresses and short sleeves, wearing long evening gloves, with flaming red hair, wigs on and eyelashes out to here kind of thing. And she’d be there washing the dishes with her evening gloves on, and she’d have plastic gloves over the top of her evening gloves in order to wash the dishes and stuff like that. And she’d always go, “Hello, darling,” as anyone, especially a handsome-looking man, might wander by to go to the toilet, and she’d sort of leer, while she’s doing the dishes, at you. She was one character that I can think of.
A wonderful, eclectic mix of fabulous people really. All sorts of people came to Carmen’s Coffee Lounge: high brows, low brows and everything in between, everything from politicians to entertainers to businessmen, public servants, all sorts.
It wasn’t without its troubles from time to time. Sometimes the Hutt boys, as we’d call them, would arrive into town for the evening to sort of go about doing a bit of queer bashing. They would all front up at some point at The Coffee Lounge and get ready to have a bit of a rumble, except they’d get confronted by, well, the queens we called the Big Teds, which would include Chrissy Witoko and Gypsy and various others, you know, who were big sort of, and 6 foot 4. It didn’t matter how much lipstick and what nice frock they’ve got on, they can turn back into the men they were born to be, and usually thumped over these Hutt boys when they came in and sort of earned quite a bit of respect and never got troubled again, not in that sense. In fact they would sort of end up becoming our protectors in lots of ways. That was just sort of the way it was.
Yeah, for Wellington, I guess in those days it was quite an exotic and sort of naughty place to go to simply because.... And the wonderful Madame Carmen, of course. And Carmen was a fabulous hostess. She always engaged with her customers and the clientele that went in there; sort of made you feel very personable. She seemed to speak to you not just sort of past you, always making sure that you’re being looked after and taken care of.
She had funny little rituals about, you know, people would come in there for certain types of entertainment, bedroom gymnastics so to speak, and there were ways and means by which you could signal that you were perhaps interested in one of her girls that might be floating around by playing a little game with the teacups, because of course you weren’t allowed.
It was like I said, 6:00 swill time and all of that, that booze wasn’t allowed to be sold although I dare say there was a little bit of under the counter booze going on, which was where you made a few extra bucks. And of course if that’s a place where you can get liquor, well you’re going to get all sorts of people turn up to get it at that time of night when legally you weren’t meant to be selling it.
Carmen gave me my first client, actually, when I first ended up on the scene there. And I always used to wonder how Carmen could walk into The Coffee Lounge, and since there was only one backdoor exit and she hadn’t gone out there, how the hell she could just disappear into thin air around the place. Well, it didn’t take long to realize that behind one of the large tapestries that were on the wall was an internal door that went to upstairs. And so the key was that a client, you know, would be sorted, the client would go outside and down to the alleyway to the outside door, and we would whip in behind the tapestry into the internal door and meet our client in the passageway and go upstairs to do the business. It took me a while to realize how Carmen could appear and disappear just like that, but that’s how it used to happen.
Gareth: And you were saying about the teacups, there was something with the teacups.
Georgina: Mmm! I can’t quite remember how the routine goes, but say you have a cup and a saucer, and if you’d have the... which would be there when you arrived, you know. Depending on what you wanted then you would either put the saucer on top of the cup or turn the cup over or have it on its side, it meant various things. I’m not quite sure how all of that worked, but Carmen sort of understood. And whether or not that meant that you wanted one of those girls or whether you wanted that girl or whether you wanted a bit of sly grog.
Carmen, strangely enough, never smoked and never drank, herself. You know, was never like that.
Gareth: That must have been quite fun for your first time as a customer going in there, and you wouldn’t necessarily know about the cups and just like the [crosstalk].
Georgina: No, no. And of course when you’re a new queen on the scene you’re at the bottom of the rung, and so you’ve got all the other seniors around us who sort of take precedent. But while they could be a bit nasty to you from time to time it was all sort of... you know, you knew that you were able to be comfortable in this place. There were other queens like you around and as long as you didn’t step on their turf or pinch their clients or take their livies or their charities or anything like that you’d be sort of all right.
And Carmen, she could see that you were a newbie and, you know, would sort of be helpful I guess by providing you with a client, because don’t forget we weren’t able to get the dole. We weren’t able to get normal regular employment, so that’s why you sort of tended to be forced into being a prostitute and earning money that way. And so how do you? You know, good God, I’m 16, 17 years old, and I’m not that worldly yet; I’ve got to learn very quickly, as you walk into that sort of scene. And so on the one hand you’re sort of looked after and kept an eye on and cared for; on the other hand you’re not a sort of molly-coddled either because you’ve got to shape up pretty quickly to learn the ways of the street life.
Gareth: So, can you remember your first client?
Georgina: Yes I can because Carmen gave him to me, and sorted me with him, and that’s where I found out about behind the tapestry and upstairs. Yes, and I wasn’t really quite sure what I was meant to do, but soon learnt. I hated it. It was terrible. It was awful, but you know, pop some more pills, have another drink, and wipe it all – you know, all of the unpleasant part of it.
Gareth: How would you describe Carmen?
Georgina: Oh, a larger than life figure; fabulously hospitable; a huge amount of mana; a dry wit; caring; generous in many respects; a bit of an entrepreneur and certainly a PR machine, absolutely, once she got onto it.
She only started to be Carmen because when she started out in her entertainment career she was beautiful, slim, exotic, did exotic dancing, snake dancing, things like that, hula dancing, and part of her gimmick was that she was absolutely unspring, but that she wasn’t detected as being a tranny.
And then she was outed. She was outed I think by Wally Martin, I may stand to be corrected by that, and that was sort of a little bit devastating to her entertainment path at the time.
But on the other hand she decided to embrace it and sort of really fully came out, and I think the Carmen persona as we have come to know her, the larger than life, the beautiful loud gowns, the three wigs, and the whole botanical gardens in her hair – the roses and all of that sort of stuff – you know, the image came to pass and she embraced it and was like that just about all the time and became absolutely identifiable.
And obviously she could see the marketing value in it all. And it was good for her business and sort of marked her out as something different from whatever else was around, so in that way she was very entrepreneurial but had decided at some point that she would just embrace that she is who she is and it’s no use trying to hide it under a bushel, and be a famous tranny. And she was.
I think that that attitude opened an awful lot of doors way down the track for many of us in the future after that, about visibility and having to tolerate... I mean, let’s be real here, it was not universally accepted at all, and the ridicule and the demeaning nature with which people would treat her and others like her. You know, these were the days when it was illegal for men to be wearing women’s clothing out in public, and in order to go and do your entertainment gigs, even if you were doing a drag act or whatever, you could only be dressed in drag at the venue you were performing. You weren’t allowed to walk in the street dressed up as a woman; you could be arrested for that.
And this is the era when homosexuals were put in jail. You know, two years I think was the sentence for being caught.
And so it was a very scary time as far as that was concerned, and so for someone like Car to just bite the bullet and be out and be who she is, and then become sort of a figure of curiosity, yes, but also of course the media loved it, and because of her nature as a nice, good person, she wasn’t sort of a stereotype nasty sort of sexual deviant, as people would have thought. I mean, they would have still thought she was a sexual deviant, but somehow they’re bamboozled by the sheer force of her persona and her warmth and her hospitality.
And let’s not forget now that her establishments were now becoming quite part and parcel of the nightlife scene of Wellington in general. I mean, and the high brows and the low brows were all going there, so there was a certain amount of respectability, and that any run-ins with the law, sometimes whether it would be her personally or whether it be some of her girls that might get into a spot of bother, suddenly pushed the boundaries of some laws that ended up being changed because they didn’t know how to deal with transgender people in the legal context. It was sort of quite a time of realization and change.
And not just Carmen, of course; I mean, God, we always talk about Carmen, but there were others, her contemporaries at the time: the Chrissy Witokos and all the girls that ever worked for her.
A lot of the girls that worked for her ripped her off, too. You know, it was sort of a dollar for me and two dollars for Carmen; a dollar for me and two dollars for Carmen. It wasn’t unknown for Carmen, if some queen had just come back into town, and Carmen would just sort of say, oh, so I paid for your new bust job have I? You know, and that kind of thing. But you know, so I think that she was exploited in that way because Carmen wasn’t really very worldly as far as finance and business and money was concerned. Like I said, she was a PR machine. She was an entrepreneur in that sense and so I think she relied on the honesty and integrity of other people not to sort of... she wasn’t stupid, but you know.
And sure, she made and lost fortunes, really, because she didn’t understand, and when she did get into spots of bother eminent lawyers and people in the legal world and accountants would help her out. She became quite respected in her own way amongst the business community of Wellington at the time, and if she did get into a spot of bother over things you’d get lawyers like Roy Stacey and various other people.
Later on, Bob Jones of course backing her for a bit of public adulation when she ran for the Mayoralty of Wellington, which was not her idea, it was more Bob’s idea. But yeah, an amazing person really in lots of ways.
Gareth: How did Carmen and Chrissy get on?
Georgina: Oh, very well! Yes, yes, there was no sort of fierce competition or anything like that, no not at all. I mean, the world was too small in those days for that kind of thing to happen. And no, I think they were amicable and friendly and they both had a compassionate streak about them, so you know, it went on all right. There was no particular queen wars went on as far as I know.
Gareth: You mentioned that Wally Martin kind of outed her. How did that happen? What happened then?
Georgina: I’m not sure exactly how it happened, I think Dana de Milo would be able to answer that a little bit better, but at some point, yeah.
Wally Martin, for those who need to be reminded, was, I guess you’d call him a strip king of New Zealand. He and Rainton Hastie opened up the first strip clubs in New Zealand, and Auckland in particular, and Carmen had been involved somehow up there at that time.
And yeah, so Wally Martin on many, many years later tried to open up another club down in Wellington for a while, I can’t remember what it was called now, but he was sort of getting on a bit then. I can remember in that year when he opened them he had three heart attacks – finally the last one killed him. (laughs) Yeah, well, bye bye Wally. But yes, I only met him a couple of times myself. But yes, that’s his sort of background and where he sort of fitted in; he’d been, along with Rainton Hastie, what you’d call the strip kings of New Zealand.
Gareth: You said just before about three wigs with Carmen. Literally did she wear three wigs at a time?
Georgina: Oh, well... (laughs)
Georgina: Well, a wig and a couple of hairpieces, yes. That wasn’t unusual; we all sort of wore our hair like that. This is the days of the beehives and the up-and-down hairdos and as much hair as possible. And of course, as you know, she’s famous for always doing a Billie Holiday look with the flowers in her hair. She liked to model herself, and obviously her name, Carmen Miranda, you know, and other exotic Hollywood stars. You know, she liked the Marlene Dietrich’s, all of those sort of Dolores del Rio, and that was her era, I guess, of icons that she probably aspired to when she was a little boy.
Gareth: Did Carmen have any other kind of business interests?
Georgina: She did briefly have little tea rooms at the top of Cuba Street called The Egyptian Tea Room. That didn’t last very long.
She also briefly located Carmen’s Coffee Lounge, when the lease had finished at 86 Vivian Street, she briefly had a coffee lounge upstairs in Lower Cuba Street, but that was only a temporary venue.
And for a while she had a curio shop selling all sorts of curios and things, and that was in Plimmer Steps for a wee while.
But those businesses didn’t last very long, maybe a year or so, and that was toward the end of her time in New Zealand before she left to live more permanently in Australia in the early 1980s.
Gareth: In talking with a number of other people they’ve mentioned about, I think it was the prostitution arrest that changed the law. It was Carmen, and was it Carol de Winter where at the time they couldn’t prosecute a man for prostitution?
Georgina: That’s right, yes. And Carol de Winter of course was a sex change. She was one of the early sex changes she’d had done, and so it presented a conundrum as far as the law was concerned, apparently, at the time, and quite a leading precedent was going to be set here because they couldn’t prosecute her. Yeah, isn’t it ridiculous men couldn’t be....
Well, let’s clarify: prostitution was not illegal, soliciting was, and that’s how they got caught. I don’t know the details of how that case went, but it changed the law, it changed because they hadn’t had to deal with the gender issues that come into it. You know, here is Carol de Winter who has had reassignment surgery now and is physically a woman in that sense, but legally still regarded as a male. Huh? (laughs) It does represent a problem when you’re trying to slap someone down for prostitution or soliciting. And I’m not quite sure how... yeah, I’m not quite sure exactly how the case panned out, but she wasn’t convicted, and I think the law ended up having to be amended. And it was sensational, apparently, at the time.
Gareth: One of the things Dana de Milo mentioned when I was interviewing her was that because solicitation was illegal at the time, they would have in the parlors kind of saloon doors so that you could see the feet of the girl and the head of the girl, that if the girl was laying down then the police would come and bust in. Can you recall any of that?
Georgina: No. Well she must have been one of the lucky ones to be working in a parlor. I mean, you know, not many of us queens ever had that joy. I was very lucky that I was able to work in a strip club and at the Club Exotique in the late ‘70s, and that’s where I worked. And while we were paid in terrible, terrible money, it was just terrible – Emmanuel Papadopoulos owned the nightclub, owned the Club Exotique at the time – and our pay was just dreadful, but at least we queens didn’t have to be on... and only one or two of us... oh, one, two, three of us were queens that were allowed to work in that club at that time.
It’s not as if queens got to work in strip clubs at all because strip clubs were predominately male, you know, for men, so it was girls that worked in strip clubs. The only queens that got to work in strip clubs and do the full-on stripping had to be extraordinarily good looking and unspring, and you did a trick strip so even though you might have had all your, you know, rod and tackle, you sure as hell had to tape it away and false up a fanny for stripping, and stuff like that. You could have breasts because either you had a hormone bust or you’d gone and had your bust done, they had a tit job done.
But anyhow for us queens it was sort of more like, great, I could do my advertising, so to speak, on a stage. And drunk men in a strip club, you know, late at night, it’s any port in a storm, all mouths feel the same. I mean, I’m sorry to be so crude here, but a quick knee-trembler in the toilet, they wouldn’t have a clue. You know, at the end of the day they were just sort of too bamboozled over, so it was a slightly safer way than having to ply your trade out on the street, which was of course a little more dangerous – well, a lot more dangerous in many respects.
And giving a cut to the boss, you know, yeah, the exploitation was horrendous really in lots of ways, but better to be inside a strip club on a cold, wet, windy, Wellington night than stuck out on the corner trying to pick up a client.
Gareth: You mentioned hormone breasts, and I’m just wondering how easy was it to get hormones in Wellington in the ‘70s?
Georgina: Oh, fairly easy. Well, for me it was at that time. Doctor Tom Ongley – he’s dead now so I can mention his name; he can’t have me out for defaming him in any kind of way – but he was a popular pill doctor, as we called him. He had his surgery in Willow Street and many of us used to go to him to get our hormone treatment, amongst other things. So he was sympathetic to transgender health requirements in that sense.
However, I don’t recall getting much in the way of advice about what it is I was taking. I remember I used to get prescribed Stilboestrol. Stilboestrol was a synthetic form of female hormone, which was fine. It did the job, except it did have long-term effects down the track. I stopped taking it after a while because it sucked a lot of calcium out of your bones, it made you quite brittle and things like that.
Yeah, but there wasn’t a lot of, or not to me personally, a lot of advice about the whole process that I was going into, it’s just that he would dish out our hormones as we required them. As the treatment, for want of a better term, improved you were able to get estrogen injections and that kind of thing, you know, into the future.
But hormones were not the only reasons why we went to Dr Ongley. Oh, you know, pills darling: Duromine, mandrake, Secanol, Turinol, Rohypnol, Pipinol [sp?] - the cocktail of mind altering substances that we all took at that time. I’m ashamed to say it now, but I mean that was par for the course for many of us. And I don’t just mean queens I mean anyone who... and you’d just go and tell him a sad-sack story, or whatever, and he was very gullible in that sense and he used to fill out our....
When we were able to get onto.... Because you couldn’t get an unemployment benefit, so either you had to go onto, if you were going to get a benefit at all, a sickness benefit, and very rarely an invalid’s benefit, but a sickness benefit might be the other one. So even if you weren’t sick our condition – what do they call it these days? gender dysphoria I suppose they call it these days – but in my day it was a psychosexual disorder, and so that’s what they could put down on a medical certificate and then you could get paid a sickness benefit because you had a psychosexual disorder.
Of course none of us had any kind of psychosexual disorder but if the silly bastards want to pay us out of benefit because they think we’re a bit crazy like that, I’ll take your money. And we did. I mean, if you’re going to put us down on the margins of society, if that’s where you think we’re going to be then we’ve got to survive, baby, and that was part of it. And so if you were lucky enough to get a benefit like that, a sickness benefit like that, then everything else was supplemented, your income. And don’t get me wrong, it was by no means hugely generous or anything.
But that’s what happens when you’re shoved down into the margins of society because you refuse to comply with what society expects of you as far as: be the man you’re supposed to be and go and get a real job. Of course we could do that, but we are who we are and what we are, and I guess with the political tone to it that’s where you draw a line in the sand, and many of us did draw that line in the sand and said: Nah, this is what we are. Who the hell are you to tell me to be different? I mean no harm to you. I can still do an honest day’s work if only you would give me the chance. But they didn’t; not in those days.
Gareth: Where was the Club Exotique?
Georgina: Club Exotique was at the corner of Vivian and Cuba Street. The building still exists. It is currently being refurbished into something else at the moment, I don’t know what. It hasn’t operated as a strip club for well over 20, or maybe 15 years, 20 years maybe since it’s been a strip club. Until recently with this new refurbishment going on, the neon sign of a naked girl used to be on the corner of the building. They’ve taken it down while they’ve done this refurbishment. I don’t know what the place is going to be turned into now.
It was three or four stories high, so you had street level, which had a burger bar and another shop on the corner, and the strip club was up on the first floor. And the other two floors were never used, or not while I was there, because they didn’t have concrete floors and so it wasn’t safe to have anything else up there – no apartments or anything like that. So in the years that I worked there, which would have been between 1976 to about 1981, ’82, around that time, yeah, that’s what it was there.
Gareth: And that’s different from the Club Exotic?
Georgina: No, they’re one in the same building, but at one point it was called The Club Exotique, spelt differently, and then it just became in its later years known as The Club Exotic. So, Exotique, TIQUE, as opposed to EXOTIC. Yeah, God only knows why that changed over.
And the building was owned by a famous Greek Wellington – I’ll be kind and call him businessman and property owner -- Emmanuel Papadopoulos.
Gareth: And what about The Purple Onion? You mentioned that earlier.
Georgina: The Purple Onion was on the opposite side of the road from The Club Exotique, down just before the corner of Marion Street and Vivian Street. I don’t know what occupies that space right now – no, I can’t – but it’s gone, it’s been long gone.
When I knew of The Purple Onion it was owned and run by Passie and Anita Daniels, and they weren’t there very long, or didn’t have the place very long when I came along to work there.
And when I worked there it was being leased by a butch lesbian woman called Dot - God only knows what her surname was – and she had a partner called Lexy, Sexy Lexy was a famous woman stripper at The Purple Onion, and flaming red hair, a stunning woman really in lots of ways.
And on the front façade of The Purple Onion was a famous mural, I suppose painted by apparently a well-known artist whose name I don’t know but he was well known at the time, of a blonde-haired woman in a diaphanous outfit standing in front of like a Duesenberg car with three Afghan dogs on a leash, and it was sort of spread across the frontage and looked very alluring, I suppose, and enticing.
It was what I’d call sort of a... it had a sense of a basement feel about it although it was straight off the street level, but it was sort of dark and intimate and small, not huge, not large.
It always had a fabulous portrait of Anita Daniels, a beautiful portrait I think painted by the same artist who painted the front of the building up there. I’d love to know who it is.
Later on actually the actress Dinah Priestley and her husband Tony Burton, when they got... particularly Dinah got interested in doing batik, and they did a wonderful series, actually, of batiks on The Purple Onion, which included some caricatures of Dot and Lexy and The Purple Onion. So they’re beautiful, lovely pieces of art.
Gareth: How does The Purple Onion compare to places like The Club Exotic and other clubs?
Georgina: In what way? I mean, they had a different atmosphere. The staging was different.
But you know, strippers are strippers, and quite often we used to... some of the strippers used to do spots at either club, so it wasn’t like we were exclusive to one club or the other, and so we’d run across and we’d bring traffic to a stop. So I’d finish doing a spot up at The Club Exotic, race downstairs in my bra and panties and perhaps with a fabulous cape on, and sort of fly across Vivian Street to get to The Onion to fill in and do a spot because they might have been short of girls that night, and do that. You know, and all that sort of added to the color of the street. I wasn’t the only one that did it, lots of them did.
The Hole in the Wall opened soon after. Brian Le Gros became the sex king of Wellington I suppose at the time, after Dot had lost the lease on The Purple Onion. I think the building had been owned by Mark Westland, Mark and Cassia [sp?], at that time.
Brian Le Gros came onto the scene. Now, he was a Hutt boy. I think he’d been a builder and stuff like that, a bit of a rough edge about him, and he had been brought in and he came with some henchmen and just walked into The Purple Onion Club one night, told Dot that she was out and they were in, and Brian came in, took over the club, about three weeks later he shut it down, and at that time me and various others who worked there sort of were out of a job there.
And he later on opened the place up as a peep show, actually, and also opened up The Hole in the Wall, which was a nightclub strip club venue just up toward the corner of Vivian and Cuba Street next to what would have been Parker Ferguson the furniture shop at the time, but actually it’s now The Bluenote right on the corner of Vivian Street there. And The Hole in the Wall building is still there, that I can remember.
And yes, Brian opened that up and ran it for quite a number of years before he bought the Salvation Army building across the road. It had been the Salvation Army’s secondhand clothing shop and furniture shop. It was right next to The Club Exotic. And Brian got ahold of that building and turned it into Liks, the strip club which was there for many years.
And then Brian Le Gros became the first strip club owner in New Zealand, and certainly in Wellington, to be granted a liquor license. And as soon as he was granted a liquor license that was a license to print money, essentially. His idea of the strip world was to be class, class, class. He wanted Las Vegas style, beautiful girls, no queens; the only queens he ever let strip on his stage were myself and another friend of mine, Yvette, who no longer lives in New Zealand, and Yvette was also excellent at doing choreography for strip shows. Oh, and my flatmate, Dana Depaul, who made costumes. And Brian had a very high standard of what he wanted his club to be; he wanted it to be all class, completely different from the other slapper shows that were around town, and that’s what he was aspiring for. And when he got a liquor license for the place he just made a fortune, an absolute fortune, and later on opened up The White House strip club in Queen Street in Auckland, and has gone on to other things.
Gareth: So prior to that license for Brian are you saying that all the other strip clubs didn’t have alcohol licenses?
Georgina: No... ah, yes, (laughs) I guess I am. No, they did not have liquor licenses. It doesn’t mean to say there wasn’t liquor. Well it’s all right now; it’s all in the past isn’t it? Yeah. No, no, no, and of course you sold your sly grog for a premium – you know, the boss did.
Gareth: Stripping on stage, now I’ve had other interviews where it’s been that kind of art-a-rama thing where...
Georgina: Mm-hm. Art-a-rama of poses.
Gareth: Yes. Tell me about art-a-rama.
Georgina: Oh well it’s just the finale.
Gareth: Wasn’t it kind of illegal to actually move and be naked at the same time?
Georgina: Oh that was way before my time. You better go back to Dana de Milo about that (laughs).
Well, I mean, naked – what? so I’ve got a boa feather strategically placed somewhere, you know, or whatever like that. When we did art-a-rama of poses we might be topless, yeah. No, I don’t remember those kinds of constraints hindering what I was doing. You’re probably right; there might have been some law around it, but I mean this never was policed. I mean please, the police had a lot more to worry about than up there whether or not your tits are jiggling while you’re doing art-a-rama of poses. In fact I’ve got a clip. On the documentary about me called “Georgie Girl” there’s a clip that I’d long, long forgotten about, until it appeared on this thing, of me stripping up on the stage at The Club Exotic.
No, art-a-rama of poses was usually a finale so everyone had gone through all their routines. Everyone had their go and at the end of it everyone would come up on stage and just through a few tracks of music just sort of do various artistic poses.
You know, I can remember... oh this is too... I don’t know whether I should... oh, she won’t thank me for it either(laughs). There was one sex change, let’s call her Raylene, and Raylene unfortunately was a terrible smack freak, and one night During art-a-rama of poses, and she used to sort of head to sit down in front of us in the center front of the stage, so she just sat there posing – whoa! she’s out of it, and all of that. And one night we were doing art-a-rama of poses and she was so out of it that she lost control of her bodily functions all over the stage, and we all just left. We just left her sitting there on the stage and ran away while poor old Emmanuel Papadopoulos was going right off down at the club: What the hell? Clean up this mess! And none of us wanted to know about it. And poor Raylene’s floating around (laughs). I mean, you know, it’s just part of life. I dare say the audience emptied out very quickly after that.
We should stop for a minute while I... sorry.
Gareth: Well, I can ask a question as you do that.
Georgina: Oh sure, sure.
Gareth: What about the kind of use of language; was there kind of like back slang or polari kind of spoken at the time?
Georgina: Yes there was a language, a lingo. I never knew how to speak it very well. I could sort of understand it. It was sort of a kind of [speaks in indecipherable slang] – yeah, I can’t. It’s been many years since I’ve talked it. But yes, it was a funny kind of drag-ese I suppose, so that we could communicate with each other, especially when you were amongst straight people and you wanted to pass a comment about something or other and didn’t want to be understood except between ourselves, so yes there was this funny kind of lingo.
I think it must have been phasing out in my time. There’d be other – Dana de Milo, she can probably speak it fluently. I mean, they invented it – and it was invented, it wasn’t something that had existed. It was just a strange form of communication to communicate things, especially if you wanted to talk about clients or whatever. A kind of pidgin English, really.
Gareth: When we were talking earlier about The Powder Puff and also The Sunset Strip I don’t think we said where they were. Where were they?
Georgina: Well, when I first went to The Sunset Strip it was in Ghuznee Street, and the building no longer exists but after this era of The Sunset Strip I think it became Marmalade Recording Studios for a while. So right next door... oh, what’s there now? I’m just trying to think. It would have been opposite what we would call in Wellington The World Trade Center as it was known then in Ghuznee Street, and I can’t think what’s there now. Oh, there’s a park!
And The Cave, or Ali Baba’s as it was known. And The Cave was done out like... and Ali Baba’s was done out like, you know, Ali Baba’s cave. And that is where The San Francisco Bathhouse venue is now, upstairs there in Cuba Street, and that is the venue – that’s where The Cave was. Of course it looks quite different now to how it looked in my day and the days of disco and all of that sort of thing.
Gareth: Some of the other venues that Dana’s mentioned are El Matador. Did you ever frequent that?
Georgina: No I didn’t, but I heard of it.
What else? Sorrento.
Gareth: Yes, the Sorrento Coffee Club. What was that like?
Georgina: I don’t know. I never went there either. Those were sort of before my era. No, in my time, and I come late into the piece really. You know, I’m late ‘70s and all of those sort of places existed before; they were from the café culture of the ‘60s and ‘70s. And Johnny Coolman owned places; he was sort of a café nightclub person around town, you know, in those days. And Chrissy of course, and various others.
Orsini’s Restaurant, strangely enough, was right next door to The Club Exotic on the Cuba Street frontage. That building still exists, it’s turned into another restaurant. And Orsini’s of course was one of the restaurants in Wellington at the time. And it was sort of funny, this juxtaposition between this sort of bawdy old strip club right next door on the corner, and this very fine-dining restaurant known as Orsini’s.
Because the restaurants of the day, from what I can remember, were Orsini’s, The Coachman, The Lotus, Le Normandie, were the sort of big-time flash restaurants in Wellington that I can remember.
A steakhouse called The Town Gate, which was owned by Greeks, that was down Manners Street.
Garlands Restaurant in Manners Street, upstairs they had the most fantastic three-course roast dinners on Sunday for some ridiculous price like three dollars fifty or something like that. It was always a good place to go. And The Green Parrot of course is still around; in those days in a different location to where it is now.
Gareth: And I think that only other one that Dana mentioned was The Ca D'Oro in Auckland.
Georgina: Mm-hm. I never went there but I heard of that, yes. You know, Auckland and Wellington could have been two different countries really, as far as that scene was concerned in those days, but yes, in Auckland what you had, yes, you had the Ca D’Oro, you had Mojo’s, you had The Great Northern Hotel was sort of a gay bar venue, there was a lot where the trannies went, the Howe Street toilets.
Yeah, I worked in Auckland in the 1980s at Alfies Nightclub and Century Arcade which was owned by Brett Sheppard and Tony Katavich and Tony’s partner John, they owned Alfies Nightclub.
And then there was another nightclub in Fort Street in Auckland called The Staircase. I can’t remember the names of the chaps that owned that one, but they were the two major gay nightclubs in Auckland during the 1980s.
At least, anyhow, Alfies Nightclub was a very popular club, and not just for gay, it was universally, you know, it was one of the nightclubs in Auckland, and I was in the Bloomers show that ran there from, oh, what? New Year’s Eve in 1984 through to... well I think it stopped running the show there in the early ‘90s. I stopped working there in 1989.
Gareth: Can you describe Alfies for me?
Georgina: Alfies Nightclub in Auckland was a basement nightclub and had a very small stage, if you can call it a stage, stage and dancefloor area. It had booths and a sort of partitioned off bar area, a sunken bar area for a while. It was probably quite small for a club when I think about it now, but it used to get absolutely packed out. It was very popular and gay. And when it first got going it had table service and all of that kind of thing, so it was done quite classy.
Other establishments in Auckland at the time were Stanley’s Bar, Melba was a – and these weren’t gay bars per se, but they were where all the glitterati and the Auckland celebrity A-listers and all of that would sort of go – and Alfies became one of those.
And The Staircase Nightclub just down on Fort Street was a much larger nightclub. The Bloomers show actually did its first shows at The Staircase, and it was a two-hour show but the owners didn’t want to keep the show on.
We were looking for a permanent residency and that’s when Brett Sheppard and Alfies came along and said well come and cut your show down to half an hour and we’ll put it on late at night, at 1:00 in the morning, and that was to sort of keep patrons coming on. So when bars and pubs closed at 10:00 everyone hit nightclubs and things, and Alfies was one of those. So yeah, a carpet... what else at Alfies? Yeah, it was sort of they tried to be quite plush, but you can imagine a bunch of gays when they’re pissed and out of it do make a mess.
But it was very popular and went on for years and years and years, and I still meet people these days who occasionally come up to me and sort of say: Oh, I remember seeing you at Alfies! And I’ll be going: And how old were you? (laughs) And yeah, lots of good music and our show, which was... we were probably the longest-running permanent resident drag show, and certainly permanent show, in Auckland at that time. I mean, to have run from 1984 through to the early 1990s is quite a long run. And our only competition was a much more classy straight show in Parnell called Burgundies – Debbie Dorday and those sort of people had that show up there.
And we were very... in our show we were always cutting-edge, we were always doing sort of cutting-edge alternatives – you know, full-on production numbers as well as... well, how much can you squeeze into half an hour? But they were always sort of cutting-edge, you know, the newest music out. We were doing Malcolm McLaren’s “Madame Butterfly” or doing “Starlight Express” and those kinds of numbers where we’d use lots of effects and fabulous costumes and things like that, which we made ourselves you know, did all of that ourselves, and built up a great following. A lot of people remember that time.
God only knows why we called ourselves Bloomers, and that’s Nicole – and Nicole Duval headed our troupe, and Nicole of course, I mean if you’ve got Carmen and Chrissy and all of them down in Wellington, Nicole Duval, or Tinkerbell as she was originally known. You know, even Phil Warren with Nicole had their nightclub that they called Tinkerbell’s. I think she had it for a year up there at... God, that doesn’t exist anymore either, the venue. It ended up becoming The Ace of Clubs where Diamond Lil, I think her name was Marcus Craig, did great female impersonator entertainment work there. But yeah, Nicole was the big-wig, drag wise, up in Auckland at the time. And Mojo’s and the Auckland Les Girls and all of that were big up there, so Auckland had a very vibrant....
And for us in Wellington, anyone who came from Auckland was sort of: Wow, you know, they’re from Auckland! They have the big glamor queens. You know, we were just the sort of slappers down in Wellington, but you know, that is sort of how it used to be. Carmen was about the only one who sort of put us up there with things like The Balcony and all of that, but Auckland was where it happened, really, for drag entertainment.
Gareth: One thing I forgot to mention when we were talking about Carmen was you mentioned Bob Jones and the whole kind of Mayoral campaign, and I saw something, it was like about in 2007 where he was kind of slighting her and just calling her this kind of Maori bloke from up north in a dress. Can you recall seeing that article?
Georgina: I can’t recall it but I have an opinion about why I think Bob Jones and his little bunch of groupies at the time decided to get in and promote Carmen for the Mayoralty of Wellington in 1977. Prior to that remember he had established The New Zealand Party, which ended Muldoon’s bid in the 1975 election, or whatever it was, and so I think he was wanting to make a political point and thumb his nose at local government and shake it up a bit. And so I think for purely selfish reasons, and with no benevolence to Carmen I might add – this is just my opinion – no benevolence to Carmen, really, just sort of put it to her. You know, we’ll put you up as a candidate and we’ll bankroll you and we’ll come up with your platform and so on and so forth, which he did, which was probably just his way of thumbing his nose at local government and creating a bit of interest like that, using Carmen as the vehicle.
And so when Carmen prides herself on having made statements during that election campaign that she wanted to see homosexuality reformed, that she wanted prostitution to be legal, and other such things like that, I think Carmen might have wanted – of course she wanted those things, but it was sort of Bob and them that were articulating them through the press statements and media releases and the buildup and all of that sort of thing. So I believe that he used her persona to grab the headlines. Of course they were grabbed. It became quite sensational.
I don’t know whether they realized that she did as well as she did. I think she came in fourth in that election, which was eventually won by Sir Michael Fowler, who won the Mayoralty that year. And I think from Carmen’s perspective, well, she didn’t mind probably if she was being somewhat exploited and used in that way because, like I said, she was a huge PR machine in her own way, and any publicity is good publicity. It was good for her business and it was making her even more famous, and that was absolutely true, so I think at the end of the day that they both sort of worked for each other.
But I do have a cynical view of why I think Bob Jones got in behind her, and to do that. I mean, there was even one point where they decided to put a press release out saying that Carmen and Ron Brierley were engaged to be married. You know, there were funny little sort of stories like that that would emerge. I think Roger Gascoigne announced it on Radio Windy program, and indeed rang up Ron Brierley, who was in Sydney at the time, to ask him about his pending marriage to Carmen, which was all news to Ron Brierley of course. But, so you can see what I mean. It was a bit of tongue in cheek going on there. So yeah, that’s my view of what I reckon Bob Jones was doing with that Carmen Mayoralty.
Gareth: And just before you mentioned Brett Sheppard and Tony, and we haven’t actually covered their kind of involvement in the hospitality industry and entertainment industries in New Zealand, but they were big weren’t they?
Georgina: They were major.
Georgina: Brett owned and opened a publication called Out Magazine, which I may stand to be corrected, but it was probably one of the first nationally distributed gay media in the country at the time. They were very involved with Homosexual Law Reform in the early to mid ‘80s, of course when that happened, and were great promoters and they were able to get the message out and the campaign out through their publication.
They also owned, like I said, Alfies Nightclub, but they also owned a bookshop and sex toys and things like that, gay orientated, for gay men and stuff like that. So they were gay businessmen who, yes, I guess pushed boundaries in their own way at that time, became very successful and probably quite wealthy through it all, and helped many, many, many gay men particularly, but men and women and queens and all of that. They’re important, very important to our political development I think.
Gareth: It must have been quite an interesting situation in the ‘80s bringing in gay publications, and I’m thinking like whether it’s pornography or whatever because all of that would have been, I’m assuming, seen as objectionable.
Georgina: Yes. Yes it was and I don’t know how they got around that, and probably had to deal with various court battles over that sort of stuff. I mean, of course you had adult porn. You know, I can remember the adult film theatre in Queen Street for quite a while. And yes, gay stuff was sort of very, very closeted. I think they had a shop in Anzac Ave, which is where they had the Out Bookshop for quite a while, but then they opened up branches and had their stuff distributed – you know, Wellington, I think possibly Christchurch. Certainly the Out Magazine went around.
And then they had Travel Desk, which was a travel agency but to help promote gay-friendly travel, and to, I guess, spend your pink dollar with us kind of thing. And all sorts of initiatives that they took to support the gay community.
Gareth: Are there any other venues that we haven’t talked about that you’d like to mention?
Georgina: We may have mentioned K Road in Auckland I suppose, but K Road’s K Road. I mean, it always has been that way.
There are two fabulous lesbian women, Adele and Leslie, who owned Clown’s Restaurant, which was a fabulous restaurant up on K Road frequented by anybody and everybody, it was a restaurant.
I think actually the Caluzzi Bar is now where that venue was, and that’s sort of now a drag restaurant show.
There’s been another drag show up on K Road – God, now the name of that’s escaped me too – a family bar, all of those bars and things like that up there, it’s sort of neither here nor there now about having gay venues or specifically gay venues.
And when I say gay venues, they weren’t exclusive to gays of course. I mean anybody could go to them, but knowing that they were going to be gay owned and run and frequented by gay people or gay-friendly people, and anyone else who wanted to come along, well that’s fine but you’re on our turf and you won’t be telling us to tone down or anything like that.
Gareth: Just wrapping up I’m wondering if we can go back through all of those venues and could you just tell me just a brief idea of what you were doing in each venue?
Gareth: So, The Royal Oak; what were you doing there?
Georgina: Well I did have a part-time job briefly as a night porter at The Royal Oak Hotel, otherwise I just frequented it as a bar to go to, the Tavern Bar and the Bistro Bar.
Gareth: Carmen’s Balcony.
Georgina: I never worked there but I went there to see the shows there sometimes, so I was a client there.
Gareth: And her International Coffee Lounge.
Georgina: Oh yes, I went there. It was just a venue where we could go out and I would get clients from there sometimes.
Gareth: El Matador.
Georgina: No, I never went there.
Gareth: The Powder Poof.
Georgina: No, I never went there.
Gareth: It’s Powder Puff, isn’t it, but everyone called it the Poof.
Georgina: Yes. (laughs)
Gareth: The Sayonara and The Sorrento Coffee Bar.
Georgina: No, I never went to them.
Gareth: And The Club Exotic.
Georgina: Yes. I worked at The Club Exotic initially as a comedienne and then I became a stripper there.
Gareth: And that’s also The Club Exotique.
Georgina: Yes. They’re one in the same.
Gareth: The Purple Onion.
Georgina: I was a stripper there.
Gareth: And The Hole in the Wall.
Georgina: Oh, it was just a venue that I would attend. I never worked there, but yes, it was just another club that we went to.