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Standing ovation farewells Carmen

Tue 20 Dec 2011 In: Hall of Fame View at Wayback View at NDHA

It was standing room only at Redfern's Church of Te Wairua Tapu as a large Trans-Tasman crowd gathered today to pay tribute to transgender icon Carmen Rupe, who died last week aged 75. Many had flown across from New Zealand to farewell the cherished showgirl, and entered the funeral on a humid and overcast Sydney day to hear traditional Kiwi songs Ten Guitars and Pearly Shells, before the official proceedings began with Carmen's favourite song Unchained Melody by Diana Ross. "From where I'm standing up here, this just looks like one big drag show," smiled Carmen's longtime friend Jacquie Grant as she gazed across at the diverse mix of people in the crowd. "In New Zealand, it's like royalty has died," she added. "I've read so many online tributes, seen news stories and even radio talkback callers have been sharing their memories of her." Archdeacon Karipa said he'd seen a great many people enter the church, which inside looked like a little slice of traditional Maori New Zealand landed in Sydney, is the past four days as loved ones visited Carmen to say their farewells, while her pal and caregiver Jurgen Hoffmann said that nurses remarked that they'd never seen anyone get as many visitors at the rest home during her last months. Auckland's best-known drag diva Miss Ribena shed a tear as she told the funeral that Carmen's life "was a parade" and that for 15 years she'd proudly waved her rainbow flag as Mardi Gras made its way down Oxford Street. Carmen's sister Tessie said Carmen, who'd been named 'Trevor' at birth, was borrowing their mother and grandmother's skirts to wear right from the age of ten – complete with red cheeks and lipstick. At Carmen's 75th birthday back in October, she'd given her adoring crowd a show from her wheelchair, saying it would be her last performance. "Well that wasn't quite true," said Jacquie Grant, "we have this, today. And one last standing ovation is called for." Loud cheers and applause then rang out as the crowd got to its feet. Soon afterwards, in a bright red coffin with a scarlet feather boa on top, Carmen was carried out to begin the journey to her final resting place in Rockwood Cemetery. Carmen Rupe Memorial Trust Carmen's legal guardians in cooperation with family representatives and the executers of her estate are now in the process of establishing the Carmen Rupe Memorial Trust to commemorate Carmen's life, celebrate her many achievements, perpetuate her legacy as an LGBT cultural icon and further her principal interests through charitable work. Meanwhile, director Lucy Hayes is putting together a one hour film which will document Carmen's life and groundbreaking achievements. For more information and to get involved with Carmen's legacy, email Kelly or Jurgen – CarmenRupeMemorialTrust@gmail.com    

Credit: Sydney correspondent Matt Akersten

First published: Tuesday, 20th December 2011 - 5:37pm

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