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Memories of Carmen: Dana de Milo

Thu 26 Jan 2012 In: Hall of Fame View at NDHA

  Dana de Milo moved from Auckland to Wellington in the 1960s, when she was still in her early teens. She'd already encountered Carmen in Auckland before de Milo became part of the capital's community of Queens. She shares fond memories of Carmen. "Carmen was the most beautiful. Loving giving, kind lady you could ever meet. I used to go and see her in Sydney, and she was on the pension. And I know what it's like I'm on the Gold Card now. But she always found 20 dollars. She would always be trying to put the 20 dollars into my top and say 'go buy you a cup of coffee and a sandwich on the way home girl," de Milo recalls. "People don't know of her generosity, of the love that she gave. She gave so much love and when anybody came into town Carmen always made sure she was there to help them and make sure that they were looked after. If you rang Carmen she'd say 'I'll meet you so-and-so and we'll go for lunch', and she wouldn't let you pay. I think that people forget about that kind of thing. She gave all of us girls a chance at jobs, and yes it's true she got ripped off by some. But she knew that, she said to [staff member] Shelley 'ohhh I see you bought a car with my money, where are we going for a drive?' "And when people would go for a sex change she'd say 'did I pay for that sex change dear?' So she wasn't stupid, but she still didn't care. She loved our community, our people, she knew what our people were like, she grew up amongst it." De Milo recalls she was 13 or 14 when she first saw Carmen, at the Fedora in Auckland. "This beautiful being walked in and she had a figure like a figure eight, she was absolutely stunning in her younger days, with lovely long black hair hanging off her face." De Milo was so intrigued by Carmen she ran up to a girl she knew behind the counter and asked hesitantly "is she like me?" Afterwards she followed her to a strip club on Upper Queen Street and hung around the door watching Carmen perform. "She clicked at one stage and said to the guy on the door 'just let her in, let her come in at sit at the back, she's not going to do any harm, she just wants to watch.' And so they used to let me go in and watch the shows, I got in to watch the shows for nothing. Then she went back to Australia and I came to Wellington," de Milo says. "Don't forget that Carmen was a beautiful, loving, giving person, above all things. And always a lady – you never heard Carmen swear or raise her voice or say dirty things. But she had a wonderful dry wit. We took her out for lunch at Fox City Films up in Sydney when I was living in Australia, and we're sitting there, we had this young nephew of my friend Natalie's with us, only very young. And she was talking about being in prison and 'did the boys put their ures through the peephole when I was in jail?' And I said 'oh yes and I used to whack it with my plastic knife'. And she said 'I used to say "oh I couldn't, how disgusting"'. And we're all taking a sip of coffee and there was this long pause and she went 'gulp'."     Jacqui Stanford - 26th January 2012

Credit: Jacqui Stanford

First published: Thursday, 26th January 2012 - 8:23am

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