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Georgie's tribute a hilarious, sweet night

Fri 15 Nov 2013 In: Hall of Fame View at NDHA

Georgina Beyer’s tribute and fundraiser was mostly classy, but a little bit crass, full of stories from the many realms of her rich life. But most importantly, she clearly had an utterly fabulous time. Beyer walked in to the James Cabaret with longtime friend Tariana Turia, to a wave of applause and cheers. She was seated on a couch in the shape of lips at the front of the room and let us know she was looking forward to the evening, but nervous. “I dunno what people are gonna say!” When asked by MC Shane Taurima to sum up her life in a few words, she said: tempestuous, very interesting, a roller coaster, blessed.” Zane Te Wiremu Jarvis then performed Life is a Cabaret as Beyer sang along from her front-row lips, while images from throughout her life, including the woman of the moment meeting the queen, played on a big screen. We were quickly thrust into Beyer’s political history, finding out from Taurima that she first entered politics by running for the board at a school she incidentally attended alongside Phil Goff and David Shearer. We found out she lost her first bid for Council, but it was the election she ever lost. “I’ve won everything since then!” she quipped. Of course after being the Mayor of Carterton she beat Paul Henry to win the Wairarapa seat in Parliament, something she believes he still can’t get over till this day. “He’s still smarting about it” she says, adding that he took days to concede the seat. She recalled their appearance on Holmes where Henry stated “well at the end of the day I am still a man,” something she’s heard National Party bigwigs instantly knew would cost him the seat. Then the crowd was treated to Pinky and Lorae evoking a deadpan Helen Clark and Jenny Shipley. Oh the Helen Clark impression was good! From the voice to the make-up to the mannerisms, Aunty Helen could have been there on stage. However the content was made up of things the pair might like to say but never would publically, with hilarious quips like one dubbing John Key “so full of it that if he had an enema you could bury him in a matchbox”. A message from the real Helen Clark was read out by Tim Barnett, and she described Beyer as a courageous person who broke through all the glass ceilings that existed. Barnett added that he and fellow gay MP Chris Carter were a “drab act compared to what happened when Georgina entered Parliament.” Friend and former colleague Tariana Turia paid the most touching tribute, bringing tears to Beyer’s eyes in recalling she stood by her when she left Labour during the foreshore and seabed ruction, something which meant a great deal to Turia and her family. “Georgina is a special person,” she said. “I wish I was 30 years younger so I could give you a kidney,” she added, before expressing the hope that somebody else will. Mana’s Hone Harawira had the room in fits of laughter when he spoke of her work for the glbt community, stating “how you can represent that crowd and white motherfuckers from Wairarapa, I don’t know!” He added that he didn’t believe there would ever be another politician in the history of the country who would get “a roast like this!” Away from the political tributes the crowd heard of Beyer’s time as part of the Bloomers Review at Alfies in Auckland, then Wellington. Megan Alatini and Mika performed before all the smut was revealed thanks to stories long-time friend Mal Vaughan has been holding on to for decades. “Believe me I have been holding back on these stories!” he laughed. After meeting while working at Auckland’s Royal Oak Hotel and becoming fast friends, the pair were flatmates in Wellington. They struggled to make rent and came up with all kinds of ways to supplement their income, like raiding milk bottle money in the neighbourhood. Once they even sold off their washing machine, in fabulous style, wheeling it down Ghuznee St to the second hand shop while wearing fishnets, hot pants, halter necks and “wigs out to here,” as Vaughan put it, doing an impression of him and Beyer traipsing down the street pushing the washing machine in all their glory. “We didn’t know it at the time, but it was great for business,” he explained, saying they got a knock on the door from a guy who’d seen them while working on building the Terrace Tunnel, and they then had a regular client who helped them cover their rent. “Times were hard, times were tough, but you had to make the money.” A story about a romp with four Australian soldiers followed, which was so salacious it had Beyer calling “media ban!” Vaughan ended by saying “she’s done the streets, it’s where she started from, and she’s made it to the top.” It was mentioned that Beyer is someone who is known across the globe. Barnett says during his health and HIV work in Africa hers was a name people knew, while Mika said she was known in New York and further afield, even name-dropped by Graham Norton. Amandah’s Et Son Filles then provided a drag/cabaret tribute and we found out it was also Beyer’s 56th birthday. A cake was brought out by two hot young things and Miss Ribena led the raucous birthday celebrations. The idea for the celebration was sparked within Parliament as a way to help Beyer live more comfortably as she has dialysis four times a day for kidney disease. She just had tests yesterday and the results say she is ‘doing well’. Miss Ribena invited Beyer to have a place in one of the lead floats at the Auckland Pride Parade next year, to which she delightedly agreed. The Southside Sisters closed out the night in amazing style with a Po Kare Kare Ana and poi tribute, followed up by Chanel bringing down the house with Try a Little Tenderness lip-synced by both her and a puppet, which even had Tariana Turia up shaking her tail feather. Walking away from a faaaaabulous evening celebrating a woman who will forever hold a place in glbti local and world history, it was hard to shake the strangeness of having sat in a room full of glbt trailblazers, with Brian Tamaki plonked right in the middle, all slick and stony-faced lapping it all up. He wouldn’t answer any questions, utterly ignoring our approach to find out what the heck he was doing there, but appears to have attended as some sort of stunt tied up in a woman’s magazine deal organised by a mutual friend of the Tamakis and Beyer, Jevan Goulter. Beyer was incredibly classy about the whole thing, but some in attendance were not so immediately forgiving. This ramped up a notch when he weirdly refused to get up and serve himself at the buffet. Whispers of “enough is enough” had already been travelling up and down the room, but there was no whispering when Miss Ribena got on the mic and bellowed “they say enough is enough but for me there is never enough!” Did he need to be there? If he wants to make amends of some kind was this really the time and the place? Well, how can we know if he wasn't even courteous enough to speak to us? But Beyer made it clear that after her initial shock she was fine about it all - and it was her night, and she believes “at times we have to be adult enough to put aside the politics that divide us. We have to look to conciliation over things that happened in the past.” However she did get a cheeky dig in with: “At the end of the day we won,” a comment which received rousing applause. And hey, at least they got to see some drag and hear some dirty stories! Hardly a typical Thursday night for the Tamakis! Anyway, that’s no note to end on, so Georgie gets the last word: “It has been a fabulous life really. And if it didn’t have all the colour, the light and the grey, then it wouldn’t really be a life at all would it?” [Editor's note: Due to a deal between the event organisers and a women's magazine was refused permission to take to take any pictures of the event on behalf of the gay communities. We apologise to our readers for this omission in our coverage.]     Jacqui Stanford - 15th November 2013

Credit: Jacqui Stanford

First published: Friday, 15th November 2013 - 10:38am

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