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Queen of Queens 2014: Peter Taylor

Mon 2 Jun 2014 In: Hall of Fame View at Wayback View at NDHA

Each Queen's Birthday Weekend salutes a glbti person who has provided more inspiration than most to the people of the New Zealand glbti communities. Past honourees include Carmen Rupe and Chrissy Witoko. A young Peter Taylor and friend The personality of some people is conveyed in the way they dress, their posture, their choice of words or their mannerisms. Peter Taylor's personality was always in his eyes. Peter had eyes that outshone that faux Grand Queen of the silver screen, Norma Desmond... and that takes some doing. In his low-rent and subversive drag persona Vera, in full glamour drag for the Queen of the Whole Universe pageant, even in the street by day those eyes made you feel special as they focused on you, held you. Peter had a high-voltage personality and a turbo-charged drive as well. He put his heart and soul into everything he did, from horses to hospitality, and he did a lot for the glbti communities. Pete as Vera After a life of equestrian success, including managing Olympic team facilities, Taylor was one of the co-founders of Auckland men’s bar Urge. He went on to create a chain of ‘Dorothy’ establishments: The iconic and greatly missed Surrender Dorothy, then Dot’s Sister and finally Dot’s. Walking in the door at any of those establishments was a warm and welcoming experience – in fact it was hard to leave once you stepped in. People, no matter who they were or what their story was, felt included. There was a sense of joy in the venues and in his public life that was uplifting to everyone. He captured that mood and the philosophy in his book Don't Postpone Joy: A Life of Purpose and Passion. In his latter years Taylor was the only person in the world still living with HIV and the nasty insect-borne disease leishmaniasis. He had endured more than 700 doses of chemotherapy within eleven years. It was the leishmaniasis and the repeated exposure to the rigid regime of chemotherapy that rendered him partially blind and severely deaf. As times changed and his senses deteriorated his business ventures became less successful, to be blunt he struggled. But, true to form, his struggles were public, heroic and inspirational. Winning Queen of the Whole Universe Along the way he became very passionate about drag performance. It would have to be said that he was not a classically skilled performer but he had energy and a style all his own and that counted for a lot. However, in 2007 he created a drag tour de force. Hardly able to hear the music and unable to see much more than a couple of inches in front of his face, something most of the audience was totally aware of, he took to the massive Aotea Centre stage for that year's Queen of the Whole Universe pageant. His exuberant and entertaining personality shone through and he was a standing ovation-earning crowd-pleaser. The judges were impressed too - he won the pageant against stiff competition. He was openly HIV-positive and became a sought-after motivational speaker, staggering people with his ability to keep his head up and keep going despite all that life was throwing at him. In his final months Taylor was nearly blind and nearly deaf. Cochlear implants helped a little but not a lot. If you bumped into him in the street you had to come up real close and shout something like: "Hi Peter, it's me, John!" He would recognise the name and the voice and those now-buggered eyes would still widen and shoot laser beams of warmth, passion and energy. With the love of his life, Rodney Coleman, at his side, Taylor fought on, until finally he was exhausted and mid-last year he decided it was time for his extraordinary chapter to close. He faced death as he had faced life... with a positive spirit, determination and self-control. And with showmanship. Peter Taylor will be remembered for innumerable things, including for setting a positive example of how to deal with debilitating illness and inevitable death, and for celebrating life with good cheer and determination. There is no contest for's choice of Queen of Queens 2014. RIP Peter. staff - 2nd June 2014

Credit: staff

First published: Monday, 2nd June 2014 - 8:40am

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