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Review: The magnificent life and times of Niccole Duval

Thu 9 Jun 2016 In: People View at Wayback View at NDHA

Niccole Duval Hundreds of photos, leaflets and clippings from the private collection of Niccole Duval provide a remarkable window onto a time and place now long gone - but one which was a crucial part of the nascent glbti communities of decades past. Now ageing graciously in city-fringe Auckland, Niccole Duval - with the curatorial assistance of Fiona Clark - has "put it all out there" as she said at last night's opening of this fascinating and poignant exhibition. Spread over two floors and incorporating a looping video and several enlargements of selected images, the exhibition centres on three tabletops covered in original photos and mementos. Primarily from the '60s and '70s they magnificently convey a world within a world, the joy, glamour camaraderie of these, mostly young, women for whom one of the only viable occupations available was as entertainers. There are sixties fashions, cullottes, big hair, even bigger hair, fake eyelashes and mascara galore, feathers, gowns and boobs. Although most of the subjects are unidentified, it becomes easy to pick out Duval herself and to see her maturing from a gauche and raw-featured proto-trans woman into a high-cheekboned glamourpuss. The Dietrich-esque glamour photos of Duval are an eye-opener. Of course Carmen is there, and Dana de Milo, and there are hints of Duvall's Wellington days. But there are also glimpses of other lives lived in parallel with those who have become icons. Belinda Lee, Destiny, Saphire, Tiffany, Natalie and many others who have sadly long faded from public view and memory. Beyond being a window onto Duval's life and associates this exhibition also evokes the places they inhabited. K' Rd itself is a given but amongst the memorabilia are reminders of venues and shows long gone, from the exotic to the seedy. The Windmill and the Vegas, the Follies Bel Air, Tinkerbelles, Gordon's Jewell-box all male revue, the Peter Pan Cabaret, Strip-o-rama, Topless-a-go-go... and the intriguing La Tini - Man of mystery. Fiona Clark But underscoring the showgirl and stripper motif is a darker, deeper flowing story. Persecution and humiliation. Highlighted by a sentence writ large on a wall in which Duval acknowledges her humiliation at the hands of the police, and underscored by Clark's wall of images of women's flimsy knickers, is the reality that these women faced difficulties and ostracism as a small and determined group. "My mother said enjoy every second of life," Duval said as she worked the room last night. "And I'm still trying. It's been a magnificent life!"     Jay Bennie - 9th June 2016

Credit: Jay Bennie

First published: Thursday, 9th June 2016 - 11:12am

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