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Wed 6 Sep 2006 In: New Zealand Daily News

Transgender icon Carmen Rupe, widely credited with raising the visibility of the transgender and broader LGBT community both in New Zealand and Australia, is being honoured with a 70th Birthday bash and fundraiser in Wellington next month – and tickets are selling fast. The October 7 ‘Celebrity Roast' is being organised as a fundraiser for the Chrissy Witoko Memorial Trust, which provides grants for funeral and other expenses for individuals and families suffering hardship as a result of a debilitating illness or death. Showgirls close to Carmen from the 1960s until the 1980s will re-enact shows originally hosted by Carmen at her well-known Balcony Night Club, which employed all drag staff, says transgender advocate and organiser Jaquie Grant. “I first met Carmen in Sydney in 1958,” recalls Grant. “She was a waiter by day and a drag entertainer at night.” Carmen moved back to New Zealand in 1964 and gained significant public profile with her club, her “famous coffee house” and her outspoken manner, says Grant. “She had many scrapes with the establishment for being out before it was fashionable. She was arrested for allowing prostitution on the premises and allowing lewd acts. She was hauled before Parliament's Privileges Committee for saying there were gay MPs in the House. She went topless at Trentham Raceway. She ran for Mayor and nearly won.” “It goes on,” says Grant, “but all through this she had a presence and dignity that endeared her to many people both gay and straight.” “We are honouring her for her honesty and her role in bringing us to visibility,” says Grant. Tickets for the event, to be held at The Boatshed on Wellington's waterfront, are $50, which includes a buffet, band, celebrity roast and entertainers. Tickets are still available but selling fast, says Grant. Tickets can be secured by contacting: Jacquie Grant Phone 027 555 6550 Email 8 Greyhound Road Hokitika     Ref: (d)

Credit: News Staff

First published: Wednesday, 6th September 2006 - 12:00pm

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