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Mission to Mardi Gras

Fri 7 Mar 2008 In: Events View at Wayback View at NDHA

Venus Mantrapp: "What can I spill on you?" GAYS ON A PLANE It all sounded too good to be true. A paid trip to Sydney Mardi Gras… and we hadn't even won a beauty contest to get there! Thanks to fortunate TVNZ scheduling and some last-minute planning by RedFlame productions, myself, blogger David Herkt, Wellington gay media kingpin Andy Boreham, capable cameraman Xavier and NZ's LGBT television gauntlet-holder Glenn Sims had teamed up for a new documentary project - Brave New World: a Celebration of the 30th Anniversary of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, planned for broadcast on TV2 in September. I was warned we'd be working hard throughout the five days we had in Sydney. The Pink Flight, the Mardi Gras Parade, the Mardi Gras Party, and various other activities our Kiwi travellers were doing on their exciting holiday were all to be captured on camera, along with various interviews with Mardi Gras 2008 officials, interesting Kiwis joining in the spectacle, and some 1978ers whose protestations had started the parade off. First up was Air New Zealand's Pink Flight to Sydney - starring guest in-flight hostesses Miss Ribena, Buckwheat, Tess Tickle, Venus Mantrapp and Dallas Vixon. Just like the inaugural Flight of the Fairies last year, the party began in the departure longue, with plates of pink food - donuts, sushi, cakes, etc - guaranteed to give you a sugar crash mid-flight. Whoops… don't say 'crash'! There was booze. There were shows. I scurried around lining up interviews for the doco: Young people who were going to Mardi Gras for the first time, cool people, hot people. Merry talking heads giving us good Vox Pops about how "fabulous" "exciting" and "awesome" it all was. Whereas last year only a few people won lovely Air New Zealand retro-style zip-up travel cases for being good at drawing pictures of drag queens, this year's passengers were delighted to find one on each seat - bright pink of course, with 'Pink Flight of Fabulousity' printed on the back, and containing a few 'goodies' like pink travel socks and VIP vouchers for Sydney nightspots. A very nice touch! Cheers and applause broke out as the plane took off, and a long queue of tipsy passengers waiting for the loo soon formed. With the drag queens no doubt tired from their long San Francisco to Sydney trip the day before, 2008's pink journey across the Tasman was a little more 'unstructured' than last year, with less commentary from the drag hostesses, but more singing and boisterousness from the passengers. We were, however, treated to a hottie parade of all the most gorgeous guys and gals wearing as little as possible, which everyone got their cameras out for. And Priscilla Queen of the Desert was a very appropriate in-flight movie. Our crew: Xavier, Andy, David, Matt had been recently gay-bashed on Oxford Street and would march at the head of the parade this year. David said he was most thrilled to sit down with ex-New Zealand tranny legend Carmen in her Sydney home. The residence was jammed full of glittering rainbowed memorabilia from drag throughout the years, and she was ready with many fabulous stories from her varied life of showbiz. Carmen in the parade MARDI GRAS' BIGGEST PARADE YET I'd had so much fun last year taking pictures of various people and floats in the assembly area before the parade started - and this year was even better, in my brand new role as 'Boom Mic Operator'! Over 10,000 paraders were looking their very best and many were keen to pose for my camera and share their stories while I held up the fluffy TV2 boom microphone. There were quite a few New Zealanders on and around the floats - all the Safe Sex Poster Boys, several Auckland 'Pink Girls', Carmen, a few dancing and marching boy Kiwis on the Diva float, and even a young Rainbow Labour employee or two. Tradition dictates that the Dykes on Bikes' roaring engines announce the parade's arrival, and they thundered down Oxford Street as fireworks lit up the twilight and dozens of fruit bats circled overhead. Leading the parade was US comedienne Margaret Cho, following the original 1978ers who gifted us all with the first parade three decades ago. 150 floats followed, featuring surf lifesavers, army boys, Gaydar guys, drag kings   

Credit: Matt Akersten

First published: Friday, 7th March 2008 - 8:19pm

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