Like a cross between Bukowski and Edgar Allen Poe, my stories smack of anguish and horror, maybe they're relentlessly tiresome so I will relate a tale that's full of exhilaration and compassion. I have had at least 77 trully great experiences in my life, exquisite, ecstatic, extraordinary, my soul swept up to meld with the Universe and my existential ennui forgotten for a few infinite moments. One of these events occurred 2 years ago at the Sydney Gay Mardis Parade, a night I didn't even know was going to happen for me, I just went along encouraged by one of my gorgeous girlfriends.
I've participated in this festival right from it's inception, being one of the original 300 protesters in '78 who got the shit kicked out of them by the cops when we reached Taylor Square. Every year since then the march got bigger till it became an overwhelming parade of celebration and pride with floats, dykes on bikes and thematic marching squads and a crowd of half a million cheering tourists to egg it on.
I've been on other people's floats, I've designed and ridden my own float, I've marched/danced/weaved in and out of the entire 'golden mile' as a lonesome fag and I've sat virtually in the middle of the road and let the whole parade sweep over me, ignoring the commands to move by the 'gay marshals' with their red-arm bands, so I thought I'd really run the gamut and there was no further new experience to be had, but life has a way of surprising one.
I'd just gotten back from trekking the wilds of India and was somewhat at a loss in our post-techno western civilisation, and my beloved Nicolette insisted I accompany her to the parade for she wanted to march with the SWOP contingent, the "SexWorker's Outreach Program" and I figured it would be a laugh, not quite sussing what SWOP was, thinking maybe: whores who gave away free sex to the dispossessed and homeless?
On our way up to Oxford Street she said she wanted to call in on a friend and maybe I should wait outside as I wouldn't like it up there. I wondered what on earth the problem could be, having seen everything weird life could throw at me, and insisted on coming up, only to be confronted by a befuddled junkie I'll call 'Scratchy', nemesis of 'Itchy', who proceeded to have "a shot" before the grand parade started. While he was a poly-drug abuser, heroin being his main downfall, (he'd done much crime, spent years in gaol and frayed the edges of a lot of lives in the process), in this instance it was 'speed' he and Nic wanted to imbibe, to get them all worked up for a tumultuous parade.
For the next half-hour he dug furiously into the veins of his arms and legs looking for an opening, all having been collapsed and twisted from a lifetime of rigorous addiction. As he poked, ripped, scratched and tore himself apart with the needle, he raved nonsensically, "The only veins left are those in my dick but I'm too scared to use them as I might never get it up again."
I looked away at the silent flickering TV screen in the room, trying not to gag. "Yesterday I scored the ultimate job, teaching Heath Ledger and co how to use needles on the movie set of 'Candy', it's so cool!" I seethed with angst, a deadbeat junkie like this gets to meet the gorgeous Heath and I'll never even get to sniff a movie star's undies. He offered me a hit and I replied, "I've never done it in my life." "There's always a first time", he sleazed. "No thanks!" I glared at Nicolette to get moving for it had worn me out and we hadn't even marched a hundred yards. She gave herself a shot in the wrist in one practiced, swift flourish and we left Scratchy still digging away at his flesh, moaning and cursing.
We got to the parade lining up in various formations behind barricades and met the usual "gay marshals", pompous poofs with squeaky voices and two-ton dykes with mustaches and deep baritones, who sternly refused us entry without the precious passes. "Fuck this!" Ignoring the shouts of dismay I jumped the barricade with Nic following close behind and we ran to the SWOP contingent getting ready for their glorious march-by salute.
I don't know what I expected SWOP to be but what I found totally dumbfounded me. Around an open-top Cadillac were about 13 gorgeous hookers, in tight corsets, crotchless panties and torn fishnet stockings, tits and fannys hanging out for all the world to relish. One blousie whore lounged in the Cadillac with huge, voluminous breasts like Mae West floaters slung over the side and engulfing anyone who got too close. A few Poofter fans stood in their midst so I didn't feel too out of place but most surprising for me were the 7 spastics in their motorized wheelchairs, each with an attendant hooker by their side to make sure things didn't crash out of control.
It dawned on me that "Sexworkers Outreach" meant a govt. funded group that contacted prostitutes to encourage them into practicing safe-sex, safe drug-injection methods and healthy lifestyles. Some of the hookers revealed themselves to be very special people who rallied round the disabled to give them good sex for their money, as for years previously the poor things had been ripped by most prostitutes they'd hired, taking the money but still adverse to the sex as these wheelchair-bound humans were grotesque in appearance and behaviour, twisted like pretzels by Multiple Slerosis, cerebral palsy etc, drooling and gargling, they directed their wheelchairs with devices that protruded into their mouths. Yet they had robust sex-drives and needed such human comfort, much to the shock/horror of many a conservative gronk, and it was pathetic that they were eternally ripped-off of their tiny pensions.
A wildly cool soul named Saul had set up a group called "Touching Base" to help out all the disabled and ugly who couldn't get sex so easily, and he connected this gang with SWOP, hookers who might kindly participate. Some of the spastics were 'gay', and here was the entire gang, hookers, hustlers and cripples come together to show the world sex belonged to all comers, no matter their shape, color or wholesomeness, they had pride, joy and no shame, like the rest of us. Here at the parade I was introduced to Saul, a crazy looking guy in his fifties with sweeping eyebrows that would put little Johnny Howard to shame, he advertises for Tantric sex weekly in the gay press with a photo of himself licking someone's foot, hilariously bad yet I hear he does good business for their must be an army of ugly human detritus out there needing to be touched and comforted. (On the occassion of the 9/11 horror he advertised to all "Moslems, Christians, Buddhists, pagans, no matter what the faith, to come to him for sexual healing.")
I was flabbergasted at the concept and felt very proud that I had inadvertently stumbled upon such a phenomena, it would be a blast to march with them. Nic got a phone-call from Scratchy who announced he'd finally found a vein, had his shot and was now about to join us. Wonderful news! The thousands of queens, queers, poofs and lezzos formed up with restless abandon, bared flesh was eye-balled, costumes were preened and sound-systems were wound up with techno-gusto. The float before SWOP was "Geriatric Gays Proud to be Decrepit", a gaggle of toothless senior citizens propped up on a truck clutching at walking sticks and tweaking their hearing aids. The float behind us was the "Sado-masochists Society", a mock dungeon with racks, slings and dangling chains, and various torture devices wielded by fat faries in bumless leather armor. T
Thanks to nogod, the organizers must have thought they'd put all the freaks on the tail-end of the parade and maybe no one would notice us. And then the march set off, the 'marshals' barking directions thru megaphones, the innumerable sound-systems trying to out thump-thump each other and the crowds lining the footpaths working themselves up into a hysteria of screaming. I watched the "Police" float set off, thug cops with their chests out smiling paternalistic, proud to be supporters of the 'gay community', what a change from all those years ago when they tried to kill us at any opportunity.
Scratchy showed up dressed in a cape and girly make-up as if he were super-fag, really he was a Het in disguise hoping to get his tracked-up hands onto the big tits of the luscious Nicolette. We had to wait for the entire serphent's length of a parade to unwind before we got our chance to stomp about; cowgirl squads twirling batons moved off in syncopation, Las Vegas showgirls shimmied their towering feather head-dresses, Indian hijras in saris and nose-rings danced, gay air-stewards and gay fire-men walked arm in arm, gay priests hugged gay dwarves, proud parents and proud politicians waved from trucks, the wait was endless but finally a diesel-dyke squawked orders in our direction and we moved off.
For a 55 year old guy I looked hot in black cut off jeans and black reflector t-shirt, red mirror sunglasses and red bandana, and lots of queens scrutinized me with laser eyes as if to say, "Who does that old fag think she is?" I could hear the roar of the crowd approaching in the near distance but was not prepared for the actual 3 D, in your face explosion of a million gaping mouths and popping eyeballs that engulfed us as we got onto the 'golden mile'.
Somehow the 'gerri' float got way ahead of us and the sado-masochists fell way behind, suddenly we found ourselves all alone, every step of the way, for the entire horde of shrieking tourists to devour with amazed delectation. The stunning prostitutes smiled and waved as if welcoming future customers, the fag hustlers saluted as if they were the honor guard for the Pope, the spastics went ballistic, racing their wheelchairs up and down, rearing up on their back-wheels and spinning, rushing to and fro like mechanized dervishes on acid, laughing, drooling, I swear one even shat his pants in all the excitement, their exhilaration was contagious, the crowd absolutely went nuts to see such a display of humanism, prostitutes who fuck spastics with honor, the roar was deafening and I reached nirvana, a fountain of bliss erupting from my pituitary gland and into the neon heavens.
But talking about me, I also felt severely embarrassed, the vast mob checked me out wondering who or what the fuck I could be. A poofter hustling the cripples? The pimp for all the hookers? A punk-freak out on a lark and big-noting himself? I virtually stared at the ground for the entire 'golden mile' of the march, I felt so ridiculous and yet also madly blown away by the surreal joy evinced by everyone, as if our one collective soul was lifted up to outshine the stars.
Search-lights flicked about, confetti rained down, streamers piled up, the spastics spun about in a delirium, the hookers laughed deep-throatedly and the crowd squealed till I thought they'd burst into a flood of cum and blood that would drown us all. And me and Scratchy fought over Nicolette, which one of us would get to hold her close, we pulled on her arms as if we hoped to split her in two, Scratchy won as he was indeed the fox in the chicken coop, I was merely the old feather duster. Before we knew it we'd strode the entire length of Oxford Street and stumbled into the dark forest of Moore Park, the march and our 15 nano-seconds of notoriety was over, suddenly there was no more crowd screaming, the silent shadows felt weird, our exhilaration was still fountaining from the crowns of our heads with no one to cheer us on, I wanted to turn back and do it all again, but it was over, a great experience I could never repeat, for before the event I was an innocent and now I'd lost my cherry.
I helped the hookers pile the spastics into vans to get them back to their hostel on the North Shore, Scratchy went off to score drugs, and Nicolette and me wandered up to Kings Cross to come down in a gronk's nightclub called "Candy's Apartment", a meat-market for lonely Hets, the very crowd who'd gotten aroused and horny by the 'gay parade'.
While dancing listlessly to bad disco Nicolette got a call from Scratchy, much earnest whispering ensued, then she led me outside and broke the news. Scratchy had deviously robbed some big-time drug-dealer of $100,000 and 10,000 ecstasy pills and wanted us to join him in a 5 star hotel to party down hard. Nic said it would be a gas only there was a risk that in the middle of the debauch gangsters might break in and shoot us all. "Great, sounds like fun, not! No thanks, I'd rather be straight, poor and alive. I'm going home to safety."
She went off and I didn't see her for some weeks, till they'd run thru the heisted treasure and Scratchy turned nasty and possessive, collapsed veins atrophying his brain, he wasn't the enlightened soul he made himself out to be. And Nic came back to me, just as a best friend of course, I'm a homo to my bones, but I love her regardless, and she loves me, there's a lot to say for honesty, intelligence and open-mindedness that beats junkie moronification any day. And that was my last Gay Mardis Gras event, I didn't go this year, I needed a rest, I really have run the gamut.