Friday, September 08, 2006

Who Took the Sleaze Out of the Sleaze Ball?

A few years after the '78 riot that got the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardis Gras Festival on the move, a September party was instigated to keep the queer spirit aflame and raise funds for the parade at summer's end, and this party was dubbed "the Sleaze Ball." For a decade it was the one night when anybody (who felt to) could let it all hang out and the rest of us would only laugh. Sleaze Ball became the quintessential freak-zone, transitory capitol of the Underground Republic where all sorts gathered to meet, dance, fuck, deviate, preen, deconstruct and tear the envelope, a libertarian space of free desire and public display with mutual consent and safe practices as the only parameters.

And those balls were very "sleazy", with real freaks crawling out of their office buildings and public-service cubicles for the one big saturnalia of the year: obese dominatrix with breasts flopped from tight corsets and shaved fannies gaping thru crotchless panties; geriatric poofs in military leather armour with half tumescent cocks (that looked like burst sausages) poking hopefully from chain-harnesses; midgets done up as bugs from outer-space leading Muscle-Marys in skimpy togas around on a leash; genderless geeks wrapped in gaffa-tape like mummies and pissed on by dykes in fire-men outfits; 7 foot drag queens in shimmering Marie-Antoinette ball gowns stomping on shrieking fags in lycra budgie-smuggler shorts; the grossly obese, the cadaverous skeletal, short hippos and giant truckies, in tou-tous and Speedos, feather wraps and leather capes, outlandish walking/writhing sculptures that ran the gamut of variegated weirdos, twirps, creeps, devos and freaks ever to collect in one place, a trully rambunctious crowd where anything goes, if you like it that way, loose, fast and bent.

But like all things under the moon, the scene changd over the years, reached a peak of funky, costumed ribaldry and then went into decline, the edge worn off, the thrill jaded, the kinks straightened out, the sleaze cleansed so that nice het couples could court and propagate in safety, whatever, the fun slipped away, the outrage flattened into depression as most of the 'gay crowd' got older, wiser and harder to please. Last year's "Sleaze Ball" was the most anti-climactic of them all, it seems costs had to be cut as there were none of the provocative artworks strung from the ceiling or porno videos flashed from the walls; no freaks hired to entertain on the edges of the crowd; not even the traditional bleachers to chill out upon, meet friends, chat with strangers and scope the thrashing dance-floor, no seating whatsoever, just bare concrete floor that threatened to give piles and quell eroticism.

Thank nogod for the drag queens as they're the only ones who keep the outre spirit alive, they put on their usual stunning extravaganza floor-show to excite the senses and twitch the genitals, with a blonde stud out-front doing a crotch-grabbing song and dance number that got the crowd rocking. Otherwise the night was ordinary, a glorified disco dance-club with ubiquitous shirtless gays dancing politely to banal pop hits, and nobody talking, too snooty and cooler than thou, that superficial, empty aspect of Sydney taking over, many running away to Melbourne for quirky relief in the face of it.

Maybe there had been too many drug overdoses or unwelcome attentions from lascivious sex-addicts and the "gay marshalls" had to crack down, somehow the 'sleaze' got lost and a rather staid night-out for good Christians instigated in it's stead. Most pagan celebrations eventually get drained of their original inspiration by fatigue and civilization and somehow have to be reinvented, reinvigorated, revolutionised all over again, and that's what the organisers are claiming for this year's "Sleaze Ball", yet another "new look", or harkening back to it's origins, a true 'Ball' where people dress up in crazy costumes and swan about like vampiric ghouls on the 'night of the dead'. I hope it happens, I swore I wouldn't go again but as it's for a good cause, to raise funds for the Mardis Gras, and there's no other bad-arsed happening quite like it, I guess I'll give it another burl, for old time's sake.

I've been many times since it's inception and one of the best, fun nights I've ever had in my life happened at the Sleaze Ball, quite a few years ago now but still shining bright in my lexicon of wild, soul-melting experiences. It was the night Grace Jones performed live, the exilaration peaked and all since has been a down-hill slide in comparison. As always, I didn't quite know what I was up for, I wanderd into the Horden Pavillion like Hansel and Gretel in one soul, and not too long into the proceedings, a friend sidled up to me and, with a cryptic smile, asked me to open my mouth. He popped a tab of ACID onto my tongue, me not too sure what he had done, and I tripped away into the heaving crowd, reality slowly dissolved to my ebullient surprise, and the dancing punters all morphed into exotic, alien life-forms, garishly shining and kaleidoscoping like cubist icons. I went semi-blind from the explosion of lights and shapes, stumbled into frenzied dancing queens and was gently pushed onto others like a pin-ball in a machine and thus bounced across the whole dance-floor.

I found myself pressed up against a huge stage, hemmed in by beaming, drooling fairies, and suddenly the floor show erupted in my face, a dance-troupe of gay boys and girls hip-hopping to a bevy of tall drag queens done up like Las Vegas show-girls who lip-synched flesh-rousing, heart-quaking techno-pop, the crowd jumping to the beat, ecstacy flooding the group mind. I was worked up into a peak of pagan exultation when a troupe of nuns from the "Order of Perpetual Indulgence" swished onto the stage and twirled about, in and out of the drags and pop-dancers, and in my hallucinated madness I envisioned the nuns carry on a giant idol of Lucifer, Angel of Light, the Horned One, consort to the Goddess, who impregnates the Mother of the Universe, Kali, with his cosmic phallus. I swore they even carried on a giant erect dildo and pranced about it in adoration, nuns partnered with drag queens, spunky dancers in hot-pants miming syncopated sex on the floor around them. I was blown away, into intestellar fairy dust, the 'gay' scene had come a long way in it's evolution.

(I remembered the 1986 Mardis Gras Festival when I entered a pastoral painting into the egalitarian group art exhibition of a psychedelic Pan playing his flute surrounded by a dancing ring of celebrants of all sexes and colours. The other paintings were of headless male nudes and vases of flowers, my painting was much frowned upon, hidden up the back, too provocative and satanic for the 'straight' gay organisers.)

Weeks later I met one of the gay nuns and I congratulated her effusively on the outrageous pagan floor-show and she looked at me dumbfounded, not understanding what I was talking about, she swore they'd done no such thing, no Lucifer idol, no giant phallus, just a swirling dervish dance-act, it seems I had imagined the whole fucking thing, but I don't see how.

Anyway, after the floor show I skipped off to meld with the bopping crowd, dancing my limbs loose, my uptight mind into quiescent love and joy. I wanted badly to go take a piss but like Helen Kellar I had to feel my way about, I couldn't see thru the strobing lights and pulsating bodies, the usual freak acts of cretins being whipped and dragged about on leashes wandered past, I marvelled at the genius costumes, the punter's true natures exposed by their outlandish outfits. I asked directions and was kindly pushed in the direction of the toilets, but once inside I found a long queue for the cubicles, and a gang of crotchless old geeks waiting by the urinal, lusting after a yellow water-fall to splash upon them, gazing hopefuly into my hallucinating eyes, their ugly little willies half erect from that awful poison they inject into their penile flesh to get it up. I shuddered and hid in a corner, clutching my own worn-out cock protectively, thankful there were security guards just outside the door ready to pour cold water on any unwelcome hanky-panky.

When I emerged back into the seething celebration a mate found me and took me by the hand, leading me aggressively thru the crowd, into another pavillion and on, push, shove, squeeze, he got me right upto a small stage, like a boxing-ring, in the centre of the room, where we clung to the ropes. Then Grace Jones came on, she did nearly all the numbers from her hit album, strutting, stalking, growling, purring, lying across a swivell arm-chair as she crooned our souls to her feet, she was hot, hot, hot. I looked right into her face and crotch throughout the whole performance and was mesmerised. For "Walking in the Rain" she wore a chic, short see-thru rain-coat that she dramatically flung aside like a stripper as she mooned about, and some nasty little fag on the sidelines stole it, much to her annoyance, afterwards in the VIP room she nearly tore out second arseholes for the star-struck organizers. I myself was swooning ecstatically, the night was repleat with wonder, I was totally satiated, a good time was trully had.

My mate had disappeared to the toilets on and off and told me he'd been sodomised by three seperate guys in the cubicles, I suppose an experience others also had enjoyed, but for me it sounded yukky, not my bag, I was glad to escape from "the Sleaze" with my arse intact, not that anybody would want it, I just like to stay inviolate, especially when I'm tripping, you never know what kind of monster will get a hold of you. With Paramedics, security guards, gay marshals and organizers touring the premises continuously, it is not a danger zone, more a freak zone, a democratic, liberated space and no one has to evince shame. I'm not personally into "sleaze" as a public spectacle for my participation but I dont mind voyeurising other indulgents, if it's not too icky, and that's why I hope the "Sleaze Ball" reclaims it's bent edge, gets down dirty and funky, fun wasn't meant to be squeaky-clean, a bit of deviance makes the world go round. See you there boogying hard, I hope.