The Piccolo Cafe has always been a sanctuary for poofs, mostly from having the Fairy Queen Vitto front it for the last fifty years. On any day half the denizens will be homos of one kind or another, not that this puts Hets off, or women, it's a free-for-all but we poofs can particularly relax there. All the world has long been cruel to us, in spite of gay-lib lip-service, and the red-light area of Kings Cross is especially rough, the redneck yobs at their brothel-crawling seem to find us an imposition, an insult to their upright, macho normalcy and beat us into beatitude accordingly, but there's always the Piccolo to run to.
First I must emphasise, Australia and Sydney are glowing sites of freedom and human rights compared to many areas of democratic darkness around the world, where poofs are proscribed, tortured, gaoled and murdered. We homos have evolved with the human race for millions of years, we've been around throughout history, we've certainly contributed much to civilisation, and, when not oppressed, our free movement represents society at its most progressive, most humane, most cutting-edge; where we tread be sure the catch-cries are liberty, equality, fraternity, hopefully without the Terror. And in this regard, Sydney glows in the dark. So mistake not my satire, I'd fight for my fellow gays with my last breath, I just want to have a bit of fun and describe the 'deviants' thriving in that "Oasis of Onanism", the Pecadillo Cafe.
I've long wanted to do cartoon portraits of the disparate camp characters parading through but live in fear they may take umbrage and fry my balls in the microwave, still I'm gonna risk it and see what I get away with. To start with, I'll sketch the latest addition to the gay menagerie, a skinny, fragile 18 year old we call Ricky Martin, a brisk wind could snap him in two, pale as a ghost, red-haired and freckled, he walks on egg-shells as if he's just been screwed up the street, and probably has. Apparently he's the son of a Christian minister, driven to continuous psychotic breakdowns by an antipathetic world, already on a disability pension and he hasn't even started life, every day in a tizz over some small domestic drama, it's not easy being an OUT and OUT pansy since infancy. He's possibly a proto trannie as he follows Ayesha around like an acolyte chasing her guru and hopefully will learn from the maestro how to gird her loins against the deluge of slings and arrows yet to come her way.
Ayesha the Drag(on) Lady is the reigning queen of Roslyn Street, never to let us forget she was the star attraction of Les Girls, the female impersonators that "Priscilla Queen of the Desert" emulated, the only Aussie-Asian in the bunch, all that miming to bad disco hits her claim for the cure for cancer, she swans about in outre costumes, snarling glib wisecracks from a cheeky pose like Gloria in "Sunset Boulevard", quick to relate a flippant tale of glory long gone by, she's very entertaining and has anybody who crosses her path beaming with a cheesy grin. In her madness she forgets to shave, her lapdog like a drowned rat in her arms taking snaps at passing strangers, she mugs for every camera flashed, it could be Leni Reifenshtal making a doco about the decadent downfall of Sodom Sydney and she'd put in her 7 cents worth.
Danny About sits across from me, trying to hide his gaping maw with his hand, he'd lost his teeth and is sensitive to his disfiguration, once a raving beauty on the Drag circuit, compatriot of Doris Fish on their world tour, he'd been a hustler in New York, and out of drag was notorious for having a giant shlong and thus done tricks with the likes of Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal and Truman Capote. Now in old age he permanently resides in his male persona, another wit quick with camp wisecracks, actually a sweet natured angel, benign, content to sell his costume jewellry at Surry Hills markets in near-obscurity.
Every circus has a fat-lady and for us it's Gremlin, looking much like Jabba the Hutt, a monster with a vicious creature in the folds of his belly, his mentally-challenged side-kick Larry, supposedly his adopted son, they fight incessantly, only last week Larry had thrown a knife at the fat gronk. Gremlin has nothing good to say about the world except to complain about Larry's latest outrages and telling nasty sexist jokes that aren't funny. Ayesha likes to quip that he parks his van behind Long Bay Gaol with the doors open ready to sweep up any desperado on release to work at his business of sucking out the old grease from fish and chip shops, among other things that doesn't bear thinking about. He's had seven heart attacks and when he finally does drop dead everybody will have to run for it to avoid the tidal wave of shit that he'll surely let go.
Oh, no saints preserve me, a monster from my past has come back to the Cafe to try to crack back into my good graces, but he hasn't got a hope. Ian Cheeseburger and I were buddies and warriors in arms for seven years back in the 'Eighties and 'Nineties but he got into ICE on top of the poly-drug abuse he already practiced, he was already mad and he got madder. Manic after drug-fueled orgies with strangers he'd arranged on a phone-sex line, he'd then dredge the dumpsters of the city's back-alleys till dawn and drag back the rubbish to hoard in his hovel with bullshit fantasies that it was all for his great arts' career, burying himself under it all.
Often he'd come over to my place and disturb me with paranoid harangues, shouting "The CIA flew those planes into the Twin Towers! Toby you can't eat anything red, put that apple down! You broke your leg because you had bad karma!" He'd scream and wave his arms about, me in bed with my leg in a "Zimmer splint" after my grand motor-cycle accident, too vulnerable and tetchy to soak up his eye-rolling rage, I asked him to leave to which he stood out the front of my apartment and shouted, "Toby, you're a dirty old poof!" I hopped outside and threatened to brain him with a cudgel and swore I'd never talk to him again, and I never did. Now he here is shrieking superlatives about my punk approach into my face, my new best friend. I don't want him in my life anymore, too tired and reclusive, I need peace and enlightenment in my companions.
Here comes Malcolm Wrathschild, another sorry soul back from the dead, scion of a wealthy family who'd scandalised their good name by being a schitzo gay reprobate, they'd bought him off with large sums which he'd blown on klunky cars and addled rentboys. The poor thing has hunched up over the years like Quasimoto, in spite of the riches he looks like a tramp from under a bridge, in and out of the psycho-bins, living proof that money doesn't buy love or sanity. He's betrayed the Piccolo in ghastly fashion over the years, calling the cops and the health department, abusing Vitto's sister, Maria, as " a nasty old slut!" He is always forgiven, people feel sorry for him and talk to him like he's got half a brain, he creeps about, waffling on with some nonsense concerning Marilyn Monroe.
James is working today, he's the ascerbic cook who thinks he can be as rude as Vitto, who has nastiness down to a fine art, has made his reputation swearing at his customers and is funny and endearing, but with James it's just plain hideous, a pity because he'd be a goodlooking boy if he smiled and didn't snap like a cranky turtle. He's half-Aboriginal and claims to belong to the Royal House of Turtle Island up near Lismore, a princess in waiting no less. Another drama queen, these days he's going to court to get an AVO against some other queen who he says has put a contract out on his life.
Charles Haughtry has walked up bearing a tulip ripped from the Fitzroy Gardens by our local Aboriginal beggar Rosie to give as a gift to Peter Pumpkin for his birthday. Looking like a cross between Oscar Wilde and Droopy the Dog, as usual his dinner has stained the front of his wrinkled clothes and hairs shoot from his nostrils like Poof the Manky Dragon. He's long had the hots for Peter, thinks he has a special relationship with the angelic violinist, virtually stalks him, sending him 77 text messages a day, and is scheming that the presentation of the tulip will get him further into Peter's heart.
Both of them are mad geniuses, Peter composes heavenly music while Charles writes plays, his short piece, "The Rose", recently won the Short and Sweet Competition for writing and direction because it was the only play that had real emotion. Peter comes on hot and cold over their non-affair, happy to have an adoring, supportive friend, not so keen on the "special" bit, he dreams of a butch, sensitive symphonic music composer to wave his baton by his side, but neither artist has found the man of their dreams and looks into a cracked mirror wondering why. Lucky for me Charles is the most benign of souls and laughs when he reads these scabrous portraits.
Oh Oh! Here comes the mummified Edwin Duff, cabaret singer extraordinaire, one foot through the Pearly Gates, the poor old thing needs a walking-frame these days to get about, toddling inch by inch down Roslyn street, dressed in a "Joker's" suit like a psychedelic carnie-barker, he's come to grace the Pooparazi Cafe with his royal presence. He thinks he channels Frank Sinatra with his singing and if you dare question his expertise he flips and shrieks curses that would curl the hair on the Pope's bum, has made such a terrible commotion around the Cross that everyone disappears when they see him coming. I love to give the cranky old dick a hard time, calling him Edwin Muff and asking him if his next hit record will be titled, "Up the Duff", he howls and spits like a mangy old alley cat, miffed that a little punk like me is not afraid of him.
All these portraits seem to come from a "rogues' gallery" so I have to mention that many sweet-natured, sane gays come to the Venus Fly-trap Cafe as well. There's Dr. Glen the lawyer who gives legal help to the streeties, ready to lend succor if one is down on one's luck when asked, often with a gift of a book or theatre tickets for Vitto. And Adrian, a young blonde gay who is drop-dead gorgeous, smart and honey-natured, all the frustrated poofs drool over him but he's in a long-term relationship and a bit too Alpha-male for these local deadbeats as he's the President of the Kings Cross Businessmen's Association. And Steve the architect from Gosford, beaming joy, amused by the comic routines of the Hell's Kitchen Cafe. And last of the Sweeties, another Peter, with the most beautiful little fluffy white dog, who commiserates with all my traumas and whose quiet smile somehow calms me.
To yell, "Gay!" is an insult in the school-yard, many gays grow up brutalised, alienated, dysfunctional, worn down by the bigotry, they turn to substance abuse, alcohol, heroin, pills, pot, ICE, and become hissing, sneering harpies slagging off the world, all as a defense but reinforcing straight society's disenchantment with them. A case in point would be Bobby Dogcart, with his terribly fey manners, the classic snippy gay, his nose ever turned up, snarling through his hairy nostrils at the world, he puts shit on everything, no good turn gets his approval, it's all self-aggrandisement or money grubbing. He had a heroin habit for 21 years, now he's over it but drained of substance till there's only a husk left, he seems totally lost and haunts the Pleasure Chest Sex Shop looking for his soul-mate.
And last on the line, me, the pinhead geek in this freak-show, one more confused fag sitting fucked off at the Hairy Angel Cafe, bitter and twisted from having been beaten up 777 times, my potential limited, my road lonely. The few times I thought I found a lover he turned into ashes in my mouth, I rarely get laid, often discovering I've been entertaining a ghost in my heart. Lucky for me I've long searched for enlightenment, finding much of this world ephemeral and not worth losing my nuts over.
Father Syn walks in, (you'd think they'd demand a name change), from the Catholic Church down the street. He's got Cardinal Pell with him, the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, and one of the most noxious of anti-gay powers in existence, they've come to make obeisance to the fairy Queen Vitto. The six foot five monster fills the cafe and looms over the little hobgoblin Vitto, asking him if he's Italian and Vitto snaps, "No, I'm Chinese!" Then the old bugger speaks Italian to him and Vitto melts, eats out of his bishopric hand, kisses his ring.
Pell keeps his apalling, huge back to me, he knows a Luciferian when he senses one, The Hairy Angel Cafe is a hotspot of atheistic ferment and irreligious philosophy, and I'm one of the most articulate demagogues, forever rebelling against THEIR tyrannical gods. Maybe he's come to exorcise the place, but I think he and his church are one of the great demonic forces denying human rights across the planet and throughout history, and it's him who should be exorcised. If I wasn't so distracted and distraught I would've heckled him but that would've been impolite, and if we're anything at the Dante's Inferno Cafe we're lovely law-abiding, diplomatic citizens who wouldn't say "boo" even when confronted by the Great Beast himself.