Cole Porter may have dreamt up the original Les Girls, but it took a bunch of Sydney boys in drag to make it a camp icon, and a must-see for anyone brave enough to venture into Kings Cross in the 1960s and ’70s.
Now this colourful period in both Sydney’s history and the gay rights movement is being turned into a feature film by gay Australian director Tony Ayres (The Home Song Stories).

Scheduled to start production at the end of next year, Ayres is currently looking to the community for their recollections of the Les Girls experience, to form the basis of a fictional script.

Basically it’s a musical that’s set in Les Girls in the early ’70s, but it’s not going to be another Priscilla. In terms of tone, it’s probably a bit more Cabaret than Priscilla -” a little bit darker, Ayres told Sydney Star Observer.

Telling the story of a young boy who comes from the country to get a piece of the Kings Cross action, Ayres is keen to use the film as a microcosm for looking at the wider gay and lesbian rights movement.

A look at gay and lesbian identities is inevitable when you look at that subject matter, he said.

I think the interesting thing is that Les Girls was so mainstream. What I was interested in, when I first started looking at this, was the sexual ambivalence of men who are dressed as women and the relationship they had with men who would otherwise identify themselves as heterosexual in a time when there were fewer sexual labels.

Ensuring the film features and references key gay and lesbian figures of the time, like Dawn O’Donnell, is also of key importance, Ayres said, although the film may miss out on input from Les Girls’ most famous export, Carlotta.

There’s another film in development at the moment which is more a biography of Carlotta so she sees it as a bit of a conflict of interest to speak to us, he explained, adding, which is fine because what we’re doing is really a fictional piece.

People do take the subject matter personally. That’s why it’s important for us to start with a really strong research base so we can be as honourable to the real Les Girls as we can be.

If we do that, we can blend the fiction and the truth together. It will be important for us to respect people’s memories of Les Girls.

info: Post your memories under this story at starobserver.com.au. If you are happy to be contacted, leave your email address at the end and we will pass it on to Ayres.

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