I arrive at the interview with questions for Bob Downe but Mark Trevorrow isn’t interested. Bob Downe, the high camp fictional crooner whose unabashed dagginess has taken him from the beaches of Murwillumbah to the sparkling lights of New York, gets enough attention already, it seems. For the gay press, it’s Mark Trevorrow who wants to speak -“ in fact he insists upon it.
Trevorrow is friendly but highly strung from the moment I enter, barking on the mobile to agents theatrical and taxing, before he turns the fucking thing off and sits down. The next 20 minutes fly by like a speed-drenched hallucination, with flashes of Downe’s smile and lots of Trevorrow’s passion for community issues. He offers me red cordial, and we both drink as he talks, first of all about the new show Cold August Night, Bob’s first foray into rock’n’roll.
I’ve always intended to do rock’n’roll music as Bob, but you can’t do rock unless you’ve got a band, says Trevorrow, deadpan. You can do disco, cabaret, jazz, you can do all kinds of other music to backing tapes, but -¦ rock’n’roll has to be live, that’s the point of rock’n’roll.
I’m waiting for something to creep into the conversation -“ a smirk, the sugary suggestion of sarcasm -“ but there’s nothing there. Bob Downe and rock’n’roll.
People have always got the act wrong. They always say, -˜Oh, he does these terrible old songs.’ I don’t do terrible old songs. I only do the songs that I’ve always loved. The songs which succeed for me most are the songs that I danced to as a young man or danced around the lounge room as a school kid.
I do them funny, obviously, says Trevorrow, as I expel a sigh of relief. You do them for laughs, but you don’t violate them. I’m trying to walk that line. Make them great -¦
That the songlist includes such dubious classics as Reet Petite and Footloose is of no concern to Trevorrow. He loves them, and claims he is no fan of Mike Flowers or Frank Bennett, and seriously considers their lounging down of rock songs objectionable.
I do not violate the song. Songs are written in an idiom, you don’t twist and turn them until they’re inside out and unrecognisable -¦ When we do Radar Love and when we do The Joker -¦ we are making them more rock’n’roll than they were to start with -¦
There’s a break for a moment, as Trevorrow shows me a video of his recent solo performance in New York. Even given the deadened visage that is the videoed performance is not enough to conceal his obvious success with the crowd. Bob Downe is such an endearing creation, a profoundly optimistic goon, as proud of his sexuality as he is of his fictional Queensland mother, Ida. Trevorrow, still buzzing, switches off the video and turns to face me.
That’s my proof. You know how queens always go, -˜How was New York?’ as if to say, -˜Did it really go that well?’ and then you want to say, -˜Yes, it fuckin’ did, actually!’ You know what I mean -“ like queens! They’re the ones who give me the hardest time! What a cracker! he cries.
He doesn’t find a lot of solidarity within the community then?
No! It’s the opposite! Everybody’s climbing over each other’s back, clawing over each other’s backs using icepicks. Terrible, isn’t it?
In all other downtrodden subcultures, they’re [also] all very brutal to each other. We have to recognise that and we have to really look at ourselves. You have to try to overcome that shit -¦ demands Trevorrow.
One of the main ways it manifests and it really upsets me and I always have arguments with people, is every fucking year this -˜I’m not going to Mardi Gras, Mardi Gras is fucked, the party’s fucked.’ It’s like fuck off! Go and live in Adelaide! Go and live in a city where it doesn’t have the world’s greatest gay and lesbian arts festival and parade and party. Fuck off! Just fuck off if you don’t like it! And if you don’t like it, fucking get off your arse and join the fucking committee yourself if you want to change things. Just stop fucking moaning about it! Don’t get me started!
It’s too late. Trevorrow is absolutely adamant that we talk about these issues. Why the fuck not? he asks, qualifying that he would never be so critical of the gay community with the straight press. Being an openly gay celebrity is something Trevorrow takes very seriously, he wants discussion between ourselves, but is not about to trash a community he also clearly embraces.
One of the nicest things that happens to me is that queens come up to me and thank me for everything [I] do for our community. And what I think they mean by that is that I present a powerful role model or a powerful image of a gay man who’s out, in showbusiness, on television, in the straight media -¦ Fully prepared to hang his rainbow flag from the balcony of life -¦
What fascinates me is that if people care not to see it, they don’t see it -¦ One of the things that astonishes me is that there’s this genuine rumour around the country -“ young people come up to me all the time -“ if I’m really gay or not. They’ve heard this rumour that I’m married with children. Well, I mean, I don’t know how many cocks you’ve gotta suck! It’s just hilarious!
Mark tells me how much he admires George Michael for not retreating into some sort of shame cave and there’s a brief discussion about our shared admiration for the sex spaces at the Mardi Gras dance parties. I’m imagining Bob Downe meeting Mark Trevorrow in the Murwillumbah RSL, and Mark hitting on Bob with a filthy frankness. Trevorrow is absolutely shameless.
There’s so few people prepared to be out and gay in our culture, says Trevorrow. What is it -“ me, Michael Kirby and fucking Johnnie Cass! Jesus Christ -“ Ian Roberts! -¦
So many well-known people, who -˜shall remain nameless’ because we all know who they are, are too fucking chickenshit to come out, because they’ve got some idea that it’s gonna affect their career! Trevorrow gasps, incredulous.
What sort of fucking career do you want if it’s not based on honesty and truth? How much do you want that fucking BMW and the apartment at Walsh Bay? It really makes me angry -¦ You carry the can -¦ and then people don’t believe that you’re really gay! I can’t figure it out.
There’s a final message for punters, and Mark Trevorrow is adamant.
I want queens to get off their arses and actually book to see it, instead of waiting until they can’t get in on the Friday and Saturday and there were heaps of seats available Wednesday and Thursday. I do not want that happening! He actually picks up the Dictaphone at this point and shouts into it.
Hear me, Oxford Street! It’s Bob’s cry to Oxford Street! Bob’s plea. Please buy tickets to the Wednesday and Thursday shows -“ don’t leave it until you can’t get in.
There’s a break for breath, before what I’m sure is a Bob Downe cheeky smile grows on Mark’s face.
Late gay Lanas, he smiles, like a disappointed den mother. What a bunch of last minute Lanas. Not on!
Cold August Night runs from 1 to 4 May at the State Theatre, Market Street, Sydney at 8pm. Phone Ticketmaster7 on 136 100 for bookings or visit www.ticketmaster7.com. Tickets range from $32.90 to $36.90.