Her outrageous show and take-no-prisoners attitude came to define Sydney’s drag scene in the 1960s and 1970s. But Carlotta is more suburban stalwart than inner-city icon these days.
We do all the big leagues clubs, the former Les Girls star said of her touring Priscilla show. I’ve got bookings up until Christmas.
It seems a remarkable transformation for an entertainer once synonymous with seedy Kings Cross. But then, as Carlotta sees it, the place where she first pushed boundaries more than 40 years ago has moved on too.
I think it doesn’t have the life that it had in the 60s, 70s and 80s when all the colourful people were up there, Carlotta said of today’s Kings Cross.
People who had finished their gigs would all go to the famous coffee lounges in the Cross and hang out, and everybody would talk about the shows that they’d done that night.
That’s sort of gone now, because they’ve modernised it all.
But though Les Girls is history, its stories -“ of over-the-top performances, gangsters and brushes with the law -“ remain. Now they’re the inspiration for a new show, Carlotta’s Kings X, opening next week at Luna Park.
Based on Carlotta’s 2003 book I’m Not That Kind Of Girl, the show is a retrospective of the entertainer’s life and loves against the backdrop of an outrageous inner city.
It’s Kings Cross through my eyes, how I’ve evolved with the drag shows over the years, and the people that I’ve met, Carlotta said.
Over-the-top costumes and appearances from early drag collaborators such as Robyn Lee will ensure camp appeal, but Carlotta will also chart the less glamorous side of life as a showgirl in 60s Kings Cross.
I’ll be talking about how we were used in the industry very early on. We got shithouse money and I fought to get better money, she said.
At first we had bad cops who were against it. But then -¦ the cops were more lenient and sometimes they’d give us a lift home if it was late at night and we were getting hassled by footballers or drunks in the Cross.
There was also the gangster element in the 60s and 70s.
A showgirl of Carlotta’s standing must also have generated romantic interest, and the former Les Girls star promised to tell a few tales of liaisons with celebrities, but not the actual description of what happened, darling, under the sheets, she laughed.
Nor will there be an expos?f Carlotta’s former husband of 16 years, whom she married in England in the 80s.
I did get married but I didn’t talk about it, she said.
You’ve got to give some respect somewhere.
To see the usually brazen performer so restrained is a surprise. Yet it’s soon clear she has her limits: as well as ex-husbands, shameless self-promotion is a no-go.
I don’t see myself as a legend or a diva or anything like that, Carlotta said. I’m not conceited. We have enough bitches around this town who believe in their own publicity.
So what explains her 45-year career in showbiz?
To me it’s just been bloody hard work, Carlotta said. I consider myself a bloody hard worker and I did my bit.
Her fans outside the city agree, it seems. After the glory days of Les Girls, Carlotta built a support base in regional Australia while touring in the 1980s and 1990s.
Before the movie [The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert] even came into thought we were doing that, Carlotta said of her experience in towns such as Mount Isa and Broken Hill.
My bottom line was getting the gay thing across until there was more acceptance.
You always got [prejudice] back then but today if I go out in those places they can’t wait for us to get there.
Whether Carlotta’s city fans remain as devoted will be revealed at Luna Park next week. But a frosty reception would hardly spell disaster for this survivor.
I have a policy in life, she said dryly. If you don’t like me, blow it out your arse.
Carlotta’s Kings X opens on 1 June at the Big Top, Luna Park. Tickets cost $55 plus booking fee. For bookings call 132 849 or 9033 7600.