Excessively coiffured and wondrously modest, Effie has been asked to host a fundraiser for Gay Games, a celebration of talents old and new.
With many participants having been to a Gay Games before, there are sure to be quite a number of triumphal revisits -“ comebacks if you like. Few will be as dazzling to the eye or ear as the motley group of artists who have risen from the grave (in a sense) to help raise money for the overall running of the Games. Hence all are invited -“ for one night only -“ to gawk and mull over the unearthed talents of Patsy Cline, Karen Carpenter, Dusty Springfield, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett (who should be dead) and others.
Those working behind the scenes of this ghoulish spectacular include the impersonating talents of Deborah Conway, Gregg Arthur, Ruby King, Darren Mapes, Shirley Thomas and Wendy Stapleton. (There’s also Paul Capsis, who can choose to embody any number of divas when he walks out on stage.)
Manhandling the comings and goings is Effie (also known as comedian Mary Coustas), lugging on and off stage this combustive woodpile of old forest talent and fresh green saplings.
JAMES WAITES This show is about dead people, Effie. I’m worried: has news of your own tragic demise been greatly exaggerated?
EFFIE Oh God no. I think when you’re as famous as I am, even when you die you’re still alive. In people’s minds and their hearts.
JW You live forever?
EFFIE That’s right. I think if you looked up legend in the Oxford Dictionary it would say, even if they were dead and ugly, that legends are still loved and adored.
JW When did you first become a gay icon?
EFFIE When I first opened my trap on public television, that’s when. I mean, I’m all colour and movement and a lot of heart and a lot of hair.
JW And that works for the boys?
EFFIE It does. Also they know I’m not judgmental. Because I’m not into sex myself, I don’t care what anyone else does. I don’t care where anyone else puts it. Also because I’m Greek, you know, there’s a history of checking the fire exits sometimes, that sort of thing. It’s a cultural thing.
JW But I thought there weren’t ever any really gay Greek boys?
EFFIE Only the most important Greek figures, philosophers, those kinds of famous people. Only in history.
JW So there weren’t any living around where you grew up at Broadmeadows?
EFFIE God no. I did hear from one. Reckons he’s straight, but -¦ he admitted to me in a weak moment that the most satisfying sexual experience he’d ever had was with his best male friend when he was a kid. He had a sadness about him, when he said that. Like it wasn’t going to happen again. But you can tell in his little dark moments he’s relived that moment many times over.
JW Are you a better hairdresser than Joh Bailey?
EFFIE Oh Joh. I love Joh. I don’t know what’s wrong with his voice but I love him. He’s not very good at acting either. Still he’s such a sweetheart. Sometimes I find it difficult to find him because we often have coffee in Darlinghurst. He dresses in so many different versions of camel at the one go that I can’t differentiate between him and a caf?atte. He’s so sweet though, I adore him.
I’m also known for a lot of things. Like I’m known for my Logies. Joh doesn’t have a Logie. Maybe that’s why he’s cut up. Maybe that’s why he’s gone into the Sunsilk thing. Apart from the cash. Which I imagine would be substantial. I think he looks at me as a role model.
JW Have you yourself ever had a gay experience? Never been tempted?
EFFIE You’re talking about fish fingers, that sort of stuff? No thanks, not for me. It’s nothing like I’m anti my own gender, it’s a pure hygienic issue. There’s things that accumulate down there. I don’t know if you’ve seen diagrams, it’s very complicated down there. Just when you think you’ve got enough holes, you’ve got a few more.
JW I heard you once met Nana Mouskouri?
EFFIE I did. You know we’ve got three famous Greeks: Demis [Roussos], Nana and Anthony Quinn and he’s a Mexican. You do the maths on that one. I went to her press conference. I heard her daughter was one of her backup singers, and so I thought that might be a good in for me. I like singing, I’m good at it.
JW You did an album with Norman Gunston.
EFFIE There’s proof of that. I mean, I’ve still got dogs following me around in memory of some of the notes I hit.
JW So who’s your favourite out of the other past stars performing at this gig?
EFFIE I do l like Karen [Carpenter]. I know towards the end she looked like a little piece of dental floss. But the songs, they’re just so plain and up. Like scrambled eggs or a nice piece of white toast with a bit of butter. So sweet and innocent. Little did we know, behind closed doors [she was] chucking, taking lots of laxettes. Did it ever come out what she was upset about? Maybe she wanted to be a plumber?
JW I read that to compete in the Gay Games you don’t have to be gay or lesbian or bisexual. Will you be competing in anything yourself?
EFFIE Are you allowed to be a virgin though?
JW So you’re not currently in training?
EFFIE The only sport I like, because you know I don’t like to sweat -¦ is the side stroke in the pool. You know why? Because you don’t get your hair wet and you can keep an eye on your handbag at the same time. It’s good for the vain and paranoid, and there’s a few of those out there.
Yesterday Once More will be held on Sunday 5 May at 7:30pm at the City Recital Hall, Angel Place. Bookings can be made on 8256 2222 or via www.cityrecitalhall.com. Tickets are $41.50 plus