There was standing room only at the Midnight Shift on Friday evening as family, friends and the community gathered at a special memorial for stalwart Ken ‘Kandy’ Johnson.

Kandy died in Noosa on Saturday, February 27 at the age of 75.

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His family, his many friends and fans gathered at the Midnight Shift to celebrate his life,  share a laugh, some stories and a few numbers in memory of one of the great pioneers of gay Sydney.
One of the original Les Girls, Johnson was a favourite performer at one of Sydney’s first openly gay and lesbian venues, the Purple Onion, in which he later became a partner.
Johnson became a successful publican, running the Lord Roberts Hotel and the Park Inn Hotel.

Later, inspired by his overseas travel which took him to Turkey, Johnson established Ken’s Karate Klub, a sex-on-premises bathhouse now known as Ken’s of Kensington.

Last year Johnson, known as the Empress of Sydney, launched his long-awaited autobiography Kandy: What a Drag, an exploration of Sydney’s gay and lesbian past as seen from the frontlines of the entertainment world.

“The Purple Onion established itself as the first gay nightclub and people started to come there as a venue where they could be totally among their own people, and it established a social life for the gay people which had not been there before,” he told Sydney Star Observer at the time.

“It was an exciting time and as it turns out, it was sort of historic but at the time when you’re doing those things you don’t think of it as being historic.

“The ’78 march was, of course, historic right from the start because it was a milestone but as far as the drag clubs were concerned, they were just there to provide entertainment and pull the people together under a banner where they felt safe.”

info: Kandy: What a Drag is available from The Bookshop, Darlinghurst.

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