As the song says, his story is much too sad to be told. Almost. Noel Tovey has just completed his autobiography, a work he has also transformed into a one-man show, which opens next week.
Little Black Bastard tells of Tovey’s deeply sad childhood: adopted out by his imprisoned father and periodic alcoholic mother, Tovey and his siblings were placed in custody of a man who sexually abused them for five years. By 12 he was a street kid in Melbourne. At 17, he was arrested and imprisoned on charges of sodomy.
After his release he escaped abroad, and eventually found genuine fame as a dancer, actor and choreographer in London. The 70s led to fame and social advancement, with Tovey meeting and befriending everyone from Joan Collins to George Harrison.
There are many stories Tovey has to tell, as a survivor of child abuse, as an indigenous Australian, as an artist. For those who remember when Tovey opened the 1996 Mardi Gras festival, there’s also the story of Tovey the gay man.
I helped organise the first Pride march in London. I was in America during the Stonewall period. It was an exciting time, because it took courage to come out. And once you were out there was no going back, Tovey said.
The price for Tovey was almost overwhelming and is a major part of Little Black Bastard.
I talk about men who committed suicide for fear of coming out -¦ Tovey said. I tell how I was raped on the way home from the pictures by a group of men I knew and how I got gonorrhoea. People aren’t used to hearing this.
A walking gay history book, Tovey has also survived the early days of the AIDS epidemic. His partner of 17 years Dave was number eight in England to die from the illness.
The horrors that I went through with that, Tovey said. How I asked the doctor to kill him -¦ A lot of people have forgotten, particularly young people today have forgotten what happened in those years.
He assures me the show is also very funny -“ and sitting in his art deco flat in Potts Point, I’m aware there’s a guaranteed happy ending. Tovey seems completely happy and very self-assured. In one delightful and telling exchange, Tovey derides name-dropping while providing examples of famous friends.
It’s a guilty pleasure, but given his frankness and bravery in sharing his horrendous beginnings, it’s probably well deserved.
I hit a few taboos on the head but also a lot of young gay men who came to see the show came up and thanked me for empowering them.
Little Black Bastard runs until 10 May at the Darlinghurst Theatre, 19 Greenknowe Avenue, Potts Point at 7:30pm. Tickets range from $25 to $21 and may be booked on 8356 9987 or online at www.darlinghursttheatre.com.