Shopping has long been a part of gay culture, whether we like it or not, ever since it was immortalised by Armistead Maupin’s tales of cruising in a San Francisco Safeway.
With the advent of the mythical pink dollar, however, shopping became something a little more menacing. Gay writer Mark Simpson lamented that nowadays, gay is goods and 1990s activists bemoaned the franchising of our cultures. The pink dollar meanwhile rose, hovered, and then ignobly plummeted.
Every year, however, even the most politicised among us can purchase with impunity, thanks to the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation fundraiser Shop Yourself Stupid. Participating retailers donate a portion of profits from the day to Australia’s oldest HIV/AIDS charity, in a capitalist frenzy chockful of drag, music and sausage sizzles.
Or at least that’s how it used to be. Over a period of 11 years the event has become something of a victim of its own success, with last year’s SYS spreading beyond Oxford Street to include not just King Street, Newtown, but centres in Leichhardt, Marrickville and even the Queen Victoria Building. It was a sensible and happy acknowledgment of lesbian and gay spending beyond the strip, but the entertainment, vibe (and sales) were down. The Star reported last year that businesses on Oxford Street reported much lower sales, the BGF takings were down and punters complained that the event had become too diffuse.
In a radical step back in time, this year the event is being held only on Oxford Street. BGF’s Jerry McNamara explained.
We just feel that it got a bit out of hand to try to organise, McNamara told Sydney Star Observer. More particularly we couldn’t really focus a level and quality of entertainment to the shops and on the street when we were dealing with so many suburbs. So we decided to consolidate the event and get it back to where it started.
It’s not going to please everybody, but locals and keen visitors should experience Oxford Street buzzing like days of old. Over 40 drag queens will perform, the Fashion Police will be on patrol, raffles will be held, and a roaming truck will be the stage for four Miss BGF heats.
What we’re also trying to do in a way is to reclaim our street, added McNamara. It’s taken a little bit of a beating in the press in the last little while and we’d like to be able to use this to support Oxford Street as well.
Inner-west punters need not despair. McNamara said BGF was certainly considering a return to King Street for 2004, but we want to get it right on Oxford Street again and then decide how to expand.
I just think we have to really support the notion that we’re doing it in the Mardi Gras season where our businesses and community gather to party on the street. It’s really a push toward gay business being there for the gay community and vice versa, said McNamara.