I can call myself a Cockney as I was born in Bow in London, where Cockneys come from. It was a very ordinary lifestyle growing up as my dad worked on a construction site and my mum was a telephone operator, so I did not have this mad ambition to one day become a TV producer. It was something that I fell into, eventually.
I came out when I was 15 and started going to gay clubs. By the time I was 18 and headed off to university, I was a very out gay person and became involved in the uni gay society.
From 1979 to 1986, a weekend didn’t go by when I wasn’t involved in some kind of demonstration. We would protest at the drop of a hat. They usually were against university budget cuts, or for gay rights, and there was a lot of yelling, Thatcher out!
It was a period when people were much more interested in politics. I was working in community activism with a number of small community groups.
Then I landed a job with the Gay Policing Group with the Greater London Council and that was an activism project to help people who were in trouble with the law. I did that for three years, but there was so much infighting among the community groups, I became sick of it and was looking for a way out.
Then one day, a friend called about a job going for a researcher to work on a new entertainment TV show. Somehow, they offered me the job.
So at the beginning of that week, I was a gay activist and, by the end of it, I was working in a flash-and-teeth, jazz-hands entertainment show. I really thought I had gone to heaven, and never looked back.
Two years later, I was working on a show called Have I Got News For You, and worked my way up to associate producer. It was like the Little Britain of its time, won every award going and was a huge hit.
But my first job as producer came working on The Clive James Show. I really thought I had made it, and Clive is a very bright lad. I don’t think I would be giving away his trade secrets if I said he played on his man of the people persona in public, but in private it was very much, When Princess Diana was saying to me and Tom Cruise yesterday -¦
We had Margarita Pracatan on the show and she was hilarious. She was so crazy and had all these catch phrases that she would suddenly burst into.
I once invited her to my place for a party, and she turned up with her keyboard and played all afternoon. Jimmy Somerville is an old pal, and he got up and sang with her.
Then I did a couple of shows with Ruby Wax, like Ruby’s Round Table and Ruby’s American Pie. Ruby is like a dog. If she even senses fear, she will go for you, so you have to give back as good as you get.
It was a mad time and she would do things like have production meetings in her bedroom. She would be sitting up in bed, while we would be around her, briefing her for the show.
I then worked with Barry Humphries. He didn’t suffer fools and he is a hugely intelligent man, and we got on well. He said he liked me because my name is Beasley and it turned out that Edna Everage’s maiden name is Beasley.
We did a show called Night Of A Thousand Faces, with all these impersonators doing famous people, but Edna closed the show, and got in the final word, with a song, Be Yourself.
I did lots of other shows, including That Gay Show, but I became bored and felt I had gone as far as I could.
I wanted an adventure. I got to my mid-40s and I was in a bit of a mid-life crisis. I had been here a few times and I had never lived abroad so I decided I would come to Sydney to study for an MA. With that, it all fell into place and, within four days of arriving here, I landed a job as a producer at ABC TV.
My MA studies involve making a film about the role of the bitter old queen in society and, so far, it has shown up the terrible prejudices I had and dispelled that image, as people seem to be thriving.
I have done interviews with men ranging from 18 to 67, but now I need to find some bitter old queens to round it out.
The people I have spoken with have been incredibly generous and opened up to tell their stories. Gay men are remarkable when you get them chatting -“ they tell you everything.
The interviews should be finished by the end of September, and then I plan to spend three months editing it and hopefully have it together in time for the Mardi Gras Film Festival.
I think I will be here for another year, and have made some friends here and am settling. The more time I am spending here, the more of a new life I am developing.
Interview by John Burfitt