Tasty Nightclub was a dirty, dingy and delightful club hidden in one of Melbourne’s notorious laneways. It was a place to dance and be debauched and it built a reputation for its anything-goes nights.
Until, that is, a large number of over-enthusiastic cops busted in and spoiled the party. What would have been just another night out became part of Australia’s gay and lesbian history.
Shown last week as the opening night film of the Queerdoc festival, The Tasty Bust Reunion is a series of interviews with people who were there on the night of the 1994 raid. Director Stephen Maclean mixes these interviews with some recreated scenes (fairly naff) and old footage (very interesting).
All 463 patrons at Tasty that night were forced to stand for hours with their hands on their heads before being strip-searched. The behaviour of the police that night was so out of line, even then-Victorian premier Jeff Kennett was appalled.
It is obvious from the people who came back to take part in the documentary that it was quite a diverse crowd who were picked on that night. Pyjama king Peter Alexander was there, as were straight ballroom dancer Leann Sodon (who was having her 21st birthday that night) and art dealer Robert Gould. When the strip-searching began, drag queen Sarah Pax didn’t know whether to join the men’s search line or the women’s.
The Tasty Bust Reunion tells the story of Tasty, the nightclub, with its backroom maze, its twisted elegance and its unfortunate end. It is a story of homophobia and police brutality that has a happy ending, moving from what happened the night of the raid to what came after, when the patrons joined together in a class action that ended up costing the Victorian police force something like $6 million.
Despite an unfortunate slump in the middle of this documentary, it’s worth staying until the end, when the Tasty patrons talk about what they did with their money. It’s a victory for anyone who’s ever walked away from an encounter with police thinking maybe that wasn’t quite right.