Visiting Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin has experienced a side of Australia he may not have bargained for, telling a local ABC radio station today he and his partner were on the receiving end of homophobic remarks while staying in Alice Springs.

Maupin told 783 presenter Rohan Barwick he was settling down for lunch with his husband Christopher Turner last Friday. When Turner asked to use the bar’s toilet he was told by a staff member of the Bojangles Saloon to go across the road because the bar toilet was for “real men” only.

“We went over to, I presume, the bartender and said, ‘Are you serving lunch?’ and he said, ‘Yes, sit down over there and we’ll take your order’,” Maupin told the ABC.

“Then my partner said, ‘Will you direct me to the restroom?’ and he said, ‘Sorry, we don’t have one in here, but you can go across the street to the public facility’.”

Maupin said he knew the bar had toilet facilities, having been there the day before.

“I said, ‘What’s that over there?’ and he gave me a very pointed look and said ‘That’s reserved for real men’,” Maupin recounted.

“Either one of us couldn’t quite believe he’d said it and he actually repeated it.”

Maupin and Turner left the bar and reported the incident to the Alice Springs Visitor Information Centre.

“We were rattled in a way that was quite alarming because we’d been there for two or three days in the Red Centre … and having a great time, running into nothing but nice people,” Maupin said.

“I didn’t expect it there, I didn’t expect it from somebody’s business we were about to patronise, the place was empty.”

Maupin praised the Information Centre for its quick response, passing on an apology from Bojangles Saloon owners within 24 hours.

“I really couldn’t quite figure it out, we were shocked. It’s kind of depressing when you see that sort of behaviour. You think the world moves on, but with some people apparently it doesn’t,” Maupin told the ABC.

The much-loved gay author said he was satisfied with the apology.

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