I have been reading a lot in the gay rags, sorry press, lately about how the Golden Mile has lost its glitter and I got to wondering, Really, is that true? Most of the comment seems to have been written by homos even older than me (is that possible?). Are you ready for a stagger down memory lane?
So what was it really like way back then in a time before mobile phones and the net? Well, as I remember it -“ and these, dear reader, are the facts, my facts, remember it’s my story -“ it was a time of well dressed, witty, vivacious, handsome, self-assured, built, confident -¦ Wait, oh yes, that was the Hollywood version with Brad, George and lovely Matt.
The fashion, yes we had it even then, was jeans worn high with a flare that was often mistaken for a sail from the first fleet, we had a nifty little studded black leather belt teamed with a matching wrist band, (nowadays called a cockring), shirts were either flannelette or made from a fabric that had never been near a natural fibre in its processed life, accessorised with a pair of zippered patent leather Cuban heel boots. We can blame Tony Monaro for so many things. In fact the only Cuban heel I ever want to see again is that Latin from Manhattan I met at a Gay Pride party in 1988 in NYC. Our hair was high, teased, brushed, blow-dried, streaked with blond frosting and then sprayed -¦ it never moved, even during Tracy, the cyclone, not the current affairs host. (And you wonder why we have an ozone hole.)
Just so we all knew who and what we were, we wore subtle distinguishing trademarks so we could be picked out in a crowd, during peak hour shopping or in the line at the lunch counter: multi-coloured hankies were worn in our back pocket. Red, yellow, blue, black, white, brown, rainbow -“ God only knows what they all stood for. There was a handbook but it was the size of an 80s mobile phone. That’s the real reason gyms became so popular -“ you needed biceps to lift the mobile. City Gym should get down on its knees and -¦ wait they do. By the time we had figured out what that hanky meant the trade had moved to Melbourne and we were a year older.
We had keys as well -“ my dear, did we have keys! Just in case you missed the subtle signal from the profusion of handkerchiefs jutting jauntily from our well rounded, tight-fitting denim high waisters, we underlined it with the jangle of keys attached by a dog leash clip to either the left or right side of the jeans. The more keys you had the bigger the clip.
Moustaches or taches as we affectionately called them were popular and yet no one I know except me and best friend Brian will actually ever admit to going to the Paramount to leer at the construction worker, the cowboy and the military dude in that cinema classic Can’t Stop The Music (five times I saw it).
Jeans always had one feature that you sadly never see any more, the package. It was pushed over to the right, held in tight, accentuated by that faded look that could only be achieved by the application of a bleach or, let me think what was acidic that was handy, oh yes, uric acid. You could always spot a fashionable clone and no, I don’t mean dolly, (hello, dolly) by the newness of the jeans and the fadedness, (is that a word) of the crotch.
Just a reminder to our younger viewers this all happened before Gaydar and online profiles. The only net we knew about was fish and hair. We relied on furtive looks over the shoulder, checking reflections in the window of the Mr John store. Hearts would beat rapidly, pulses raced and then we would take amyl. Hoyts was somewhere we went and occasionally even saw a movie. Town Hall, Wynyard, Museum were not just stations but recreational palaces where Mr Right was met -“ well maybe not Mr Right but definitely Mr Right Now (boom boom). I still have fond memories of that ablutions block at the top of Francis St in Hyde Park, across from the old Police Headquarters -“ it was the safest beat in Sydney. We spent more time outside and less time in our darkened rooms bent over a laptop. We were healthier.
The only thing higher in the 80s than our jeans and our hair was us. Oh yes, my friends, we had drugs with a capital D! Right here in Emerald City. But, and let me stress there is always a but, we took proper drugs. Mandys, rohys, ludes, pot, hash and Peter Stuyvesants. The only Tina we knew ran a late night club on William St and the only ice we took was in our brandy and dry. It was a kinder, gentler, more loving time. We were too stoned to fight.
So what was a typical night out in those dazed disco days of the 80s? Well we -“ there we three of us who hunted, sorry partied, together, me, Mumma and the Dutch queen -“ started out with a burger, probably a dropkicker, at Rockerfellers and drooled over those hunky American football players who were bursting out of the walls above the booths. We drank Buds and ate onion rings. If it was a really special night, a birthday or a break-up, we had schnitzels and herb bread on red table cloths at the original Balkan, before it went mod.
Then came that annoying hour, between dinner and bar. It was certainly not the done thing to be the first person into the public bar at the Albury. To be second was fine but never first. Another Bud, please, and maybe a banana split. Oh and don’t forget the Mintie on the way out. God forbid we should have alcohol on our breath.
On any given night there would be a show in the public bar with Cindy or Simone performing on a stage no bigger than Liechtenstein (what a fab word, say it again, out loud, Lichtenstein). I remember one night, I am sure it was Cindy doing Dancing in the Street, and she actually left the Albury, danced across Oxford Street, through the traffic to the Beauchamp, which was still a straight bar in those days. Oh my god I had a flashback! This was before the busloads of hens arrived on the scene -“ it was pristine homo. You could get a good strong drink served by one of the stars of a Sydney-shot Kristen Bjorn movie and properly insulted by a professional drag queen with talent. I still get shivers down my spine thinking about Big Mon doing the Twelve Drinks of Christmas, she ended up drinking the entire contents of the dirtiest ashtray on the bar. You don’t get commitment like that any more. And yes, we were all smoking, inside, then.
After the show there was the Cocktail Bar where John B reigned supreme. Even if you knew him, had had (yes, two hads) many dinners with him, spent the afternoon at his house in Parsley Bay, you could be sure that he could and would put you firmly back in your box but you would feel special after he did it. If we were lucky and feeling fly there was the Polynesian singer whose name I have no memory of, performing in the Piano Bar. We often helped him hone his act. We formed the perfect backing trio. That’ll teach Jerry Herman for writing a hummable show tune.
Pilled, pissed and pushed out of the Albury, the neverending saga of vere now, I vant more wine! Try saying that in a demanding Dutch accent. Mumma would go home -“ he was much older than us, 40! Do we go to the Oxford, the Exchange, the Shift, the Beresford or even the Flinders? Better to start at the bottom, dear. Of the street -“ you do have a dirty mind. Then work our way back up. It’s closer to home that way (remember this is my night out). So to the Exchange and the aptly named Saddle Tramps Bar with actual saddles inside. Perfect for the urban cowboy needing to rest his loose caboose. We pushed our way passed Marilyn (Google him), fighting in the street, and we were greeted with a smile by Adrian, served more drinks by Stella and Mark, who always could keep your spirits topped up. Simon and Todd would pop in after the show. More drinks, people looking more and more attractive, more drinks. Horror of horrors, the lights are turned up to full. Nothing subtle or caring there. Time to flee! Losing friends by the wayside, even the Dutch queen had by this time fled back to his terrace /slash/ palazzo.
Alone now so it’s across the road and kitty cat up a bit. Shift time. Up the stairs to pay an outrageous cover charge ($5). What do you mean you want to charge me? Don’t you know who I used to be? Check your coat at the coat check and try to remember that scrap of paper with the number on it was not to be thrown out. Okay, who’s still around? The A Team, Richard, Corby, Brett, Peter and Darren and all those hot barmen from up the road. Better go for a walk -“ the room seems to be spinning. Time to do a lap of honour past the dancefloor and through the banquettes at the back, trying not to spill the last of my drink. Okay, maybe I should go to the toilet. Oh, for heaven’s sake, there are people actually, believe it or not, pissing in the loos. Too sad.
Time to go. It’s almost three and those lights will be back up any second. Oh shit, the coat check, I had a piece of paper with a number.
Where next, it’s early (ish)? Well, it is that time of the night and there is only one thing, one place, one last safe house left. 253! The Palais de Mist, The House of Towels, 253 Oxford St, sensibly back up the street opposite the Courts and close to home. Maybe, just for an hour, or two. I have no memory of the layout which is odd considering how often I was there but I know there were towels and I know there was steam and I know there was a spa -“ I fell in to it often enough. Oh yes, and I know there was sex with real live actual people. Heaven. Well, maybe not heaven but definitely better than a webcam. No need to go through all the gruesome details, unless you really want me to, then send me a message on Gaydar (guest101). Let’s just say I was wanked, wiped, washed and pushed back out into the street to greet the sun and the early morning commuters at about 5.30am.
Home and in bed by 6.15 feeling relaxed and refreshed. I think everyone should wake up on the stairs with what I am sure is Colgate caked down one side of their face, at least once in their life.
Was there a point? Oh that’s right. Has the golden mile lost its glitter? Who knows, I was 20 -¦ okay 30-something. You can’t compare. We, I, was younger and didn’t fall asleep at 9.30 every night. I still had all of my teeth and a bum like a ripe melon, not a deflated party balloon. It was a different time, so stop the kvetching and just enjoy.