Vale Lance Leopard
Image: Lance Leopard and Lolita 2000: Darlinghurst’s beautiful people.

Marcus Pierce – known to the community as Lance Leopard – tragically passed away in Brisbane last week, along with his mother Carmel.

Lance was a well-known member of Sydney’s LGBTQI+ community and was a whipsmart and brilliant columnist for Star Observer in the 1990s. Star Observer mourns the loss of this community icon, and we send our deepest condolences to all who loved him.


by Dominic O’Grady (former Sydney Star editor)

Lance Leopard, love child of Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward, was a terrible singer but a fabulous entertainer who wrote for the Star and Capital Q about life as a raffish man-about-town.

He was a confidante and bon vivant with a taste for cravats and martinis.

Lance pronounced the word beautiful with four syllables, like a true homosexual connoisseur. He was the people’s columnist who wanted to be queen of hearts, if only he could wrestle that crown from 1997’s real Queen of Hearts, the adorable Chelsea Bun.

“I must be able to find some dirt to discredit her”, Lance wrote, “and present it in a way that makes me come out smelling like a rose”.

“You know me – if I see a dog, I’ll pat it. If I encounter a baby, I’ll hug it. If I see a ribbon, I’ll cut it. And if you hand me a glass – by God – I’ll drink it. That’s polite. Because I don’t really like champagne. You didn’t know that, did you? Well, now you do.

“My secrets are your secrets. And I’ll let you in on a big one. I don’t know what I’m wearing to Sleaze Ball. See. I’m just like everyone else. Really I am. Apart from those people who do know what they’re wearing, of course. I’m nothing like them.”

Lance Leopard: ‘He helped us see things’

If the queer publications Lance Leopard wrote for were a parade of expressive tricks and marvels, a whole print circus, as journalist Sylvia Lawson once described that other Sydney journal, The Bulletin, Lance Leopard was our circus magician.

He pulled rabbits out of hats, he found meaning and metaphor in the mundane and the remarkable, he helped us see things that may or may not have been there.

Mind you, he had fabulous material to work with, including but not limited to the 25 most beautiful people in Darlinghurst, among them:

Lance Leopard and Lolita 2000: Darlinghurst’s beautiful people.

Lolita 2000: That Farrah Fawcet-Majors hair. That awful silver neckerchief. That unerring belief that beauty is only skin deep.

Rodney: What’s your last name, darling? You know Rodney. He looks like Astro Boy.

Nic Frankham: Is it just me, or is Nick Frankham simply beautiful? She’s a safe sex slut. She’s a fashion daredevil. She’s even a married woman. And she gives great eulogy.

Carole-Anne King: This woman turns midnight into midday.

Kerrie Cheers: What a charming name. If lesbianism is your cup of tea, you’ll always find Kerrie Cheers in the kitchen at parties. What exactly does she do? If she was my agent, I’d be a superstar.

Chris Sharkey: It’s your dark brown velvet eyes, you delightful darling. Even if you are working for Capital Q.

After the Star published Lance Leopard’s 25 Most Beautiful People in Darlinghurst (22 May 1997), an irate reader named Stuart Everlywilson from Wentworth Falls wrote a letter to the Star editor: ‘Are you seriously sponsoring this shit? Does it have to be encouraged by your newspaper?’

‘You know I get the impression sometimes that we’re a community that’s been granted a tiny room to express ourselves in and what we do in that room, because it’s a tad too small for us all, is occupy ourselves trying to out-bitch and out-dress each other. And I get that incorrect impression largely as a result of reading your newspaper.

‘Maybe it’s time we realised that freedom isn’t an end in itself. It’s what you do with it. And before you defend Leopard’s tragic column by reminding me it’s just a joke: as a joke-teller often enough myself I prefer to be laughed with, not at! But is Leopard too out-of-it to appreciate that unsubtle difference?’

Remembering Lance and Carmel

Lance Leopard and his mother Carmel Pierce unexpectedly left the room last weekend. They died in a house fire in Brisbane. If there was ever a way to win an argument, that would have be it. But that wasn’t Lance Leopard’s style. He had no need to skewer the world’s Everlywilsons because, like the Beverly Hillbillies, they did that themselves.

Instead, Lance embodied the idea queer thinker Michael Warner spoke of, which is that we can build and inhabit a counterpublic, a kind of circus, be it an LGBT publication or a community, a club and/or a family, and our experience of the magic therein sets us free.

Michael Warner put it this way, in his book Publics and Counterpublics: ‘It is often thought, especially by outsiders, that the public display of private matters is a debased narcissism, a collapse of decorum, expressivity gone amok, the erosion of any distinction between public and private, but in a counter-public setting, such display often has the aim of transformation.’

Vale, Carmel Pierce. Vale, Marcus Pierce – known to us as Lance.

You were the columnist every editor dreams of: charming, clever and twisted. A gentleman magician who held great cards, including the queen of hearts. A Royal Flush, no less.

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