How Jillian and her Mum Hit The Town and Learned a Few Choice New Expressions and so Much More!
Show-time in Melbourne continued!
There was still another planned event to go. "How am I going to handle this?" Jillian said to herself.
Venue Number 2
What she really said to me was. "I had a couple of free tickets to the Les Girls show at St Kilda beach.
"They were given to me by a friend (Tom) who worked there as a photographer. You know the kind that muscles up to you and takes those "candid" (and she made the quote marks with fingers) photographs. Later on they bring the prints back and you have the choice to buy them or not.
"Most cases you buy them even though they're pretty awful.
"It was the big thing that used to go on in night-spots before roses.
"Now with the roses, of course, you feel like a bastard if you don't buy one for your girl, and if you do they usually die in a very short time.
"You're stuffed both ways,” she said, and I figured - she'd know.
She went on. “Tom told me all sorts of weird stories about how they operated. Female impersonator shows were relatively new to Melbourne although they had been in Sydney for some time."
For more than 50 years Stan Munro has travelled the world in drag.
When Mr Munro came to Australia from the UK in 1963 he said he landed his first job as a dancer and acrobat.
"I starred in and compeered Les Girls in Sydney and then did seven years with Les Girls in Melbourne," he said.
"It wasn't long until I was doing solo female impersonating and I have travelled the world with it ever since."
On Friday, July 27, 2012, the then 72-year-old "warmed up" the crowd before Australian pop icons 'Mental As Anything' took to the stage.
In 2013 he was still performing around Australia.
Loads of men brought their girlfriends there while their wives stayed at home thinking they were out at an 'I don't know what - gambling evening maybe'? That would probably have been better than out with a girl. And Tom said the men usually refused the photograph because they didn't want their wives to see it. He often took a quick surreptitious one anyway. The girl usually bought it.
He figured if a bloke could get a night off to take a girl to a show in St Kilda, he could probably hide a photograph.
The Dark Room
But anyway - the dark room, he told me, where they did the developing and printing of the photographs was a long narrow bit of a room at the back of the auditorium, shut off to keep out the light.
He said he often found interesting things happening, on the dark room floor amongst the spilt chemicals and off-cuts of photographs, discarded film rolls and scads of damaged negatives. He thought it was pretty gross. Lucky mum didn't see any of that. Me too. It would have been an image hard to 'unsee'.
Enough. On with the show.
“OK.” I said. “Enough of the background. Tell me the story.”
“Ha-ha yes!” She reckoned that the background was indeed fun. I agreed, but, “Let's get on with it.” she said.
“OK. We went there in a taxi. I'm not sure what mum was expecting but even after the débâcle of the Flying Trapeze she probably wasn't thinking she was going to get a man dressed up as a woman singing off-colour songs and making off-colour jokes; some of which she may not even understand.
"And lots of fellows dressed up as girls in a chorus line.
"A magician and a few other cabaret style acts.
"Actually it was quite a good show. Dinner theatre kind of thing. We sat at tables, shared with others in our case, and the food was just the usual basic institution kind of roast beef and potatoes. OK but not special and not, to be honest, what I really wanted to show her food-wise in Melbourne. Afterwards I thought that what we ate was more like the stuff she was used to and would have gone over very well."
This time it was me that did the eye-roll thing. This was getting a tad boring.
She saw me and cut to the chase. I didn't get 'The Glare' Funny that!
“The funny bit,” she said, “was what happened at the end of the evening.
"After it was all over, I went to the toilet and left mum in the foyer. Told her to wait for me. Strange really. She was usually the one to rush to the toilet as soon as a show was over. Not tonight!
"On my return – no mother.
"Now this was a bit of a shock. And not a pleasant one. How could I lose my ageing mother in a down-town venue after a show? I had no idea. Panic set in and I began running all over. Back into the auditorium, the dark-room (NO), the toilets again. Calling out 'Mum' in the dunnies is not a good thing in a drag venue in Melbourne. Still nothing. Back to the foyer.
"Then I spied a small sitting room kind of thing a bit off to the left of the foyer. I rushed in.
"There was my dear old mother, her daggy ancient handbag on her lap, her hand on a man's knee and …. the chap was Stan Munro – the star of the show. OMG. I couldn't believe it.
"She was chatting away in a very lively and almost intimate manner with a female impersonator. They were both so engrossed in conversation they didn't seem to notice me creeping up to them.
"Don't ask me what they were talking about. I have no idea. I don't want to know. Believe me."
I gathered her up, apologised to Mr Munro and made a hasty exit.
The Cab Ride
In the cab on the way home she was quiet for a long time. Then she said, 'He was a very interesting young man that Stan chap. Very clever and quite sweet. His head was shaved. I thought that was funny. Why do you think he would have a silly job like that? And why dress up as a woman?'
This time I went home horrified.