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How the success of ‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ changed the gay scene in Sydney (with Andrew Prior)

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andrew prior

Gay Sydney in the 90s was a magical time according to today’s guest, chef, youtuber and podcaster Andrew Prior, who lived very close to the city’s main gay hub, Oxford Street, in the early 90s. 

Our conversation focusses on this area, which Andred dubs the ‘gay ghetto’, at two periods of his life – the early 90s, when he was a teenager, living away from home for the first time, and the late 90s, when he was a little older (and, maybe perhaps wiser?). 

We talk all about the impact the massive success of the drag film ‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ had on Sydney’s scene, hen parties, body image, and Andrew’s lost space, The Midnight Shift. 

For more on Andrew check out Cooking Fabulously on YouTube and the Fabulously Delicious podcast, which are all about French food and the fabulous people that make it.

You can also find him via his website

Andrew Prior 0:00
So, for me, that’s validation that, yes, these venues and that ghetto, and they might be gone. But they fundamentally, they’ll always be this gay culture. And we will always have that there will always be the people that are really pushing and striving because that’s what those people were in the 80s in the 70s. In the 90s, they were people that were, they showed a different version of society.

K Anderson 0:34
Hello, my name is K Anderson and you are listening to lost spaces, the podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode I talk to a different person about a venue from their past, the memories they created there, and the people that they used to know. gays hit me in the 90s was a magical time. According to today’s guest, Chef youtuber and podcaster Andrew Pryor, who lived very close to their city’s main gay hub Oxford Street in the early 90s. Our conversation in today’s episode focuses on this area, which Andrew doubts the gay ghetto, just so you know, at two different periods in his life, the early 90s when he was a teenager, just living out of home for the first time and the late 90s, early noughties when he was a little older. And some might say wiser, I’m not sure who but some, we talk all about the massive success of the film, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and the impact that that had on the scene, and parties body image, and Andrews lost space, the midnight shift.

Andrew Prior 2:19
I talk about this a lot when I ever have sort of reunions and things like that. And we you know, we people and we start talking about the good old days, and there’s just no way that the amount of things that we did back then if there was smartphones, we just wouldn’t have done them. And I don’t know what it is. It’s like a you know, I feel like I’m sounding really old when I say that. But I’m sort of thinking, are people really going and doing the things that we used to do? Are they really going out and doing that in this day and age and people are recording it? I mean, I’m not on the app, so I don’t know what happens.

K Anderson 2:55
So okay, maybe you need to be a bit less vague, like going out and doing the things we did what, what are you talking about?

Andrew Prior 3:03
Like going on? You know, like, are they really going and some good example? Well, you know, there’s moments when you get a little bit excited. It’s maybe a morning venue. And you know, there’s, you’ve met somebody and they’re very attractive, and you do things, and maybe you’re in the middle of a dance floor.

K Anderson 3:29
Do you work? Well, we’re not going to get into I’ll let your imagination run wild. Why say you like play Scrabble with them?

Andrew Prior 3:36
Well, that’s exactly right. Yes, you pay the middle of the dead for a BI. You know, there’s other people around. And that’s why it’s good because they’re knocking the board. And you know that that that means you can get more points because your word. We’re playing Scrabble on the middle of the dance floor. So there’s no way I would play Scrabble on the middle of the dance floor if I was had the opportunity to be photographed. I mean, you could imagine that

K Anderson 4:02
even if you were getting a triple word score,

Andrew Prior 4:04
yes, even if you’re getting a good score, and I have seen that on the dance floor before. And I’m sure those people that were doing the triple would score would not want to be photographed at the time.

K Anderson 4:17
Okay. So those those nights then when you were at home, and you were trying on clothes, and you were looking in the mirror, what was like, what was stopping you from leaving the house?

Andrew Prior 4:30
How I looked in the mirror? Definitely. So Sydney at that time was there was a lot of gym bunnies, so to speak. It was a lot of about the way that you looked. And so I didn’t really fit in with that. And I think that also, I think from growing up when I was a kid, I’m adopted. So I do attribute a lot of that stuff to being adopted. I think that I found out from the kid up the road, told me that I was adopted when I was like 12. My parents and, and so I do think that that had a big, big impact. And so I knew that I was different with being gay. But I just sort of never had that. It’s something I attribute a lot of people that are adopted is that they always want to be loved. Because you kind of think, why did your parents give you up? And so I think that I just always wanted to be loved. So if somebody made just the smallest remark about me, that would be something that I would keep in my head for ages and ages. And for some reason, I don’t know why, but it was never the gay thing. I mean, I got called. I don’t know if you could say, Paul froning. Well, can you say poofter?

K Anderson 5:51
Well, yeah,

Andrew Prior 5:54
I don’t know. But look, this is what they used to call me. So I can only say I’m only saying it, because that’s what they used to call me. But they used to call me poofter prior. And I had that every day from at school. And I would, I’d have to wait there was this, we used to walk in mass online, from the school to the train station to get the train. So I had to stay at school, and walk at the back of that line. Because if I got to the train station early, I’d get bashed, if I was in the middle of that line, I’d get harassed or bashed. So I stayed at the the end of the line and had to run to get the train. And then make sure I was in the same carriage as what the guard was on. And that was my daily experience. And for some reason, I never had an issue with being gay. But if say for an example, one of those kids said that I was fat. Or if my mother said that, no, you’re not wearing that because you don’t look good enough because it was like it was possibly something that was probably a bit too gay. But I would I would take offense and and really internalize and overthink about that about the way that I looked. Or the things that I was doing, but not the gay thing.

K Anderson 7:09
Do you think that that’s because one of those things you have control over and one of those things you don’t?

Andrew Prior 7:18
Maybe Yeah, maybe? For some reason, I just thought that other people when it came to being gay, that was other people’s problems, not mine.

K Anderson 7:27
Yeah, it’s really interesting. Like I’ve had, I’ve got the same kind of experience. It was always just like, Oh, yeah, okay, yeah, I’m gay. And then but like, I would beat myself up over all of these other things about me that people found a problem within and wanted to criticize. Yeah.

Andrew Prior 7:44
So so I left school at 15. And then I left home at 17 and went straight to Sydney. So I grew up in Wollongong just on the outskirts of Sydney, and then went straight to Sydney. And basically, it was all gay, gay, gay. From there. I mean, my first, the first place that I that I lived in was Taylor square. So that was like the heart of gay, Sydney. And for one of the better word it was the ghetto. ghetto. Because that’s one

K Anderson 8:19
sample. So don’t

Andrew Prior 8:20
sorry. Um, and so yeah, you that’s what we did. We all went there. So okay.

K Anderson 8:30
So I’m gonna ask like an ignorant question. Like casting your mind back. You didn’t have the internet or smartphones, like you get to Sydney? Like, how did you find the gays?

Andrew Prior 8:45
Again, it’s I don’t know, it’s something weird. It was just sort of a VM. It’s sort of happened before I moved, like when I was, I remember. I think I was 14 was the first time I went into like a gay venue. 1415 I had my school bag with me at the time. So I was still in school. And I remember it had something like Guns and Roses rule on it or something like that. Remember, I I mean, secretly, I was listening to banana ROM a bit. Of course, I didn’t write there on my my school bag. I know. And they did real. Moving right along. It just I just found it. I don’t know why I don’t know how I just remember walking along one day and just walking past the shop. And like it was a bookshop. I went in there, and they were like, Oh, what’s this? Yeah. So finally, I had this conversation just the other day with somebody about with a mother about, you know, kids getting internet on porn and things like that on the internet these days. And I’m saying and I said, Oh, I said, I kind of found the same sort of thing before there was internet. It’s just a natural thing to do. I mean, obviously, it’s a bit different these days. But I just, you know, the the premise is still the same, I think. And so

K Anderson 10:03
and you just kind of like honed in you just Yes. Okay. It was like a sixth sense. I sorry, interesting.

Andrew Prior 10:09
No, no, like I’m gay, gay, gay. So I think that that’s I think that fundamentally you find your own

K Anderson 10:17
human it wouldn’t have been like a flag or anything else. No, no. But you just need to say like we do. We’re just going to talk about me for a minute. So sorry about that. Yes, just chugged along. Now, I’ll let you talk. Quickly, let me start the clicker. This will be over with, you just jogged my memory that when I was really young, like I was obsessed with music, I used to just spend so much time in the record shop. And I would have been like, nine or 10, or something. And the guy in the record shop said to me, oh, have you heard of the new Michelle needed cello album? Like, what? What do you like? Well, I don’t know. I don’t know who that is. I don’t know what you’re talking about. But now like, just thinking back. I’m like, Oh, my God, he was totally like, just signalling. Like, you’re cleared. I’m queer. You should get this record. Yeah. Oh, yeah. It’s just fascinating how we used to find each other in organic ways.

Andrew Prior 11:18
No, true. And I think it is. It was a sixth sense. And I, I don’t want to sound old here. Because I’m only 48. I know you wouldn’t believe that by looking at me. Oh, sorry. Oh, really? Are Not exactly. Thank you. I know, I don’t look a day over 27 and a half in donkeys. But some, I think that there’s a bit of that lost with things like abs and I won’t get on my soap box about it. That you know, used to be able to walk down the street and give a guy a log. And the next thing you knew you might have been, you know, in their apartment or behind your thing, playing Scrabble. Exactly. That used to be a time and it wasn’t just because we lived in like I lived in Sydney, the you know, one of the gay capital of the world most amazing place to be in the 90s in the naughties. It really was. It wasn’t because of that it was just this is, you know, this would happen in a in a country town. This is what would happen. It’s the things that people sort of, you know, when you when people write about things, or do movies about things, they try to pick up on that this this look that people give, and there is something in that it is a sixth sense. I think it’s sort of just something clicks.

K Anderson 12:39
Well, you know, I have to snag your space. So what happens now? like there isn’t that spontaneity, if you see someone in the street and you’re like, Oh, I think they were looking at me rather than like following it up and like going and like seeing what happens. You put grind around and see whether they’re on Grindr and then start a conversation with him there

Andrew Prior 12:58
he is and you know why one of the reasons why we had to do that is Metro sexuality. We made all these straight guys like really hard we you know we did we like said oh, let’s all be like midsole get the gate the straight guys to look like been the become and let’s get them all to go, you know? Oh, it’s like fabulous. All these boys like us. And now when we walk up the street, we can’t tell who’s gay or Who’s your opinion? It’s outrageous.

K Anderson 13:26
Oh, come on. Now. Come on. I

Andrew Prior 13:27
live in a small French country town. And I say to my husband all the time. Do you think he’s gay? And we go Nah, he’s just strange.

K Anderson 13:35
Sorry for any French listeners out there. Sorry about that. Well. So Sydney in the 90s. You rock up, you move into a share house?

Andrew Prior 13:48
Yes. So one of the many places I mean, I’ve lived in many places. Which is a common thing. For people Oh, my husband, my now husband and I were chatting. The other day. I always like to reference a queen By the way, in when I talk, my now husband and I. We were talking about this the other day, I think we both lived in something like 30 or 40 different places. I mean it in fact, at one stage we actually lived in the same building at the same time in the same apartment but on different floors. So I was in the first floor and he was on the eighth floor. And we never knew each other we wouldn’t and I don’t think we see we didn’t see each other in the lift because I was on the first floor. Oh you always used to walk up and down the stairs. And that was just, I mean you know, Peter, this is 19 whatever it is no pitch pitcher. This is Sydney in the 90s in the 90s you had the old Bri hotel, the Flinders hotel, the Oxford hotel, the exchange DCMS midnight shift. The are there’s just so many other bars that I can the Bentley bar. And then the not so the gay bars that was sort of gave the you know, there was I can’t remember the name of it now the courthouse, that’s it. And then later on arc DCMS, there was just so many venues in the one street, sort of all, you know, mile magic mile, I think they used to call something like, Sydney was a really amazing place to be as a young guy, and to live in that time, because this was a time for me, I grew up with the Grim Reaper was this ad campaign in Australia about HIV and getting HIV AIDS. So I grew up that you always had sex with a condom, we didn’t have prep, we didn’t have that. It was that you had sex or you didn’t. And we didn’t have the internet with bareback porn and things like this that sort of influenced people it was, it was really, for one of a better term a scare monger, you know, sort of thing that this is what you have to do. And as a somebody that was, you know, like I was in 1990, when I moved out of home and moved to Taylor straight, I was 17, I was still I wasn’t legally supposed to be able to go to pubs. And so, you know, I didn’t have that group of friends who had friends that are passed away, or we’re passing away, always creating new friends. And so for me, and that generation, it was a really amazing and, like, I think very positive space. Because it is where we found acceptance. And when I say, you know, we created our own my own new family. You know, my family, they didn’t check me out. But I left because it wasn’t the best environment. I, I talked about my parents, they both passed away now. And they were amazing. I’m adopted, actually. And they adopted me as a baby. And they already had three kids their own, so they didn’t need to do that. But I just described them as they weren’t the Oprah generation. They didn’t get taught to talk about feelings and things like that, you know, my mom’s my mom’s mom was sick as a Barkin. And my mom’s father was Italian and died at a very young age. So she didn’t have that sort of, you know, she was sort of had to look after her siblings, so to speak, so. And they had no gay people in their life. And so, you know, I remember my mother saying to me, she found my porn one day, and she threw it at me and told me my father hates effing puffers. And you know, like, it took a long while for her to it wasn’t really until I met Peter, that my husband, that she really accepted her husband was gay. Well, I have a husband. Yes, sorry. I should have told you that before we started.

K Anderson 18:13
He hadn’t mentioned him.

Andrew Prior 18:16
So it wasn’t until I met him that she could then relay could my parents could then relate to something, you know, how can they relate to me going out and dancing and going to the Mardi Gras and being in the Mardi Gras? How can they relate to these things? When there was no examples of that in their society? There was no sort of, you know, their friends didn’t have friends that were gay. There was nothing, you know, they were from the This was middle class working class Australia. Yeah, it’s

not right now.

K Anderson 18:46
So I’m not like in what I’m about to say, I’m not trying to like insult your parents or anything. I’m just trying to ask a question. And I think it’s probably similar with my parents in that they kind of want my life to follow a particular pattern. But the fact that we are queer means that we get to reject that heteronormative set of expectations that are thrust upon us. And so do you not feel like it’s kind of a bit hard to know? Like, we’ll accept you if you’re playing by a certain set of rules?

Andrew Prior 19:17
No, so my theory, I don’t have kids, and I don’t think I ever will. I’ve got Golden Retrievers. And if you’ve ever met my golden retrievers you understand why I say that I probably shouldn’t have kids. Because, yes, how do you ever see those parents with the kids running around in the background, destroying other people’s places? That’s like my golden retrievers. But I sort of I’ve always said, I have this theory. I actually know I think I stole it from somebody. I think somebody else said that. Your your childhood and your parents relationships. It’s all about expectations. And so when you’re Your parents have expectations on you, as a child of who you’re going to grow up and be. And you as you get older, then have expectations on your parents of who they should be. And it’s just a downward spiral. Because nobody can live up to anybody’s expectations, you can only live up to your own, basically, you set goals for yourself, and you do things that you want to do during life. And I don’t think that you can go like, so. Over and over intellectualising on this, I think that, you know, they did the best that they could do. And I think all parents really do. And I just think that, yeah, I can’t, I think that if my parents were around now, and I was growing up as a 16/17 year old, and they had all of the things that we have now, and that they had lived through when they were a kid, they’d grown up and watched over and all of that sort of stuff. And they’d seen RuPaul, drag race and all of that sort of stuff, my parents would have been like, you know, you go, like, ah, are you like, you know, they would have been really supportive, because I think that it would have been something that they would know. And they would do, up until a certain point, like if they had to pay for me to be a drag queen, to go to drag queen lessons, they probably wouldn’t. Yeah, that’s because I was actually a very good ballroom dancer, I could just say, when I was child, and then when I was supposed to get private lessons, they stopped because that was going to cost too much. So there was my strictly dancing, ballroom dancing, Korea, just, you know, squat.

K Anderson 21:39
And now I just, you know, it might be that, like, I’m bringing all of my own kind of commitment issues and things to this. But, you know, there’s lots of people that I talked to that are like, when I was coming out, I didn’t want to tell my parents until I had a boyfriend or until I had a girlfriend, because then it would be acceptable to them, because then I could show them that I could kind of be happy and live a happy life. And I just think it’s kind of like, you can be happy on your own.

Andrew Prior 22:08
Well, this is a bugbear I have a bit at the moment. I’m not with everything, but with a lot of with a lot of culture at the moment, it seems to be that you know, to be accepted, and I get I get shouted down from this within friends when I bring this up. So I’m probably going to get shouted down on your podcast

K Anderson 22:25
by me or by my listeners, everybody,

Andrew Prior 22:28
everybody Oh, get ready to be accepted that we have to get married and have kids. And, you know, I find that difficult because it’s I don’t want to have children. And look, I’m happy that I’m married is the best husband I’ve ever had. He could also be the best third husband I’ve ever had. But we will see about that. It’s been a good 1517 years now so I’m probably won’t happen I’m too old. But you know, Joan Collins is a big inspiration.

Actually, sorry.

But no. Why is it that we see all of this on within straight life on television, people take the shading of grain they, you know, that they’re bringing in all of these, you know, sort of other different sexualities and relationships and and and things on television that we can see this in society in books and movies. But we can’t see that with gay life. Like, you know, if they if they did a biopic on the village people I bet none of them would have sex. It seems to be the the the road to acceptance. And this is where I get myself in trouble. The road to acceptance is about about getting married and having kids Yeah, conforming. And that’s what I really can I just say, I really love about this generation now. Because I think it was this was like for us sort of five years ago or so. But what I’m really liking now is these these people that are coming out and going just, you know, this is who I am for one of the better. Like, you know, the ones that great. The greatest showmen song, this is who I am today, you know, everybody’s out there doing that now. And I think that is great. I think you know, if you want to be the person that is all about makeup, and you know that you walk out and you’re all male clothes, and you’re wearing makeup, and that’s the way that you want to be that’s fabulous if you want to be going off on a dance floor and playing triples score. scramble. That’s fabulous. I think people are doing that now. Like right now, I think it might be partly because of the pandemic. Who knows that might be partly because people are just sort of like, Okay, well, we were we are accepted. There was all these people that didn’t go out and get married and have kids and good on them more power to them. It’s great, good on you. But there’s a whole lot of us that don’t and there’s a whole lot of us out there in the world that are being embraced and we’re fine. I think those people, especially this generation now, are finding that new No, they didn’t have to do the thing that we did, we had to create a ghetto. To do that, we had to create this space in Darlinghurst. In in New Town, that was where we all lead, and we were all the same. And thankfully, in the world, we don’t have to do that anymore. That they can just, you know, you can be a drag and be a queen in the middle of Wisconsin. And you can do it and, you know, in good old gay London town,

K Anderson 25:35
I mean, it’s kind of this pendulum swinging, like, does it then, like, set these expectations that you have to be different? No, because just well, who’s to say we’re all different? Exactly, No, exactly. But like, what are these people that are like, their life’s ambition is to get married and have children to obey now feeling the pressure that they need to not do that?

Andrew Prior 25:57
Well, maybe they are. But then, but then that they will realise that that’s the same thing that happened to my parents, like, that’s the same thing that happened. My parents, I often saying that my parents were also i don’t think meant to have children. They didn’t I don’t think they particularly liked raising four kids. They never gave me interested in that they did. And my siblings definitely have issues over my parents who as I mentioned, they’re both they’re both deceased now. But my siblings still have issues about my parents. And the fact that they weren’t the best grandparents. And I’m thinking to myself, hold on, like, like, they’re passed away now, like, get over it, like he can’t, he can’t bring back the past, you can’t make them better grandparents, when they’re no longer here. You can’t make them better parents, you just have to accept that this is who they are, and move on with your life. And I mean, I did that when I was 1820. And they haven’t. And I think that, you know, I’ve met plenty of people that have been in relationships and never had children, and have been relationship for you know, like their whole life, and be married and not have children. So I think that, you know, society, in a way pressured my parents to have children.

K Anderson 27:17
Because that’s the thing like for me, when, you know, when I came out to my parents, they just assumed that I was going to be like this promiscuous, study, gay, and then kind of not that there’s anything wrong with that. Oh, no, I mean, like, they were totally on the mark. But they then just, they then just benched all of their like expectations that I was going to get married and have children. And so I never get that pressure from them. I never get like, Oh, so when are you going to settle down? And when are you going to have kids? They just kind of expect that I’m out there, whoring it up. And like, so for a straight person, it must just be so annoying to have that conversation with your parents all the fucking time when they’re like, oh, by the way, when you when you’re getting married, don’t you think it’s about time that you had children like that must be hellish. And like, so you must, it must just be easier just to have a kid?

Andrew Prior 28:09
Yes. And get married. And hence the reason why you get divorced. Yeah, I know. It’s that’s interesting. I mean, you know, like I always with, you know, Peter is the first boyfriend I’ve ever had. What? Yep. So I had one for six weeks. But that was years. And so I don’t really class that as a boyfriend, six weeks. But so then, you know, it was 15 years before we got married, that we were together and we didn’t move in for the first year of being together, we sort of like that was the end. You know, we just did it our way, the way that we wanted to do it, our relationship. And I think that’s what when it works. Yeah, is when you just don’t conform to other people’s rules and stereotypes and all of that sort of stuff. We are just Peter and Andrew. So we’re the Peter and Andrew show. Which if anybody wants to contact me, you can borrow my website. Permission happy to do that. Yeah. Just so that, you know, though I am the star and Peter will be the silent character. That will be in the contract. He’s a lawyer. I’ll make sure that he puts that in. But yes, let’s get back to the midnight shift. Yes.

K Anderson 29:29
Okay. So

Andrew Prior 29:29
for me, I’d like to there was two different times of the 90s. For me, and especially it was really interesting in regards to the shift. Because for me the midnight shift when I was really a young guy, I mean, I was not supposed to be there. I was under age. But nobody ever checked, but it used to be a refuge so to speak. So I would fall asleep in the back of the in the back of the those like these little boobs. With lounges in them at the back of the upstairs bar, which was a dance floor, and there’d be dance music going, and I would fall asleep in the, in the booth at the back because I’d be waiting for the first train home to warn, gone. And it was safer to sleep there than it was to sleep at the, at the station. God knows how I fell asleep when there was dance music going on in the background and Scrabble

K Anderson 30:22
games to be played

Andrew Prior 30:23
and scrambled. I think for me, it was very much a refuge and a place to go to. And I don’t think that I was really heavily involved in a sort of a gay family, so to speak, I sort of had a few friends. But it was just more acquaintances, you had your flatmates, but that was it. I didn’t really have a lot of friends until I saw I then moved sort of midnight 90s, I moved to the inner West, and then came back. And in the inner West, I sort of found a family of and I sort of stuck with that group for a good 15 years. They were like my best friends and we did everything together. And that’s sort of that later part of the 90s. It was magical, the shift, and you know, they renovated it, it used to be called Tropicanas. And so I used to do drag in the Albury for a little period of time, bad drag, I

K Anderson 31:28
will say, Can we say let’s go back? Let’s go back. So you had like you dipped your toe into the gay scene when you still lived in Wollongong? And then you moved to Sydney when you were 17? Yep. Did you have like a career plans or aspirations? Or was it just I am going there to just have

Andrew Prior 31:50
I was gay. And so I worked part to party and I work to pay for that. I remember going from dance party to my job. And yes, those were the days we were living the gay life like a kkk. You know, when you when we had Mardi Gras, Mardi Gras was on that day. And the next day, we just used to sit there with our front door open. And we would take out chairs out and sit out on the street on the footpath with sun chairs and just like be like talking to people that would just go past and if they would cute, we’d invite them in. And there was just such a community there. Like it was really a fabulous space. And you know, you you could stay in that bubble. And I mean, I did, I stayed in that bubble for a very long time. And didn’t go out of it. And that made it safe. So I didn’t have that experience. If I was continually going from Wollongong to go to a venue every day, every night. I know that I would come across things that I didn’t come across when I was in Australia. And so occasionally you get people drive past and yell out your own fmds or you know, you poofter or something like that. But you really didn’t get to experience some of the other things that people do that didn’t have that opportunity that didn’t come into into the into the ghetto, so to speak. It was it was Yeah, it was a great space to be in and that night, he said I mean are when you had Mardi Gras. That was just amazing. Like, you know, I never I never went overseas before I met Peter. And the reason being is that we would I would always take my four week holidays at Mardi Gras. So in Australia, you get four weeks off every year from your job, and we would take them at Mardi Gras because that was the party like that was the it was a month long experience. And every from everyone, every gay from around the world would come to Sydney and go to Mardi Gras. You know, in the 90s a million people were watching the parade like you know we’re coming in to watch it there was so many people now they struggle to get 250,000 to come in and watch these were people especially Americans were like coming in boatloads coming over and they would they would stay for you know the places like the shift the Aubrey all those places would be completely different. You know, especially, you know, they were just completely changed we full of all of these tourists full of all these people from around the world. And so yeah, you just you take four weeks off and just go to the same pub that you went to every night before then you did it but it was like you were on a holiday

K Anderson 34:44
because it was full of strangers

Andrew Prior 34:46
strangers and you didn’t have to get up the next day to go to work. Like you know you meet a guy and then you know sometimes one Mardi Gras you might have this sort of like four week fling if you are lucky enough to meet them. The man have like my friends that we’d all have like, you know, we’d meet somebody right at the first week at the launch party, and then, you know, you’d break up the week after that Mardi Gras was on. So it’s four weeks later, you’ve broken up, like, that’s not a boyfriend. But oh, my God, oh, my God, my boyfriend shows up to come back to the state.

K Anderson 35:20
So let’s talk about the midnight shift. And should I call it a shift? If I want to appear like a regular?

Andrew Prior 35:26
Yes, yes, you should call it the shifts. Now I was going to say that’s okay. That’s the story I was going to tell you. So it used to be called Tropicana. And so this is before my time that I, when I lived in Australia, I was telling you when I lived in when Lara, I was doing drag at the old break. And I remember sitting there and talking to this some drag queen called Monique St James no Monique St John always got them confused. There was a Monique St James and Monique St John’s. And they were like part of the original Les Girls. And if you ever had the opportunity to sit down and get drunk and talk all night with one of them, it was just a fantastic opportunity, because you had all these old stories. But she was telling me the story about how when it was called Tropicana, so they’d be doing the girls would be doing their shows. And they get a call from the manager that you need to take the outfits home today and clean them. And then the next day, they’d wake up, and there’d be a story in the paper that they’d been fired up. And that was how they got a new, the club would be rejuvenated. And they do this nearly every, every year or so apparently. I know. But this shift that, that I know, I mean, it comes in two phases, the early 90s. For me, there was the upstairs bar, and there was all about dancing. And you know, you’d get there at 10 o’clock in the evening, or like, one o’clock the next day, even. And you’d leave at 10 o’clock in the morning or nine o’clock in the morning. We had a group, as I mentioned before, a group of 10 1215 friends and over this course of 10 odd years or more, that we would just meet there. And that was our sort of space where you would be at one of the pool tables at the back in the beginning of the evening, and then make a way to the dance floor. And we would do this pretty much every night. I mean, there was a period there where I would go out pretty much seven nights of the week. Because you could because you lived up the road.

K Anderson 37:43
Can you imagine doing that now?

Andrew Prior 37:47
But then, you know, what can I just say that’s also not an age thing, because like they were people that were in their 40s 50s doing it then I don’t know what it is. It’s interesting. You just move. I mean, I’m living in the French countryside.

K Anderson 38:01
But there’s far more television as well like to catch up yes or no? How could I watch the house if you’re going out every night and I wanted to ask. So in 94 Priscilla comes out Muriel’s Wedding comes out. And there’s this like huge moment of gay being in the mainstream, and it being kind of embraced and accepted. Did you notice that shift and that difference or Oxford stall?

Andrew Prior 38:30
Absolutely. So in a way, I will say that they will was so Priscilla caused the death of one bar and the birth of another. So the Albury in my humble opinion. This is just my humble opinion. There was probably many factors to it but as a as a religious goers of the Aubrey, I would go there all the time. I did drag there I am out there. A famous gay footballer once cracked on to me there.

I said no, I was

why he wasn’t my tie.

K Anderson 39:12
wasn’t my time. You need the story for later. Now,

Andrew Prior 39:15
if I turn I’ve got plenty of stories. Hello, I’m the only person to be medically retired from Master Chef. I’ll make my own stories. So the Aubrey really because it was sort of the heart of drag. in Sydney at the time. You had sort of to sort of feel you had the people in new town that were doing shows that the new tanaman the old, the Imperial, which is where a lot of Priscilla was filmed, but the old Bri was the sort of the Eastern suburb site of of drag. It was a different type of drag. There was a lot of younger drag like myself. And so what happened to the Aubrey was the hen nights, the straight girls. She Just absolutely took over the place. And at that at that was because of Priscilla, because it was great in the beginning because it was the, you know, they were coming with us. But then it got to the stage that it just became uncomfortable because they were coming then with their boyfriends and not with their gay friends. And I just became an uncomfortable space. And I think that the iron was sort of just got a bit sick of it, and they got all made an offer a real estate offer that they couldn’t refuse. And that was the end of the bar. And I think that they really just sort of got a bit sick of that. Whereas on the other point of view, the Imperial was just somewhere that we just sort of went and we saw a show, and you didn’t hang out afterwards. And you went there after the new town shows, and you really only went if you’re a real diehard fan on the drag queens that were going there, apart from maybe on a Friday night, that, you know, my drag, actually when I did drag was part of that Priscilla thing, because they absolutely just took off, and they couldn’t put on enough shows. And they didn’t have enough drag queens. And I remember, thankfully I had this. Caroline Clark was the drag queen, she’s now passed away. And Kevin was a really good friend to me. And he and I had a conversation. And after a show, where I said, this is really what you want to do. Because you know that when you’re out, people are going to know you as Andromeda. And that was what was starting to happen. So people would come and hang out with us at the shift. And they would be calling me Andromeda, and I’m a boy. And like, that’s not good for what I wanted to pick up and have a row. Just so that everybody knows root in Australian is the technical term for playing Scrabble.

K Anderson 41:50
Thank you for saying that, because it was going through my mind. Like, should I interject?

Andrew Prior 41:54
And, and, and Caroline was right, and wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want that. And she could see that. So I didn’t pursue that sort of drag career.

K Anderson 42:05
So work so so because drag was cock blocking you. You gave it up?

Andrew Prior 42:10
Yes. Yes. But that yeah. I mean, it wasn’t. That wasn’t a bad thing. No, no, I didn’t see it as a bad thing. But no, yeah, I just I like, I didn’t really know who I was. I mean, I don’t really think I knew who I was until I was 30. But just to get back a bit about the the the Imperial at that time, the purchase of any sort of thing there was that. It took off from that that movie. And that then created a space there that was I think it was more inclusive than what was happening at the Aubrey because they really put money into the shows and the shows were like they actually had a Priscilla’s show there and it ran for ages, like years, and years and years. But yes, Priscilla change things. I think that going back to Oxford Street, it really did change Oxford Street, a lot more girls used to come. And I think a lot more people came to Mardi Gras because of Priscilla. And so that was a good thing. But again, you know, bad things as well abroad. You know, some attention on the place that maybe wasn’t really what we wanted,

K Anderson 43:30
like, like, kind of queer tourism kind of thing where people began to look.

Andrew Prior 43:37
Yes. I remember sitting with a friend at watching Mardi Gras out the front of the shift. And she bought her daughter and I cringe when she said that she told her daughter that we were going to see the circus.

Unknown Speaker 43:53
And it’s like, yeah, yeah.

Andrew Prior 43:58
But you like there wasn’t representation, then there wasn’t thing. So how can she explain to her to her daughter in the early 90s? what it was, there wasn’t that there wasn’t anything to compare for? I’m not justifying that. But I’m just saying that is not. I didn’t jars

K Anderson 44:19
were like, couldn’t you’ve said there was like a Christmas parade?

Unknown Speaker 44:24
Well, yes,

K Anderson 44:27
yes. All right. Let’s get together.

Andrew Prior 44:30
Yes. I think that’s a hindsight again, it’s like the parent argument. I just Yeah, I don’t I don’t I think we all learned from our lessons. And it’s about what we say now. And I’m sure that in 20 years time people are going to be talking about the things that we’ve said today. Oh, yeah. And how would we

K Anderson 44:49
know? But isn’t it just so interesting that those kind of microaggressions they just stay with you like that stayed with you all this time. And it wasn’t herring. intention to offend you or upset you. But she’s effectively said like, you are a circus freak.

Andrew Prior 45:07
Yes. And people, there was this I haven’t higher I think when you we, when, when you’re younger things, uh, you know, things are different. The way that you act and the way that you say things to each other and stuff, I, I, when I turned 30, I really started to accept myself more and accept my body and who I was, and I would was a lot more comfortable in my body. And I remember the very first time I was dancing on the dance floor at the shift downstairs. hot summer day really, really hot inside. And I took my shirt off. So I Whoo, I danced without my shirt on. And my best friend told me to put my shirt back on. And I just thought, yeah, no, and you’re not really that good a friend at the moment? Like, why would he care like that? I was like, didn’t have my shirt on, when like, pretty much half the bar didn’t have this shirt on. Like, why did he care what I look like, what because I was hanging out with him. And so I took my shirt off, and I didn’t go to the gym for like, six months beforehand, or leave out half the people in the bar was hot, sweaty day. But people just say stupid things. Sometimes I’d say them all the time. But you know, that’s why I have a podcast.

K Anderson 46:34
Well, yeah. And like most of the time when people say something to you, it’s really about them. But like, you know, you can understand that on one level while still being fucked up about it on another. Yes. So best just not to talk to people is what I think yes. Just Just avoid them.

Andrew Prior 46:54
Yes. What was hard to do when we used to go there. But then again, that was the death knell I think I’m Well, I think that the death knell for me of going out was that I met my husband.

K Anderson 47:06
This sounds familiar. Yeah.

Andrew Prior 47:08
But one of the things that came across with that was also that and I think this happened in our group all the time, that nobody really stepped out of the group for longer than, say, six months. Or if they did, they usually brought their partner their boyfriend with them. And they they became part of the group and the family, but not a lot of us like a lot of this. We’re always just single and single for the whole time that we were there, guys a group together. And I think that one of the things that happened was that Peter, like he or really party, he wasn’t like a party queen. So we met at three o’clock in the morning at the shift. I remember distinctly, I was dancing on the dance floor. My with inner corner to Christina Aguilera is beautiful. And there was somebody else there

K Anderson 48:03
was a dance was a dance remix?

Andrew Prior 48:06
No, no, yes, it was it was actually it might not have been. Yeah, I don’t think it was the heyday. That wasn’t the heyday of the midnight shift. Good. I just, I was dancing to Christina Aguilera is beautiful. And I thought, yeah, no, I’m the only one on the dance floor. Actually, there was somebody else on the dance floor at the same time as me. And I looked over and I thought he’s gonna think that I’m interested in him. And I’m not because we’re both the only people dancing on the dance floor to this beautiful song. And I think it’s about time I went home because I was the only one there like, none of my friends were there that night. And I thought, yeah, I’m gonna go home and I was walking out the door and walked past and saw Peter and I gave him a bit of a look. And I continued to walk and I thought, look, I’ll just turn around and see these they’re just turned around. I saw that he was there. And the rest is history. And we’ve been together ever since long 17 years. So so people free up the gay nightclubs in the morning, three o’clock in the morning of April. So you were a hot sweaty mass.

K Anderson 49:20
You just been like emoting Yes. Christina Aguilera is beautiful. What was the first thing you said to him?

Andrew Prior 49:27
But no, but I was in a hot sweaty mess. I was beautiful. I no matter what you say.

K Anderson 49:33
I’m not saying you weren’t beautiful. Painting painting a picture here. What was the first thing you said to each other?

Andrew Prior 49:41
I’m not gonna say cuz I’ll get. Oh, we didn’t say anything we just passed. And now that’s all I’m gonna say. That’s the way I remember it. Anyway, Peter remembers that a different way. And this is what happens when you’ve been with someone for 17 years. It all gets blurry.

K Anderson 50:00
So just another quick translation for listeners. Ash means snark and snug means case. Yes. So like, so the venue had has a very big significance for you being it’s where you met your husband? Yes. Do you remember hearing about it closing?

Andrew Prior 50:21
Yes. And, look, I’m very sad that it closed I think, again, my humble opinion, I think it was a perfect storm that caused that to close, to be honest. And also, can I just say a perfect storm, the cause the whole of the Sydney scene to just like, it’s just not around. Like, it used to be, like, you know, like I talked about it before in the 90s, like, we’re talking about it was multiple venues like you had like, almost like at least 10 or 12 different venues just on the one street, that you were comfortable, and that you could go to. And that’s just not there now. But I think that the perfect storm that happened in Sydney was and people, a lot of people say apps change things. And I don’t blame apps, because in Melbourne, there’s still plenty of clubs that have been around for a long time. And there’s new clubs have opened up and around the world or even you know, in Paris, there’s clubs, and I think I don’t think you can blame apps and for everything, but in Sydney, I think that it was a combination of apps, it was a combination of acceptance from everybody, so you didn’t have to go to a ghetto anymore. You could just go to your local pub and and you have you know, a group of friends that accepted you so app’s acceptance and the property the it was that the council’s and wanted to rezone and and have residential buildings there and, and just basically change up the whole of that area and that whole of Oxford Street. And so it became this perfect storm. And that’s why I think you’ve seen venues close there. And also, property prices in Australia are so expensive, and there’s no way as a young guy, you could afford to live no matter what your income, like. Wages may be really good in Australia, but you couldn’t afford the house that we used to live in in Surry Hills. I mean, I think I paid like $80 a week for my room. That was a three bedroom house. So what’s that? That’s like, I think yeah, I think it was like $220 a week or something around for a three bedroom house in Surry Hills like, and that was expensive. There’s no way that people like people are paying a fortune. Now, for that sort of stuff. There’s no way that young guys could go there and live in a shared house and have that same experience. So yeah, I think it was it’s really sad. I mean, there’s all these venues that, you know, when we were there, when I was there, I experienced the Aubrey closing. And what happened when the Aubry close was that, for me, especially drag moved to the west. So it was cemented there because of Priscilla. And so when the ovary closed, you went to the new channel in the Imperial to see drag shops. And yeah, there were still drag shows in on opposite Street. But it’s not what I went for. It wasn’t the type of drag that I wanted and like that a lot of people wanted to go see. So it was more regulated to sort of, you know, the odd bar or two and you went to Oxford Street to dance and hang out with people who play pool and stuff like that. So when all the other venues started to close, you know, the Flinders you know, even I think Ark, it changed after a while and from my, from what I understand. So, you didn’t have DCM you didn’t have the exchange? That was sort of the death knell, and then the night shift became one of them.

And it was sad.

K Anderson 54:07
Do you have any memories of Sydney’s queer scene that you want to share? Well, if you do, I would love to hear from you. I want to build the biggest record of queer spaces and the memories that they held. Find me at La spaces podcast.com and go to the page submit a space. You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as last spaces on. Find out more about Andrew by checking out cooking fabulously on YouTube and the fabulously delicious podcast which are all about French food and the fabulous people that make it. You can also find him via his website. Andrew Pryor fabulously calm Don’t worry, I’ll make sure that this is all in the show notes before the program. Last basis is not only a podcast, but a concept record as well. I have been writing songs about queer venues and the memories that they held. And we’ll be releasing songs on a trickle basis over the coming year. You can hear the first single which is called well groomed boys and is playing underneath it. Okay. All right now, coincidentally, on all streaming platforms. If you liked this episode, I would really appreciate if you subscribe, left a review on your podcast player of choice or just told someone who you think might be interested in giving it a little listen to I am K Anderson and you have been listening to lost spaces.

 







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