Asbestos Manor on the Market!

Once in a Lifetime Opportunity to own this amazing Hervey Bay seafront property!!!

Rockhampton's Infamous Sexy Rexy

Australia's Best Ever Mayor.

Sir William McMahon, Silly Billy.

Australia's 20th PM was a bit suss...

A (near) Royal Visit.

Prince Charles upstaged by an elephant out back of the Black Stump

TV's Original Nasty Judge.

Australia's Bernard King - The Original and the Best.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Boat People

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Harper Nicholls

Harper Nicholls was a frequent sight round Gladstone in South Australia in the early 1890's, pulling round a cart, selling fruit and vegetables. He was an old man, and feeble, but still working to support himself.

He appears to have been homosexual. In 1892 he had been charged with an indecent assault and had received a sharp rebuke from the Chief Justice and 6 months gaol. Indecent assault had a much wider meaning then and a six month sentence suggests there was no coercion or violence involved and that the other party was an adult. He was probably caught masturbating someone.

He told the court he had arrived in the colony early in the century on the convict transport Buffalo and had stayed out of trouble. He would have been young then. There is mention of him as an inmate of the harsh Point Puer Juvenile prison in Port Arthur, Tasmania. He was a bystander when a warder was murdered by fellow inmates. Boys as young as nine were sentenced to transportation from England to that hell hole. Young children were placed in underground isolation cells, restricted to a diet of bread and water, and sometimes flogged with a cat-o'-nine tails.

The ruins of the underground cells at Point Puer.

Harper came before the court again in March 1895. This time he had been caught in the act of sodomy with a 19 year old man.

Some people would undoubtedly be concerned by the age difference, but remember - if it had been a 19 year old girl, Harper would not have faced prosecution. Once again there is no mention of coercion or violence.

Harper was convicted and the new Chief Justice sentenced him to 10 years with hard labour in Gladstone Gaol. Hard labour in that prison consisted of working the prison's market gardens, so at least he wasn't breaking rocks with a sledge hammer all day.

Gladstone Gaol, South Australia

But Harper was not a young man. On 22nd May 1898, he died in gaol and is buried in Gladstone Cemetery.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Rev Cuming Mocks Gay Weddings, Condemns Focus on Meat

Queensland Figaro, Saturday 3rd April, 1926.

Friday, 15 February 2013

A Whore and 3 Johns,1395

Mayor John Fressh and his fellow City of London aldermen on 11 December, 1395 set about the examination of John Britby and John Rykener who had been brought to prison after being caught committing 'detestable wrongdoings.'

John Britby confessed that while passing through Cheapside he had propositioned a woman named Eleanor for sex. Eleanor had requested payment which he had agreed to.

Bypassing the local red light centre of Gropecunt Lane, they went instead to the adjacent Soper's Lane, a ramshackle street of soap and shoemakers. Merchants left portable stalls there to sell their goods at the nearby market, the city's largest, St Paul's Churchyard. If John and Eleanor had bothered to walk on to Cock Lane, we would never had heard of them. The City of London had decided two years before in 1393 to tolerate prostitution in that area, but Gropecunt Lane had remained popular with streetwalkers as did similarly named streets across England, usually in the vicinity of a busy market.

John Britby and Eleanor lay down in an empty Soper's Lane stall and got to it, but in an unfortunate case of coitus interruptus, passing city officials noticed their frantic coupling and arrested them.   At some point it was discovered Eleanor was actually one John Rykener in a dress. While it was considered quite naughty for a straight couple to grab a quicky in a laneway at the time if both participants were male it became a 'detestable unmentionable and ignominious vice'.

Fortunately for us what was unmentionable in this case got quite a bit of mention, and the records of Eleanor/John Rykener's sex life are rather detailed.

In this 1720 map of London Cheapside St, where John Britby met Eleanor, runs along the top.
Gropecunt Lane is marked in blue in the upper right hand corner. Soper Lane was no longer . Destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, it's remains lie under what is called New Queen St on this map, and is now just Queen St.

John Rykener claimed to have been taught to cross dress by a woman called Elizabeth Bronderer who would place her daughter Alice in men's beds for 'the sake of lust' in the dark, but then substitute Eleanor while they slept and when the sun came up, accuse them of misbehaving with 'her'. There is no more detail but I get the strong impression of blackmail. First collect money from the clients for sleeping with Alice, then collect more for staying quiet about them bonking a cross dresser.

John's career options expanded when a whore called Anna taught him to 'practice this detestable vice in the manner of a woman.' Thereafter he began to actually have sex with men, rather than just pretend to.

And he had sex with many men, and women. He had sex with men while dressed as a man or as a woman, but he only had sex with women while dressed as a man.

He claimed he preferred priests to other customers because they paid better. He probably didn't do too badly - when he wasn't whoring he earned extra income as a female embroideress.

There is no record of what happened to John/Eleanor. Earlier in the 14th century homosexuals had been burnt at the stake in England (hence the word 'faggot') but times seemed slightly more tolerant  at the arse end of the century and poor people were not kept long in the hell hole of Newgate prison which is probably where he was questioned. More likely he paid a fine to the city and a bribe to his keepers and returned to  his detestable, unmentionable and ignominious pursuits (oh! and embroidery).

Thursday, 14 February 2013

A Great Big Gay Aussie Hero

Sir Robert Helpmann, one of the greatest and most versatile theatrical artists of the 20th century, was openly gay and openly Australian, and (happily, seeing I'm posting this on Valentine's Day) openly lived with another man for 36 years.

Born in rural South Australia in 1909, his mother encouraged his theatricality, which was apparently obvious from the age of 3. Valerie Lawson wrote in a wonderful article at "“When he was a little chap,” Maytie Helpman said (her son changed the spelling to Helpmann for his own use), “he used to take away my stockings and use them for tights. He would tie feathers round his head, too, and go roaming round the streets until I’m sure people thought I had a lunatic in the family.”
Other mothers might have stopped the nonsense right there. But Maytie Helpman and her husband, Sam, never said, “No, Bobby, you can’t go to dancing school. You’re three.” Or, “No, Bobby, you can’t wear that blonde wig, tutu and pointe shoes then whip off the wig at the curtain call.”"

Even today the attitude of Sam and Maytie Helpman would seem enlightened. For their era, it's astonishing. Young Bobby was onstage by the age of eight, and left school at 14. When he was 17, his father met the great Russian Ballerina Anna Pavlova, and managed to get young Bobby a place in her company.

He tread the boards for a few years in Australia, taking what limited opportunities there were, even appearing as a burlesque dancer, and then moved to England. There, his star rose swiftly and he formed one of the great ballet partnerships of all time with Margot Fonteyn. He was also, over the years, theatre director, choreographer, and star of both stage and screen. 

Ugly Step-Sister in Cinderella

One of the great dancers of the century, he was also lauded for his Shakespearean roles, and movie work including the frightening Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Sir Robert's portrayal of Child Catcher was the inspiration for
Marilyn Manson's Smells Like Children.

In the sixties Sir Robert returned to Australia as co-director of the Australian Ballet. I've read many times that Australia didn't quite know what to make of him. Here he was, a celebrated and well loved Aussie who just didn't fit the national stereotype. The country didn't know whether to be proud or embarrassed. His knighthood in 1968 must have tipped the scales to 'proud' because by the time I became aware of him on television in the seventies, he was much feted on his trips back home.

Sir Robert Helpmann and Michael Benthall

In England Sir Robert had met Michael Benthall - handsome, aristocratic graduate of Oxford, and theatre director - who went on to become Artistic Director of the Old Vic. The two lived together openly, and often worked together, until Benthall's death in 1974. Though devastated by Benthall's death, Sir Robert kept on working - acting, directing and producing until his own death in Sydney in 1986.

BY the time of his death Australia had most definitely decided that Bobby Helpmann was a son to be proud of. He was given a state funeral. His eulogy read, "a genius, an outstanding communicator of unique inspiration and insight. He asserted his rights to pursue a path that improved the quality of life of the nation, and defeated the common herd of detractors"

It's a shame we don't hear more about him these days. A flamboyant, gay, country kid, no great looker, who set out to follow his dreams, and while staying true to himself, through hard work and determination, achieved those dreams, and had the joy of a 36 year relationship.

One thing I've read time and again about Sir Robert, is that he was afraid of nothing and no one. He took life by the balls and lived it. He was a great Australian.