Riot is a telemovie on the first Sydney Mardi Gras, June 1978.
They did a good job recapturing the series of events leading up to that first Mardi Gras. I was not there, but I have posted on those who were: For the 78ers.
I was working at Sydney University in 1978 and for part of that year living in Glebe Point. Perhaps around mid-year, when that first Mardi Gras occurred, I had moved back to reside in North Wollongong, commuting to Sydney. I honestly don’t recall reading the infamous SMH stories. I was not at that time involved in the gay community.
Now posts of my own.
Back in the day… Oxford Street memories
Posted on March 9, 2014 by Neil
A rather amazing picture appeared recently on Lost Gay Sydney, a Facebook group.
That is Martin Place June 24 , 1978, according to the original post on Facebook, and there in the centre carrying a triangle flag is Ian Smith.
Requiem for a Dowager Empress
Posted on December 27, 2010 by Neil
The shocking news I alluded to earlier is that Ian Smith, aka The Dowager Empress of Hong Kong, died about a week ago.
He was a 78-er, that is a participant in the first Sydney Mardi Gras…
See also Julie McCrossin, a South Sydney friend:
JULIE McCROSSIN Hello. I’m Julie McCrossin. And this year at Mardi Gras, I’m marching with Uniting. Back in 1978, there was one truck and a few hundred people. You must be thinking, “We’ve come a long way.” And in many ways we have. But that struggle that began back in 1978 defined the struggle that continues today.
WOMAN Happy Mardi Gras
GARRY WOTHERSPOON I was born during World War II, and I had uncles and things off fighting the war. War turned people’s lives on their head. And before the war, it had been very respectable, conservative society. The Second World War changed Australian society immensely. By the time I was a teenager, in the 1950s, the police commissioner, Colin Delaney, said the two greatest threats facing Australia are Communism and homosexuality.
I was 10, and I had a very close friendship with someone I went to primary school with. And we used to, “You be the boy, I’ll be the girl.” We used to play with that. We were discovered in primary school, though, and were separated. And I do remember the absolute embarrassment and the sense that there was something wrong.
PETER MURPHY I was in a religious institution when I was young. I was going to be a priest. One evening I remember…I think we must have had a serious talk about it, so a priest said, “Oh, you know, you might have feelings for each other, and these are called special relationships in the Catholic Church, and they’re a no-no, basically.”
GARRY WOTHERSPOON I went through a heterosexual phase in my late teens and early 20s, but I always knew that I wanted something different. And so, gradually, you came to terms with where gay life was existing then. In the ‘60s, there were places you could go to. Kings Cross was it, initially. Kings Cross had always been bohemia in Sydney. The Rex at the Cross, the beer garden there, it had a bar at the back called the Bottoms Up Bar. Nice name for a gay bar. So that set the scene for the 1970s….
I at the time was somewhat outside the wilder reaches of liberation politics; nor had I ever at that stage been to any kind of gay venue. Some of what I was up to in 1978 is in this post: More livin’ in the 70s – Wollongong style.
The first Mardi Gras I attended was 1986. I wrote about this in 2001. See also:
I reached the stage a couple of years back where standing around in a crowd, no matter how friendly, does not appeal any more, so I am giving the Mardi Gras Parade a miss. However, in my wanderings around Central/Chinatown/Surry Hills I do get to see some sights, most of them pleasant on this particular occasion.
Photo somewhat indirectly from Betty Loves Blogging.
This afternoon I saw a happy group of young lesbian Aboriginal people, wearing, where they could, the inscription “ONE LOVE”. Now there are a few challenges to the diversity-phobic! 😉 Mardi Gras still can make you think, as well as laugh.
I thought as I walked home of a night around midnight some twenty years back when I was walking from The Britannia in Chippendale, then a gay pub, back to Bennett Street Surry Hills where I briefly lived. I had had a few, which may explain the conversation I had somewhere between Eveleigh Street and Prince Alfred Park. I was always a bit nervous about that nocturnal walk, I should add, and not unreasonably.
I had been accosted by a person seeking directions. Turned out to be an Aboriginal transexual, and alcohol emboldened me to say, “My God, how many oppressed groups do you belong to?” The person just laughed, saying “If I lived in the Northern Territory I would possibly be speared…”