The Tempest

Not Exactly Shooting For \”Miss Congeniality\”

Sydney Does Mardi Gras

Posted by Daniel on Saturday, March 4, 2006

Scores of semi-naked cowboys, a couple of Saddam Husseins and a handful of Kate Moss impersonators joined thousands of other people parading through Sydney’s streets on Saturday for the city’s annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival.

The glitzy street parade was launched in 1978 as a gay rights protest, but has since transformed itself into a vibrant festival celebrating all aspects of gay culture.

Tens of thousands of people lined the route through Oxford Street, the center of the city’s gay scene, to watch the colorful mix of 120 floats pass by.

It was a night for political campaigning, irreverence or just sheer exuberance.

One partygoer bearing a striking resemblance to the former Iraqi dictator mingled with the crowd carrying a sign which read “Wheat for Iraq” — a reference to an ongoing inquiry into whether Australia’s monopoly wheat exporter, AWB Ltd., paid kickbacks to Saddam’s regime to win lucrative contracts.

Another reveler wearing a George W. Bush mask whipped a fellow parader clad in an orange boiler suit and black hood — an apparent portrayal of a prisoner at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“Brokeback Mountain” — Ang Lee’s saga of gay cowboys — inspired several other floats carrying skimpily dressed men dressed in ten-gallon hats and leather chaps.

The “Friends of Dick Cheney” float paid apparent tribute to the U.S. vice president, who has stood by his lesbian daughter and publicly disagreed with President George W. Bush’s advocacy of a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriages.

Mardi Gras board chairman Marcus Bourget said the event was still about “expression and about the gay and lesbian community having a powerful voice.”

“Ten years ago I told my parents I was gay,” he said. “Two months ago for the first time my father asked me if I had a boyfriend. My point? Change does happen.”

British supermodel Kate Moss, who lost several lucrative contracts after a tabloid newspaper published pictures of her apparently using cocaine in a west London music studio, also attracted some attention.

Several men wearing blonde wigs, bright red lipstick and furs paraded behind a float emblazoned with the sign: “The Kate Moss Line Dancers. I Believe in Rehab.”

Another float decorated as a pirate ship lampooned Australia’s conservative Prime Minister John Howard, who celebrated 10 years in power this week.

“This vessel is controlled by a group of mean and narrow-minded pirates, unable to steer a ship, let alone a country,” said Graeme Browning.

Inspired by the TV show Little Britain, the theme of this year’s City of Sydney Mardi Gras float is “You’re Not the Only Gay in the Village”.

“The message will be loud and clear; the City of Sydney is a place of inclusion for all gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual residents and visitors,” said Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP.

The float was designed by award winning public artist Philippa Playford.

“As a city of villages, the City of Sydney is home to Australia’s largest and most vibrant gay, lesbian and transgender community. I wanted to create a float that represented that community and welcomed visitors to the villages they live in,” Philippa said.

The centrepiece of the float is a large dazzling mirrorball structure which will be lit up to create rays of pink light. Above the mirrorball is the slogan “You’re not the only gay in the village” and underneath it; “City of Sydney – City of Villages”. The backdrop is a cartoon cityscape.

On parade night, Saturday March 4, the City’s 35 suburbs will be represented by City staff, Councillors and friends carrying decorated banners and wearing costumes.

For Lord Mayor Clover Moore this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has special significance; it will be her 20th year of involvement. In the past Clover has been a parade and costume judge, and marched in the parade. This year the Lord Mayor will follow the City of Sydney float and lead the Bligh contingent.

The City of Sydney is a major partner of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival (


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