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A Parisian in Sydney

Sydney's world famous Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras takes place February 27. Julien Déflore of Paris tells of a recent visit to this sparkling city. He's already preparing for a second journey where he'll join in on the end-of-the-month festivities.

By Julien Déflore

Leaving Paris and its cold was such a relief that the trip to Sydney didn't seem very long. I suffered from the jetlag, natch. I was to be gone only for a week. I was more than eager to discover that very gay Sydney I'd heard so much about.

mardisgras.jpg - 47.41 K Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney is one of the world's largest annual gay gatherings.

I located a hotel in Potts Point near King's Cross but went straight out to walk on Darlinghurst Road. I'd been told it was a hot district, and it was indeed. Pimps and addicted workers, drunk tramps, sex shops: the essentials of any hot place, like Pigalle in Paris, all gathered here.

I liked it because it was alive. I felt sadness about the plight of the addicted women women wandering like spectres in the morning, miserable zombies from whom hope had flown. On my way to Oxford Street, walking because it was the best way to discover the city, I fell under its spell.

The weather was perfect, warm enough at night, sometimes hot. The block between Liverpool and Oxford apparently was dedicated to encounters. I was amused really when I understood those guys were looking for "jobs", according to their own words. Iraqi young man worth sixty dollars an hour… No police around, just the gorgeous and unusual feeling that anything could happen, really.

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Sydney Mardi Gras: Official Site

Thai restaurants, an Italian cafe, a bookstore and the Cafe 191. This immediately became my headquarters, being, apparently, centrally situated. I liked it conceptually: open on the outside, with good house music and pleasing service. My cultural marathon would often start from there, after a "Long Black" and "Morning Glory", the spot's great great breakfast.

Time Out had rightly described this cafe as fit for people-watching: gorgeous barmen, with tattoos and suntan, gay, lesbian and straight couples. Nothing I had ever seen in Paris really. How would I improve my English? Reading Hemingway or chit-chatting with handsome barmen? Heading to any other place to discover at night, happily I found the Stonewall.

mardisgras2.jpg - 25.29 K Being alone seemed at once practical and discouraging. But I wanted to explore so I began by going straight to the bar where a French drag queen fun-lovingly hosted a bingo evening for a charity.

I tried Australian beers, much stronger than Paris makes. Another pleasant surprise: drinking is cheaper than in Paris too. Andy made me huge Long Island ice teas for only five dollars! Andy animatedly entertained with funny gimmicks, and his spell cooled me down. I felt happy here, sitting at the bar, unable to meet anybody, though, because, well, maybe the place wasn't dark enough. Where to go next then?

After a couple of drinks, I headed for the Midnight Shift, not too far, and still on Oxford. This one looked more like a French bar. It was dark, which helped me feel comfortable. It would be either a Tooheys or a gin and tonic. Billiards players and lonely cruisers were enjoying good music. A few drunkards bothered me. Nothing exotic about that! I was full of compassion but would not spoil my nights because of them

I was lucky enough really to meet Glen, Martin and Jake. Glen looked somewhat frightened but gave in anyway to my straightforward sexual invitation. We French seem to have some reputation for this sort of no-nonsense in Sydney. I think he eventually got angry with me, as he never called back. Martin was nice but shy. Jake met me an unlucky day.

The Midnight Shift is a length ahead of our cruising bars. Maybe it could be equipped with a few cabins and darkrooms? However, the fact that having sex was not easy would tease me and encourage my mind to conquer those wonderful creatures with more than a glance full of desire. That girl next to Martin would not accept the drink I wanted to offer her, and she had me avow I was more interested in him. She left us together and added that he was attracted to me. Hope… He would not accept any drink either. That does not happen in Paris.

The Oxford was the last bar I deliberately haunted. Its spacing I thought futuristic and surprising. The central counter would be my refuge. Gay newsmagazines available at the entrance interested me, since I could compare their contents with our magazines, like Illico and E-male. mardigras3.jpg - 6.28 K Mardi Gras Parade
Photo: Australian Bisexual Network

The guys I met at the Oxford were of my age, or slightly older, like Jake. What amused me plenty was the resemblance of acculturated behaviors— in both Sydney and Paris-- the generation split, younger people going to the fancy places, older guys wasting their time in heavy hells. I was asking questions about lesbians, trying to understand if they were really mixing socially with the gay community, which does not work in Paris. Would it work anyway? According to what principle? Homosexuality? Girls and boys together, like in straight places?

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