Tuesday, October 27th, 2015


When Richard Bryon’s mother turns up to take him home with her and her new husband to their house in Balmain a working class suburb of Sydney Australia she puts on her act of being the world’s best parent even though she had abandoned him with his ‘Aunt Hazel’ for the past 10 years. John, his new stepfather, thoroughly dislikes the fact that Richard is a sensitive and somewhat effeminate teenager and he often takes his anger out on him physically.   He does this once too often however and so Richard runs away from home and gets a job as a window dresser in David Jones one of the city’s chicest department stores.
He is in heaven dressing mannequins and soon his two colleagues persuade him to try some of the women’s clothes on himself too. They are the first ‘queers’ he has ever come across, although at that point he is still so totally naive and innocent that he has no idea even that men can be homosexual but that is about to change big time.  From the first time they persuade him to dress up in drag and go to one of the seedy gay clubs they hang out, Richard knows he has finally found the place where he really belongs. Except that now with his new night-time persona he is no longer Richard as he calls himself Carol now.
It’s not too long after this that ‘Carol’ is soon actually performing in the Club too and when she gets wind that a local mobster is opening a brand new nightclub in the heart of the King Cross District called Les Girls, she badgers him until he gives her into giving her a job.  So she leaves her work at the Store and gets her own apartment to become a full-time performer. Now Carol becomes Carlotta on stage.  At first she is in the chorus with all the other drag performers but very quickly works her way up to having her own solo spots singing and doing a comedy routine.  
As the Club becomes increasingly popular, so too does her fame and with that she attracts more than her fair share of suitors. Although Carol/Carlotta is a drag queen and dates men who she appears to have sex with, she never really identifies as gay.  Right from the start she expresses a desire to be a ‘real woman’.  There is one glorious funny scene where she and another performer are in Court charged with wearing women’s clothes (still a criminal offence in the early 1960’s) she refuses to plead guilty and challenges the Judge to clarify the difference between him wearing a wig and his robe and the clothes and wig that she has on.
Carlotta gets her way and in the early 1970’s has a full sex-change. It is not the first one in Australia but it attracts a great deal of attention because of her celebrity.  Carlotta now wants to revert back to Carol and give up being a nightclub headliner and find herself a regular guy to settle down with.  And she does just that and even when halfway through their courtship she explains how she transformed herself, rather than scare off her beau, he actually proposes and they end up getting married.  It looks at first that this maybe Carol’s ‘happy ever after’ story but his family constantly pressure them about starting a family and when she realises it is because it is something that her husband really wants, she packs up her bags and moves on so that he can re-marry someone who can give him the one thing she cannot i.e. kids. 
This  made-for-TV movie is based on the real life story of one of Richard Lyons who transitioned into Carol/Carlotta to become of the original stars of the celebrated Les Girls cabaret as well as being the inspiration for the hit movie ‘The Adventures of Priscilla The Queen of The Desert’.  The script by David Hannam one of the writers of the Australian soap opera ‘Neighbors‘ used Carlotta’s own memoir ‘I’m Not That Sort of Girl for is story line but it also omitted some of the more salacious facts  …… like the sexual abuse from his stepfather John ….for this somewhat sanitized take on it all. It does however capture the period so perfectly not just with the costumes, sets and music but also in the prevailing attitude towards the illegal burgeoning LGBT community.
Initially when the idea for the movie was first mooted it was envisaged that Courtney Act one of Australia’s top drag queen would taking the leading role but instead it went to Jeanne Marais (from TV’s Packed To The Rafters) who although gave a stunning performance, she still lacked the ability to convincingly portray a transgendered woman.  It was the one disappointing factor of what is an otherwise enjoyable and entertaining movie.
P.S. Take a second look at the actor playing Angelo the boyfriend of Carlotta’s best friend.  It’s none other than a grown up Alex Dimitrades who as a hot young Greek (Australian) caused more than heads to turn in the now gay classic movie Heads On in 1998. 



Posted by queerguru  at  17:17


Genres:  biopic

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