Or it might be more brilliant than ever. Either way, this column is due, and so I am typing. The reason I have such severe jet lag is because I just returned a few days ago from performing in Sydney, Australia. The flight is almost 15 hours each way, and for some reason I can never fall asleep on airplanes. Now, what I have learned about jet lag is that you can feel perfectly fine a day or two after your time zone-shattering trip, but three or four days in, it can hit you like a ton of bricks. You think to yourself, “Wow, I actually feel pretty good,” and then—BAM!—you’re zonky and disoriented. But looking back, I would do it all again. Sydney was amazing—truly the trip of a lifetime!
I was contacted about a month ago to be the special guest at the 21st Annual DIVAs—the Drag Industry Variety Awards. I joked that since the awards were finally turning 21, the organizers figured some “adult” entertainment was in order. I later learned that this really made no sense because the drinking age in Australia is, in fact, 18. But I guess that’s par for the course for a self-centered American such as myself. It’s like thinking the color green represents money, despite the fact that the rest of the world’s money comes in every color of the rainbow. Now, I am not going to bash this great country I live in, but I will make the observation that Miss Australia seems to appreciate drag a lot more than Uncle Sam. After all, this is the country that gave birth to Barry “Dame Edna” Humphries, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Courtney Act, the drag queen winner of Australia’s Got Talent. And, most importantly (at least to me!), this is the fabulous home to the annual awards celebrating the art of drag that was not only flying me to Oz and putting me up in a hotel, but paid for my appearance. Wow! Can you imagine The WeHo Awards flying out an international star as a special guest? I mean, no offense, but they can’t even afford SpellCheck—my statuette for “Outstanding Entertainer” is inscribed to “Jakie Beat.”
Yes, Australia takes drag very seriously. But that doesn’t mean the drag queens take themselves too seriously. Quite the opposite, actually. I found them to be great fun and very friendly. Sure, there was the one who felt the need to stagger over to me after I flawlessly belted out my version of a Shirley Bassey showstopper and slur, “Bitch, put on some heels!” in a deep man’s voice. I kindly explained to this troll that I couldn’t wear heels because of my crumbling hips and knees, but she just kept repeating herself. Listen, if you are going to come for me—especially right after I just sang the f*ck out of my hilarious version of a world-famous James Bond theme—then you had better at least be prettier than me. This skank had skin that resembled the surface of the moon and a hideous roadkill wig on her melon-like head. But other than that stupid drunk whore, everyone was real nice.
The DIVAs were Monday and my solo shows at The Supper Club were not until Thursday and Saturday nights, so I had plenty of time to be a typical tourist. Thanks to my hosts—the super sweet Belinda McKeon, the lace-front wig magician Vanity and the very statuesque Sheila Bliege—I did everything a first-time visitor must do. While I waited to be picked up at my hotel, I enjoyed the complimentary breakfast in the lobby. And the one thing I had to try was Vegemite—a very salty, very pungent, fermented black yeast spread that Australian children grow up eating. I have repeatedly been warned that it’s “disgusting,” but I actually liked it! Very little goes a long way and it is really good on buttered toast. And it gave me a little extra bounce in my step, which came in handy at The Sydney Wildlife Experience. I was thrilled to get up close and personal with koalas, wallabies, wombats, Australian snakes, crocodiles, baby emus, kangaroos and lots of very serious Japanese tourists. All that walking made me hungry, so we went to lunch and, oh the irony, guess what I ate? No, not a Japanese tourist—a kangaroo fillet. It was delicious.
The next night I visited the ultimate Australian destination—the iconic Sydney Opera House, where I enjoyed a gorgeous production of Don Giovanni. We had dinner afterwards at the beautiful outdoor café overlooking the stunning Sydney Harbour. I got back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep, because tomorrow was a big day! I wanted to be rested and bright-eyed for our ferry trip to the oh-so-appropriately named Manly Beach. We shamelessly ogled beefy surfers and studly volleyball players, ate fried barramundi with chips (French fries) and even tried a Lamington—the national dessert of Australia—named after a famous politician, reportedly because the chocolate-covered cake rolled in coconut resembles his hat.
My shows went great and I met so many wonderful people, many who later told me that I was their drag idol and/or inspirational. You know how David Hasselhoff is a big pop star in Germany and how they worship Jerry Lewis in France? Well, Australia thinks I’m the shit! During my Saturday show, I was convinced the sound system was echoing, but I eventually realized that a drag queen in the audience was loudly and proudly singing each word of every song right along with me!
Needless to say, I had a great time! So, if you ever have the opportunity to visit Sydney, do it! The country, the animals, the landmarks, the food and—most importantly, the people—are wonderful!