Fremantle sensual stew… and it’s not a recipe

NewportBack at the time of Federation, neither the Court Hotel nor Connections Nightclub were welcoming gay men. Since it was illegal to be homosexual, no one was supposed to be welcoming gay men.

So if you were gay in 1901, where could you meet other people on the scene?

Turns out the answer is a billiard room in a Fremantle hotel. Dodgy Perth strongly suspects that it was the Newport, then known as the Club Hotel. (Check out the Newport’s Thursday music nights. Coming up next week is Boom Bap Pow as the Divinyls. Which Dodgy Perth is definitely not going to miss.)

Some of WA’s finest citizens were known to go to this billiard room. The kind of elite who could afford the finest clothes, diamond rings, gold watches, and “even eye-glasses”.

It seems that the landlord of the Newport simply let out the room, and turned a blind eye to whatever went on. The local policemen were slipped a few pound notes every now and again and, strange to say, never saw a need to investigate the billiard room’s clientele.

It is even suggested that at least one police inspector and a local magistrate liked to play billiards from time to time.

In fact, had you attended before midnight, all you would have seen were some respectable citizens enjoying a game or two, while sipping a few beers.

But, come midnight, if you were a stranger and seemed likely to be gay, you would have been asked to stay on for “a little game on the quiet.”

After this, we cannot say for certain what occurred, but it must have been good because The Sunday Times described it as a “carrion filth heap of depravity”, a “foul Fremantle sensual stew”, and a “den of disgusting depravity”. Which sounds like a great night out.

So, when Dodgy Perth is at the Newport next Thursday, we will raise a glass (or two) to a generation whose love might not be able to speak its name, but could still find time for a game of after-midnight billiards.

When drag came to Perth

ValentinesIn honour of St Valentine, the Court Hotel is holding one of its (in)famous Traffic Light Parties this evening. If you haven’t been to one before, Dodgy Perth can assure you of a great night out.

The event will be hosted by two of the Court’s regular queens, Hannah Conda and Barbie Q.

Which leads to today’s historical problem: When did drag first come to Perth?

It is impossible to know who was the first local man to dress in women’s clothes, since appearing in public meant almost certain arrest. As happened to South Belmont resident Richard Moyes in 1949. Richard was only spared jail by agreeing to see a psychiatrist.

Stewart Hobbs of East Cannington was not so lucky the following year, when he was sentenced to fourteen days for wearing a dress.

But men will be men (or women in this case), and in 1953 The Mirror was shocked to discover that suburban houses were hosting Drag Nights.

Because the innocent readers of The Mirror wouldn’t have a clue about the jargon of “the effeminates”, the newspaper helpfully defined ‘drag’. It meant having an elaborate wig, painted and rouged face, expensive frock and dainty underwear, brassiere with padding, silk stockings and high heeled shoes.

Sounds about right to us.

The paper had been tipped off by a man who ‘accidentally’ (yeah, right) attended one of these drag nights.

All the guests were men, and there was plenty of hard liquor and hot jazz and dancing. Especially dancing.

Most regrettable of all was that the queens were intelligent men, who held respectable jobs during the day.

The Mirror’s informant fled when one of the ‘synthetic sirens’ asked: “Have a dance with me please, darling.” So, unfortunately, the reader is unable to discover exactly what kind of debauchery took place later that evening.

However, the paper suggested that it might have involved a mock religious marriage ceremony. Or it might not, since no one saw anything of the sort.

Jazz. Dancing. Liquor. Drag queens. In Perth? Where was the strong arm of the law to sort things out?

And especially important, where was our invite?