Almost 10,000 people shimmied, strutted and strode through the ages yesterday as Sydney celebrated its 32nd gay and lesbian Mardi Gras parade.
More than 100 floats with 9,500 performers filled the city’s streets, with Osama bin Laden and Michael Jackson among figures to feature in the “History of the World” themed event.
Michael Rolik, chief executive officer of the Mardi Gras committee, described the parade as a “rich tapestry of the serious and the trivial, the sexy and the cutesy, the personal and the public message.”
New York transgender artist and entertainer Amanda Lepore was to lead the floats as Chief of Parade, promising to be as “naked as possible” — save for a strategically placed rhinestone.
Organizers said they expected more than 100,000 spectators, with an elaborate spectacle that promised to celebrate homosexuality and famous gay people through the ages.
Tributes to Ancient Greek poet Sappho, Leonardo da Vinci, Dusty Springfield, Oscar Wilde and Alexander the Great were to feature alongside firefighters, scantily clad surf lifesavers and popular leather-clad lesbian motorcyclists calling themselves “Dykes on Bikes.”
Bollywood dance routines beneath a pink Taj Mahal were expected on the Trikone float, which represents gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people of South Asian descent living in Australia.
Political satire and religious parody were a parade staple, alongside countless stilettoed drag queens.
The entire Mardi Gras festival, which runs for weeks either side of the world-famous parade, attracts thousands of international visitors to Sydney, injecting A$30 million (US$26.8 million) into the local economy, Member of Parliament Verity Firth said.
“Mardi Gras reflects Sydney’s vibrant and colorful personality,” Firth said. “It showcases our diversity and free-thinking spirit to the world.”
US singer Whitney Houston and two-time Grammy winner George Michael were among this year’s festival’s headline names.
The inaugural 1978 march was staged at a time when male homosexuality was still illegal in New South Wales state and ended with more than 50 arrests as police and protesters clashed. Now, police and even members of the military join the parade.
Meanwhile, six drag queens broke out of the barriers and charged up the course in their dresses on Friday as Sydney hosted what was billed as the world’s first gay race day.
Bright frocks, high heels and large wigs were on show for the Royal Randwick Racecourse’s Pink Stiletto Race Day, a fund-raiser for this weekend’s renowned Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.
“It’s worked perfectly,” said Nicole Kolotas from organizing charity the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation. “It’s been very popular. Everyone is dressed up, people are wearing pink.”
Six men dressed in drag — including pearls, wigs and feather boa — shed their heels for a 50m Pink Stiletto Queen race in front of several thousand fans in the racecourse’s giant grandstand.
“They are all done up and everything, but they weren’t allowed to wear their platforms, they ran barefoot,” Kolotas said.
The event, held in conjunction with the Australian Jockey Club, had the support of leading Australia trainer Gai Waterhouse.