A friend of Sir Ian McKellen, Quentin Crisp and Fenella Fielding and an inspiration to just about everyone in the "alternative" drag theatre world; early pioneer of radical queer politics, former resident in a drag commune ("the second floor was the make-up room - 270 shades of nail varnish"), and founder of the infamous Bloolips drag theatre troupe, Bette Bourne is a living relic of a lost gay world.
At an age when many "radical faries" might consider retiring to the country to run a wholefood shop, Mr/Ms Bourne and partner of 37 years Paul Shaw were the toast of the Homotopia festival last year - and of the LGBT History Month event we went to at the Petrie Museum last night, too - with their two-queen show A Right Pair (written in conjunction with another pillar of the gay community, the eminent Mr Neil Bartlett).
Hot on the heels of the triumphant A Life in Three Acts, A Right Pair recreates many of the original camper-than-camp Bloolips sketches (including the Emperor Hadrian/Antinous love story Get Hur!). Here are the boys themselves talking about the show:
And now, a new groundbreaking documentary (by A Life in Three Acts collaborator Mark Ravenhill) It Goes with the Shoes receives its premiere at the BFI (British Film Institute) on the South Bank in March 2013 - read more and book tickets.
From the blurb:
"A highly successful career on the London stage was put on hold when Bette discovered gay liberation. But out of a gay drag commune in Notting Hill, Bette fashioned a glorious theatre troupe Bloolips, bringing together a unique blend of costume, camp and musical theatre leavened with sexual politics. The film offers an insight into a passionate and gifted actor who has made a great contribution to gay life, art and politics."
Needless to say, Bette Bourne's story is a fascinating one, and his anecdotes are endlessly entertaining:
“We were wearing frocks all day and night, and ladies’ beautiful long nighties. We were very relaxed about it. The drag was very inventive. We weren’t trying to be women. What was exciting was we were a new kind of man. We were always men in frocks or in drag with heels on. We never put tits on or padded our hips – we thought we looked good enough. A lot of lesbians said to me, ‘I’d kill for your legs!’”And here, for your edification, is a 30-minute documentary on a major part of Bette's fabulous life story - that fabled avant-garde queer theatrical troupe, Bloolips:
Read my various blogs over the years featuring this legendary figure, including Bette's induction into the (now-defunct?) Homosexual Hall of Fame...
Bette (Peter) Bourne (born 22nd September 1939).