What Might Have Been
Read Part 1 – Champagne
- Three Sisters Official Party and Honoured Guests
- Three Sisters Hoi Polloi
- Three Sisters Drag Bag Aficionados
- Central Coast and Hunter Tulle and High Heeled Evening Sandal Appreciation Society
- Northern Shire High Tech and Synthetic Frock Club
- Illawarra and Southern Shire Straight Seam Society
- Right Side of the Latte Line Ladies Luncheon Libators
- Almost Mid Mountains Arts and Craft Ltd
- Upper Mountains and Lithgow Party People
- Mid Mountains Macrame and Hat Appreciation Alliance
- Upper Mountains Theatre, Acrobatic and Trail Biking Troup
- Loose Fraternity of Mid Mountain Internet Dating Dudes
- Leura Real Estate Agents Confederation
- Upper Mountains Art and Artistic Endeavour Guild
- Upper Mountains Weekly Scone Scrumping Fellowship
- Hep Cats and Jive Bunnies Katoomba
- Medlow Bath Toole Taunting Tunnel Team
- Under 40s – The kids’ table
- Strangers’ Table
Part 2 – Tea and Irish Cream
Then it was time, the doors were flung opened to reveal a hall of sumptuousness, mirror balled shafts of brilliant luminescence flashing on an empty dance floor, beckoning us forth.
And so, it began. The milling throng crossed the threshold of the ballroom as though swallowed by a brilliance of white light not seen since the alien arrival scene in Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Misty (hit the title to listen), that timeless yet timely piece by Count Basie, redolent of swirling fog in an old black and white movie, hints of Bogie and Bacall, insinuated itself into their collective conscious. Immediately the collective was transposed to an era of elegance and refinement. It gently swung, sultry yet sweet, inviting them to participate in an intimacy that only a foxtrot could assuage.
Venturing beyond that curtain of luminescence, the full impact of the room was revealed to all. The polished wooden dance floor, subtly sprung, pulsated under a barrage of shafting light from the oversized mirror ball. The effect was to provoke a desire to shatter those brilliant beams with graceful flowing supple movement. To dance.
Tables glimmered in the flickering of the most subtle battery-operated fake candles that money could buy. Adorned by illuminated towers of glowing delectable delights, the tables were endowed with edible decorations that precluded the need for other decorative embellishments to the room.
Crustless finger sandwiches of cucumber and Neufchatel, moist chicken breast in a delicate mayonnaise lightly touched with French tarragon and a frivolously but full flavoured curried egg dwelt on the lowest level of the Royal Doulton Periwinkle high tea stand. The middle level was taken up by the lightest of featherlight scones that will soon be dressed by the sweetest strawberry jam and clotted cream (jam, then cream, always). The towering glory consisted of iridescent mignardises, glittering jewels of multicoloured icing garbed cream sponge reflecting mirror balled brilliance.
Hand painted periwinkle decorated teapots on the tables provided that cup that refreshes. Coffee drinkers were accommodated, somehow.
Glimmering as they were and groaning under a cornucopia of delight, the tables beckoned. Torn between the promise of song or table, the milling throng sought their seats.
Torn they may be, but the dance floor beckoned for a few dedicated twinkle toes. More than one gentleman sat briefly to retrieve their much-loved dancing slippers from their Arthur Murray dancers’ companion, after assisting their dancing partner to don theirs of course. These gentlemen were generally disposed to delicately hold a handkerchief in their left hand so as not to despoil the shantung or satin of their partners costume with unwanted, yet unavoidable, excess bodily fluids. An old fashioned but necessary custom, unfortunately overlooked in these modern times.
The majority chose to claim their seats. A little jolly, and not so jolly, justling occurred in an endeavour to score those desirable dance floor facing seats. Despite a barked shin or two, before long everyone settled in a heightened sense of expectation to enjoy what promised to be a very enjoyable afternoon.
Music played big band swing of a subtle kind, slowly increasing tempo that insinuated itself in the very being of the assembled. Toes tapped as the rhythm gradually entered receptive ears and continued to those lower extremities. The dance floor filled and many, having never experienced the buzz of ‘you do that voodoo the you do so well’, succumbed to its wiles.
Afternoon tea was devoured. It appeared that ‘elegance’ was moving towards a new definition.
Intermezzo Edie was a Lady (link to song)
Suddenly the mirror ball went dark. Simultaneously the stage became a cube of iridescence. Lula von Sauvage’s appearance was as exciting as it was unexpected. Swinging in on a chariot of feathers from the left wing, a flurry of psychedelic rayon, her hair permed into a beehived perfection, she created an entrance that will be forever etched into our conscience. Lula was greeted with rapturous applause.
Lula cut her mustard on the Oxford St circuit circa 1969. She was best known for her extended gigs at the famous Capriccios mark one. Capriccios mark two and three followed the unfortunate sequence of fires that plagued that establishment.
Caps, as it was affectionately known, was a Sydney institution among the budding gay scene, the bohemians, the socialites and other colourful identities. A melting pot of a Sydney that was unknown to the bulk of Sydneysiders who resided in suburban bliss beyond the confines of the inner east. A beacon of light, fun and naughty and entertaining.
Of course, that was in the glittering period, before the flash trash of the east and moral authoritarian evangelical vandals of the northwest got their grubby hands-on Sydney and made it into their garish form of boredom.
One entered Caps from Oxford Street. Climbing two sets of stairs, past the first floor bar full of pre clones, one came to a long room, a bar on one end and a miniscule stage at the other. An unprepossessing room at first glance, full of long tables covered with butchers’ paper running from stage to bar. Service was provided by beautiful long haired young men, many in the short shorts of the time and, some, sans tops.
It was the stage that provided the magic. Shows of singular imagination, all singing, all dancing, sequins and feathers and silicon. A chorus line of stunning boys. Leads of gorgeous, statuesque women. It was here that Lula honed her craft to perfection and learned to weaved her magic.
True to her talent, Lula channelled Ethel Merman performing her opening number by belting out ‘Hostess with the Mostest on the Ball’. A popular show tune officially introducing Lula to the audience.
But it was with her second number that Lula shone.
Edie was a Lady (link to song) was her song. Lula dazzled. Her heart and soul were subsumed. She lived the part, feeling the lyrics and imbuing life into a role that obviously meant more than a great deal to her. She empathised, she and Edie were one.
And we, the audience lived Edie with her.
Demurely, with elegance and sophistication, Lula immersed us in the story of Maud and Mable recounting of their best friend of years gone by, Edie. As the tale progressed Lula transformed herself into the indomitable Edie before our very eyes. Suddenly, although we had been witnessing this transformation, we were confronted with the real Edie. Edie fanning herself in a black bustier and high heeled platform slippers and capped with an extravagant Louis XIV blond wig. Edie, indeed, had class with a capital K.
We laughed, we cried, well maybe not cried, but many had a moist eye of appreciation of the master class of classic drag they had just witnessed.
Blues in the Night by Woody Herman, then from a woman’s point of view, Blues in the Night by Dinah Shore, introduced the next set, cutting off the prolonged applause for Lula’s sterling effort. Rude, I know, but the dance must go on.
Slinky and sultry, these songs were chosen to cajole, to captivate, to entice to the floor. Songs that presaged the music to come. Songs to get the feet tapping, the blood pumping, the head spinning. Songs that were well known to the cognoscenti and the venerable, familiar to others who could hum and stumble the words and a new delight to those yet to be initiated into the art of swing.
They crowded the floor.
Debra, the Hunter Valley mistress of mystery, so called because she is never seen from one function to the next thence only to burst forth like the bud of a daylily, positively galloped to the polished timbers. For Debra, the mention of the word ‘frock’ ushered a transformation that was scarcely to be believed. She was the doyen of the Central Coast and Hunter Tulle and High Heeled Evening Sandal Appreciation Society, although only at selected events. Her entourage was a mixture of competing desires held together by the thrall of her wiles. There was a momentary contretemps over who should escort Debra to the floor which was quickly ended by her somewhat imperious solo dance floor appearance.
The party people dominated the lower right corner in a flurry of colour and well-rehearsed movement honed by a life time of pleasurable pursuits. The Three Sisters and friends dominated the top left corner of the floor. A few less understanding people were rather disparaging until it was pointed out to them that this group needed to be in close proximity to their canes and frames.
The Andrews Sisters rendition of ‘Straighten up and Fly Right’ was greeted with momentary derision but that was soon stifled as the music beguiled and worked its subtle magic. The tempo increased in moderation, holding the dancers in thrall yet building anticipation whilst curbing their wild instinct to let go. Letting go will have to wait until later. Mildred Won’t you Behave teased and moved the action up a notch.
But then it was the end of part two. We started with Count Basie so it was only fitting that we ended this session with another from the Count, Topsy.
What a finale to the first set.
The real reason for Elegant Sparkling Afternoon Tea was being held is revealed. Two more stunning shows performed by famous Blue Mountains talented entertainers are deliciously described. The mischief levels rise with the tempo of the music. Who will be named and shamed?
More next month.