On the road again: Phil Scott on life on tour
While on the regional leg of his annual Wharf Revue, writer and comedian Phil Scott reflects on the highs and lows of life on tour. Here, he files from the Gong.
It is a warm day in early summer and a pleasant breeze wafts from across the ocean into my face. I’m in the Gong, on the final leg of a regional tour of this year’s Wharf Revue, thinking how nice it is to be gay.
Touring a show is a weird experience. Moving from one Medina to the next, you live in limbo. Real life is on hold. Instead of having not enough time to do everything – the usual routine – you find yourself with endless time to kill. You do things you would never do at home, like checking out the Rivers store or reading The Australian.
Today’s Australian has a story about Ian Thorpe’s comeback. Will be fail or succeed? It’s all speculation, because Thorpie has yet to compete in whatever swimming race he’s in. I guess the newspaper hacks have beaten up a story before the event in case there isn’t one afterwards. But, win or lose, as far as gays are concerned, this is not the Ian Thorpe story we dream of reading. I’d hate to think what The Australian would make of that one. They’d blame the Greens: I don’t know how, but they would manage it.
I’m relaxing in a café called Diggies at the northern end of the beach. They serve wagyu hash with poached eggs and uncooked spinach for breakfast. As smart a joint as you could find anywhere. Best of all, the place has what I would call gay-friendly design. I’m sitting at a bench, staring into the morning sun at a strip of sand and crashing breakers. Between the beach and the café is an outdoor shower where surfing guys come to wash the sand and salt away. Each time I look up there are two or three new boys peeling off their wetsuits, or just standing around with their board shorts half way down their bum cracks, constantly repositioning their dicks the way straight boys do. When I say ‘each time I look up’, the truth is I haven’t looked away that often. I’m wearing most of my wagyu hash.
A guy walked past earlier with one of those bodies that are sort of curvaceous with muscle, rather than the chiselled Fitness First look. He’d gotten himself several Shire-style tatts. They were deeply amateurish, including a script written in the least readable font known to man. The effect was like a Renaissance marble statue desecrated with mindless graffiti. Naturally this made him even hotter.
I just phoned my boyfriend to describe the scene. “You’ll like that,” he quipped. I should have known he wouldn’t get it. He doesn’t ogle men in that way. If one of these guys came up and started babbling about Off-Broadway musicals it would be a different story.
Because I’m facing east the boys are silhouetted, their wet bodies glistening. They have a timeless Max Dupain quality, which is good because it makes me feel less like an old perve and more like an art lover. About one in every seven has a face stunning enough to go with his body. No doubt similar scenes exist in Bondi but here there are fewer crowds, much less traffic, and not enough family groups to kill the sexual vibe stone dead.
I’ve played the Gong many times. For the last three or four years the town has boasted a fabulous café that serves Campos coffee. It is still there, and now another two have sprung up in the same street. They are all staffed by trim hot baristas, practically bursting out of their tight t-shirts to get down to the beach.
But just as I’m deciding to sell up and move south, I remember the dark side. The good café is directly opposite the Glasshouse hotel, which is high on the police’s hit list of violent pubs. It was closed down but has recently reopened. I remember going for an early morning walk and following a trail of blood spatters along the pavement outside the Glasshouse. At a certain point, the blood just stopped. That was the creepy part.
In its way, a pub around the corner is even more unnerving. That’s the one where drunks and loners sit all day on the verandah nursing their beers. Red-eyed men and women in faded unfashionable clothes, who bet their life savings on a horse called Dipshit at 200 to 1. Sydney has thousands of such pubs, but the fact that this one is so close to paradise is off-putting. Would I end up here, rather than devouring boys and spinach at Diggies? A sobering thought.
It’s academic anyway, because I leave tonight. We do two Saturday performances then drive home to the big smoke. (Although nearby Port Kembla is the really big smoke.) I’ll get in around 11.30 and head to a party. A well-known actor is turning 50. That should be genuinely gay.
[Pictured] North Wollongong. Photo: Tourism NSW
Phil Scott is an actor, writer and comedian.