Grist to the Rumour Mill
The Mardi Gras Party rumour has always fuelled excitement, ticket sales and, when they don’t turn out to be true, bitter disappointment. As conjecture and debate continues over this year’s guests, Jason Bartlett examines the positive and negative effects of the rumour mill.
The words ‘I heard a rumour’ have long been synonymous with the Mardi Gras after-party.
In fact, the actual use of those words could be enough to spark a frenzy that 80s pop goddesses Bananarama would be appearing at this year’s event.
There’s no doubt the rumour mill has been a part of Mardig Gras festivities almost as long as the parade itself.
The list of people rumoured to be performing at the parade after-party is almost as long as those who have actually turned up – Madonna (no), Gaga, (no), Kylie (yes, yes), Dannii (yes, yes), George Michael (yes) and so on.
Gimmicky campaigns, cheeky campaigns (who can forget the 2010 ‘I wanna dance with somebody’ Whitney drive) and word of mouth have been used to fuel the rumour mill – and resulted in ticket sales.
But this year party organisers seem to have thrown tradition to the winds and already announced 2012 Eurovision winner Loreen as the headline act. She will join Delta, The Pre-sets and DJ Crystal Pepsi (aka Jake Shear of Scissor Sisters fame).
The move has been met with a mixed response on websites and blogs – amongst those happy with the choice, there are many disappointed that the element of surprise has been taken away.
“My heart has sunk to a new low,” read one blog.
“It’s so frustrating they’ve announced this so close to the party.”
“What an absolute let-down,” another read.
“Couldn’t they find anyone better?”
Sydney publicists and ad campaigners think organisers are playing a risky game dispensing with the tried and true rumour mill.
“I think it has become something partygoers actually expect,” advertising executive Jamie Gibson said.
“Rumours about who is appearing have been part and parcel of the party for so long to announce the headline act so early risks alienating people – especially those who have purchased tickets expecting a big surprise on the night. Of course, maybe there will actually be another headliner, who knows?
“The risk here is everyone is expecting a surprise and many will be disappointed if they don’t get one.”
One well known Sydney publicist – and veteran of seven after-parties, who describes himself as “gay, successful, handsome and mysterious” – said the rumour mill could be a two-edged sword.
“The use of the rumour mill for an event like this can be double-edged,” he said.
“It can generate hype with everyone speculating about who the performers will be but that's so long as it's controllable and turns out to be true.
“The organiser's use of the technique every year means any high profile performer in the southern hemisphere in March is now a Mardi Gras prediction and if they turn out not to be appearing, you may have some disappointed ticket buyers. Rihanna anyone?
“Mardi Gras have also used the rumour mill year after year for a long time and I think to some people this becomes tiresome, particularly when there are now so many other parties on that weekend who broadcast their DJs and live acts in advertising and social media for months in advance – even if they aren’t as high-profile.”
Personally, he said the best Mardi Gras parties involved the rumoured big names actually appearing.
“I’d have to say Tina Arena, George Michael, Olivia Newton-John and, of course, Kylie last year have been big standouts for me,” he said.
“Having the Freemasons and Boy George DJing at the same party also made for a brilliant night.”
One older parade fan, David, remembers the early years when the rumour mill would go into overdrive and even obscure Asian royalty was thrown into the mix – as well as Hollywood royalty.
“About 20 years ago, some were peddling a story that Barbara Streisand was coming – I can’t even remember if she did or didn’t, but we sure would’ve had a great party if she had,” David laughed.
“Even the son of the King of Cambodia was high on some people’s lists a few years back!
“Madonna has always got a run on the rumour mill of course. And this year, the whisper among the older brigade in our community is that the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest will actually not turn-up – because we don’t know who he or she is!”
When it was explained Loreen would, actually, be headline act, the after party veteran laughed again.
“I’ve heard a Mardi Gras event producer explain their selection this way … ‘For younger gays, having the winner of last year’s Eurovision is like snaring ABBA’ – we, the oldies, say it must be a good choice then!”
For visiting Frenchman Benoit Ghislain, the rumour mill is not as important as just having a good time.
“I will be there for sure and I will be partying hard,” the 21-year-old said.
“For me the after-party is more about experiencing a great night with friends. Besides, I have heard a rumour Ricky Martin will actually be appearing anyway and I don’t want to miss that!”
[Images] Rumours that Ricky Martin (top) will appear at the Mardi Gras Party has been ruled out while Loreen (above), the winner of last year’s Eurovision, has been confirmed to perform. Photos: Getty Images
The Mardi Gras Party is on Saturday, March 2.