Tasty Raid reunion - Melbourne's infamous Stonewall
Can you believe it’s been 20 years since the infamous Tasty nightclub raid? Gavin Campbell, DJ and co-founder of Tasty can, and so can Michael Monty and Sally Gordon, who were there. Tim Hunter asks them about that night, and the plans to celebrate the anniversary.
In August 1994, Tasty nightclub was the hot club to go to. It was queer, it was full-on, and it was notorious. So notorious in fact that Victoria Police decided to conduct a raid one Saturday night that got a little out of control. It’s still remembered 20 years later – and there’ll be a party to celebrate it.
“Tasty was work and play for me,” says co-founder Gavin Campbell. “There was such a diverse range of people at the club every weekend. Tasty would fill up quickly each week and by 2am there was a new crowd arriving, so the crowd changed, and then at 5am we would get a third wave of industry and hardcore clubbers from everywhere.”
It played an important part in regular patron Michael Monty’s life as well. “It was a great way of mixing with Melbourne’s alternative queer community,” he says. “There was a true feeling of ‘anything goes’ at Tasty, and it did. I loved it all, and my friends and I were always a part of the fun. Tasty was one of those places that bonded us all.”
[Image] Sarah Pax, Tasty 2
While Campbell was busy at his other club, Bump, at the time of the raid, he received a phone call around 2am that night telling him Tasty was being raided. Monty was there though, celebrating a friend’s 21st birthday. They’d been told there might be a raid, but going on previous experiences at Checkpoint Charlie (a popular gay club in Commercial Road), didn’t think anything of it.
Sally Gordon, a Sydneysider, had been in Melbourne for the weekend, but had heard about Tasty and was keen to go. So she did. “I was in the club for about an hour when I heard what sounded like a herd of elephants behind me,” she recalls. “At first I thought, they are looking for someone, it will all be over in a minute. As soon as the lights went on and the music stopped and they started yelling ‘this is a drug raid, put your hands above your head and don’t move’, I thought ‘this is insane’.”
“I honestly thought it was a show being put on,” Monty says. “When the music failed to come on again, I realised something was up. Chaos ensued. Orders were being barked at us to separate the men from the women. They didn’t know what to do with the drag queens!”
“I was one of the first females to be searched,” says Gordon. “We were sitting cross-legged on the floor, queuing with our hands on our head. I asked very politely to see the search warrant – I was told by them to ‘Shut the Fuck up’. I thought to myself, I am going to remember every detail of this and hold them accountable because this is so wrong: totally intimidated, treated as scum, sneered at by ‘them’. Their behaviour was disgraceful and unnecessary... and we hadn’t even been strip-searched yet!”
[Image] Miss Everywhere, The Temptress, Miss Information, Tasty 2.
But they were all strip-searched. “We did as we were told, as the policewomen were highly agitated and aggressive – again no need for this behaviour at all,” Gordon continues. “I had a policeman come in while I was being stripped, they yelled at him to get out but he didn’t move from the open doorway for what seemed like an eternity.”
“I was ushered into the foyer with all the other male patrons,” Monty picks up the story. “The house lights were on so it was extremely bright. Before us stood five cops. We were told to line up in front of each cop, one at a time, and in unison we were told to strip. Socks, shoes, underwear everything. I believe the only point of this was to humiliate and exert power and control over us. It appeared to have nothing to do with searching patrons for drugs. The cops only had a warrant for a ‘pat-down’ search; however the officer in charge decided that as we were ‘scantily-clad’, an illegal strip search would be instigated.”
Gordon went straight to her friend who worked in the media and asked her to get on to the papers immediately. She then wrote down as much as she could remember, intending to send it to the ombudsman on Monday. “By mid-morning Sunday it was all over the gay media and JOY Melbourne was calling for a class action,” she says. “In the coming days Gary Singer, a partner at the law firm Simon Parsons and Co, and a patron at Tasty that night, pulled a class action together and I sent my account into their office at Morwell. And so it began.”
[Image] Punters at Tasty
Gordon’s class action soon grew into something much bigger. It became about gay rights in Melbourne. “I do believe that it is our Stonewall,” says Campbell. “The raid was motivated by reports of drug use at Tasty but the task force chosen was from cop shops on the outskirts of Melbourne, where homophobia was alive and well. That’s why the patrons and community fought so hard.”
Monty agrees. “Even though no violence broke out on the evening with 463 of us in attendance and only 40 cops, it could have turned ugly,” he says. “I will always see it as a time when we as a gay community banded together to right a huge wrong against us. Even the Premier at the time, Jeff Kennett, refused for the taxpayer to foot the bill for the compensation payout.”
And so, here we are, 20 years later, and the Tasty crew are ready to celebrate. “The 20th Anniversary is all about commemorating what happened in 1994 and spreading more awareness of this watershed moment in gay activism and rights to the younger generations. We want to ensure it remains a part of our collective identity. We believe that Melbourne is a very special town and this is a part of our rich heritage.”
Everyone’s very tight-lipped about what will happen on the night, though. “There have been a few surprises organised that will be sprung on those going, much in the style of the old Tasty days,” alludes Monty. “I guarantee those attending will be surprised, and hopefully shocked!”
The Tasty Raid 20th Anniversary will be at Poof Doof, 386 Chapel Street, South Yarra, Saturday, August 9 from 8pm.
(Images -Tasty Underwear Party design by Frank Cotela, scene pics by Mark 'Party Pup' Whearem, images supplied.)