There's a bear in there
ADULT: Barry Lowe was part of a lively and dynamic program at this year’s Bearstock in Adelaide. He sampled the festival’s delights in between his readings of erotica.
Adelaide knows how to give good festival! I’m just back from the four-day bear fest known as Bearstock 12, which piggybacks off the last weekend of Feast. Held in the Colonel Light Square, a park that manages to cram bars, toilets, a cinema, and various other performance spaces into an area surrounded by four city streets, I was pleased to see twinks, bears, lesbians and gay men interacting easily, enjoying the pleasant, albeit hot at over 30C every day, atmosphere and the great cultural and party events.
I was there to read erotica, at the behest of Kerry Bashford who was responsible for the Bearcoustica afternoon – me and singer/guitarist/composer and all-round ‘woof’ Steve Charles. Eric Kuhlmann of the Bear Men of Adelaide is the brawn behind the four-day event and he was a warm and welcoming host.
Coco Peru was the only performance we got to outside Bearstock. To quote the program, “U.S. Drag Legend/Monologist/World Savior, Coco Peru is outrageously fabulous”. For once, an act lived up to the hype. Miss Peru, who has appeared in a number of gay independent films such as Trick and Girls Will Be Girls, is a whirlwind of stand-up comedy and incisive gay invective with a singing voice that could bring down a tent. A combination of Bette Midler and Lauren Bacall, she had lesbians, bears and twinks in stitches with her astute observations and witty repartee, including reminiscences of friends such as Bea Arthur.
Highlight of Bearstock was undoubtedly Dr. Gertude’s Murder Mystery Tour. Dr. Gertrude Glossip is an Adelaide icon (her column appears in SX’s sister publication in Adelaide, Blaze), and has a PhD in Formal Drapery (Curtain University). Dr. Glossip is known for, amongst other things, her walking tours of Adelaide during Feast although the bear tour was her first by bus. Thirty-four bear men, one woman, and Dr. Glossip. Boy, did we startle the straight men who were on their way to the Cricket Test Match when we parked on the bridge over the River Torrens and scrambled down to the restaurant near where Dr. Duncan met his grisly end. The stark reality of the commonplace surroundings juxtaposed with the horrific events that have occurred there over the years brought it home to us so much more forcefully than reading newspaper and internet reports.
Dr. Glossip’s erudite tour of the city’s gay underbelly was told with the wit of a true raconteur, peppering it with humour and making no apologies for her editorialising when she believed that the police or other authorities needed a knee to their homophobic cojones.
She finished the tour on a more happy note when we all crammed into a men’s public toilet in Bonython Park in order for her to show and tell about why a certain wall had been removed from the ‘sacred site’. Absolutely fantastic. If you’re ever in Adelaide and she’s organising a tour group, don’t miss it!
Another highlight was the performances of Tamworth legend, Steve Charles, who certainly deserves a wider audience here in Sydney. (For example, try his new song ‘Gay Love’ on Sound Cloud. He’s equally at home singing country, blues or jazz. He wowed audience at Mega Bear, a cabaret show hosted by Dean Arcuri which also featured Bearelectronica, and a number of remarkable local personalities who rocked the house. He was the main act in the event in which I read smut.
Also part of the Bearstock mix was Greg Ure’s incredible Industrial Landscapes, the cinematic Golden Woofs, bear short films, Chunky Does Adelaide presented in association with Sydney’s Harbour City Bears, Let’s Zumba, Bear BBQ and Jumble Sale, and the hilariously trashy trivia game show, It’s a Cockout, hosted by Nathan Little. The final day was Bears at Picnic and Honey Recovery but we were unable to get into Colonel Light Square to say thanks to the Adelaide bears for their hospitality, as an officious security guard refused us admission, telling us rudely, “We’re closing it down”. Nothing to do with Bearstock who had provided a spectacular four days of bear baiting.
[Image] Singer-songwriter Steve Charles was among the highlights at this year’s Bearstock in Adelaide. Photo: June Underwood