1980: Danny La Rue Down Under

danny la rue down under new zealand rpdrdu

Everything old is new again. Surely yes. Because in 1980, the most famous drag queen in the world starred in the TV show Danny La Rue Down Under. Made in New Zealand. Yep, 4 decades before RPDRDU!

What’s that you say?

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. 👀

Another snippet of queercentric news from Australian media history.

Danny La Rue

For decades, Danny La Rue was the world’s most famous drag queen. In the seventies, he pulled in about $4 million a year.

He wasn’t going to get that working gay bars!

Indeed, his act was aimed squarely at the more lucrative straight suburban audience. People who enjoyed a naughty giggle and a good old music hall sing-a-long — the blue rinse set, as they were known.

That audience loved his impersonations. But in truth, Danny plonked on a blonde wig to do Marlene Deitrich and a black wig for Joan Collins. The same black wig did double duty for Shirley Bassey. The Best of Snatch Game, it were not.

Caution: Shade ahead

Am I being too shady? I think not. I’m actually a fan of Danny La Rue – his unrelenting glamour and ability to connect with his audience. But check out the images below. On the left, Tina Turner in her iconic Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome costume. On the right, Danny’s impersonation of same on Australia’s Midday Show. Sorry, but that gives me ‘You have 15 minutes to get into quick drag’ vibes. All that’s missing is the blacked-out teeth and smeared lipstick of a RPDRDU mini-challenge. (For true drag masochists, the video of Danny’s Midday Show performance is at the bottom of the article — the very bottom.)

danny la rue down under rpdrdu new zealand

Danny La Rue Down Under

By the eighties, Danny had fallen on hard times after being scammed by some Canadian conmen. So he did what English performers who needed a quick quid usually did — he toured New Zealand and Australia.

Having three days to spare in New Zealand, he made Danny La Rue Down Under. And it does him about the same amount of credit that RPDRDU does RuPaul. But I won’t say any more about that. I made the mistake once before of offering an honest opinion of RPDRDU. Life’s too short for the rage of fanatical Drag Race followers.

Anyway, check out Danny La Rue Down Under Parts 1 & 3 below. Part 2 is missing from YouTube. But it would be heartbreaking if you missed Danny’s criminally appalling impersonations of Nana Mouskouri, Margaret Thatcher and Dame Edna Everage. You can find all three parts at NZ On Screen.

And, of course, RPDRDU Season 3 will premiere on Stan, July 28. What did Tina Turner sing in that number from Mad Max?

Out of the ruinsOut from the wreckageCan’t make the same mistake this time…

@teiganish OG drag superstar, Danny La Rue, pays tribute to Tina Turner on The Midday Show in Australia. This look and this wig are giving me Phyllis Diller vibes more than anything else though. 🥴😂 Our Tina deserves better, I think. 🥰 #dannylarue #drag #camp #campy #tinaturner #madmax #themiddayshow ♬ original sound – Teigan Reamsbottom

More Down Under Drag Herstory:

Drag Queens at War: Forgotten ANZAC legends (with free pictorial ebook Drag Queens at War)

Queensland drag icons: Peter and Johnny Moselle.

Adventure Island: Drag Queen Storytime daily.

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Destiny Rogers

Destiny Rogers embarked on her career in the media industry immediately after high school, initially joining Mirror News, which later evolved into News Ltd. She fondly recalls editing Ian Byford's 'Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns' as one of her most fulfilling projects. Additionally, Destiny co-researched and co-wrote 'The Queen's Ball', chronicling the history of the world's longest-running continuous queer event. Her investigative work on the history of Australia's COON Cheese and Edward Coon culminated in the publication 'COON: More Holes than Swiss Cheese', a collaborative effort with Dr. Stephen Hagan. Destiny's journey at QNews began as a feature writer, and she was subsequently elevated to the role of Managing Editor of QNews Magazine in 2018. However, in July 2022, she decided to resign from this role to refocus on research and feature writing. For contact, please reach out at destinyr@qnews.com.au.

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