In 1982, autocratic Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen and his loyal police henchmen huffed and puffed over a visiting production of Lindsay Kemp’s acclaimed Flowers.
Based on Jean Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers, the mime and music extravaganza starred Lindsay Kemp as Divine, a drag queen from the Parisien demi-monde. Flowers was unapologetically decadent, gay AF and featured male and female nudity.
What is this thing you call nudity?
Not something ever heard of in Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s Queensland.
Queensland was the godliest place on Earth according to the Premier. That was his schtick and he schtuck to it while his ministers and senior police took bribes to allow every form of immorality known to man or ping pong ball.
A friend once said, “Just imagine if someone like Hanson, Latham or Deves actually got power.”
I don’t need to imagine. I’ve been there. I grew up in Queensland under Joh.
The Canberra Times and other newspapers reported that airline pilots made inflight announcements as their planes entered Queensland: “Please turn your watches back one hour for daylight saving… and ten years.”
Lindsay Kemp’s Flowers
No Queensland venue was willing to risk the production in 1976 when Lindsay Kemp first brought Flowers to Australia. But by 1982, the management of Her Majesty’s Theatre thought things had improved.
“I don’t anticipate too much trouble with the conservative elements,” Her Majesty’s manager Peter Davis told reporters, “I’m sure that we in Brisbane are not that different any more.”
Good fcking luck!
Suddenly, correspondence from people with names like ‘Concerned’ filled the Letters to the Editor pages of local papers. Probably organised by Joh’s accomplice, morals advocate Rona Joyner of STOP (Society To Outlaw Pornography). Flowers, according to the letter writers would “rot Queenslanders’ moral fibre.”
Joh Bjelke-Petersen called for a ban on the “hocus pocus on the stage.”
His loyal stormtroopers in the Queensland Police Vice Squad announced they would arrest any naked male dancers.
The controversy ensured massive ticket sales. Indeed, the vice squad bought a dozen at $17 a head to ensure proper scrutiny of potential male nudity. No dick would escape detection.
The show went ahead as usual with no changes.
Well, sort of…
A smoky haze
There were glimpses of male genitalia but apparently the smoke machines at Her Majesty’s worked overtime that night, masking the appearance of two naked actors in a smouldering haze.
Flowers ended with a 20-minute standing ovation and no arrests.
One vice squad officer commented to a journalist, “It was interesting, but did you understand it?”
Within a few years, Joh Bjelke-Petersen would be locking himself in his office for a week in a futile effort to avoid dismissal by his own party as a corruption inquiry laid bare the gross criminality of his self-serving regime.
And some dickheads still defend the crooked despot. Does my fcking head in!
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