Legendary Brisbane showgirl Hazel LaBelle began as an entertainer in the 1960s. Following a lifetime onstage, she lived a quieter life in recent years but remained the same colourful character so beloved of audiences over many decades.
This writer first met Hazel in the late 1970s. She was a true character, a one-off, such as we are unlikely to see again. Onstage, she performed everything from vaudeville classics, through comedy to glamourous tits-and-feathers high-kicking showgirl numbers. Hazel famously preferred to perform minus underwear and thus transported audiences from Las Vegas straight to the Moulin Rouge with one head-high kick.
Here’s an extract from The Queens Ball Book recalling Hazel’s legendary performance at an iconic Brisbane event.
During the 1987 Ball, Hazel LaBelle and two dancers appeared on stage stark naked.
Hazel had no qualms about stage nudity. She was infamous for wearing no underwear. But the male dancers, Colin and David, expressed reservations. Hazel assured them that strobe lighting would allow the audience sufficient glimpses of nudity to create a WOW factor but deny any focus on anatomical detail. They carried Hazel onstage aloft, sitting astride their shoulders in a dance position properly termed la grand écarté a la quatrième. It translates roughly as ‘big blown-apart 4th’ though better known as ‘the splits’. Hazel enjoyed renown for both the splits and overhead height kicks, always sans underwear.
Lady Godiva dismounted centre stage. The trio slipped into small garments to cover their modesty before the stage lights proper came up. Cheeky but not immodest. Well… not immodest on the night, at least.
Punchbowl Studios in Brisbane Arcade acted as official ball photographer for many years. Sweida’s, perhaps the only local retailer of sequins and cheap wigs, was in the same arcade. Ball goers visited before the ball for costume supplies and afterwards for photographs. Punchbowl displayed the numbered pics in their front window. Would-be purchasers placed an order and returned a few days later once the images were developed from the negatives. Yes… archaic, we know.
The first visitor to the shop after this particular Ball looked in the window and discovered the photographer’s flash had cut straight through the strobe lighting, illuminating every tiny detail. There, on public display, in Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s Queensland, large as life — two penises and a vagina — boldly despoiling the moral landscape of the deep north. Unheard of behaviour! This in a state that insisted on a custom edition of Penthouse Magazine with g-stringed nude models. Even that sometimes proved insufficient for the local censorship board who disallowed the sale of the magazine until the nipples were covered. People once found gainful employment in Brisbane scrawling over nipples with a Nikko pen.
The photographs were quickly removed from display, and they and the negatives destroyed.
Hazel LaBelle R.I.P.
Information on funeral arrangements at the Facebook Appreciation page.
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