Swan Song – Once there were giants

swan song udo keir

Swan Song pays tribute to gay small-town superheroes of yesteryear. Iconic character actor Udo Kier takes on the role of loud, camp, witty local identity, hairdresser Pat Pitsenbarger. It once seemed every community had a ‘Mr Pat’ of their own. However, with modern visibility and the entertainment industry co-opting camp, those wonderful men went the way of dinosaurs.

The movie begins with the founding member of the local gay community now in a nursing home. With his husband dead and his partying days behind him, nothing remains for the former society hairdresser and drag performer but memories, smoking and waiting for the inevitable.

But then, he’s jolted from reveries of days gone by. He receives a call to style a longtime client – for her wake.

“Bury her with bad hair,” he quips initially before deciding to undertake the task.

Swan Song takes on a road trip sensibility thereafter. Pat flees the twilight home in search of the product necessary for the task. But life and hairdressing have moved on – once indispensable products now discontinued.

Linda Evans and Jennifer Coolidge

Along the way, Pat chats with old friends, including ghosts of clients past, notably Dynasty’s Linda Evans as the woman whose hair he’s about to do.

His need for a particular product sees him forced into the premise of Dee Dee (Jennifer Coolidge). Once a protege, she later launched a rival business across the street and put him out of business. The frenemies battle it out one last time.

Pat eventually pops into an op-shop and acquires a vintage 1980s lime-green pants suit from a former customer. Coming soon to a party near you – the soon-to-be-iconic pantsuit – as celebrated as the thong dress from Priscilla or Liz Hurley’s safety pin dress.

Some reviews of Swan Sing ponder whether the movie takes cinematic liberties with the character. Youthful scribes convey scepticism that so fabulous and flamboyant a creature, defiantly loud, proud and over-the-top, could have existed in smalltown America. Even more incredibly, that Mr Pat could have prospered as the must-have hairdresser to conservative society matrons.

FFS. Have they ever spoken to anyone over the age of twelve? Mr Pats once abounded, even here in Australia. Effervescent, and by turn, witty or shitty, louder than life gay men added colour and character to communities and conservatives couldn’t get enough of them. Those men gave our communities visibility, and respect, and helped usher in the modern era of continuing LGBTIQ+ progress.

Udo Kier’s performance is a tour de force and Swan Song, a genuine and poignant portrayal of a character such as we may never see again. Once, there were giants.

In cinemas December 26.

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.

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia


  1. Dennis
    10 December 2021

    Fantastic performance by Udo Kier.
    Very witty and clever with an emotional yet unique story line with important, subtle messages! I really enjoyed it.

    10 December 2021

    Swan Song? Full of joy, sadness, laughter and pathos. Some of us could certainly bond with the gay bars of the seventies where Mr Pats were everywhere.
    I loved it. It brought happiness to the audience

  3. Alain Ferré
    10 December 2021

    Go see this movie! Why? Well…because I told you to….and also because it’s a wonderful movie. It’s nice, it’s different and it’s unusual all at the same time. It will leave you feeling like you’ve gained just a little different perspective in life. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and laugh again. Do go see it.

  4. Robert D
    11 December 2021

    Pat Pitsenbarger reminded me of two terrible Brisbane drag performers, Frieda and another I won’t speak ill of as he/she/they are still alive, Just.
    Pure and extremely entertaining but would steal the wallet out of your pocket while smiling at your face.
    I loved this movie dearly and ever since have been reminiscing about all the identical Queens I know and have known. This 5-star movie is a must-see.

    • 11 December 2021

      That’s strange. I knew Freda for over 30 years and spent a lot of time around her in the first 10 of those. While she had many failings and her friends suffered her nasty streak as much as her enemies, I never knew her to steal so much as a toothpick.

  5. Greg C
    17 December 2021

    I found this film to be a little charmer, Humous and in many ways situations that may confront us at some time.
    Great cast. A film recommended.

    Again thank you for to Qnews

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *