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Melbourne is Australia’s most English city and it knows how to party. Midsumma Festival is the second largest urban queer gathering in Oz, pipped only by the Sydney Mardi Gras. OutUK correspondent Ernie Areldete has been checking out the current Melbourne scene.
Midsumma is a three week event in January/February where lesbians, gay men and their friends put it out there with community events, theatre, arts, cabaret and a great street fair. For one night of the year Commercial Road in Melbourne’s southside gay precinct, is closed to traffic and the lesbian and gay community descends en-masse. The venues along the strip provide entertainment on stages, rooftops, awnings, anything strong enough to withstand a drag queen and a posse of dancing boys. There’s bootscooting, tattoo competitions, art, street theatre and an awful lot of meeting and greeting going on. The Midsumma Cruise.
WINTERDAZE If you can't make it to Melbourne at the start of the year, then June is the time for Winterdaze which is also one of the biggest parties in the Southern Hemisphere. The 2003 poster boy was a bronzed hunk wearing little more than white war paint on his handsome face, buckskin loincloth on his bulging crotch, and an authentic looking white feather head-dress.
Winterdaze rocks on into the wee hours of the morning. There’s separate Gay male and Lesbian orgy rooms sectioned off from the dance floor for guests who get so revved up they can’t wait to get home to get it on.

The sheet partitioning the Lesbian dark room tore lose and fell to the ground while I was there, exposing a dozen girls caught in the act. But they hardly missed a beat!

In perhaps a nod (or a slap), at the city's English heritage and country’s head of state, Winterdaze is celebrated on The Queen's Official Birthday, a national holiday down under. Though The Queen just survived a vote to remain head of state, many pommies or Prisoners of Mother England, are both unhappy and amused at our grasp on this distant outpost. They call it the long goodbye. Everyone expects the final break, complete independence and declaration of a republic, to be soon, but no one knows exactly when.

WET ON WELLINGTON

Whatver, boys will be boys the world over, and boys certainly like their baths. The newest in town is Wet On Wellington, better known by its initials, WOW. WOW boasts all the facilities and amenities party minded men demand. The first feature you come in contact with is Wellie’s Boots, a chic restaurant owned and run by the same people, but a full-fledged eatery that could stand on its own.

Cuisine is Modern Australian, a delicious fusion of Asian and European influences with indigenous ingredients. Enjoy an old-fashioned meat pie in a flaky crust like you would get at any pub, exotic South Pacific seafood, or a mild Thai Curry, among dozens of menu items and daily specials.

WOW’s centerpiece is a long rectangular, indoor pool. Perfect for swimming laps, or just taking a dip. Adjacent to the pool sits a ten-man Jacuzzi. The left side of the colossal room housing the wet facilities is enclosed by floor to ceiling glass walls that can retract entirely, creating one continuous area between poolroom and adjacent landscaped terrace, and patio that can be utilized for special events serving up to 300 guests. WOW is totally attitude free. Virtually everyone is friendly. Every inch is sparkling clean, tastefully designed and visually enticing.

Club 80 is one of the largest sex clubs in the Southern Hemisphere.

Four floors of facilities are nothing short of spectacular. There’s an authentic jail, with cellblocks on three floors, enough for every naughty faggot in sight. Stairs and hallways are constructed of see through iron grills, so you can feel like the warden walking his beat, rattling the cages of depraved inmates with your night stick, with virtually unobstructed vision through every level.

Ironic, perhaps, that prison cells are a form of adult play in a country settled by English convicts!


The cells at Club 80.

SHOPPING

Federation Square has rapidly become the unique and uncontested signature structure on the Melbourne skyline. It is a fantastically modern mall (the entire attractive façade is composed of zinc, sandstone and glass in whimsical pinwheel patterns) erected to celebrate the recent (2001) national centennial. Until 1901, there was no Australia as such, just a collection of separate colonies that were federated that year. Located right alongside the broad and vibrant Yarra River, Federation Square is loaded with restaurants, shops, a tremendous out door amphitheatre, and the National Gallery of Victoria, which houses a superb collection of Aboriginal and Torres Islander Art.

BED & BOARD

The gay-owned Pearl restaurant is a winner with cutting edge Aussie cuisine, including their exquisite watermelon salad. One of their most popular deserts is Rose and Turkish delight ice cream with Persian fairy floss, something like candy floss. There’s even a restaurant on a fully functional, authentic colonial-era tram where you dine while seeing Melbourne unfold before you.

The best place to stay is at the landmark and very gay-friendly Prince of Wales Hotel in St. Kilda, a five-minute walk from the bay. The Prince houses: Circa, the best restaurant in Melbourne. Il Fornaio Bakery and Cafe featuring al fresco dining. Prince Wine Shop, stocking the most sought after Aussie vintages. Prince Bar, a predominantly Gay and Lesbian venue on Wednesdays. Mink Bar features 43 varieties of Vodka and the best Cuban cigars. The Band Room features live music. Aurora, largest spa in Oz, offering a variety of treatments and an Olympic-size swimming pool. The Prince is served by a tram station conveniently located at its doorstep. Other hotels and apartments can be booked online through OutUK hotel partners Bookings.

More On Melbourne

THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Club80 (10 Peel Street, Collingwood T:+61-3-9417-2182) Website
Midsumma Website
The Prince Of Wales Hotel (2 Acland Street, St Kilda T:+61-3-9526-1111) Website
Wet On Wellington (162 Wellington St, Collingwood T:++61-3-9419-2210)
Gay Australia Website
Visit Melbourne Website

 

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