Tuesday, October 23, 2007

~ troy

Troy was stricken during the first wave of HIV infections, and, in time, contracted AIDS. Upon his death earlier this year, he must surely have been one of the longest surviving victims in Australia.

Troy's funeral was held in Sydney, where had lived for the last few decades, but in Melbourne, where he had so many friends and admirers, a second memorial service was held in the gardens of Ripponlea mansion.

This was a couple of months ago, when Melanie and I were still able to share a car without beleaguering each other with vicious squabbling. (Melanie is an ex-girlfriend of Ukranian descent, possessed of an extraordinary temper and a withering tongue). I gave her a lift to the memorial, and we were both nervous as we walked up the gravel drive. Most of the guests we would not have seen since Troy's departure to Sydney; it would be the opening of a time capsule, but the contents would have aged along with us.

Graciously, the event was organised by George Huxley, Richard Lowenstein, Bruno Charlesworth and others - and they'd seen fit to provide a liberal bar. This was my first port of call; I was unsteady, I was apprehensive of whom I might set eyes upon. There would be friends - there would also be those with who I did not part on friendly terms.

As mentioned in the previous post, I came to know Troy as his neighbour in Milton St. I'd known of him previously by reputation, but under a different name - Vanessa, allegedly the most gorgeous and authentic drag queen in Melbourne. At that time, the only drag queens I'd known were six foot tall Maoris on mandrax and the idea of an attractive one seemed a contradiction in terms.

When I first met him, Troy still had pert shapely breasts and was the most exotic and inspired individual I had yet encountered in my short life. Not surprisingly, it took me a little while to stop being afraid of him. To that point, most of my experiences with non-heteros had been in the form of older men trying to pick me up from the street, (on one memorable occasion, an airline pilot) - and in my naivety I expected that sooner or later Troy would put the hard word on me. Of course, it never happened, but one night we were up late watching TV and Troy, not wanting to outstay his welcome in my flat, politely asked if I wanted to go to bed. My response was 'No thanks, I'm straight'. Till the day he died, Troy was still embarrassing me by retelling that story to anyone who would listen and laugh. Indeed, it was his habitual pleasure to annoy me - once, he snatched up some of my unfinished poetry and, to my exasperation, I had to chase him around the flat for half an hour to get it back. You see, I was very sensitive about my writing back then...

Troy had sheer talent. He started with fashion and ended with sculpture. He would sew me up crazy outfits to wear on stage. Once, I remember him dressing Tobsha Learner in a magnificent garment that was also a chest of Daliesque drawers - and then blackening up her underarm hair with an eyeliner pencil. Jean Paul Gaultier, you say? This was well before him. Troy also served as my match-matcher, setting me up with inappropriate female after inappropriate female...

At one time he became obsessed with Dinah Shaw - a sort of white-bread Oprah whose show was on TV weekday mornings. I remember him speaking of her repeatedly and once he asked me if I found her attractive. I didn't really take him seriously, till I stepped onto his veranda early one morning and saw him through the window furiously masturbating with Dinah on the black and white telly next to his bed. I backed quietly away and gave him all the time he needed.

I recall entering his flat after the departure of an ambulance, concerned about what had transpired. Troy was the angriest I'd ever seen. He'd spent most of his dole cheque on heroin, immediately OD'd, been shot up with narcan by the paramedics, and now, he spat, was 'fucking straight'. I watched him trying to fix plastic gemstones to the bald sides of his head with super-glue. He was not fucking straight.

In time we became caring friends. Then we drifted, then he moved to Sydney. But I came away with a thorough and gainful appreciation of the perverse.

The occasion of his memorial put my head in a spin. A parade of friends and acquaintances I had not seen for twenty years: Anne Harding, sister of my dearest Christine; Lisa Dethridge, former lover and cheekily smiling imp, now with family; the gorgeous Suzanne Wales, with the sweetest nature in Nature, another lover, now a Barcelonan; Mark Warner, with who I'd fought the Slammerkin, now dead of cancer; Jeff Jaffers, who directed Earthbound, my only screenplay; Marie, an ex lover of both Troy and myself; Mim; Denise; Despina; George Huxley, on whom I relied to colour and cut my hair during my days in the limelight; Karen Hooper; Anthony Smethhurst; Barry Sherman - once a warlock for the local branch of Crowley's Ordo Templi Orientis; his Sister Sara, the fashion designer; Mark Seymour, Sean Kelly... ad infinitum.

I buried the hatchet and shook hands with Richard Lowenstein, who, since Dogs in Space, had been my declared enemy. Troy's spirit permeated the gathering, dissolving all enmities. I also spoke with Richard's partner Lynne Marie for the first time since those days. Little information passed between us - she speaks as softly as a mouse and I am half deaf - but there was good will in the air. Later, having lost the power of speech, I sat next to a dyspeptic Renee Geyer and tried to hold a conversation. Neither of us could make an ounce of sense. Renee, Mark Seymour and Tim McKew sang songs. George Huxley, Ollie Olsen and Bruno Charlesworth gave elegies. But it was somehow the gathering itself that honoured Troy.

I became dangerously overstimulated and it wasn't long before I was probably suffering from alcohol toxicity. I recall being in a car with my dear friend Paul Goldman, Suzanne Wales & Hugh Marchant (with whom I had had bitter words when last we met). We were on our way into the city, for what I suppose might be called a wake. I have few memories after that. The hangover of the following day was a sheer triumph for the Slammerkin.

It was a special congregation - a particular group who will almost certainly never come together again. As such, it was a final sacred gift from Troy - the genuine cult-figure. We came away feeling graced, our lives in a little more perspective. One last glimpse of Troy's blazing talent, the world he addressed with art and wit, the merciless disease that in later times defined his life. One last glimpse of his holy fire.

troy on youtube
troy on myspace

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Anonymous said...

Wow Sam, you've known some "colourful" characters in your life. I feel SO straight!
Love Amanda

Matt said...

Beautifully told, Sam.

lily was here said...

Fabulous read Sam!

"no thanks, Im straight" - thats too funny. A colourful, gregarious character, a legend like his namesake. I guess you've kind of answered my question about Lowenstein. I wondered. I hope there's more.

Kelly Chapman said...

this was lovely to read. i was so bummed i couldn't make the wake. hope you're well, kelly x