Fast becoming one of the most talked about and highly anticipated shows of Adelaide Fringe 2017, the Global Sensation Panti Bliss brings the fantastically titled High Heels In Low Places to Gluttony. The creation of Rory O’Neill, Panti became an accidental activist, spokesperson and in many way a national hero for the part she played in the recent historic Marriage equality vote in Ireland.
Some of which happened after what became known as Panti-Gate. During 2014 TV interview Rory spoke out about homophobia in the Irish media, naming some names and there was a barrage of heat seeking lawsuits launched in every direction. It was discussed in the European Parliament and because a major talking point in the lead up to the referendum. Panti had become a inspiring and prominent figure.
In 2014 there was a memoir and the Pet Shop Boys set one of her speeches to music and it was released as The Best Gay Possible – Oppressive Dance Mix. In 2015 a documentary movie The Queen of Ireland was released to critical acclaim. With all this Panti is still most happy slapping on the drag and entertaining people.
There is a lot going on with Panti Bliss. Drag performer, activist, gay icon. There is a documentary about your life, you’ve written an autobiography, you gave a TedEx talk. Was there a specific moment (Panti-Gate?) when you thought – well this shit just got absolutely bonkers?
Quite a few! One I particularly remember was walking through the newsroom of the National Broadcaster and all the journalists are standing around watching the live television coverage of the parliamentary debate about “Pantigate” and the leader of the opposition is thundering at the government benches about “Panti Bliss”.
Does the activism or being such a strong symbol for the rights of gay people, ever get in the way of you just wanting to get out there and be fabulous? I am sure you can do both at the same time.
I wouldn’t say it gets in the way, but it is a balancing act. And I am aware that people can sometimes take everything I say much more seriously, so I’ve had to become more careful of what I say. But I try not to worry too much about it.
You were once a dancer on tour with Cyndi Lauper, do girls really just want to have fun?
Girls, just like boys and everyone in between, sometimes just want to have fun… and sometimes want to be taken seriously. Can we have both?
To the best of my knowledge you are the only drag queen to have made a record with the Pet Shop Boys (if you don’t count Dusty Springfield). How did they approach you about turning your Noble Call speech into a synth-pop dance track?
They actually made it first and then Neil Tennant rang me (no gay is ever more than two degrees of separation from any drag queen) to ask if they could release it. I acted all cool and casual, but the teenage gay inside me was screaming and then lay down and died happy.
You have been to Australia before, but what are you expecting from the Adelaide Fringe?
I have indeed been to Australia before which is why I’m expecting to be spending a lot of time waiting at pedestrian crossings for the green light (in Ireland the lights are treated as a vague guide, not an instruction). But what I’m hoping to find is a Fringe show based on Australia’s greatest cultural gift to the world: the 80’s TV mini-series “Return To Eden”. If there isn’t one I shall be lodging an official complaint.
Interview by Ian Bell
Panti Bliss – High Heels In Low Places is at The Peacock at Gluttony for three shows only Friday Feb 17 – Sunday Feb 19 at 9:50pm. Tickets from Fringe Tix.