We set out for The Isle Of Man with high heels and feathers untidily packed, and with just a little trepidation. After all, it isn’t long ago that people like us would regularly face the birch here for much less than owning a pair of red stilletoes! And although I’ve been known to enjoy an alpha male making merry with his wood, the thought of it being used as a punishment is still chilling! As it transpires, we needn’t have worried – well, not completely!
It may surprise some of you to know that Andrew is a Man virgin! Really! I, rather less surprisingly, am not! No. I have visited the island before. Too many years back, I was on tour with the wonderful ‘Opera Della Luna’ company giving my ‘Nanki-Poo’, in a funky take on ‘The Mikado’. We played a whole week at the beautiful, Victorian ‘Gaiety Theatre’, and had a marvellous time.
This visit, however, was going to be a little different – in fact, very different!
We had been convinced by a wonderfully kind lady to come and give our ‘Lola Boys’ show to the Isle’s inhabitants, in aid of charity, in support of breast cancer treatment. ‘The Lola Boys’, as I’m sure many of you are aware, isn’t quite ‘Gilbert & Sullivan’! We weren’t quite sure how we were going to be received. Especially as our first performance was going to be at The Manx Legion Club! A wonderfully honest type of establishment, straight out of ‘Phoenix Nights’.
On arrival, we were both stunned to see a baying audience of almost three hundred, lagers and bingo dabbers in hand, more than ready to judge. It was like an ‘X Factor’ panel, only a little less glamorous. We made our way through the throng to our ‘Dressing Room’, which also doubled as an office, come store-room. And as we closed the door and stood,in far too much make-up, under the merciless flourescent light, I looked at Andrew and wondered what the hell he’d got us into! The slight fear in his eyes was also easy to read. Of course, neither of us commented – we had a job to do. And as our old mate Savage used to say, when faced with the same kind of situation – “Just get it done!”
As it turned out, we had nothing to fear. After some initial puzzlement, the crowd began to love it. By the end of the show they were on their feet and we were more than thrilled to receive a standing ovulation! Miners, fisherman, farmers, all wanted to shake our hands, and their charming wives kissed us and showered us with praise, and just a little spittle. It was almost moving. We would do it again in a trice! Which is very appropriate – as The Isle Of Man is famous for it’s three legged emblem, and both of us have always appreciated a man with three legs! The warmth and acceptance was palpable, and the pints were flowing. We both succumbed to a little after show partiness. As the company was so real and such fun, it would have been churlish not to. Of course, we regretted it the following day, when we awoke with shitty hangovers – and another show to do!
The main event was a big charity ball taking place in one of the major hotels in Douglas, the island’s capital. This was an entirely different affair – black ties and evening gowns. I had a feeling they would be a tougher crowd than the less salubrious folk we had played for the previous night. I was right!
Andrew and I always like to waft through our audience, prior to starting. It is a great way to break the ice, and also gives us a feel for the type of people we will,hopefully, be entertaining. So, guyliner applied, and boa-ed up, we enter the ball-room. We both go in opposite directions, Andrew takes stage left and I head right, towards the slightly rowdier end of the venue. Suspicious looks abound, but everyone is polite and I can tell that they are all enthused by the prospect of a saucy night. I then make my way to a table at the very edge of the room and try to engage in conversation. Nothing difficult – just a ‘hello’.
Nothing. I get nothing back. Other than a sour faced look from a trampy, tattoed woman whose eye makeup is more drag than mine!
‘Hello’, I chirp, attempting to keep it light.
‘Do you speak English?’ I ask, admittedly with a naughtly glint in my eye. And then…
‘Why don’t you fuck off!’
‘I’m sorry’, I croon, ‘I was only saying hello’. Still managing to maintain the phoney charm, although inside my heart is starting to bang.
‘I don’t know WHAT you are’, hisses a short, balding man in a cheap bow tie, ‘but I’m not gonna be your public stooge!’ He then stands up, rather too close to my face in a very agressive fashion, pauses menacingly, and stomps off. Leaving the rest of the table just staring.
‘Oh dear’, I say, ‘I didn’t mean to upset him’.
Inwardly I wanted to punch the rude git, but I knew that wasn’t the type of behaviour one should exhibit at a ball. Especially one in aid of breast cancer. I didn’t want it to go tits up before we started!
I turned to the rest of the table and settled with a restrained,
‘Well I hope you’re not quite as rude as your friend.’
The sour faced woman looked up and practically spat out,
‘Each to their own love !’
I knew immediately what she meant and thought it better not to respond. Inside I was dying. I gave a dry smile and got as far away from them as possible. Just in case they had a birch ready under the table! Plebians!
The show went terribly well, and the rest of the audience showed none of the homophobia that I had had to suffer at the beginning. They were wonderful. Kind and open. But the nastiness I was forced to undergo at the start left a bitter taste. If only it had happened at The Legion the night before. Then, I would have felt much more comfortable knocking the fucker out!
It was a small moment, and one that fades very quickly into insignificance, when compared to the fact that together with the wonderful girls who run the charity, we raised over sixteen thousand quid for the breast cancer unit here on the island. It’s always good to remember the big picture, and not let some small-minded, ignorant fool, and his equally stupid cohorts, spoil a night that was fabulous.
We have loved it here. We can’t wait to return and play for those generous, open souls at The Manx Legion.
And those silly, uneducated, small minded idiots at the ball, dressed as penguins, on the far table, stage right, will be thrilled to know, in the inimitable words of Mr Swharzenegger.
WE’LL BE BACK.
Whether they like it or not !