It's the most wonderful time of the year, but do you remember your very first time?
Mardi Gras never fails to provide a wealth of magical memories. The parades, the parties and the people.
Guidetogay.com asked a panel of much-loved scene identities about their first time.
Do you remember yours?
A-List Sydney DJ
"My first Mardi Gras parade was unforgettable for so many reasons. I went with my best friend; we stood on milk crates on Flinders Street, made friends with complete strangers and watched the parade - which, I had never seen anything so colourful and so exciting before.
Also, up until that point in my life I'd been ashamed to be gay. That night, everything changed. I became proud. And after the parade I met a nice fella and got my very first blow job. Yep, unforgettable all round."
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Musical Theatre Powerhouse
"My first Mardi Gras party was 1988 and being such an innocent boy back then I think I left around 1am. However, the following year that innocence flew out the window. I was performing in my first pro show 'Les Miserables' and a few of us went from the show. My world changed that night. I was drinking a lovely Gin and Tonic when one of my fellow cast members grabbed me by the hand and pulled me into the Commonwealth Pavilion. I walked into what felt like nirvana. The lights, the music, the electricity in the air - boy this was an amazing gin and tonic, I thought!
I felt like I was walking on one of those travelators at the airport with the biggest grin on my face. The timing was amazing - I was pulled into the sea of bodies and viewed the first version of 'I Am What I Am' with 110 performers choreographed by the late great Ross Coleman and lead by the legend that was Leggs Galore. I have never jumped so high, screamed so loud, and felt like I suddenly belonged somewhere. Thank you Mardi Gras for many wonderful memories. PS. I left at 10am!"
Photo: James in Privates on Parade currently playing at the New Theatre for Mardi Gras. Photo taken by Bob Seary
"I went to my first SGLMG party as part of a bizarre love triangle. Me, my ex and the boy I dated until my ex decided to date him instead. We were all on the dance floor together, being "respectful" of each other's emotional boundaries. I was miserable. Suddenly, The Urban Cookie Collective's 'The Key, The Secret' came on, a hot guy I had a crush on appeared out of the crowd, grabbed me, pulled me into a throng of sexy guys, and didn't let me go all night. It was like everything went "BOOM!" I met some of the people who were to become really close long-term friends that night. It kind of changed everything.
Back in the day, the house party you went to before Parade/Party was just as important as the event itself. My ex - whose pre-party I was going to - had volunteered to shave my body in preparation. When I arrived at his house, I was draped on a chaise longue in the middle of the room and was shaved whilst a circle of guys looked on drinking champagne! It was quite a memorable preparation!"
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Stage Manager Extraordinaire
"This year! I've never had a desire to go to Mardi Gras - purely because of the amount of people that would be there. That freaks me out a little bit!
Whenever I tell anyone I haven't been they are shocked as I have worked in rainbow land since I was 18, so I decide to go and was offered to be a part of Mardi Gras and Stage Manage part of the events.
I am so excited to be involved and view it as a crewmember first - then maybe I can dive into being a punter next time! I had always jokingly said I would only go if I could have my own float, but this is just as good!"
Best-selling author, 'Twisted Harmony: The Journey Of Mr. Gay Sydney'
"The first time walking into a Mardi Gras party was like arriving late at your own surprise party, where 16,000 of your closest friends were invited. The music, the costumes, the fantasy of it all. People would come up from all directions wishing you a loud "Happy Mardi Gras!" with the same jubilation normally reserved for NYE. Back then, the main dance hall was Government Hall. The heat from thousands of people dancing hit you as soon as you entered the space. A sea of shirtless men you could swim through as you danced to some of the best DJs in the world. And the meeting spot if you ever got lost? It was always under the biggest mirror ball."
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"1981. My first MG was scary as it wasn't celebrated as it is now - it was more a demonstration about being Gay. I was a baby drag just starting out and was asked to walk alongside the Caps Float. Caps, short for Capriccio's, was a famous nightclub on Oxford Street where the best drag shows were produced by David Mitchell & David Penfold. I was an avid fan and most Saturdays you would find myself, Coco and Spectra sitting front row for these shows. To be asked to walk alongside their float at the time was an honour. The 3 of us all dressed up, I was a Drag Clown in a blue outfit and had the best time. The float was a massive old convertible car and had the stars of the show seated in it - Mitch Michelle, Rhonda, Trinka Mustard and a few more. I have some hazy memories of the night as it's SO long ago, but along Oxford Street we went, got harassed by police for marching and kept going. After the parade / march, we all went back to Capriccios and watched the shows. There was a photo of us in Cruiser Magazine the next issue and I remember being so excited to have made it into the press. There were many more memorable Mardi Gras parades for me after that and I have been lucky to be involved in so many. This year I am leading the 1st Official RSPCA float, but nothing will compare to my very first Mardi Gras."
Creative Director, BLING Melbourne
"Even though I've been privileged to be working in the LGBTIQ community in Melbourne for nearly a decade, this year was my first Mardi Gras. I was honoured to be apart of the team to bring down the NOH8 Campaign for the first time to Australia and watch the first photo shoot unravel at Fair Day. It was historic.
To see over 70,000 people flood into Victoria Park and everybody from different backgrounds, ages, races, sexualities unite to stand for equality and human rights for the NOH8 Campaign was something pretty special. The kaleidoscope of colours on the main stage of Fair Day, I think, is just a representation of that kind of unity as well. We're all different but when we unite, it's powerful."
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Lee Dagger of Bimbo Jones
International chart topping DJ / Producer
"I had always wanted to perform at the world famous Sydney Mardi Gras. I had heard so many good things about the party, not to mention the famous guests they have year after year. 2010 was a dream come true! Being my first Mardi Gras, I wanted to play a true party set. I was playing in the main room, along with David Guetta, Kelly Rowland, Adam Lambert, Dan Murphy... and to my amazement, my set was followed by George Michael! It doesn't get much better than that.
The excitement of playing to such a big crowd at Mardi Gras was amazing! I made sure that every tune was a TUNE, mixing up anthems with new remixes, the odd classic and pure feel good sing-along factor with a little push too. The crowd was awesome. After my set I immediately mingled into the crowd to personally hand out my CDs to everyone. It was one of the highlights of my career and I felt very blessed and honoured to have been invited to perform."
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DIVA Awards committee chair
"Picture this. College Street, 1987. A little pale boy from Newcastle arrives just on dusk. The crowd was deep and the atmosphere was incredible. I didn't have any gay friends that night, just two amazing friends who knew what being there meant to me. I just knew this was where I was meant to be.
There's been a lot of misadventure since then and more forgotten than remembered, but that little wide-eyed boy would never have thought 27 years later I'd be on a truck sliding up Oxford Street with some of the most incredible friends you could ever wish for. My wish for Mardi Gras is that every kid, in every country town gets to experience that one night, when our people are free to be whatever or whoever we want to be and feel without judgement."
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