A National Treasure who treasures her gay fan base
Monday after Mardi Gras is busy in the House of Priscilla costume hire store on Sydney’s Oxford Street.
Customers traipse in to drop off their outfits, many still bleary-eyed after 48 hours of partying. Word is, this year’s Mardi Gras was a good one, even if American drag queen RuPaul was a letdown. But there’s one thing every gay man on Oxford St agrees with: Kylie Minogue stole the show.
Kylie appeared at her third Mardi Gras this year, performing a half hour set at 2am at the post-parade party. The crowd loved her. She loved them. And why wouldn’t she? The 43 year old has pretty much built her entire career around pleasing her gay constituency.
Minogue is the ultimate “fag hag”. This isn’t to denigrate her, or her music, or the gay community or anyone else. Indeed, it is to praise her business acumen. We here in the print and online media are always being told to know who our readers are, and to direct our efforts towards producing content they’ll enjoy. Kylie does exactly that, and how.
You only have to listen to the message Kylie recorded for Mardi Gras organisers on Australia Day this year to see just how focused she is on pleasing the gay community, who have been her biggest consistent fans throughout her 25 year music career.
Happy Australia Day everyone I am so sorry I can’t be there with you. As you know this year is a big one for me because we are celebrating my 25 years in the music industry, otherwise known as “K25”. So whilst I can’t be with you for Australia Day, I do have some rather exciting news and that is that I am coming home for Mardi Gras this year. Yes, I am going to be with you for Mardi Gras, I’ve done it twice before, this will be my third time, I simply cannot wait and it’s going to be a beautiful way to celebrate 25 years of this relationship. Your support over the years has just been phenomenal and I can’t wait to come home and share that with you, so see you in March.
“Twenty five years of this relationship”. You’ve never heard Kylie talk about “her relationship” with middle Australia, have you? This woman clearly knows which side of her bread has the butter.
“She’d be a fool not to take advantage of those who love her the most.” says Steve Bloom, a patron in House of Priscilla.
Steve’s got a point. Which is not to say Kylie doesn’t have fans scattered out there in what might be termed mainstream Australia. She does. They are everywhere.
But support is patchy. Bieber’s got the tweens and he’s got ’em en masse. Gaga has the teens and 20-somethings. Madonna’s got nearly everyone else, even if we’re more transfixed by her ongoing weirdness than her overwhelming talent.
Kylie doesn’t have a natural mass audience here anymore. Not since the prehistoric hits Locomotion and I should be so Lucky. After those early bubblegum tunes, she was whooshed off by her songwriters and image-makers to the land of electronica, where she was promptly adopted by homosexual men.
In the zone between the safety of pop and the edginess of raunch, Kylie found her niche. A brief, misguided attempt at Indie cred in her duet with Nick Cave was a rare mis-step.
Kylie thereafter resisted the Madonna urge for relentless upheaval and reinvention. Give or take a bunch of outfit changes, she has more or less remained a brilliant, hot-pantsed exponent of dance music and a gay icon.
There is nothing ironic about the gay community’s admiration for Kylie. Again and again, the word applied to Kylie by people on Oxford Street yesterday was “genuine”.
She is also, says House of Priscilla owner Anthony Defina, the consummate entertainer. “Her costume sense is theatrical, and her music is great fun dance music which everyone can sing along to.”
Twenty-something women aren’t sold. “I don’t like her because she has no personality,” a 25 year old colleague told me. “Her face hasn’t changed and she’s had a bum lift,” another sub-30 female said.
Kylie would well know that most Gen Ys couldn’t care less about her, and that Gen Xs respect her but probably wouldn’t buy her music. That could be why she shunned the Young Talent Time reunion this year, and why she was the only inductee to the list of Australia’s National Living Treasures to duck this weekend’s photo call.
No matter. Gay people are the ones who propelled Kylie into the pop stratosphere while her former TV beau and duet buddy Jason Donovan popped and fizzled.
Most artists should be so lucky to have a fanbase half as devoted.
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