Pictured here with some of the many toys donated to under-privileged children – are Mr Steve Francis (compere), ’Stella’, Peter Martindale (disc jockey), Mr Jean Fredericks (hostess) and Mr Barry Scott who all say the Fancy Dress Ball prior to Xmas was a huge success. As well as the toys – the raffle raised £28 towards a party for O.A.P.’s held at St Martins In-The-Field by Miss Louise Symonds. Many thanks to the crowd who came to the dance and gave a toy towards this charity. See you all on February 17 – at the Aquarius Ball – Porchester Hall, W2.

Porchester Balls

“I’m going to the Grand Ball at the Porchester Hall,” he said.

“Oh,” said I, being in the rag trade (ooh! you used that word), “let me know if there’s anything I can do to help!”

“OK,” says he. “I want to go, take me!”

Well, knowing this was no invitation in the literal sense, I agreed.

Thus, I found myself at the Porchester Hall, a delightful creature on each arm, wondering just what was in store for me at my first ever drag ball.

The foyer was a mass of seething humanity and inhumanity. Every shop within 20 miles radius must have sold right out of sequins and chiffon, although gold lame and feathers held their own (if you know what I mean); and, speaking as a fairly frequent visitor to the Coleherne, it was a pleasant change to see socks and hankies used to supplement a different part of the male anatomy. I never know by what criteria one should judge drag: does one look for originality, outrageousness, subtlety, femininity or what?

Jean Fredericks, the organiser of the ball whom one must credit as being something of an expert on this question told me he thinks of Drag as an art, the art of looking like a woman.

If this is the criterion we are to take, then the evening had its quota of dismal failures, and, to be scrupulously fair, also some stunning successes.

Jean himself, although no sylph as he would be the first to admit, succeeded in looking all woman in a series of fascinating gowns and wigs.

In a fair number of cases, the sex of the assembled company was pretty obvious; the five-o’clock shadow, the muscled arms, the protruding adam’s apple, and butch gait, were often dead give-aways. The outfits ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous.

The themes for the evening were: The Virgin, The Witch and The Tart, and I felt it was a pity that more of the guests had not made an effort to fit into those categories rather than chasing that elusive quality, glamour.

However I did meet at least one interesting attempt at each class, the oh-so-lovely ‘Christine’ was the Virgin, floating in and frequently tripping over, clouds of pastel chiffon. She assured me that her left nostril was completely unsullied – unless you count the bird of paradise.

The Witch was a monument of personal endeavour having spent two months making an exquisite full-length creation in dark blue and green patterned Lurex, with a much befringed bust, sequin-coated shoes, and an imposing head dress. Come winter and the power cuts, his outfit, with the aid
the power cuts, his outfit, with the aid of a single candle has enough refracting power to illuminate a whole street.

The Tart was Big Sylvia, sporting that, by now, well-known stand-by, the simple little black dress, worn with pearls at her throat and in her hair. Her two main accessories were a feather boa, which to regular visitors to the now defunct “Your Father’s Moustache” must look very familiar, and piece de resistance, two very interesting sailors, Chris and Peter, who are welcome to dock at my place (I said dock) any time they like.

But for me. the most fascinating person at the ball was Freddie in a froth of white, originally designed, he told me, for the Great Waltz. Freddie is, in his own words, “no chicken” but he looked great. He’s always at the balls, so look out for him at the next one — (on December 6) he’s a real character.

There are many people I haven’t mentioned but shortage of space makes it inevitable, sorry, girls.

I made a point of chatting to as many “straights” as I could, including the staff at the hall, and there was a singular lack of criticism about the place, the people or the event, so it looks as if Jean and his team are doing a great public relations job for this facet of gay life. Keep it up, Jean, and may your balls get bigger every year.

What A Drag

Saturday night at the London Hilton Hotel, the end of September and “Drag’s Biggest night” — or was it? Initially advertised as “the season’s most glittering occasion” the ‘Theatre Arts Ball’ was meant to pick ‘Miss United Kingdom (Drag) 1972’. However, we found this exotic title had been altered to ‘Miss Female Impersonator (International) 1972’ (our condolences to the organisers for the lack of foreign entrants!)

Mr Jean Fredericks, as always, supplied a good evening’s entertainment. Jean must be well known to most of London’s gay crowd as being the organiser of most of London’s drag balls held at the Porchester Hall. Now Mr Fredericks has taken us up a step in the world to the world renowned Hilton ballroom, and has worked very hard with his friends to provide us with what should have been (definitely) a “night of nights”. So what went wrong?

Well, on arriving at the Reception Hall outside the main Ballroom, with three friends, I endeavoured to present my tickets. The reception table was lost in a large group of well dressed and exotically perfumed young ladies(?!). In order to find my table number for dinner, I approached the well known Mr Steve Francis, whom I found to be trying hard to cope with an impossible situation. Small things like lack of tickets and seating arrangements to name but a few. Full marks, Steve, for coping in what should not have been any problem in the first place. The staff and management of the Hilton could have been more co-operative.

Tickets settled, we then swept into the bar for that longed for first drink. Prices of the drinks were reasonable for the said establishment. Full marks again!

Trumpets heralded dinner. And then continued, as we were ushered in, two by two, and announced into the main ballroom. Chaos commenced. Standing, wide-eyed at all around us, we were then left to find our own way among some 500 guests to our own tables, while waiters, dressed in black and looking like vultures, waited to descend on us. The problem was that they didn’t! — or at least until such a time as one had quite forgotten what they were there for. The only thing worth mentioning about the meal was the lamb (or carré d’agneau rôti). Delicious!

Our wine waiter, such a sweet man, was completely lost by being surrounded by such abandoned beauty. Until he was in such a state that the poor fellow ended up addressing all the gentlemen as ‘Madam’ and the ‘ladies'(?!) as ‘Sir’. Still, I am sure that the mind does boggle. Following the meal came the awaited moment, possibly a little too early — as the meals were only just finishing.

Our glamorous hostess, (with the mostest) Mr Jean Fredericks, took the floor to announce that all those who were to take part in the Beauty competition should vacate the hall and collect their entrance numbers. Only about fifty actually did — very disappointing as some beautiful costumes could still be seen sitting around the hall, while the usual collection of entrants could be seen lining up in expectation

The walk on, up, over and off the stage was judged by none other than Mr Lee Sutton, world famous impersonator. Also actress Jean Hampton and Mr Vuron Brewer. From these fifty odd competitors (you can read that how you like) eighteen were chosen for the semi-final stages of the competition.

At this point I would like to mention the efforts of some of the contestants in the hard work they had in producing their elaborate designs.

Princess Tinsel was “glittering” and well photographed by ‘Sunday Mirror’ and other papers. Barry — the cheeky chef with the dream topping – as described in the Sunday Mirror (one edition — lucky Barry — nice photo) paid £200 for a stunning two-tone wig. John, from Ruislip, was seen in two stunning creations which Miss Shirley Bassey would have been proud of — (or green with jealousy, as the resemblance was effective.)

Helping to keep things equal we had two colourful Arab costumes, plus Ali Baba, minus forty thieves — and, fresh from the museum, came Tutankhamun looking his age. My own young lady was none other than ‘Chelsea’ from Los Angeles, known to London as Simon of My Father’s Moustache Restaurant. She was wearing a two piece trouser suit in gold lamé, with hair style, rings and jewellery to match, the general effect being such that even Richard Burton could have been excused for mistaking her for we all know whom. And Dominic — or ‘Natasha’ (she certainly looked the part) was dressed in clothes from the Victorian era, and styled her looks to match.

So let us now turn to the Main Event — the final line-up of the “contest of the year” – judged in a fair and objective manner by representatives of the British Theatre, including Mr Richard Jackson, Miss Vicki Richards, Miss Dulcie Gray and Mr Michael Denison.

Miss Fredericks was pleased to announce as winner Mr Leslie Porter, who now reigns as the first Miss Female Impersonator (International), wearing a simple and elegant black dress. Leslie’s natural ease and poise carried her easily into the much coveted position. For Leslie, the winning prize of £100 in cash, and a further £100 worth of prizes.

The second prize was carried away by two contestants – who shared second place. The first wearing an ultra-feminine pink ensemble with matching ostrich feathers and a ‘Twiggy’ hair-do – quite charming — and the second of the duo wore a vampish outfit of see-through black, strongly contrasting with her blond hair. Striking – if nothing else. However it was suggested that had they teamed up before the contest, they might have carried off the first prize as ‘Beauty and the Beast’. In third place came Mark Cardel, looking as appealing as ever in a rather sophisticated costume in classical black and gold.

Once the contest was over we were all entertained by Mr Lawrence Daury of Paris — or somewhere, who sang “No Regrets”. I wish we could have all said the same. Mr Jean Fredericks entertained in her own cabaret, as usual.

In general people enjoyed the evening, and most people seemed to consider the price of £6.60 a ticket as money well spent. Mr Barry Scott, an international professional female impersonator, was quoted as saying that the evening was well thought out by Mr Fredericks, who, in his opinion, is a great artiste, but that unfortunately due to a lack of organisation, much of the evening was spoiled. Of Leslie Porter, the winner of the competition, he said: “Leslie really deserved to win.”

Summing up the evening, Mr Scott said, “A nice time, but I definitely won’t come again.” On reflection, neither shall I.