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PERFORMANCE ART LEGEND
PENNY ARCADE SPEAKS TO
Consciously bisexual from age four, Susana
Ventura wanted to be a mermaid when she
grew up. Instead, when she was 17 and
coming down off LSD, she became Penny
Arcade: the performer Andy Warhol wanted
to make his last big star, and Quentin
Crisp would come to count among his
The self-proclaimed bisexual fag-hag brings
her latest show, Rebellion Cabaret, to this
year 's Mardi Gras Festival. Coming from
the woman whose previous shows include
Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! and The
Government Doesn't Want People To Fuck!
it promises to be full of one-liners,
irreverent humour and raw emotion.
We arrange a phone interview and before I
know it, an hour has flown by and we've
been chatting happily like we've known
each other for years. I eventually ask about
the show but, as she answers, I realise
we've been talking about her show the
whole time. Her shows are about life and
the way she observes it. Her shows are
about getting to know her.
"There are two types of artists. There are the
ones who want to be worshipped and adored
and the ones that just want to be friends
with everybody. Last time I came to Sydney
I used to have 30 people in my hotel room
after every show."
One of her gripes is about ageism. She
laments the fact that young women seem to
undervalue the experience of their older
counterparts. "Nobody who's young is cool.
I'm fifty and we know I'M cool!" She's not
talking herself up. She's just telling it like it
is. Penny Arcade is cool.
She's seen it and experienced it all but has
retained a kindness and humanity that is
inspiring. The importance of empathy
comes up several times, as does her refusal
to be swayed by political correctness,
particularly when it comes to sexuality.
"There are men and women who fuck men.
There are men and women who fuck
women. There are men and women who
fuck men and women. There are men and
women who are assholes no matter who
"Quentin Crisp said to me, 'I don't believe
in so called gay community Miss Arcade.
Every closet door I knocked upon they said
Not in here. And until we have true equality
that will happen again.'
"I have to say right away that given the pain
of people who lead and have led truly queer
lives, I resent the co-optation of the word
'queer ' by a middle class gay marketing
mentality. Most homosexuals are not Queer.
Queer means that one is an outsider, seen as
a loser, a deviant. Someone who is queer
lives an alternative life far from the centre
of society. That said, I have spent my entire
life as a queer, and oddly, in this great age
of gay attention, I am still too queer for
most gay events. Too outside. Too not
spouting the party line.
She believes Australians identify with
outsiders. "You are geographically distant
from the rest of the world, so that makes
you outsiders and your country was settled
by people who were outsiders. There is a
are not Queer.
Queer means that
one is an outsider,
seen as a loser,
Photo: Heidi Calvert Penny Arcade
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