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September 13, 2010 | by  | in Features | [ssba]


Stephen Jackson talks to Scotty and Mal, two of Wellington’s most well-known bar owners and members of the gay community.

You guys have been involved in nearly every queer-friendly or gay bar since when, would you say?

Mal: Together? Since, uh, 18 years, and prior to that, I was in every gay bar in Wellington except Euro Club. So it’s been Bamboo Bar, Caspers, Toledo Bar, Bojangles, the Dome, Pound and S&M’s. Oh and the Dorian Club—this is well before the Homosexual Law Reform Bill, we’re talking like, early, early 70s when it was all clandestine. It was like, everybody had to become a member. Each member could take one person along as a guest, and each member had a key. It was down on Lambton Quay. You had a key to the bottom door, then you walked up three flights of stairs and knocked on the door, somebody would come and pull back the curtain, “oh yeah, you’re a member”, and they’d let you [in]. Then you had to sign in, sign your guest in if you took one guest… In those days, [it was] $4 entry to get in, your guest paid $8 and all the drinks were free. Everyone was supposed to be single and you could only get one bottle of beer at a time.

Scotty: And then you had the fear of being caught and busted.

Mal: Which happened quite a number of times. Cops slowly sorta found out that there was this illicit little gay club running that had no liquor licence… They’d raid the place and take all the alcohol and take everybody’s names and then that’d be the last you’d get from them. That would probably happen once every two or three bloody years. A couple weeks later it would be quiet and then everybody would get back into the show of things, and it just went on and on…
Things changed with the homosexual law reform because, in the old days, there was this element of being caught, which added [to the excitement]… But nowadays we can go anywhere, we can do whatever we fucking like. And it’s illegal to judge us because of homosexual law reform and the Human Rights Bill. Y’know, we lost a lot but we gained a lot. We gained freedom.

Scotty: And as people say… we can go anywhere, but we lost the excitement, the thrill of being undercover.

Mal: It was very shady in those days. You had to know somebody to get in somewhere; it was really weird.

Scotty: But it was exciting.

Then you had Pound. That’s the one I always hear about, and my friend wanted to know, is Pound named after the action or the place where stray dogs are sent?

Scotty: It came about purely by accident. Basically, we got out of the Dome and there was going to be nowhere for the gay community… Bojangles was still going, but we just wanted to do something bigger and better. We found this venue that was up for lease and it was just like “okay, let’s get it”. We teamed up with a business partner, got the venue. We were sitting in the Dome one night and my—I suppose you’d call him my brother-in-law—was over from England. He runs gay bars in England and he was talking about one called the Queen’s Shilling that he’s got over there. We were chatting about that, and that had come up into conversation when we were talking about a name for this nightclub. We were thinking we wanted something that was one word.

Mal: Couldn’t be shortened.

Scotty: Pound came up.

Mal: We were thinking, he had the Queen’s Shilling, [we wanted] something a bit more distinctive, British themed, and we thought Pound like pound, shilling and pence. So it’s after the monetary. Plus the pound of music.

Scotty: The motion of having sex. And that was it; it related to quite a few things.

You had some pretty well known drag queens. Did they start at Pound?

Mal: There were no drag queens in Wellington at that stage. If you went up to Auckland there was plenty. So for three consecutive weeks we were flying up to Auckland.

Scotty: Going out and partying. Going to all the gay nightclubs, checking out all these queens. We got to Legends in Auckland and saw Paris. Went up to Paris and asked if she wanted to be our resident showgirl.

Mal: Said to her then, there’s no dancing queens in Wellington, you have to get a troupe together. When she first came down, she brought a couple down with her

Scotty: Just to get the ball rolling.

Mal: Then started advertising for more queens.

Scotty: Paris was the resident queen for the first couple of years, then Pollyfilla came in and became the resident.

Mal: Paris was looking at going back to Auckland, so Polly started taking over all the shows. She started getting in Amanda, Mia Slapper, Dawn Breaker, all those queens together. It was an era that we absolutely loved, but after six years of solid weeks…

Scotty: Six years of drag queens. Production numbers, and what queens are gonna be performing, and then you got this queen that didn’t like that queen, so they weren’t gonna work together…

Mal: And the dancing boys, we had a lot of dancing boys too.

Scotty: Cos everyone likes a bit of flesh on stage.

Mal: Next.

On a more personal note, you guys are the first married gay couple in New Zealand, right?

Scotty: It was this competition on ZM called ‘My Bent Friend’s Wedding’. It was fantastic. We spent two weeks on air playing games and things, and people voted and we ended up winning and went to Hawaii to get married. That was pre-civil union over here.

So is that recognised?

Mal: No, not here.

Scotty: Once civil union came in, if you got married in other countries, it is recognized in New Zealand. The problem is with Hawaiian law; just after we got married over there the law changed.

Mal: And it can only be recognised in Hawaii.

Scotty: So we’re gonna do it again one day, but as far as we’re concerned…

Mal: We’re married. April 2 2003. It was so public on the radio, and ZM is nationwide: Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, around the country. Three gay couples, three lesbian couples, [ZM] brought them all to Wellington then played them off against each other for weeks. [ZM] put everyone up in the Duxton Hotel, paid them $120 a day living expenses. Breakfast and accommodation was covered.

Scotty: Of course we were living in Wellington as well, we were having a great time. We didn’t think we’d win, so we were having a honeymoon in our hometown while we were running Pound.

Mal: When the third to last couple went, it was just him and I and a lesbian couple and we thought, we could actually win this. On the Friday morning they announced the winner and it was off to the radio station to do an interview with the winners live on air. Then it was down to the jewellers to buy wedding rings, interview on the radio, we’re trying to set up Pound, keep that running for the week we’re away getting married.

People were ringing up, we’ve got it all on CD, a Maori fella rings up one day: “Oh fuck y’know. First heard on the radio about this and I thought two guys getting married it’s y’know, what’s going on here. Then I thought about it and I thought, why shouldn’t they? These people actually love each other,” and he says, “my heart goes out to those two guys”. Another chick rings up and says: “This is really special, what you’re doing for these people,” she said. “My mother and father split up, she was a lesbian. She left, went off with her lesbian partner. We didn’t speak for months. When my friends would ask ‘Where’s your mother and father?’ I used to laugh, I didn’t let them know my mother was a lesbian,” she says, “this has changed my attitude, my mother and I are now speaking.”

ZM had bomb threats too. There’s still rednecks these days. Wellington—I think we’re very, very fortunate. Wellington is the art [and] cultural capital of New Zealand. Wellington is the most social place there is for gay and lesbian people. Look at Georgina Beyer: Wairarapa, redneck as fuck, but because she spilt the beans… And they loved her because of her honesty and that’s changed people’s attitudes. The more gay and lesbian people do that, change people’s attitudes, one day it’ll be, who gives a fuck. And we’re halfway there.

To wrap up now, just a couple of words on what you think is happening now with Wellington’s gay and queer community. Like you were saying before, it used to be really underground yet together, but ever since law reform came in it’s been like you’ve lost a bit of that, do you think?

Mal: Yeah, totally.

Scotty: There’s now a whole lot of segments in the community, I think it’s almost segregated different groups. It’s got to the stage where… we used to look after each others backs. Whether you’re a trannie or a guy that likes wearing dresses, whether you’re a lesbian, a butch, a bear or a twink.

Mal: There’s different factions…

You got your bears, got your queens, got your cross dressers, got your show ponies, you got your closet gay boys that are right out there and pro-community, you got the gay boys out there that are ‘non-scene’. There’s so many different factions out there of our community. These days, since law reform, we lost a lot, we gained a lot. Is there really any need for a gay bar? Yeah, there is. Cos you have a look around all the younger ones that are coming out who are legal to go into bars, a lot of them won’t go to the straight bars and get that “fuckin’ faggot”, “poo pusher” fucking attitude. They’d rather go to a place where they can sit comfortably, be accepted, they wanna sit there and kiss their boyfriend, go for it, hun. Straight person walks in and doesn’t like it. We get a lot of people through here, if they were homophobic they wouldn’t be here, they’re usually couples, they’re usually people who just enjoy gay company or just enjoy the venue.

Scotty: It’s like, everyone’s welcome. It’s more about just getting on with people, about humanity, about being a community.

Mal: We all know what we are, we’re all gay, we’re all lesbians. If anyone’s got a problem with it, there’s the door, fuck off.


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  1. GREAT article on S&M’s Stephii! xxx

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