Julie McCrossin downplays her affectionate community title as an ‘original ’78-er.’
The ’78-er’ term is associated with those who were arrested on a violent night in Sydney 1978 during a street march to commemorate the Stonewall gay riots. While McCrossin wasn’t specifically arrested on that occasion, she was definitely part of the movement.
“I don’t think I was there when all the arrests happened, although some people claim to have seen me,” she said. “But later that night the word went round there had been arrests and there was a huge rally outside Darlinghurst Police Station and I was there. We all went to the courts the next morning, so I’m embraced as a ’78-er’ although I don’t think I was up the Cross when all the action happened.
“That night was particularly emotional because it had been very violent,” she recalls. “The next day at Liverpool Court I can remember very vividly, the lawyers who helped us on the stairs calling out the names. There were hundreds of people there to support them. It was a very intense emotional experience.”
Thirty years later she remains passionate about gay advocacy and is still a defiant activist. Thankfully, she is able to spread the word with a little less fury and a tad more fun. This weekend she joins Charlotte Dawson and Alex Perry in co-hosting Foxtel’s pay per view telecast of the 2009 Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras.
As far as she is concerned there are still important messages that can be communicated to a television audience, most of whom do not live in inner Sydney.
“My impression is every year there’s a huge growth in the number of young people for whom it’s the first time. They’re still working out their attitude to deviance, their attitude to their own sexuality, what’s acceptable, what’s not acceptable, they’re excited by all the naughtiness,” she said.
“But the majority of those people when you walk up the road are not Anglo Saxon people. There are just masses of international travellers and also all the different communities from the suburbs. If you go to Bankstown or Penrith or Parramatta you see multicultural Australia, and that’s who you see in the audience.”
During these times of New Mardi Gras’ economic challenges, McCrossin acknowledges a shift in the telecast being pay per view, but says she is just as happy to spread its message of diversity as she did on Free to Air. With an audience who has opted-in and potentially ‘more gay’ than Free to Air’s mainstream viewers, there is even the suggestion the content could differ.
“Inevitably it will focus on the naughty and risqué and extravagant side of Mardi Gras. But I’ll still be hoping to get a mention for PFlag and the myriad of HIV / AIDs support groups and services. I still want to get some of those legal rights out there.
“Pay per View is ruder to put it bluntly because you’ve got different considerations around your obligations about broadcasting,” she said.
“But for many people this is a chance to see a side of life that they would never normally see from the safety of their pub or lounge room. I imagine it will still be quite a diverse audience. And they’ll come to it for a mix of reasons.”
Joining the three hosts are Joan Rivers, Pam Ann and roving reporters including MTV’s Ruby Rose. McCrossin will no doubt be reminding those celebrating the fabulousness that there remain deeper, political issues at Mardi Gras’ heart.
2009 Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade airs live 7:30pm Saturday on Main Event.