After meeting our tour guide ‘Kara Van Park,’ a hairy-chested, 40-year-old ‘dude’ decked out in a red sequin gown, a pink frilly boa and a Tina Turner wig, I realized that Sydney by Diva is not your typical tourist attraction. Hosted by some of the city’s top female impersonators, this three-hour bus tour dishes out unconventional Sydney facts with a comedic, drag queen twist. It’s part city tour, part diva crash-course.
Cat, my travel buddy, and I joined the rest of the tour group outside the Oxford Hotel near Taylor Square where Kara officially introduced herself and distributed new diva pseudonyms to each of us. With the magic of a sticky white name tag, “Julia” was no longer. As a newly inaugurated diva, I would now be known only as “Renée.” Excited and pleased about our new monikers, the group climbed into the air-conditioned bus, grabbed seats and waited for the Dame Edna-esque Kara to do her ‘thang.’
“In order to become a diva, you have to look like a diva!” exclaimed Kara passionately as she handed out a selection of tangled wigs and a tray of glassed filled with sparkling wine. Disguised in a messy platinum blond wig with a glass of bubbly in hand, I gazed out the window at the passing city streets while Kara chatted about the history and culture of the city.
We cruised through Kings Cross, a trashy area lined with backpacker hostels, bars and cheap Internet cafés. My eye was uncontrollably drawn to the white-trash hookers with crimped extensions, loitering in front of a sleazy strip joint called The World Famous Love Machine. We were warned that the area’s side streets are not particularly safe at night, especially for two girls traveling alone.
From Kings Cross, we cruised along Oxford, a trendy street in the suburb of Paddington with cute boutiques and fashion-crazed patrons with that ‘just stepped out of Vogue’ look.
Once we arrived at Sydney’s famous Opera House, we nervously left the safety of the bus to venture out in public. I clasped my hands around the hips of my fellow wigged-wannabe-divas, formed a congo line and kicked up my heels. Snap happy tourists looked slightly disturbed as we “congo-ed” down the street. Sure it was a tad embarrassing, but that’s the beauty of traveling – nobody recognizes you. Err..at least I hope not.
A reluctant participant at first, Sylvette (Cat) was fully immersed in Sydney by Diva’s contagious, irresistible fun. She had previously cursed me for dragging her jet-lagged butt on a tour bus, but now she was dancing in her seat and belting out Abba tunes. I’ll admit that the cheap champagne might have played a little part.
After oogling lifeguards and posing for photos next to bewildered bronzed surfers at Bondi Beach, Kara gave us novice divas a few cheeky training tips. We learned that choreography is a very important part of a drag queen’s performance. Kara showed us a few easy diva dance moves and reminded us that “when in doubt, always point!” Before breaking into the disco anthem “I Love the Nightlife,” she gave us one final tip. “If you’ve forgotten the words to a song, just hold your hand in front of your mouth or lip-sync to the heavens,” she said arching her back and waving her arms in the air.
We practiced our newly acquired diva skills to the pounding 1978 Alicia Bridges hit. “Ohhh I … I love the nightlife, I got to boogie, on the disco ’round, oh yea, ” I sang with exaggerated drama into my fake microphone fist. This little warm-up was good preparation for my big performance at the Imperial Hotel, a local bar where scenes from the cult classic Priscilla Queen of the Desert were filmed. Kara, now sporting a blue sequin gown, grabbed my hand and pulled me up on stage. In front of our toe-tapping tour group and a few locals who bothered to peer up from their bottles of Victoria Bitter beer, Kara and I performed to The Supremes hit Stop! In The Name Of Love. Face beaming with emotion, body swaying to the music, “Renée” rocked the house. The crowd roaring with applause, Kara turned to me and, with her long false eyelashes, shot me a wink.
With that look, I knew I had graduated to official diva status.
For more info check out: http://www.sydneybydivatours.com/