One last show and then it’s time to hang up the tap shoes

Glamorous Carlotta entertains

Political correctness in Australia is ruining the country according to cabaret performer Carlotta.

And she says she’ll be warning her final audiences, in Perth and Adelaide, before she retires, to watch out. She won’t be holding anything back.

From 1963 to 1992 Carlotta was an original cast member and compere of all-male revue Les Girls in Sydney’s Kings Cross.

She hit the headlines in 1971 when she was 29, becoming one of Australia’s first sex reassignment cases and has graced the small screen in Aussie soap opera Number 96 as Miss Robyn Ross, the first time a transgender actress played a transgender TV character anywhere in the world.

The inspiration for Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, Carlotta has been made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to the performing arts and the LGBTQ community and a bronze sculpture dedicated to her has been erected in Kings Cross.

Speaking from her Gold Coast home, Carlotta says she’s not worried about putting the bright lights behind her and will happily head into retirement. She is calling it quits on her 79th birthday on 2 September after 62 years in show business.

“I could probably still go on, but it’s the travelling with this Covid, if you get stuck… but if I was 30 years younger, I probably would keep at it,” she says.

Carlotta is a painter in her spare time and says her art has taken off, which will be something she’ll focus on in coming years.

She’s just had a successful exhibition at Sydney’s Maunsell Wickes gallery, giving her encouragement to keep going.

“It’s time to hang up the tap shoes,” she says.

And she has no regrets about that.

“I’ve had a very fortunate life – and it’s not over yet hopefully – but I have loved my life.

“The only regret I do have is that I could never find out who my real father was.

“I was born illegitimate, and I had two mothers, but I never knew who my father was and it’s sad going through life not knowing who your father is.

“I don’t think even my mother knew who it was to be quite honest.”

Carlotta’s eyes are on the future now and she is looking forward to spending time at home.

“I’m not a person who gets bored. I’ve seen a lot of friends who’ve retired, and they’re bored, especially now that they can’t go on holiday overseas, but I’m always doing things, I’m active, I read, I sew, I paint, I garden, and I have lots of friends to have lunch with.

“I can never understand people being bored, I live life to the fullest because we’re here for a short time not a long time.”

The entertainment world has changed since Carlotta first took to the boards with Les

She says going on stage for the first time was scary.

“It was a new thing and we got ridiculed.

“The shows in those days were like a crutch because we couldn’t do anything else, we couldn’t get a job in a shop or anything because we weren’t accepted, and it was a different type of drag in those days.

“Most of the girls that I grew up with and had in my show all went on to have sex changes, not like today where they are boys who dress up, which is great, I think they are fabulous.”

The style of drag show has also changed considerably over the years.

“I don’t think they could afford to do the shows that we used to do, it would be so expensive.”

Having to make concessions to being politically correct has also meant changes to her own show over the years.

“But I do announce at the beginning of my show after I’ve finished my first song I say, ‘if you’re politically correct, you’d better leave now’.

“Because I say it as it is and unfortunately a lot of people don’t anymore.

“It’s like freedom of the press, you’ve got to say what you believe in.”

While Carlotta has been active in her support for transgender and LGBTQ issues over the years, she says she is less active these days.

“They have my full support now, whatever they do, but I’m not as active in that as I used to be, but there are people out there now doing it well, and a lot better than I did.”

She says the most trying times are now behind her and generally speaking society has become more accepting of sexually diverse people.

When the Party’s Over at His Majesty’s Theatre on 22 June (6pm) and (special matinee at 11am) 23 June, presented by Perth International Cabaret Festival. Tickets $39. 

Carlotta tells her remarkable life story punctuated with some of her favourite songs.