Dreamtime Divas and the drag of being a drag act in a country town

"That's just what this country needs: an actor in Max Factor on a tractor."

Dallas "Nova Gina" Webster's paraphrase of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert's deathless words are really quite in character.

He is standing on a Massey Ferguson in full drag. His partner, Tim "Lasey Dunaman" Towns, similarly sequined, is perched in high heels on the roof. Farmer Allan Prior sits resolutely at the wheel staring straight ahead. A chained goat called Nick loiters behind.

Just another day at Bellimbopinni on the NSW Mid-North Coast outside Kempsey.

Dallas and Tim have day jobs in town but some nights they transmogrify into the drag act, the Dreamtime Divas. Next week they are coming to Sydney.

They are a headline act in Koori Gras, an exhibition and series of arts events celebrating First Peoples' involvement in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.

They are performing at Black Nulla, a cabaret with renowned black drag performers on Friday, February 24 at 107 Projects, Redfern Street, Redfern. Other performers include Destiny Haz Arrived, Nana Miss Koori, DJ Black President and MC Miss Ellaneous.

How difficult is it to be a drag act in rural NSW when societal change is often glacial?

"Well, I grew up in Kempsey and it was very hard being gay," Dallas, 42, said. "Don't want to go into it, but I left town at 15."

Thirty-four-year-old Tim's experience echoed that of his partner: "Gunnedah. There were beatings. It was hell. Left as soon as I could."

Dallas returned to Kempsey to work for the local land council. Knowing he had been a hardy perennial in the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade, one of his co-workers suggested a drag show to raise money for 2014 International Women's Day.

"It was not without trepidation," he recalls. "In the end we sold out the Kempsey RSL. They loved us. Made a lot of money for IWD too."

The Dreamtime Divas now get regular work around the area.

Some young male locals know and like the Dreamtime Divas.

"They're great. People love them," said one fisher.

If gays have had a hard time, drag acts have come and gone.

Diners at Taverna 6 restaurant at Grassy Head recall drag shows were a monthly event at Stuarts' Point, a relatively isolated fishing village on the coast just north of Bellimbopinni with a large population of Aboriginals, retirees and fishers.

"Things change but they take a long time," Dallas said.

"They sure do," said Bellimbopinni farmer Allan Prior. "If you'd told me 40 years ago that one day I'd have a couple of blokes in dresses on top of my tractor, I'd have told you to seek medical attention."

The story Dreamtime Divas and the drag of being a drag act in a country town first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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