Mr. Murphy’s Pussy DeLuxe

mr-pussy
Dublin has a Book Festival. Well of course it does, I hear you say. It’s a literary legend of a city after all. Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Sean O’Casey, Maeve Binchy all had to be raised somewhere, you know. But I knew nothing about this festival.

Until a friend invited me to an event. A gathering. An interview with Mr Pussy who is promoting his memoir (co-written with journalist David Kenny) called ‘Before I forget to remember’.

Those from foreign lands may wonder who this wonder might be. Well he’s an import. Ireland’s very first drag queen – shipped in to Ireland from the exotic shores of Peckham in London in the late 1960s. He was for decades Ireland’s premier (by premier you can read ‘only’) drag queen.

In the 1990s there was a Saturday night TV chat show called ‘Saturday Night Live’. Each week a different celebrity presenter would meet and talk to various guests. On one occasion a former Miss Ireland named Yvonne Costelloe interviewed Mr Pussy.
Now Ms Costelloe probably merits her own book – I recall a libel case, where she sued someone for referencing her ‘drooping mammaries’, and I believe that she now works as a psychic charlatan.) But one of her guests was Alan Amsby – the male alter-ego of drag superstar Mr. Pussy.

I was a teenager at the time. I was mesmerised. Not by the fact that he was a drag queen. More by the glamourous stories about his life in seedy clubs in London and Belfast and Dublin. I watched the show with the mammy, hoping she wouldn’t notice how fascinated I was by the captivating stories of life in clubland, when the Kray twins were kings.

This evening, Mr Pussy was resting. Instead we had the creator of that character – Alan Amsby, being interviewed by David Kenny, onstage in the beautiful Smock Alley Theatre.

He’s had an interesting life. Judy Garland allowing him to use her private bathroom (the one she died in), getting a lift home from Brian Epstein because Pussy couldn’t afford the cab fare home, befriending the hardest of the London gangsters, his cabaret show in the hotel in Belfast in 1969 just as the Troubles kicked off. Bono buying him a  24 hour greasy spoon cafe called ‘Mr Pussy’s Cafe Deluxe’ in the 1990s. Working as a drag queen in Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s – that most brutal of times for gay men in Ireland when after the murder of Charles Self, the guards used it as an excuse to round up gay men to fingerprint us all, just in case we were connected to the still unsolved murder.

He seemed like such a lovely person. Camp as a row of tents for sure, but incredibly warm and friendly and kind.

He regaled us with hilarious stories of life as a queen in Ireland’s darkest days for the gay community.

I was sat right up the front. Well of course. You’ve got to be able to get a bird’s eye view of the subject.

He wasn’t in drag. The smoothness of his skin is all down to the moisturiser he uses I expect.

Afterwards he did a book signing in the bookshop. I was right up the front. He signed my book, exchanged a few pleasantries. And he wished me well.

I know that performers are good at portraying an image of themselves to sell to the audience. But I got a very pleasant vibe from him. He just seemed very friendly and happy.

He’s a drag queen – he knows viciousness. But I came away wishing only the best for him.

Now for the book…

 

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