Cast your mind back to the 1994’s comedy drama The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. You will remember the opening scene of the movie that takes place in The Imperial Hotel, which is located in Newton a suburb of Sydney's inner west district. The reason director Stephan Elliott chose this location was because the hotel was owned by Dawn O'Donnell a prominent Sydney entrepreneur but far more importantly she was a pioneer of Sydney's LGBT community back in the days when it was illegal in Australia to have same sex feelings or even for an man to wear woman's clothes. O'Donnell has been credited with changing all that nonsense.
|Dawn the celebrity.|
Born in in a suburb of Sydney in 1928 she was a convent girl who become a professional ice skater and travelled the world. It was while appearing in an ice show in Paris she had her first intimate romance with another woman. She returned to Australia in the 1950's as a penniless lesbian. But by the time of her death in 2007 she had built a gay empire of bars, clubs, steam rooms, sex shops and drag shows. Croc A Dyke Dundee -The Legend of Dawn O'Donnell (2015) is a fascinating documentary about a larger than life woman who was suspected at various times of being a partner of Abe Saffron a major figure in Australia's organised crime, an arsonist, burning down her properties to raise the insurance money, she was also said to have been implicated in a number of murder’s! But there's no doubt that she was a shrewd businesswoman and a champion of gay rights in a country that did not respect woman or gays.
|Dawn with some of the LGBT community.|
Fiona Cunningham-Reid's entertaining documentary is well worth an hour of your time and can be purchased as a double DVD coupled with another of Cunningham-Reid's documentaries Wine Woman and Friends (2012) about two women who set out to produce excellent wine's in an industry that is normally the preserve of France males, building a business and a community within a community.
|Dawn O'Donnell with Elton John.|