Just like Vegas, in the gay world, everything gets bigger, brighter and more fabulous as the years go by. The Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras started as a protest march in 1978 when a bunch of brave homosexuals marched the streets of Sydney in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots in New York City. Fifty-four of those people were arrested, and then named and shamed in the newspapers (at a time when homosexuality was illegal, meaning many of them lost their jobs), after the police fought with protestors to break-up the event. Today, the Mardi Gras is not just about the politics. It’s as much a celebration of diversity, a chance for people of all ages, sexual persuasions and races to exert their pride in a glorious stream of colour, dance, floats, glitter, humour and music. This year is extra special because the cream of the queer crop, the prodigal daughter of Mardi Gras, the irreplaceable Miss Kylie Minogue is returning to the festival. She is the sensation that last year I called a “gay Christmas miracle” if she were to perform. And now she has made those wishes come true. It’s been 14 years since she was last at Mardi Gras and, because she’s celebrating 25 years as a performer, she’s decided to give something back to the fans who have kept her ‘afloat’ all these years. But getting back to Mardi Gras’ roots (sorry), where will you find your Mardi Gras summer homo-romance? There are plenty of places, you simply have to know where to look. Just be careful – with Sydney’s metrosexual-looking blokes and Lisbeth Salander-loving Tomboy girls, you can be mistaken for meeting the queer of your dreams and then meeting their heterosexual other half. There is plenty going on. Not content with just a parade to mark the historic occasion, the Mardi Gras now lasts for over three weeks. It kicked off on Sunday, but with the best to come, you are still able to make the most of this wonderful festival – in one of the gayest cities in the world. Read on to find out some of the best shows and events worth seeing…

The event: Less of a protest march nowadays, and more a celebration of diversity, this is the one event you would be crazy to miss. It’s the biggest gay and lesbian pride march in the world and is a chance for people of all identities to dress up (or down) and watch the two-hour long parade. More than 9,000 people make their way down Oxford and Flinders Streets in a glittery, rainbow extravaganza with some political mockery thrown in (expect a few giant Julia Gillards). As they do every year, the 200 or so dykes on bikes will lead the parade, roaring their way to Moore Park. In tow, regular participants such as the Asian marching boys, the Bondi lifesavers, the police, the ‘Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays’ (PFLAG) and more. And of course, not forgetting ‘our Kylie’. Make sure you get down to Oxford Street early because this is going to be madness. So get your costume ready, find a milk crate to stand on and cheer your lungs out.
When: Saturday, March 3, From 7.45pm Cost: Free to watch (but arrive early for
a good vantage point)
Where: Begins on Oxford Street, near Hyde Park
Info: mardigras.org.au

The event: More than 15,000 partygoers are expected to attend the official Mardi Gras ‘after party’, that begins when (and where) the parade finishes. They’re calling it Mardigrasland, so expect an adult Disneyland with all sorts of thrills and spills. This year on the dancefloor you’ll be entertained by the famous drag queen RuPaul, plus Sam Sparro, D.E. Experience, Sneaky Sound System, Horse Meat Disco and heaps more. And yes, with great pleasure we can finally confirm that Mardi Gras sweetheart Kylie Minogue will be dusting off the hotpants and strutting her stuff on stage. Also, George Michael just happens to be touring Australia around then…
When: Saturday, March 3, from 10pm
Cost: From $129
Where: Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park
Info: mardigras.org.au

The event: The Oxford Hotel is the official Mardi Gras festival bar for the three week festival. With four floors of action and events on absolutely every night, you’d better make it your new ‘local’. Entertainment includes an Amy Winehouse impersonator, the uncanny “Amy Housewine”, singing classics such as, “If I Only Had Cocaine”. There are also male strippers, DJs, burlesque performers, and a comedic love story about Grindr (the gay dating app), just to name a few.
When: Until March 4
Cost: Varies
Where: 134 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst
Info: theoxfordhotel.com.au

The event: For two weeks you can catch 90 short or feature films that have a queer twist in Sydney. Everything from coming-out stories, to sci-fi, to Palestinian lesbians, to a documentary about an Australian group who are trying to ‘cure’ people of their homosexuality. The opening night film is Dirty Girl, about an unexpected friendship between a popular schoolgirl and a lonely gay boy. If you’re planning on becoming a cinephile then get yourself a 10-film flexi-pass to save yourself some cash. Films are screened all over Sydney, including Parramatta, Newtown, Moore Park, Marrickville and Paddington.
When: 16 February – 1 March
Cost: From $18
Where: Various locations
Info: mgff.queerscreen.com.au

The event: A play about, yes, you guessed it, wanking. The show also explores themes such as truth telling, identity and, okay, fisting. This play, direct from Ireland, had tongues wagging over there as it followed one man on his soul-searching journey towards self-acceptance and happiness. We can only imagine this is a “you gotta love yourself before you can love anyone else” kinda show. If this type of experimental, scandalous theatre sounds like it’s for you, then book fast because tickets will go fast (and hard). Contact the Sydney Theatre Company for bookings.
When: February 14-18
Cost: $29
Where: Walsh Theatre, Dawes Point
Info: sydneytheatre.org.au

The event: The Mardi Gras organisers are clever. Instead of letting all the fun that’s been had in this alley over the event’s years be free and unrestricted, they’ve created a party in the laneway and are charging you to get in. However, it sounds like a lot of fun. It’s in the Hill Street laneway between two of Sydney’s coolest pubs, The Flinders and The Beresford, with drop-in DJs and pop-up performances. On the decks you can expect spinners such as Sveta, Adam Love, Mark Alsop, Alex Taylor and Kate Monroe. The party kicks off when the Official After Party finishes, when everyone can be seen scrambling back to Oxford Street. This way you can keep the dream alive until Sunday night, which is the official end of the Mardi Gras season.
When: Sunday, March 4, from 12pm
Cost: $39
Where: Hill Street Laneway, Surry Hills

The event: For one night only, Michael Griffiths will become Madonna. Watch as he strikes a pose and takes audiences on a journey of the life and times of the (other) Queen of Pop. We dare say he won’t be lip-synching as he hits the piano and performs hits such as “Express Yourself”, “Get into the Groove” and “Beautiful Stranger”. He was the hit of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival so we’re hopeful that he’s more rhythmic than Madge at the Super Bowl.
When: Friday, February 24
Cost: From $28
Where: Slide Nightclub, Darlinghurst
Info: ticketek.com.au

The event: Performing the hits of pop-icon Shirley Bassey, one of Sydney’s biggest drag queens Trevor Ashley and his 14-piece band bring you this two-act concert. Audiences will be entertained with feathers, sequins and over-the-top hair pieces. Hits such as “Big Spender” and “Goldfinger”, and of course “Diamonds are Forever”, will be sung as Trevor tells the story of Shirley’s life from working-class Wales to pop superstardom.
When: Friday, March 2
Cost: From $56
Where: State Theatre, 49 Market Street
Info: ticketmaster.com.au

The event: Kicking off at 2pm, one of the wildest and definitely the wettest of the Mardi Gras parties will commence, going well into the evening. You can strip down to your swimwear and dive into the pool or relax on the cabana lounges with a cocktail while listening to some of Sydney’s hottest DJs. Making a splash on the DJ decks will be Alex Taylor, Sandi Hotrod, Scott Tanner, Dan Murphy and Jake Kilby. A great chance to check out Sydney’s most fabulous swimming pool.
When: Monday, February 27. From 2pm
Cost: $49
Where: Ivy Pool Bar, 330 George Street
Info: mardigras.org.au

The event: If you can’t imagine drag queens running in heels along Bondi Beach, then you need to check this event out. This year’s competition is meant to be bigger and fiercer than ever and it’s not just ankle-breaking sprinting. There’s also the ‘Dainty Dune Dash’ and the ‘Handbag Discus’. We’d also like to see the ‘Fake-Boob Shotput’, but that could get ugly. This hilarious event is free and something that is completely unique to Sydney. Races begin at 5pm and there’s sure to be lots of five o’clock shadows as the sun sets over Bondi Beach.
When: Friday, March 2.
Cost: Free
Where: Bondi Beach
Info: mardigras.org.au

The event: The theme this year for Harbour Party is ‘Cool Change’, which is a weather prediction the event doesn’t want to hear. Having said that, regardless of the weather, these parties are all about wearing little and partying hard. Mrs Macquaries Point is going to be awash with partygoers on her shores and boats pulling up full of gatecrashers. It’s one of the most popular events of the season and features Kate Monroe, Troy Cox, Olivian DJ, Lee Dagger (Bimbo Jones) on the decks. Plus, the view of the Harbour isn’t too bad either.
When: Saturday, February 25
Cost: From $119
Where: Mrs Macquaries Point
Info: mardigras.org.au