Out-Of-Work Entertainment Professionals Launch A Gay Streaming Variety Show

Ivan Martin Photo: Ann-Marie Calilhanna

Missing your local pub? Stonewall in Sydney has come up with a groundbreaking way of keeping in touch with regulars and throwing in entertainment. And, possibly, revitalising TV variety, a staple of TV in the ’70s and ’80s before it priced itself out of existence.

Stonewall.Live is made by 22 entertainment industry professionals currently out of work due to coronavirus. They’re working essentially for free and the show is paid for by viewers who subscribe for as little as $5 a show. Any profits are shared among the cast and crew. Even production overheads, like equipment and venue cleaning, only get a percentage of whatever’s raised. And 10 per cent goes to charity (last weekend it was twenty10.

The hour-long show streams every Saturday at 8pm AEST and is online for buffer-free viewing after that. Watch it live with a good internet connection.

“Sydney drag queen Minnie Cooper and I presented the idea to Stonewall last Friday and they were ecstatic,” said executive producer Mike Worsley, a veteran of nine seasons of Alan Carr, Australia’s Got Talent and The Voice.

It’s hosted by Minnie and Steve Milne.

Co-host Minnie Cooper
Co-host Steve Milne

“Never before has there been something like this. Not only the technical challenges of graphics, name straps, live music all at the same time but then we threw in live Skype to our guests interstate and in the UK. That’s a real first. On top of that we’ve got social distancing to contend with.

“We might only make a $100 a night each, who knows. That’s not what it’s about. Right now, collaboration is the key.”

Stonewall’s Glenn Hansen said: “We sat down with Mike and Minnie last Sunday. We all started work on it on Monday getting cast and crew together and by Wednesday the first show had firmed up. We went to air live on Saturday. Simply extraordinary. I’ve never heard of such a thing. And everyone volunteering their talents. Community is what it’s all about.”

Guests in the first ep included Rhonda Burchmore from Melbourne, cabaret star Hans (America’s Got Talent) from Adelaide and Tim and Rod (The Amazing Race).

Mike said: “We had a few technical hiccups. For one, the internet is not consistent, especially at the moment when we’re all relying on it so heavily. We’re doing our best to get it out there. We had nearly 10,000 views of the first show and we put it up for free when we knew some were having difficulty. We’re working really hard on that.

“And there were the unexpected funny things that happen. Like during our live Skype to Tim and Rod, Rhonda was trying get through to us and across the screen flashed the message ‘Rhonda Burchmore is trying to place a call to you’.”

Glenn said: “The production is recognised as a place of work so we’re allowed to go ahead. Stonewall is closed to the public right now so we have the run of all levels of the hotel so we can guarantee four square metres of space each. Off-screen we’re in masks and everything’s kept scrupulously clean.”

The first target is 10 shows. After that, there may be no reason to stop it.

Guests this weekend are showbiz reporter Richard Reid, stage actor Lara Mulcahy (Moulin Rouge, Mamma Mia!), Melissa Tkautz, Jake Gablonski and topics include indigenous trans issues. The following week Anthony Callea and Tim Campbell are locked in.

Justin Hill and Richard Reid

Will Glenn’s alter-ego drag queen Candy Box appear? “Oh my God, I just might have to bring her out of her box!”

The first ep is online now and, as an introduction, you can view it for free.

Go here: Stonewall.Live, from anywhere in the world. A subscription to an episode lasts 48 hours.

Pam Demic, DJ Sveta and Steve Milne.
Pam Demic at work!

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