In the Darlinghurst of the late 1970’s, there were many small theatre and dance companies at the time, but there was a real shortage of venues and opportunities for performers to meet and share their art.
Cabaret artiste Fifi L’Amour and organisers Michael Murray and Johnny Allen decided to do something about it, and pooled their address books to invite performers to a meeting to launch the Cabaret Conspiracy. The invitation stated:
“We are plotting the Cabaret Conspiracy because we want venues, publicity, backing and pooling of resources – we want cabaret to be recognised as vibrant entertainment. If all the cabaret contacts united we would be in a stronger position to form contacts, establish venues, and convert the masses into cabaret patrons…”
The invitation drew a warm response, and Cabaret Conspiracy began hosting regular Sunday night shows at Garibaldi’s, a backstreet café above a motor repair shop in Darlinghurst run by an old Italian anarchist called Mario.
The shows were compered by two outrageous drag queens Doris Fish and Jacqueline Hyde, whose ever-smiling acid wit gave the cabaret much of its character, and drew the audience into the Conspiracy. If the acts were boring, the audience would call for Doris, and looked forward to her pithy put-downs and cheap innuendo directed at the performers.
The shows soon accumulated a loyal following and a regular collection of acts, led by divas Fifi L’Amour and Boom Boom La Bern, and a motley collection of comics, singers, dancers, drag acts and wannabes.
WHAT THE CRITICS HAD TO SAY ABOUT CABARET CONSPIRACY
The only rule at Cabaret Conspiracy is that there are no rules….
- Daily Mirror, June 1979
There are punks and spunks, hippies, has-beens, drag queens, trendies, transvestites... but don’t get scared off. There are mothers and kids and ordinary people like us as well... There are more and more people coming every week. Obviously Sydney has needed a venue like this for a long time …….. Up until now, performers had nowhere to learn their trade. Their artistic teething was done in Central Railway tunnel or in some dismal hotel backroom.
There’s so much Aussie talent – at last there’s somewhere to display it!
- Sun Herald, April 1979
Sydney’s liveliest alternative theatre group ……
- National Times, October 1979
…… off the beaten track, and I do mean off (in a glorious way) …… truly alternative entertainment.
- Campaign, October 1979
In these days of becoming glassed of eye and mind beside the tube, we forget that there are real live people out there with great talent.
- Melbourne Age, August 1979
If you haven’t yet caught up with Sydney in the seventies and are nervous about the prospects of the eighties, get along to where members of the Cabaret Conspiracy are playing.
They won’t reassure you, but they sure as hell will entertain you.
- Sydney Shout, August 1979
CABARET CONSPIRACY EXPANDS
The early success of cabaret Conspiracy led to the creation of its own spectacky shows ‘with a cast of thousands and a budget of twenty cents’. The first of these at Maxy’s in George Street managed to fill the magnificent old 800 seat Plaza Theatre building, and was a great success.
This was followed by other shows such as The First Australian Cabaret Festival at Garibaldi’s, which showcased many of the best acts and had crowds queueing around the block to get in. The Rock’n’Roll Death Show at SideFX in the old Marist Brothers High School explored the early deaths of many of the heroes of rock, with Mike Mullins as Death, Fifi L’Amour as a drunk and desperate Janis Joplin, Boom Boom La Bern of course as Mama Cass, George Smilovici as Elvis Presley, Tommy Gunn and Giselle Morgan as Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, and climaxed with Michael Matou emerging from a black cape as the grinning skull figure of Death in a G-string and sequins.
The Last big show was The John Lennon Memorial Concert at the Paris Theatre, with members of the cabaret and special guests including Margret RoadKnight and Wendy Saddington performing interpretations of their favourite Lennon songs.