Street Seen: A History of Oxford Street
MUP, $54.95 hb, $43.95 pb, 324 pp
I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth in Taylor Square
Transfixing, to my delight
A policeman and a sodomite.
This amusing doggerel, furnishing the epigraph to ‘On Queer Street’, the eighth chapter of this book, neatly sums up the status that Oxford Street currently enjoys as an emblem of, and shorthand reference to, the large and vibrant Sydney gay world. Its campy note evokes an older gay world of queens and drag (what in fact the US slang term gay originally meant in the 1920s and 1930s), which was how gay Oxford Street began in the late 1960s. That all receded but did not vanish with the advent of macho fashions and behaviours, clonery, leather, and Muscle Maries in the 1980s, which marked the second wave of US influence following the willing embrace of gay liberation in 1970 and after. Oxford Street is now known to the world as the site of the Mardi Gras parade, far and away the largest street celebration in Australia and probably the largest gay and lesbian street celebration in the world.