September is New Zealand Queer History Month and a great opportunity to celebrate the LGBTQI+ histories represented in Te Papa’s collection. So over the next few weeks we’re aiming to showcase queer related objects and stories through Instagram and blogs.
My first example is a headdress and gown hand-made by cross-dressing performer Frank Lund. They are classic examples of the type of outfits he made and wore in performances during the 1970s and 1980s. Frankie, also known as Toni Roget, performed in Wellington nightclubs, including the famous Carmen’s Coffee Lounge, for over 40 years.
As well as performing on his own he did a duet with Johnny Croskery as ‘Frankie and Johnny’. Frankie was in such hot demand that he would sometimes finish a show at one club and then chuck on a coat and run off to another club for his next performance. For Frankie it was a fun and exciting time in his life. In addition to professional performances he also did shows at friends’ parties and for private functions.
In his youth Frank married and had a daughter. In an interview in 2004, he explained that his family were very supportive when they discovered he wanted to perform dressed as a woman, and they often joined in the fun. It became a regular family activity to dress-up in Frankie’s wonderful elaborate costumes.
Frankie made most of his own outfits and had an extensive selection of beads, buttons, sequins, feathers, trimmings and costume jewelry, many of which are now in Te Papa’s history collection – waiting for their opportunity to dazzle in the limelight once more.