The Mardi Gras is a massive financial hole but South Sydney council will not be bailing it out despite a hoax flyer distributed last week. Let’s look at how it all unfolded in our sealed sections emailed to Crikey subscribers over the past week.

Sealed section August 5

Stephen

With the financial problems the Sydney Gay Mardi Gras is facing, wouldn’t you have thought that a committee (public or secret) of prominent gay citizens would band together to come up with a financial rescue package? All it takes is for them to sell a few bank shares and voila, there’s the financial package. Or is that asking too much of them? Just asking…

Anonymous

CRIKEY: Good point. The gay community are always telling us how wealthy they are and what a great demographic they make for advertisers. Let’s see the colour of their money now that the Mardi Gras looks likely to fall over.

Mardi Gras finances wallowing

“Stephen,

Re Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

The reason why nobody has offered any money to rescue the Mardi Gras is that most people who know the workings of the outfit are waiting for it to fall over in the hope that a better-run organisation will spring from the ashes.

Mardi Gras has a reputation for being one of the most volatile political organisations in town, with a board and election process that even makes the NRMA look like a corporate model.

Remember, this is a mob that couldn’t even budget ahead to cover the staff tax bill.

It has effectively been taken over by a loopy lesbian collective from the inner west so far to the left that even the ALP refused to lift a finger in support.

They’ve insisted on putting on a dreary politically correct cultural festival each year that nobody goes to, funded by flogging off exorbitantly-priced tickets to the two big dance parties.

Each year as the festivals have failed, the dance parties have become more expensive and the shows more pathetic. Once party-goers were entertained by Minogues, – today they’re lucky to get a washed up drag queen from the Albury Hotel.

Board members had little opportunity for feedback from the party crowd because they watched over the masses from a segregated VIP room, along with their special invited guests.

All the research you’ve seen showing that homosexuals are loaded was commissioned by the Mardi Gras board so it could feel comfortable about ripping people off even more each year.

In reality, a large section of the community aren’t so well off. You’ll find many work in retail clothing stores, wait on tables, push trolleys for Qantas and the like. They can ill afford to spend hundreds of dollars for a night of loud music, second-rate entertainment and a good laser light show.

The big rumour in town is that the Gay Games are now headed down the same path as Mardi Gras after the organising team, (containing some familiar Mardi Gras faces) decided to follow the same over-priced dance party business plan.

Yours, Dancing Queen”

CRIKEY: The Mardi Gras is too big an event on the Sydney calendar to disappear completely, so our correspondent is probably on the money when suggesting that more reputable business types have been waiting for the current organisation to fall over. We reckon the Mardi Gras will be back in some form next year, but it’s unlikely to be the same. Last week’s press reported that an earlier offer of financial assistance had been knocked back by the Mardi Gras organiser because it contained too many conditions would fiscal responsibility have been one of them?

Bailing out the Mardi Gras

Sealed section Aug 7

We assume this one will also be breaking in the Sydney papers this morning but the gay independent mayor of South Sydney, John Fowler, is proposing a $70 levy on all ratepayers to bail out the Mardi Gras.

The resident who called Crikey last night (and we trust this ain’t no hoax) said a public meeting has been called for the town hall at midday today, which is not exactly a heap of notice.

A flyer was in her letter box when she got home. Why every South Sydney ratepayer should bail out the Mardi Gras is beyond Crikey. It is a city wide event that pulls in tourists from around the world but somehow it is hard to imagine John Howard coughing up the dollars and with Bob Carr also declining, the poor old local ratepayers seems to be coming to the rescue.

Somehow this just doesn’t smell right yet the ratepayer swears it is true.

The great Mardi Gras bailout hoax

Sealed section Aug 8

This is the text of the bogus flyer distributed through parts of South Sydney on Tuesday which sucked in Crikey and some residents claiming a $75 levy on all households to bail out the Mardi Gras:

“South Sydney Residents Association

The recent announcement concerning the deficit in the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Budget for 2003 has voiced different proposals for funding this event in the future.

In response to this South Sydney Council has decided that in order to fund the 2003 event it would impose a $75 per household per annum tax levy on residents in their area.

We would like to see the Mardi Gras to continue in the future however we are strongly opposed to the rate increase.

Voice your concerns to South Sydney Council:

Wednesday 7 August 2002 12noon

South Sydney Council Chambers

280 Elizabeth St Surry Hills

Or contact your minister for Local Councils

The Hon Mr. Harry Woods MLA

[email protected]

Talkback regular Neal from Redfern was so livid after reading Crikey’s rumour of South Sydney Council’s proposal to bail out the Mardi Gras that he rang that well known 2UE Mardi Gras lover (chortle) Steve Price to get the ratings climber to get to the bottom of it.

Pricey’s people asked NFR to email them the offending item, which he did. (For the record, NFR did say to Pricey’s telephone operator that it was from the “inherently unreliable” Crikey website and qualified his email to Pricey by saying “if this checks out…”)

South Sydney spinner Liam Gash takes up the story:

“I’ve had several follow-ups. All rang off when told it was a hoax. I spoke to Price’s producer, Hugh Crawford at 8am and explained the situation. Price then ignored it and went on anyway.”

Unfortunately NFR was listening in via the web so he couldn’t tape Pricey’s spray and give an accurate transcript, but here are the key points Pricey made just after the 8:30am news (and no undertakings are given on the accuracy of any of these quotes):

– Pricey started off by saying “I hope this is right” because he’ll “have a lot of fun with this tomorrow”.

– He described Crikey as “one of those internet sites” and on at least one and possibly two occasions referred to “our mates at Crikey”. He made no mention of his battles with Crikey, of course!

– He said they rang SSCC’s media man, Liam Gash, who doesn’t usually talk to Pricey because they reckon Pricey has given them a rough go in the past, but on this occasion Liam did talk.

– Pricey reported that Liam claimed that the letter going around was a hoax and Liam apparently described “our mates at Crikey” as “d*ckheads”!

A few minutes later in his daily fireside chat with the Golden Tonsils, Pricey goaded the SSCC resident about how he would be slugged with an extra $75. Lawsy emphatically stated “I won’t pay”.

Crikey got a deserved spray from former subcriber Mr Gash in an email:

“Of course the South Sydney public meeting is a hoax. Couldn’t you check your facts just once you d*ckhead? Especially when one of your subscribers is the Media Manager at the Council!”

Which was followed later in the evening with this:

“It’s too late trying to crawl to me now. I’m on 24-hour call. That’s what they pay me for. I took a call from AAP about 7pm and told them it was bulls**t so that should have been out on the newswire before your call arrived.”

(Unfortunately, the password we were using to read AAP has lapsed so can anyone else help with one.)

In any case, you know my contact details. The letter called for people to come to the council offices at 12noon to protest at this levy. Two people turned up. I have about 6 calls. The switchboard had a few more. Fairly pitiful result really for such a widely distributed thing. They were following up last night with stuff on car windscreens. Not many residents were taken in. Pity you were.”

And then this:

“You can keep the money but take me off your mailing list. It’s of no interest to me. It takes me 15-20 minutes to read it to work out that there’s nothing in it I’m interested in.

Plus you’re so right wing that I can’t understand why you left the Libs. Just take me off the list. You and Price deserve each other.

Liam”

Meanwhile, this went up on the South Sydney website yesterday afternoon: click here for hoax warning

And we’ve also been well-briefed by another spinner:

“The context behind all of this is also to do with South Sydney winning the hearts and minds of its heavily G&L constituency. Frank Sartor has been famously “shy” of G&L events in the past and so SSCC is really working on supporting G&L community as its major point of difference in the battle against the proposed council border changes, where the Pink Dollar suburbs will be snapped up by Sydney City Council.

Sartor snapped up SS Mayor John Fowler’s media advisor Damien Furlong which was a really obvious move to start finding new ways to bring the G&L vote on board for Sydney City – Furlong is very well connected in those circles.

When SG&LMG went down, some thought it likely SSCC would step into the fray.

CRIKEY: Could it have been a devious plan by Frank Sartor to get the hoax started, with the South Sydney Residents’ Association the vehicle and Crikey a casualty? While Liam’s tone is pretty harsh, we’re the first to admit it’s warranted in this instance. We should have had the bulldust detector give this story a thorough going over and while our comments were somewhat qualified, they perhaps could have been more sceptical. In our defence, we received the call from our spy around 8pm on Tuesday evening and didn’t know where to find Liam.

South Sydney hoaxer unmasked

Sealed section Aug 9

A reader writes:

“Dear Crikey,

The perpetrators of the South Sydney Mardi Gras hoax have now been revealed, as have the multitude of media outlets that were suckered into it (most prominently Lawsy). This stunt was pulled by students of the University of New South Wales for their Foundation Day – the latest in a long line of stunts that have had Sydneysiders appreciating the student sense of humour for the last 50 years or so.

The aim of Foundation Day stunts (performed by several competing teams) is generally to attract as much attention as possible, to make several people look really stupid (allowing students to have a laugh at the same time), and to raise money for charity at the same time (this year’s charity was Barnados). So it was all for a good cause, and Crikey should be congratulated for helping to give the stunt extra publicity and generate extra outrage.”

CRIKEY: Very well done, folks. And if they manage to make a buck for charity out of such pranks then they’re smarter still.

Hoax no Sartor effort

Sealed section August 9

A staffer to Sydney Lord Mayor Frank Sartor writes:

“Stephen,

South Sydney’s paranoia is getting the better of them. Hoax letters are not the way the City of Sydney does business. [CRIKEY: Just to clarify, it was Crikey who floated that conspiracy theory, not South Sydney Council.] Clearly tensions within the South Sydney local government area run deep and there are other members of the community who feel resentment about their local council’s poor performance.

Going to such lengths to make South Sydney council look ridiculous is, however, quite unnecessary because that organisation does it quite well all on its own.

Reading the story on yesterday’s sealed section was worth the year’s subscription (paid for personally).

Regards, Sartor staffer”

Sleazy management of the Sleaze Ball

Finally, this email has just come in about some sleazy management of the Sleaze Ball:

My sister used to work every year for the Sleaze Ball which is held after the Mardi Gras at the old Showgrounds. Every year she’d come back with stories about in fighting and nepotism amongst the mainly lesbian oragnising commitees.

The large contracts (eg, for security, for sound equipment, for lighting, for food etc, that would be handed out to friends and family of commitee members. Best price? Written contracts? Tenders? quotes? Must be joking.

A lot of these contracts were a money making dream – a lot of it was untaxed and undeclared – some organisers who used to drive around in old beat up Lasers are now in those shiny BMW or 4wd’s.

Paying creditors was often late or not at all – especially if those creditors were not ‘part of the comittee network’ .

Carr is quite right not to bail out this lot out. And a bit of accountability for any new one would not go astray especially if it gets a Government grant to get it up and running. Mind you, any Company that gets corporate welfare should to be accountable – but that’s another dream.

Name withheld

Peter Fray

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