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Balmain boy to Kings Cross showgirl

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Australia’s trailblazing drag queen now lives in a small apartment on the Gold Coast, a world away from the Kings Cross glitz and glamour she once breathed and lived.

She is keen to keep a low profile despite a telemovie about her life hitting the screens.

However, Carol Byron, or Carlotta as many know her, still has fond memories for the Sydney suburb of her birth and formative years – Balmain.

“My early childhood was fabulous,” Carlotta said.

“I had lots of friends and played games and we had our wheelbarrows and we raced down the street.

“They were made out of fruit boxes, with these little wheels on them. We had races because there were steep hills in Balmain.”

Carlotta lived in Balmain throughout her childhood and early teenage years, apart from a brief stint in Putney. She made the move to Kings Cross when she was aged 16 and never looked back.

“I thought I had gone to Vegas. It was very show business-y, there was a lot more sparkle and lights, even the strip clubs were beautiful, even the prostitutes on the street were beautiful.

“It was a completely different era.”

Carlotta felt she was able to escape the ridicule she experienced in school as a boy who “looked like a girl” and reinvented herself as a drag queen.

She copied the styles and mannerisms of the stars of the day and later joined a group of female impersonators.

Les Girls debuted in 1963 and initially attracted gangsters and socialites, before their fan base widened to include heterosexual men. She moved out of the Cross in 1992 and it was the end of an era.

“You won’t see the types of shows that we put on here nowadays,” she said.

“It’s come into a more Priscilla-type drag thing today. I think it’s a great thing, it’s just for a different generation.”

Carlotta entertains today in her one-woman show, a mix of singing and stand-up comedy. She still performs in clubs and pubs in Queensland, as well as the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney.

She said the ABC1 telemovie was five years in the making and remembers being thrilled when it was first announced.

Actress Jessica Marais was a good choice for her character: “She looks a bit like me when I was that young.”

Carlotta said she hopes the biopic will encourage young transsexuals struggling with their identity to take life into their own hands. It is the main reason she agreed to its production.

The only drawback to the movie, in her eyes, is it doesn’t go on for long enough.

“The movie is about how I became Carlotta. It’s mainly about the struggle. It finishes in the 1980s. If they want to make a sequel to it, it’ll cost a fortune.

“I’ll love there to be one. There’s so much more that happens afterwards.”

Carlotta is broadcast on ABC1 on June 19 at 8.30pm.

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