Not many self published books ever get beyond the box in which they were delivered in, but piano player Hugh O’Keefe’s account of growing up gay in the 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond, the demand has a been so great another 500 copies have been printed.
Always accepting of his own homosexuality, O’Keefe’s journey through the ages gives vivid accounts of Sydney’s gay scene as it transformed from underground to out and proud.
O’Keefe describes the backrooms and dingy shopfronts that were Sydney’s first gay clubs, usually with a few drag queens and his piano for entertainment and one eye open for the cops, before he sets out on the obligatory pilgrimage to London where a new gay world unfolds.
Palely Loitering he returns to Sydney and becomes an important part of the ambience for the Albury, Midnight Shift and witnesses the horror of AIDS.
From 1991 to 2016 O’Keefe’s piano and humour supplied the early morning tunes for the decadent and lavish China Coast Balls around the globe.
This gentle account of one man’s journey through the social history of gay life in the 20th century is told with humour and sprinkled with just enough famous names to make it intriguing.
Palely Loitering is available at the Bookshop, Potts Point Bookshop and soon at Ariel, Better Read Than Dead and Harry Hartog.
Reviewed by John Moyle