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Carmen, 70, goes back to Parliament

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    Carmen, 70, goes back to Parliament - 11-Oct-2006
    Gay identity Carmen was back at Parliament yesterday, 32 years after being hauled before a select committee for alleging some MPs were closet homosexuals.

    Carmen, described on her business card as a New Zealand and Sydney icon, was visiting Wellington from Sydney where she has lived the past 26 years, for her 70th birthday.

    Dressed as always in drag she told reporters about the tough time she had had over her sexuality back in the 1950s to 1970s.

    Carmen had to front up to a parliamentary select committee after saying during a television interview that she knew one homosexual and a few bisexuals were in Parliament,

    It was about the time Labour MP Colin Moyle's private activities came under the spotlight.

    Mr Moyle resigned from Parliament in 1977 after Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon accused him of having been picked up by the police for homosexual activities.

    When Mr Moyle denied the allegations, Sir Robert offered to table the relevant police file.

    Accused of using police and the Security Intelligence Service to his political opponent's disadvantage, Sir Robert was called to appear before the committee.

    "Mr Muldoon was called up ... and he said 'well, if I have to go Carmen's got to go', so that's how I got here."

    Apart from having to apologise and withdraw her remarks, that was the end of the matter for Carmen, but she has no regrets.

    "It was all good business for my coffee bar and my nightclub."

    Carmen ran a coffee shop - opened in 1968 - and nightclub on Victoria St, in downtown Wellington.

    She said it was a tough time to be out of the closet - but that didn't stop her and she prides herself on being the first openly gay Maori and drag entertainer back in the 1950s.

    "It was very, very hard those days because the straight and square people beat you up, and punch you, and give you a hiding, so you have to be a good runner."

    Carmen was also, at one point, backed by businessman Sir Robert Jones to run for mayor but, after an entertaining campaign, did not win.

    Standing next to transsexual MP Georgina Beyer, Carmen said it was wonderful that times had changed.

    "I come back now at 70 years and you've got it all going so that's wonderful. It may be late but it's happened."

    Ms Beyer said Carmen's visit was a brilliant honour.

    "The likes of me wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the likes of Carmen bravely and courageously becoming visible, maintaining some dignity with a lot of personality and [who] warmed the affections of many, many New Zealanders."

    Ms Beyer said a large dinner would be held in Carmen's honour and Prime Minister Helen Clark was likely to stop by.
    Ref: - NZ Herald


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