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Monday 08 November 2010

A lakeside chat with the Topps

Posted in: Performance, Hall of Fame
By Jacqui Stanford - 9th September 2010

The Topp Twins on the shore of Lake Wakatipu

It was a sight that slowed traffic on Queenstown's lakefront – The Topp Twins emerging from their hotel in full Camp Mother and Camp Leader kit to chat to a couple of journalists and have their pictures taken on the shore.

Jools and Lynda – and all their much-loved characters - are in New Zealand's adventure capital for Gay Ski Week. They will tonight perform a show in the ball room of the Rydges Lakeland Resort.

Lynda Topp says as soon as they were asked to be part of the event, they were in. “Because, anything like that, where you can come and holiday and just be yourself, in Queenstown, in New Zealand – that's what it should be like all over the world. Everybody should just go wherever they want and be who they are,” she says.

“And we are lucky in this country that we can do it. Everyone that's here is just going to be able to party down and have a good time. And that's what it should be about - Gay Ski Week is party time.”

Jools says the twins are in Queenstown to celebrate their own lives, which is an important thing to do. “At some point in time you have to stop struggling and fighting, because when you're struggling and fighting you can't live the life you want to. As we said in the movie, we don't want more rights; we just want the same rights.”

She believes New Zealanders, gay or straight, want rights and share an ideal of fairness. “We just want to be able to walk down the street without getting stones thrown at us.”

“We've been very lucky. The characters, to some degree, have made us a household name in this country. But also, along with those characters, came the word gay. And I think that's what opened doors.”

Jools shares the story of a young gay Maori man whose parents adored their TV series. “So he would go home and watch the TV series with his mum and dad. Then he thought ‘this is the perfect time to come out, because they love the Topp Twins and know that they're gay, this is fabulous'.”

He geared up to tell his parents, but instead of directly telling them he was gay, at the end of the show he announced “I want you to know, that I am just like the Topp Twins”. His mother turned to him and said “don't be silly dear, you'll never be as funny as them.”

Tonight's Topp Twins show will attract a mostly gay crowd, which Jools says usually means more audience participation. “Because all the queens, they want to be seen.”

Jools says in some ways they feel like tonight they will be playing to ‘their people'. “In a lovely way, we're at home. We're at home in a gay audience.”

It will be interesting because I know there will be straight people there tonight. That's good. Some of our best friends are straight … we just don't want them teaching our kids,” she laughs.

She says no matter where they go or who they perform to, they don't have to change their show. “It's just what it is. It's already gay. We don't have to make it gay. We don't have to ‘unstraight' it or whatever. That's who we are and we've never been anybody else and I hope we can always be ourselves.”

That universality of the twins' performances, stories and characters was exemplified in their recent success in the United States. They charmed American audiences with live shows and picked up a number of awards at GLBT film festivals where they showed record-breaking documentary Untouchable Girls, which tells their unique life stories.

Jools says the reaction from American gay communities was amazing. “I think that there's nobody else like us in the world. And we're pretty brave and strong and out there and that always encourages other people in the gay community. And I think that's what happened when we went there.”

“They're still fighting Proposition 8 or 6, whatever it's called,” Lynda chips in. “They're still trying to be recognised as gays and lesbians, just in their personal lives. You know, it's 2010. You gotta get with it.”

Aside from taking over the United States and hitting the slopes, the twins are also making summer plans. They will do a national winery tour, starting in Cromwell.

“It would be great to have every gay and lesbian there. Put your best country and western gear on. There'll be line dancing … it will just be a big old gay country hoedown,” says Lynda.

The Topps will visit quake-hit Christchurch, performing a show in Hagley Park in January. “They're ready for hoedown,” says Lynda. “Shaking in their boots they'll be,” Jools adds.

It's at this point of the interview that poor Lynda launches into a coughing fit after a mozzie apparently flies down her throat. However it doesn't stop her wholeheartedly discussing her appreciation for New Zealanders and the love they have shown the pair. “They've just been incredible about coming to support us – and the documentary we made that you know, is now the biggest box office documentary in New Zealand.”

“It's just a beautiful place to be New Zealand. We're glad to be gay in New Zealand.”

Interviewing two proud, brave and groundbreaking lesbian twin sisters, in one of the most gorgeous settings in the world, you can't but agree … New Zealand sure is a beautiful place to be – and be gay.

The Topp Twins perform in the Rydges Lakeland Resort Ball Room. Doors open at 7.30pm. Tickets from or the i-SITE at the Queenstown clocktower building.

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Jacqui Stanford - 9th September 2010