“There’s no place like home” is the slogan for the 40th birthday party and that’s exactly what Connections Nightclub is to so many people in the community. Home.
Connections Nightclub in Northbridge holds the noteworthy title of being the longest running club under the same name in the Southern Hemisphere. On Saturday the 5th of December she turns 40, and she is looking fabulous!
Connections, affectionately known as Connies or just “the club” for those in the know, is Perth’s LGBTIQ or gay nightclub and for 40 years it has been a place for the alternative, the fabulous and their friends to party, drink, dance and meet others. Everyone is welcome at Connections, all they need is a good attitude, the website states.
We spoke to one of the owners, Tracy Holland, and asked what the club means to her. She responded with “it’s a little bit of heaven,” and a proud smile.
Connections started its life at 81 James Street in December of 1975 when it was owned by ex-footballer, Dennis Marshall. At the time it was called the ‘Top Hat Club’ and was marketed as “alternative” because in 1975 it was illegal to be gay. The club was first advertised in the Sunday Times and was very much an underground, secret venue. “The doors were closed and people were asked if they were gay before entering. They also had memberships.” Tracy tells us.
Soon after, the club was renamed Connections and it quickly became a part of the fabric of Northbridge.
Tracy and her husband Steve started off as cleaners of the club 22 years ago and then over time they worked many of the other jobs within the nightclub. Eventually Tracy, who has always had an affiliation with the gay community due in part to the fact that her mum was gay, floated the idea of buying into the club and she and Steve have never looked back. “I’m a proud fag hag,” Tracy says with a smile, “I get in trouble for using that term but I’m proud of my hagdom!”
The club has undergone a few transformations along its journey, most notably in 1981 when a fire broke out upstairs. The DJ cleverly queued up “Disco Inferno, Burn Baby Burn” before the patrons were evacuated, drinks in hand, to cheer on the firemen from across the street.
Connections quickly became known for its friendly vibe, great music, pumping dancefloor and its flamboyant crowd. To this day there are fantastic drag shows on every week and many world class DJs have spun their tunes from the decks.
Connections have also had their fair share of celebrity guests; Boy George, Bob Downe, Stephen K Amos, Elton John and Marcia Hines to name a few. The club has also launched the careers of many famous DJs and Drag Queens, some of which are coming back for the 40th birthday celebrations.
Connections has always felt like a safe space for a lot of the patrons. People in marginalised communities, not only gay but transgender, disabled, and people of all ages and races feel welcome and safe at this nightclub and that’s a very special thing.
“We used to have a man who was completely deaf come to the club and he would dance the night away,” Tracy told us, “I asked him once how he did that when he couldn’t hear the music and he simply said “I feel it” and patted himself on the chest.”
Another patron was in a wheelchair and before the lift was installed in the club, the bouncers would carry him up the stairs, chair and all and when he was ready they’d carry him back down. “All done in a very respectful, inclusive way.” Tracy recalls. “It’s one big family here.”
“Connections has been a part of so many gay people’s stories. A lot of people have come out here. You have to remember that a lot of these boys, (and girls) grew up thinking they are the only ones in this world who were gay and then all of a sudden they walk into this club where they are accepted and they’re not the only one and it doesn’t matter what they did or what they said or what they wore. They could be as flamboyant as they like or they could be a big old bear and they knew they could walk into Connections and they could just be themselves.” Tracy Holland, owner.
“I also remember seeing people who had never been here before and you’d see them sort of standing awkwardly in the corner and our staff would walk up to them and say ‘come on, we’ll introduce you to some people’ and just make sure that their first experience was the best experience.” Tracy says with a smile. “I am so proud of this place.”
3 years ago the club underwent a transformation with the renovation of the gorgeous new lounge bar. The club may have had a facelift but the bones and structure are still there. Tracy states that they had to evolve with the times and the new bar is one of the ways they did that. There is also a new entrance and lift as well as more strategically placed DJ booths and cloakroom.
This Saturday night is the 40th Birthday party and Connections has strapped on some sparkly shoes and is ready to party!
Matty Grose, the Events and Promotions Manager, tells us that there is a full program organised for the evening.
There is a VIP opening for the first hour, then a show by Arpi, a well known and respected drag queen. Then there’s a cake ceremony followed by an official opening by Mayor Lisa Scaffidi.
After that there will be spot shows all night and the main drag show is on at 12:30 followed by the late show at 2:30am. Performers include Mardi Gras, Electra, Arpi, BarbieQ, Hannah Conda, Sheila Mann, Mel, Pussy, Ruby Jewels, Alexis and Faye.
It seems a lot of people have their own story about the famous club. I personally have my own tale to tell. It was the first club I ever attended and my first taste of the theatre, drama and flamboyance of the world of drag. It was also my first real foray into great music and friendly people within a nightclub context. The straight clubs just didn’t compare. I loved it so much that I have now been going to Connies for 18 years.
But in actual fact, my biggest story is that 10 years ago a friend had her birthday party there and my now-husband was at the same birthday party. We met under the mirror balls of Connections Nightclub.
So, this Saturday night she is having a birthday. Connies is dusting off her heels, fluffing her wig and getting ready to party.
Happy Birthday Connections!
Fabulous at 40 has never been more apt.
Check out the photos in our scrolling gallery below:
(Photos courtesy of the Connections facebook page and Lost Gay Perth page)