When Terry Fortune steps onto the stage for the start of the second season of Remembering the Lux at The Baxter on Thursday 25 August it’s like stepping onto the stage where he was born.
Well, not really, because the original Lux is now a thing of the past. But Terry, from Woodstock, is part of the rich legacy of the entertainment world in Cape Town that has performed around the globe but it was on the stage of the Luxurama Theatre in Wynberg were Terry the drag artist was born.
Before Terry there was Tyrone (his real name) who went to UWC to study social work, but fate put him on another path.
“It was about 1968, I just turned 21 and was working in the housing department of the city council,” he says.
“I did not complete the course at UWC because I was going to change the world because I already knew everything.
“The housing manager in his wisdom decided to assign me to Glider Crescent. At the time the most notorious and problematic street on the estate.
“What a challenge! After my training I had all the solutions, I will make all these problems disappear with one talk.
“There was me full of fire going into house to clean with the owners, but many of them just wanted me to do it and not learn from my example.
“I managed to get fences for some of the houses and the next day one of them was gone, sold for alcohol.”
The end came shortly afterwards with a tragedy that ended in death.
“I worked with a 19-year-old from a troubled family with brothers already in jail. Got him to go to church, into a soccer club and even a job with a cleansing department. I was proud knowing that I was making a difference but one Monday my manager called me in to say that he came home from work drunk and stabbed his mom to death.
“That was it. I resigned, bought a ruck sack and took to the road – supposedly to hitch-hike around the world.”
This “journey” around the world led to him getting into the entertainment industry as a singer in Johannesburg but in 1971 he came back home to Cape Town.
“My father told me to call the council and I got my old job back – and then just waited. This was it: behind a desk until I turned 60 something. But then, my eye caught an ad in a local newspaper.
“R2000, Talent Contest, Princess Bioscope.”
“The Princess in Retreat Road was just down the road from where I lived and R2000 was the equivalent to two years salary working for the council. I entered.
“I won the semi-final and finals were at the “new” Luxurama in Wynberg and I was up against Zane Adams, Taliep Petersen, Tony Schilder, Roy Gabriels, Donald Behm and Frankie Cord so I know with such a line-up I had to be different.
“I minced on stage dressed in a green sequined evening dress, sat on top of the baby grand and accompanied by Richard Schilder sang ‘I’m just an Old Fashioned Girl’ in the style of Eartha Kitt, slid of the piano to do ‘Pata Pata’ and at the end removed my wig.
Terry has toured the world working at venues in Europe, on cruise
ships and theatres across South Africa.
“Unfortunately, for them, I realise that most of the shops are
closed but what to do with the money that I have exchanged? I’ll do a bit of a
pub crawl. Funchal is mountainous with a winding road leading from the top down
to the harbour area so a pub crawl starting at the top, would get me down to the
bottom and back on board by early afternoon.
“And that day a passenger liner with more than a thousand people on
board, turned around to fetch me. Needless to say I got into big k*k.”
The new season of Remembering the Lux will be at The Baxter Theatre in Rondebosch from Thursday 25 August to Saturday 17 September. Booking at Computicket.