Leeds Pride 2013

Leeds Pride 2013

Over 20,000 people took to the city centre’s streets to spectate and partake in the 8th annual Leeds Pride event, Yorkshires biggest celebration of LGBT life and a reminder of the basic freedoms that many people take for granted.

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A charity night with the stars

A charity night with the stars

I had a great night in London last night at a star studded event at the Roof Gardens, Kensington which is a private members club. I was invited by my friend James Ingham who’s a showbiz columnist for the Daily Star Sunday newspaper. It was called ‘Jog On’ and James had organized it as a fundraiser for cancer research UK.

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Celebrating Halloween with Nicola Adams

Celebrating Halloween with Nicola Adams

Celebrating Halloween with Nicola Adams

I’ve become very friendly with Olympic Gold Medal winning Boxer Nicola Adams of late after having met her at my bar,Fibre just after she won her medal.  When she first came in lots of people were taking her picture and someone introduced me.  We got chatting and hit it off well, have become friends and go out together regularly ever since.

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Paralympics Opening Ceremony

Paralympics Opening Ceremony

After being lucky enough to attend both the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics and having an amazing time I was addicted to the whole vibe. From the volunteers enthusiasm to just walking into the park the whole thing was overwhelming. I’ve already made enquiries about going to the Rio games in 2016.

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Simon Cowell

Simon Cowell

Some say that you should never meet your heroes because you may be disappointed, so it was with a good deal of trepidation when I met one of my all time heroes.

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Alan Carr, Facebook hacking

Alan Carr, Facebook hacking

Recently I organised a coach trip outing  (no not that sort of outing) for my staff to go and see my good friend Alan Carr doing a warm up gig before he starts his massive Spexy Beast arena tour. He’d asked me to pop in to say hello before the show and we chatted before he went on in front of the packed 1500-seater Victoria Theatre in Halifax. 

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Turkish Oil Wrestling 2011

Turkish Oil Wrestling 2011

It’s deemed as one of the most unusual sporting events in the world but I love it. Although unfortunately I don’t think we will see it at the 2012 London Olympics.  

I’m talking about the 650 year-old tradition that is, the Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Tournament. It’s where Turkish men get together and toss each other to the ground. I seem to have become fascinated about this annual event and couldn’t resist another trip to Edirne in the North-west of the country to photograph and enjoy this spectacular.

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Me, Gareth Thomas and Boy George

Last month started off pretty well, when Number One Gay Hero and rugby legend Gareth Thomas came to party at Leeds best gay hot-spots. He toured the venues and the crowd at the Viaduct seemed very happy to see him so he returned the favour by taking his shirt off. A little later he surprised me by showing just what he could do with a bottle of champagne. These rugby boys certainly know how to party.

I’d been invited to a day at the races, and as I’d never visited a racecourse before and horses aren’t my thing, I wasn’t really all that bothered about going. However, it was to Ascot, the premier social event of the year, and I just lapped up all the pomp and circumstance that surrounded this event. Even The Queen was there in all her royal splendour, we didn’t meet, although I was in the box above hers and was looking down on her throughout the races. I was hoping for a few tips but couldn’t get a proper look at her race-card. In the end I put a £10 each way bet , which ended up costing me £20, on a horse and was excited to see it romp home… second. I thought I must be well in the money so shot off to the bookmaker to claim my winnings, a grand total of £23… not the most profitable day I have ever had. I just hope Her Maj did better than me.

Later in the day I was wondering past Lightbox bar in Vauxhall when I spotted Chrissy Darling, a glamorous door host I’ve known for years, he told me to go inside and enjoy the private party that was going on at the time. I pointed out that I hadn’t got my invite with me but he would have none of it and insisted I go in. The place was all decked out with a Moroccan feel and the smell of lovely Moroccan tasty tidbits hung in the noisy air. There were also some leather-clad waiters dispensing willie-shaped cock-tails to the assembled throng. I’d stumbled across Boy George’s 50th birthday party and it was terrific to see him again. In fact, his half century of life on this earth seemed to be doing him nothing but good as I don’t think I’ve ever seen him looking so well. Sipping from a bottle of water he had a word and a smile for everyone. We had a brief chat before he was whisked away to meet more of his guests that included Beth Ditto and Jodie Harsh, but I was really impressed at how he’s seems to have turned his life around. There again, he is a very determined guy so I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised.

Meanwhile, these events bring the highlife and a good degree of lowlife out of the woodwork and I’m afraid that some ex-celebs were more than an embarrassing and objectionable pain in the arse. I watched as Pete Burns was giving everyone who wouldn’t buy them a drink… a bit of lip (sorry Pete but they are enormous). Steve Strange rocked on by and I was just telling a group of friends that included; ex Frankie Goes To Hollywood singer, Holly Johnson, who was well on form and looking pretty good, Ollie Locke from ‘This is Chelsea’ and Daran Little (who had recently received a BAFTA for writing The Road to Coronation Street) a story about every time I’d met Steve in the past he always demands a drink… and guess what? Yep, the first thing he said was “Who’s getting me a drink?” We all fell about laughing… except Steve who had no idea why we were in hysterics.

Later, I bumped into a tanned and healthy looking Will Young, who was enjoying the party and I mentioned I was looking forward to hearing his new album, which I hope will be out in the next month or two. He really is a sweet guy and an absolute joy to spend some time chatting to. 

All in all, it was a surprising end to a pretty brilliant day and one that I couldn’t have planned better if I’d tried. So next year I think I’ll go the whole hog and get a top hat and tails for Ascot, who knows I just might end up chatting and exchanging title-tattle with Her Majesty.


Slipping in the Soap Awards

When a friend of mine invited me to the British Soap Award I jumped at the chance. It was being recorded in Manchester at the ITV studios right next door to the fabulous Coronation Street set. Ahh, I had happy memories of this place because last year I had my famous (well for me) cameo role when  Jason Grimshaw was crowned Mr Gay Weatherfield.  Suddenly my mind was working overtime as I began to think that maybe, just maybe, this was all a trick to get me to the studios and present me with my own award for ‘Best Extra in a Pivotal Scene’. I was even composing my acceptance speech… just in case. Alas, it wasn’t to be and on further reading of the invitation it said that on arrival there would be crowds of people, an army of photographers and the obligatory red carpet… again my heart raced with the idea of getting into OK Magazine… but the invite continued, our entrance was to the left of that and the rouge walkway was only for celebrities.

With hopes dashed for fame and a nice little photo in Hello the event itself proved a terrific pick me up as I rubbed shoulders with some of the most famous faces on TV. As you would expect with the Soap Awards it was like meeting old friends. As regular visitors to my living room via my large plasma screen as they were all so familiar, even if I’d never met them before.   I had a £20 bet with my friend Danny Miller, that he would win an award. He wasn’t very confident and said he didn’t think he was in the running but I insisted that the Best Actor category would be his. He was shocked, surprised and very happy when he was awarded Best Actor for his portrayal of Emmerdale’s Aaron Livesy… and I was twenty quid better off. 

Deservedly, Emmett J Scanlan picked up both Hollyoaks’ only two awards that night - for Best Newcomer and Best Villain. It was great to meet up with Liz Dawn again although upsettingly, she seemed frail but bravely gave the photographers every shot they asked for. Needless to say the place was wall-to-wall faces from Emmerdale, Eastenders, Corras, Hollyoaks, Doctors… the list of shows seemed endless. Even new kids on the block from ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ were mobbed by the paparazzi. 

A surprise guest was American hunk, and ex-Desperate Housewives eye candy, Jesse Metcalfe who was there to present an award. There is no denying he is an extremely handsome brute as just about every man and woman in the auditorium tried to flirt with him and get a photo… including yours truly.

The return of the competition

I’ve finally given way to public pressure: No, not to set up a home for ‘wayward young men’ (although that does sound like a good idea) but to bring back the Mr Gay UK competition.

The contest has been on a 2 year hiatus because I thought that fewer people were interested in it these days but it would appear that I may have been wrong. Everywhere I go if it’s not the first question, it is invariably the second: “When’s the next Mr Gay UK Final?” I have been getting a constant stream of e-mails asking the same question and from venues eager to hold a heat. Even some of the celebrities that were on past judging panels have asked if they can be involved again and excitedly tell me what a terrific time they had watching the lads parade around in their underwear. Over the years we’ve had pop stars, movie stars, sporting icons, fashion designers, soap stars and TV personalities all eager to be on that panel and enjoying what I’ve always thought of as a ‘fun’ competition and an enjoyable night out.

The Mr Gay UK competition has always been one of my favourite parts of all the things I do as a businessman. It was what helped get the company established and certainly generated a lot of interest in all things gay as well as publicity for whoever managed to win the title. Organising those first few heats back in 1993 when we took the contest out to the wider public was very hectic. Everyone seemed scared to enter so myself, and the team, would go around trying to talk various members of the audience into entering. Getting them to take their trousers off and parade around in the underpants was even trickier…but I have my ways. Now it’s slightly easier as people know the concept and love the idea of being crowned Mr Gay UK. Even after the recent break in it being held I still get TV companies and various other media calling me up asking if I have a current winner who could appear on some TV show or news programme. They seem very disappointed that there isn’t any new holder of the title they can call on to represent the gay community.

That was one of the best things for the winner of the title; almost immediately they became a celebrity themselves and a spokesman for a group of gay people who had very little opportunity to speak their own mind. The 1999 winner Mark Ledsham appeared in ‘Queer as Folk’, while Jarrod Batchelor, winner in 2003 took part in ‘The Games’, a series on Channel 4 that pitted celebs against each other in sporting contests. He went on to share the victor’s accolade with Shane Lynch from Boyzone and donated his winner’s fee of £15000 to the Albert Kennedy Trust. Ben Harris, the 1998 title holder later went on take part in a series called ‘Playing it Straight’, a show where a sexy female had to decide from a bunch of hunky suitors, who was gay and who was straight. Former Mr Gay UK Ben beat all the competition by ‘Playing it Straight’ and walked off with a pile of cash.

I can’t guarantee that everyone gets their own TV show, although with all the gay celebs appearing at peak-time viewing on our screens I suppose it is only a matter of time, but it can give a platform to all kinds of brilliant opportunities. 

Of course the great thing about this competition is that it really is a nationwide search with venues across the UK holding their own heats so ensuring they have their own representative taking part in the final. That means, your mate, or your boyfriend, or partner, or the barman you’ve simply lusted after for the past few weeks could be the next Mr Gay UK. We plan to hold the Grand Final online in conjunction with a major social networking site, with the winner being given the opportunity to represent the UK in the prestigious Mr Gay Europe competition.

If you want to take part either as a host venue or a contestant then just get in touch via the web at:  www.mrgayuk.co.uk

Rio Carnival 2011

The Rio Carnival looked under threat earlier this year when a fire ripped through the warehouses in the city that housed the famous samba creations. It was said that around 90% of the exotic costumes were destroyed, and, as the teams work on them all year round, some wondered if the parade would suffer as a result. I should have known the resilience of the Brazilian people wouldn’t allow such a small thing as a catastrophic fire to stop them from celebrating in the only way Rio knows how… OTT!

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before but the groups in their glittering, feathery, silky and brilliantly ornate concepts are not only there to look fantastic, the teams are actually competing for the accolade of ‘best in show’, to take a piece of Crufts terminology. The top-tier samba schools vie fiercely to have their performance judged the best, which includes the choreography, music and the superb visual spectacle and although there's no cash prize for first place, only a trophy, the winning team have the bragging rights that last a year until the next Carnival.   

The weather wasn’t the best that I’ve experienced at past Carnivals but, like the resolute spirit of all those taking part, the public swarmed in their thousands in cheering appreciation. I bumped into superstar Jude Law, best known for playing Dr Watson in the recent Sherlock Holmes movie opposite Robert Downey Jnr and Stephen Fry’s plaything ‘Bosie’ Douglas in the film Oscar Wilde, and asked him just what he thought of the parade: “ Truly amazing… I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.” Now chatting to my latest chum he went on to tell me this was his first time and he was only here for the night.

And also in the crowd, direct from her panto season in Liverpool (Oh yes she did!) the glamorous, ex Baywatch star Pamela Anderson surrounded by an army of admirers said: “Spectacular hun… the best… fantastic.”

Normally I stay at a hotel in Copacabana but on this occasion I thought… damn it… and eventually I stayed on the gayest of gay streets Rua Farm de Amoeda, in Ipenema. The area was packed, wall to wall, end to end, with people snogging each other’s face off… all very full on and incredibly sexy. I am pleased to report my bum was pinched and a few hunky strangers seemed happy to exchange a bit of ‘lip-service’ as I struggled down the road. It could have been quite an ordeal had I not been having so much fun. A word if you are planning a visit: Ipenema is the gay centre and especially at Carnival, you might find it difficult to get accommodation. They may say it is all full, and it may well be true but, some hotels have exclusive deals with various travel companies, so keep searching you will find something… although don’t expect a budget holiday. 

All hotels in Ipanema are in a walking distance from the beach. This means less than 5 minutes on foot. Ipanema is a narrow strip of land between the beach and the lake. You will find everything from small family-owned and run hotels, to luxury 5-stars which have had guests such as Madonna.

The parade is a noisy procession that at times sends more than just a shiver of excitement up and down the spine. The sheer joy and enthusiasm for Carnival is both contagious and addictive but as they dance through the Sambadrome stadium there are other events that are to be looked forward to… the parties. Pool Party was the most prestigious, a bit like the Circuit party, which appealed to hunks in trunks and boys just out to have a great time. Also there was the Maxim party, which attracted a mixed crowd most with toned bodies that you could tell, like the teams in the parade, they’d been working hard on all year.

However, the entire place is just one big party with events going on all over the place so, here it isn’t all about the outrageous and glamorous outfits that are the draw. In fact, it’s more the sheer beauty of the guys stripped down to the bare essentials and having a good time dancing to a different rhythm that makes these events such a must-do. It’s mesmerising to see so many gorgeous boys throwing themselves with so much passion into a hedonistic carnival that leaves just about all other carnivals in the shade. Rio, recently voted the gayest destination in the world, is THE party capital, every Brazilian, whether from Rio or not, looks forward to it… and so do I.
I’m already planning my trip for next year… hope you can make it.

Three-piece, two-piece… Onepiece

Three-piece, two-piece… Onepiece

OK, I know it looks like I’m jumping on (or should that be jumping in) the onesies bandwagon but I just want to say, I had the idea first. I’ve loved the idea of slipping into a fleecy fabric and covering my entire body in its welcoming comfort for many years but never really knew where to look for such an item of clothing. Now, Norwegian company Onepiece ™ has got every pop star, film star, sporting celeb and wannabe modelling the very latest in geeky comfort, I feel I’ve missed out on a Dragon’s Den opportunity all those years ago.

Of course George Dawes wore a big baby romper suit on TV’s Shooting Stars, so similar items have been seen but it was just not quite what I was searching for. Perhaps, as a little tyke, I might have had a version of one myself, although I don’t remember such an event if I did. Friends have bought me one-piece pyjamas with feet and a button down flap at the seat, and although these were very nice, I knew there just had to be something more, well, substantial out there… but where? 

I’m sure there will be people who think its all about regressing back to my childhood but it isn’t - I’m almost certain I don’t want to look like an ageing Teletubby… and I definitely don’t want to live in LaLaland. However, there is something very reassuring about the look, and the fact that X Factor’s One Direction wear them means that they are trendy, youthful and fairly hip. Not that I was planning on arriving at the next shareholders meeting wearing one, showing the assembled faces how ‘with-the-times’ I really am… no I’d keep it for my own personal, and not public, romping moments. 

I didn’t know about the zippered Onepiece ™ until I was in Holland a few weeks ago and saw a guy (who I suspect was in his early 20s) walking down the street wearing one. My mouth fell open, and not just because he was really quite cute, and in such a colourful fleecy ensemble it is almost impossible to look anything but cute, it was the exact item I had been searching for all these years. I stopped him and asked where he had bought such a splendid garment and he pointed to the label. Eureka! No that wasn’t the label it was the moment when the world made sense and I knew I could track the firm down via the internet. Can you imagine my horror when I found out that everyone was wearing one? My original concept stolen, and even worse, had become the very item that everyone wanted over Christmas; the one item that looks perfect indoors and out… all zippered in to keep you all snugly and warm. I could have said “Bah Humbug” but instead I put in my order and joined the happy throng of fleecy, cosy-comfort wannabes.

Promo Code: 61020128

No Korea for a photographer

No Korea for a photographer.

The travel bug got to me again recently and I found myself on a plane to China. It’s one of those places that I really wanted to visit; see the Great Wall, take a look at that Bird’s Nest stadium that served as the focal point of the last Olympic Games and to stand in Tiananmen Square where back in 1989 possibly the most iconic protest was ever staged. Then, a lone protester carrying his shopping stood in front of advancing tanks and stopped their progress. That image has never left me, or the results of that action, which made China a very scary and oppressive place to live but, as an outsider, I still wanted to see the spot where this unbelievably selfless act took place. However, these days’ things in China are changing little by little, opening up and letting foreigners and locals mix, exchanging thoughts and ideas… but only to a certain extent.

I’ve recently visited Cuba and was impressed by the people, who had nothing but still had an unbelievably Latin spirit of making the most of things…even if the county’s leaders still seem a little paranoid and I thought that China would be much the same. It isn’t. China is a very wealthy country and even has the obligatory McDonalds in the capital but despite the chilly weather, the people themselves were anything but.

However, I was given the opportunity to visit another ‘closed’ country, and, as it was on my list of ‘must see’ places, jumped at the chance of a trip into North Korea.

A flight from the Chinese capital Beijing to the North Korean capital Pyongyang had me all excited about just what to expect. With the thoughts of my Cuban visit still whizzing around my head I was expecting much the same but, in a display to show how open the place is, we had to hand our Iphones in at the Immigration Department, to be collected on our way out. All our trips were pre-organised and it was very difficult to get any deviation from any planned visit. We didn’t meet a single ‘local’ – they were around and ‘working’ but the feeling that everything was prearranged and totally for our benefit was all pervasive. The excursions were in government vehicles, with government guides who were well versed in the ‘brilliant’ attainments of their glorious… past, present and future leaders. They seemed unbelievably proud of their vast monuments to the struggle the country has been through but the sad fact is that those monuments are the only visible sign of anything achieved in this dismal country. The hotel I stayed in was vast but had few other occupants. Even to my rather unsophisticated taste-buds the food was boring… and I spent a fortune at their local ‘super-store’ buying some produce. There was nothing there except jam, which cost a loads but I was desperate to spread some on toast as a change from the noodles that seemed to be the only constituent of every meal. I also paid approximately $25 for what I thought was yoghurt but tasted like goat’s sperm… and I normally only pay $4 for that (I joke - you are short of laughs in this country). When the guides were asked to change the itinerary, even in a minor way, it was almost impossible. I asked about taking photographs, even of people working out in the fields but it was suggested that I shouldn’t and when asked “Why not” was told that the person 100 yards away in a field who probably didn’t know of my existence “… might not like it.” I felt somewhat cheated as I like to meet the locals. I continued to be frustrated, like when questioned our guide about taking photos said there were absolutely no restrictions… yet there patently were. Even the soldiers turned their backs and hunched over hiding from my inquisitive but not imposing lens.

The North Koreans have in their constitution no laws against homosexuality but they also have nothing for gay people. It’s not that it doesn’t exist but it isn’t acknowledged so gay people grow up with their feelings but have to subjugate it and marry someone of the opposite sex. Here’s what the official North Korean site says: www.korea-dpr.com 

"Due to tradition in Korean culture, it is not customary for individuals of any sexual orientation to engage in public displays of affection. As a country that has embraced science and rationalism, the DPRK recognizes that many individuals are born with homosexuality as a genetic trait and treats them with due respect. 
Homosexuals in the DPRK have never been subject to repression, as in many capitalist regimes around the world. However, North Koreans also place a lot of emphasis on social harmony and morals. Therefore, the DPRK rejects many characteristics of the popular gay culture in the West, which many perceive to embrace consumerism, classism and promiscuity." 

North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, appears to be like many other countries that have democracy in their title… the least democratic places around. We weren’t allowed to meet or even see past the organised itinerary of events, mausoleums, statues and tributes to the ‘great’ beneficent leader that was, is and always will be Kim Il-sung, who after his death, was declared to be the country's Eternal President. The North Koreans don’t have an organised religion but an ethos that is called Juche, which teaches that "man is the master of everything and decides everything". Alas, it would appear that a man is master of everything and decides everything. Also, I never got to chat to anyone to find a different voice either offering approval or denial of this claim.

It was very strange returning to China. For all my misgivings about China and the oppression and secrecy I thought I’d find there it was like the most open society in the world compared to where I’d just been. I’m not sure if I’ll ever return, or even be allowed to, although I must say I’d missed the huge annual spectacular and colourful gymnastic display, an event that features thousands upon thousands of people. 

Since my return I’ve spoken to a few people about my experiences and I’ve read about others who have visited this strange country. This year’s I’m A Celebrity – Get Me Out Of Here contestant, and all round funny man, Dom Joly has written a huge amount about his experiences and I urge you to read what he says about the country… it is funny and very insightful

By Royal Appointment

By Royal Appointment

Words and photographs by Terry George

Despite all the raucous noise outside in the streets of London as protesters made their feelings known about the government’s change in the financing of the country’s education, I cosied down, in the presence of HRH Price Charles and his missus, to an evenings entertainment thanks to the Royal Variety Performance.

It’s my forth such event and, like on every other occasion, the acts were brilliant but it was the post-show that was the most fun. Don’t ask me how I did it but I managed to sneak my way backstage to hobnob with the stars after their appearance. The first person I bumped in to was Robbie Williams, now he and I go way back but alas, the last time we met he didn’t remember me at all referring to his months in re-hab and his memory problem. This time I detected a brief recognition and once we got chatting he remembered who I was and we got on like a house on fire. It was like going back to those halcyon days when Take That were just starting their career and making appearances at gay clubs all across the UK. Mark came up and greeted me with a hug and a kiss, Jason was his usual friendly self, Howard, who knew me from those early days and from when he occasionally took to the decks at one of my clubs, came over for a chat. It was good to see the ever-smiling Gary greet me enthusiastically with a firm shake of the hand and some words of shock at seeing me backstage. He was obviously still on a high having all the boys back together and happy that the old magic was there. The staging was pretty spectacular with what seemed like a cast of thousands and of course they were simply fantastic… no wonder their album, Progress, was the fastest selling album of 2010.

I have to say that I love the Royal Variety Performance simply because you get such a fantastic mix of acts. Where else would you get the likes of Susan Boyle and Kylie on the same bill as the fantastic acrobatic troupe Spelbound, comedienne Sarah Millican (see our fun interview in this issue) and Jamie Callum. The list of stars goes on but I wouldn’t have missed the show for anything it is just such a fun occasion and completely unlike anything else on TV.

Continuing back stage I was happy to chat to Russell Watson, the man had stayed at the castle we now rent out to those who want a bit of luxury and privacy and talked about how he was planning a return visit soon as he’d loved it so much. I popped in to see Michael McIntyre who, a couple of years ago was a newcomer on the bill and desperate for a few nice words as he was very nervous. I complimented him at the time and he seemed really grateful that I’d taken time out to offer him encouragement. Oh heck, how things change. This time I was looked at suspiciously and the request for a photograph was, after some debate, reluctantly agreed. He may well be thought of as the funniest man in the UK at the moment… and he was very, very funny hosting the event, but… and I realise this might be just me… that kind of attitude doesn’t suit anyone. 

I wonder if the rumours about him and other comedians on the circuit are true!

A Touch Too Much ?

A touch too much?

Recently I had friends from London and Brighton staying with me in Yorkshire, so I took them out for a day in the historic city of York.

One of the couples is young and very much in love. They’re relationship is still new and they couldn’t stop holding hands and kissing in public. Hardly anyone in York paid them attention. I saw one or two people nudging each other and pointing.  A young guy said to an old guy; ‘Did you see that?  They were kissing. That’s what it’s all about these days.’

When we came to Leeds it was a different story though. Lots of people were pointing and I was shocked that a city as cosmopolitan as Leeds doesn’t appear to be as open and accepting as in other places.

With all the TV soaps and their constant gay storylines, you’d think that a couple of boys holding hands (as girls don’t seem to attract the same horror) would create much of a stir at all. Is it because it is such a rare thing to happen? Is it just the sheer novelty of the occasion that attracts the whispers and the pointing. Maybe, but often from these whispers there is a more sinister undertone that is very disquieting. 

I know a gay couple who have been partners for over 33 years and, unless under very gay circumstances, never hold hands in the street. They might kiss hello or goodbye in the car, but as for public displays of affection, it’s a definite no-no. When I ask them why, they point to the fact that they don’t need any trouble at their age.

It got me thinking about how more gay people should be expressing their love and friendship of each other and we should have an official day for holding hands.

When I looked into it further, I discovered there’s already an international hand holding day which starts in January and runs throughout the year (www.adayinhand.com). On this day, week, month or year, same-sex couples and friends all over the world are encouraged to hold hands in public to support the visibility of LGBT people.

Also, Sshh! Saturdays, which occur on the last Saturday of every month is a way of encouraging and inspiring LGBT people to take responsibility for their equality and live their lives without fear or restraint. Sshh! Saturdays in major Western cities will, it is hoped, become regarded as an important time when numerous same-sex couples can feel confident in holding hands and being themselves.

Celebrities Brian Paddick and Boy George, author Paul Burston, MEP Michael Cashman, (the original Eastender gay boy) and activists Peter Tatchell &  Cleve Jones (Harvey Milk’s aide) have already endorsed the campaign. 

Last Valentine's Day, students in Oxford formed a same-sex chain around the Radcliffe Camera, in celebration of friendship and gay rights. Instead of a boy-girl line, the participants held hands in boy-boy, girl-girl formation. But I know what you’re saying, it’s easy for students, they have nothing to lose. That might be so, but we can’t rely on Outrage and Stonewall or a few students to do all the work for us… sometimes, even in a small way, we need express our own feelings… and to feel less oppressed in our own country.

If you feel the same way, why not join the Kiss-In for Global Queer Freedom, which takes place at 2pm on Sunday 9 May, in Piccadilly Circus, London. They need hundreds of couples to join in. 

This will be a re-enactment of the iconic OutRage! Kiss-In from the eighties and celebrates the 20th anniversary of the queer rights group OutRage! It was originally staged to protest against the arrest of same-sex couples for kissing and cuddling, and shamed and embarrassed the Metropolitan Police into ceasing to arrest LGBT couples for displays of affection.

This time the Kiss-In is focused on demanding freedom and human rights for LGBT people worldwide, especially in countries like Jamaica, Iran, Uganda, Malawi, Nigeria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia but it is also good for all of us to be visible.

For more information contact OutRage! 0208 240 0222.

Give us a Kiss!

Frying Tonight

Frying tonight

It’s been a hectic few weeks for me and my feet have hardly touched the ground. However, recently I had one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. Let me explain.

It was the annual Gala Dinner for the Terrence Higgins Trust’ Friends for Life in London and I was just one of the many guests that were invited along to hand over some cash and enjoy the company of those similar minded to myself. This event is high on the gay social calendar so quite an important do with loads of tables and famous folk scattered everywhere. Some times you can get lost at these huge events but ‘Not to worry, I thought, I know quite a lot of the people here. Some of soap stars from Corrie and Eastenders I’m on more than just nodding acquaintance with, while there were other celebs from fashion, film, TV, radio and various businesses who I’ve run into at other such extravaganzas. I was wandering around, nodding to the good and powerful, looking for my place card and wondering which famous person I’d end up having a laugh with over the three-course meal. Alas, as I traipsed from table to table I couldn’t find my illustrious name and I thought either I’d been forgotten or I was scheduled to serve the soap to everyone else.

Eventually, I made my way to the centre table, where the guest-of-honour, a certain Mr Stephen Fry, would be sitting for the evening’s entertainment. Mega actress and Bond’s M, Dame Judi Dench was flanking one side while on the other it was… me. I thought they’d got it wrong or that perhaps there was another Terry George that Stephen knew and I should continue my search. But I recognized that my guest’s name was at the side of mine so I was obviously, if not surprisingly, in the correct place. Unfortunately, my apprehension took over and I wondered how the hell had I ended up on the main table. As I took my seat next to Stephen I shook uncontrollably as I realised; this is the man with the brain the size of a planet, who writes books, plays, he’s an accomplished actor, is called upon by politicians for his opinion and fronts clever clogs quiz show QI. How the hell was I going to be QI as I know nothing? My GCSE in home economics is hardly going to hold me in good stead should the conversation drift away from ‘what makes a good omelette?’ – and once I’d replied ‘eggs’ I was stuffed. I had nothing more to say. I was absolutely terrified of not only showing myself up but with all the celebs (who were quite rightly wondering what on earth was I doing at Stephen’s table) laughing at me as I slunk under the table (no not for that… do you mind) out of embarrassment. Shaking I turned to my guest and asked him what on earth I should talk about. He glanced at Stephen, then Dame Judi and then glanced at everyone else at the table and boldly said SEX. So somewhat apprehensive I ventured a joke that broke the ice and all seemed well however, it was nothing compared to the one Dame Judi told. I wish I could tell you what it was but I’m afraid the Secret Service will come round and silence me forever. Perhaps that could be the title of a James Bond movie.

Rio and Madonna=Paradise

Rio and Madonna = Paradise

2010 marked my 9th year of photographing the fabulous Rio Carnival, the highlight of my calendar. The only downside is I took 8000 photos – I’m beginning to think I might have an illness! I hope there are one or 2 good shots within that.

Although I went to cover the carnival parade I became obsessed when I heard Madonna was spectating and found myself pointing my lens for an hour and a half through a whole samba school at Madonna to try and get some pics. She’s someone I’ve always wanted to meet and I view her as a goddess of the music industry.

She was just 70 yards away from me on the balcony of a VIP box. She was the guest of the Governor of Rio Sergio Cabral, and was with her boyfriend, model Jesus Luz together with her daughters Lourdes and Mercy.  The couple had apparently broken up 2 weeks before but it didn’t look like that to me because she was running her hands through his hair and the pair seemed smitten. She seemed so small when I got up close to her, and I think she looks amazing for a woman of 51.

What did surprise me was that she came down from the VIP area with the Governor to within touching distance of me to mingle and get involved with the carnival. Normally only competitors are parading around down there.

Most of the public couldn’t see her but she was centre of attention and ambushed by photographers and security, which caused a huge scene because they weren’t paparazzi just taking carnival pictures. I felt really sorry for her as she couldn’t move or enjoy it – it’s taking intrusion too far and it must be so annoying that you can’t do normal things.

I couldn’t think what to say, I was the only other English voice nearby so what came out was the first thing that came into my head. “Madonna – you’re boyfriend is beautiful.” I shouted over the throng. She replied “Thank you.”  Of course, looking back I’m thinking what a berk I was… there are so many things I could have said if I’d had time… or a brain?

She moved onto another area of the Sambadrome, which in my opinion didn’t give you the best views. She surprised me as she changed outfits into a Brahma beer t-shirt, I wouldn’t have thought she was up for such blatant publicity.  Her boyfriend wore the same too. They weren’t drinking the beer though, just bottles of water.

When a float went past with a Michael Jackson impersonator on, Madonna went wild for it.  It was eventually the winning float, a win for the Unidos da Tijuca samba school their first in 74 years. The float was led by a seven year old girl, the youngest to ever lead a samba school float but she was overwhelmed and tearful with all the attention from the photographers. It also caused something of a controversy in the media as the lead role is normally filled by scantily clad models.  

Paris Hilton was there but not even watching the parade just playing with her iphone. It appeared as though this lack of appreciation to the hard work of those taking part was pointed out to her and she put it away to enjoy the parade. Like Madonna she was all over her man, Doug Reinhardt. I didn’t get that close to her, but that didn’t disappoint me too much.

What did disappoint me was when I saw other photographers with pictures of actor Gerard Butler who I really admire and was dying to meet.

But low and behold we went for breakfast at the Copacabana Palace with my friends the next day and there he was. I asked him if he enjoyed the carnival and he mimicked me in a Yorkshire accent. I also asked him if he’d seen Madonna and apparently he introduced her on stage.  He said he’d loved it and thought the entire event was fantastic.

I wanted to know how he got the amazing six-pack in the film 300 and he told me he’d had to take water tablets and they painted him up too.  He said he was in no rush at all and happy to oblige… so I got some pictures with him. He was so friendly, but I was still shaking as I took his picture. 

There was a man on a rocket who caused quite a stir… and quite a racket.  He launched himself right in front of me and I’ve never heard anything so loud, it scared me to death.  He flew right over the floats and the crowd loved him.  He had 2 fuel tanks on his back but kept having to land and change them as they only last a very short distance.

The original Brazilian Pool Party just gets better and better. It takes place in a fabulous outdoor space in Rio with a great view of the Guanabara Bay, the Sugar Loaf and Christ the Redeemer from the pool. The event has gained a lot of popularity over the past 5 years with both the local hotties and guys in town from other cities. It’s a late afternoon “Tea Dance” that usually goes from around 4pm until 4am. We usually have fun at this event. The place is bedecked with things likes giant colored sea horses and other sea creatures, tropical fruit and some typical Brazilian food all topped off with special Brazilian drinks like “caipirinhas” and served around the pool!

I travelled from Leeds to London by rail with East Coast Trains. I always find easier than flying down as the journey only takes just over 2 hours. Advance return fares, booked online, start from £23 Standard Class or £94 First Class: book via www.eastcoast.co.uk, call 08457 225225 or visit any staffed station

Flights to Rio were with British Airways. Book well in advance if you’re thinking of flying during Carnival period. www.britishairways.com

Buy your tickets for the carnival at www.carnivalservices.com