Features/What to SEE/Multi-arts

Off the beaten track with Famous Sharron

24 June 2022

More dazzling than ever, Famous Sharron is taking her Perthonality outside the metro area, discovers Nina Levy.

It’s been four years since my last interview with Famous Sharron and I’m keen to know how Perth’s favourite diva has fared in pandemic times and, most importantly, how social distancing impacted her famed selfies with her fans.

“People were not into socially-distanced selfies,” she says. “They just wanted to jump right in anyway. It’s like I had a gravity and they couldn’t resist.”

“We were thinking of designing a giant dress that was 1.5 metres wide. But all the drafts came back with it looking just like a ball of COVID. And we thought that’s not necessarily something someone wants at their event. So that didn’t go ahead.”

Two women grinning for a selfie. One looks very excited, the other looks even more excited. One looks fairly ordinary, the other has bright red bouffy hair and a lot of 80s style makeup.
Famous Sharron takes one of her famous selfies with writer Nina Levy.

The pandemic certainly hasn’t dampened Shaz’s spirits. She’s dressed in her usual vibrant get up, which today includes a spectacular sequinned bolero, shimmering against her shiny red hair and glossy makeup.

If you’ve not yet come across Famous Sharron (AKA producer and comedian Bonnie Davies) head back to that 2018 interview to find out all you need to know about the woman who is famous for doing absolutely nothing other than being her outrageous self.

And it feels like Shaz has become more famous since we last spoke. She’s currently “glambassador” for a range of institutions and events, including Event Cinemas, the Art Gallery of WA, ART ON THE MOVE, Pride WA and the 2022 Perth International Cabaret Festival.

“People I work with just can’t get enough of me,” reflects Sharron. “They’re like, can we just have a bit more of you Shaz? And I’m like, you absolutely can, look how much there is of me.”

“And when I talk about things, people listen – I don’t know if it’s the sequins or the leopard print. I just have so much fun; ambassadorships are like a really good friendship. You go on a bit of an adventure together.”

When I talk about things, people listen – I don’t know if it’s the sequins or the leopard print.

Her role with Event Cinemas is revving up, she says. “Top Gun has been on hiatus for two years,” she remarks. “Do you remember they released the trailer and then… nothing.” We both snigger but she’s got a serious point to make.

“I think that’s the thing that people don’t realise. When we’re not touring there’s all these people behind the scenes who lose their livelihoods and their jobs – even the cinema attendants. For cinemas around the world it’s been a really tough time.”

That’s part of the reason why Shaz is so beloved as a glambassador – beneath her flamboyance she cares deeply for arts and culture.

And she’s sharing the love beyond the metropolitan area, in an online video collaboration with ART ON THE MOVE.

Designed to promote cultural tourism in regional Western Australia, the three videos take viewers to Geraldton, Katanning and Collie respectively.

Not towns that are well-known tourist destinations, but that, says Shaz, is the point.

‘Wild, gorgeous and photogenic… just like me!” Famous Sharron promoting Collie.

As the name suggests, ART ON THE MOVE (AOTM) is a West Australian organisation that takes shows and exhibitions on regional and interstate tours. Sharron has been working with them for a few years now, so she’s been involved with some of those regional tours.

“At all of the big exhibitions we would also feature local artworks in each town. And we noticed that there were lots of amazing local artists,” she explains.

“But no one would even know. You don’t think, ‘Collie. Oh, Collie Art Gallery? Best gift shop.”

But if you’re looking for something unique for someone that’s probably a one of a kind, go to Collie Art Gallery and pick something out of there. It’s really gorgeous, with really bizarre, different things.

AOTM was looking at the towns that people were overlooking, you know, the ones that you drive by or drive through. It’s off the track, but it’s like off-Broadway, you know? There’s some real gems out there.

“So AOTM was looking at the towns that people were overlooking, you know, the ones that you drive by or drive through. It’s off the track, but it’s like off-Broadway, you know? Smaller capacity, but there’s some real gems out there.”

It’s those gems that feature in the videos.

One of the highlights of the Katanning video is footage of Shaz at the fabulous-looking all-ages playground, with its adult-sized slides and swings.

“There was so much that didn’t even make it into the Katanning video,” says Sharron.

“That’s what I think people don’t even realise. Like even just all the fabulous eateries there. There are 42 different languages spoken in Katanning. It’s one of the most multicultural towns in WA. Who knew? If you come from a different country, you don’t settle for fifth best in terms of, say, pho soup. You want the best. And so the food is the best of all these different regions.”

Prep the paparazzi Katanning, I’m coming for you!

While tourism in WA has, traditionally, been focused on the great outdoors, these videos take us into art galleries, museums and shops, and into the lives of locals. Shaz believes these kinds of experiences have been overlooked because they’re harder to promote.

“We have really unique experiences in WA, but they’re hard to put on Instagram. It’s easy to do the big shots of the sweeping views and all the stunning things we have.

Actually, what’s fabulous is going into the little towns and having experiences and hearing stories.

“But, actually, what’s fabulous is going into the little towns and having experiences and hearing stories. Like Mary, who owns a secondhand thrift shop in a tiny town, and curates the selections and knows the stories of half of the things in her shop.

It’s listening to stories – stories that you wouldn’t hear anywhere else – that has been the highlight of making these videos, muses Sharron. “Like, in Katanning, at the Premier Mill. That places is full of stories.”

The Premier Mill is a boutique hotel that was a flour mill in a previous life. Industrial yet luxurious it exudes equal amounts of charm and cool.

“About 35 years ago the mill was going to be demolished. They moved one of the big giant old relics of equipment – like huge, three metres – out the front of the mill, ready for disposal. It took four or five people to lift this thing. But overnight, it disappears!

“35 years later, they’re renovating the Premier Mill Hotel, and Nigel, one of the people that’s driving it all, gets a phone call, anonymously. “There’s gonna be something for you out the front tomorrow. Next day, he walks out the front and finds this giant piece of equipment that takes four to six people to carry!

“So somebody, 35 years ago removed it (with friends, or some sort of magic powers), hid it for 35 years, and then saw that they were renovating the building, and went okay, you can have it back now. And even though it’s a small town, nobody knows who the mystery saving-history person was. Unbelievable!”

“There are stories like that everywhere, when you just stop and chat to people. And it’s so fun hearing it from the horse’s mouth. It almost becomes a mythology, a fun adventure game.”

Famous Sharron’s latest video, Where’s Famous Sharron? Collie!, has just been released. Plus check out Where’s Famous Sharron? Katanning! and Where’s Famous Sharron? Geraldton!

Pictured top is a screenshot from Famous Sharron’s Collie video, at the Wellington Dam mural, by Guido Van Helten.

Geraldton is like a mammogram – you’ve been told to go but you just haven’t got around to it yet.Famous Sharron in Geraldton

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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