It’s a landmark year for Bradley Gaddes.
“Yes, this is the year I reach the point of having spent half my life as a drag queen. Bradley’s turning 50 next month. But Beverly’s 25.”
Liverpool lass Beverly Buttercup became Bradley’s alter-ego a quarter-century ago. She got her name from the place where Bradley works – Goodman-Fielders at Moorebank, where they make Buttercup bread.
It was more than a nod to the familiar brand, it’s become a tribute to an accepting workplace that acknowledges diversity. Indeed the 31 years he’s spent at Goodman-Fielders Moorebank has been one of the most important constants in Bradley’s up-and-down life.
Over her career, Beverly has raised over $25,000 for charity and has worked on community radio 89.3FM here in South-West Sydney every Monday night for the last 15 years. Her show has just been reinvigorated, as Queer Radio Sydney, for this year.
And she co-ordinates a bi-monthly LGBTQ dance, Heaven Social Dance, at Mounties Bowling Club at Fairfield.
So Beverly is busy.
What about Bradley?
He’s much more retiring. Of his own admission, Bradley tends to hide behind Beverly but that’s become a little more relaxed since Sunrise intervened a little while ago.
I was walking through Westfield at Liverpool and someone started heckling me. ‘You’re that faggot from Sunrise!’ they said.
Seven’s breakfast show coaxed Beverly into doing some special segments for Mardi Gras and Bradley wasn’t ready for the onslaught of publicity.
“I couldn’t believe it. And I wasn’t ready for it,” he said. “Everywhere I went people were recognising me.”
Being gay and out are not necessarily easy, for anyone. Drag can complicate things. Sometimes it can be easier to relax and be outrageous while playing a character.
Ripping off that mask in public can be daunting.
“I was walking through Westfield at Liverpool and someone started heckling me. ‘You’re that faggot from Sunrise!’ they said.
“It was especially confronting, I realised, because I was Bradley, not Beverly. I just kept walking. I thought should I turn round . . . ?
“I couldn’t forget what they’d said. And it wasn’t the only time either. Lots of people said positive things too but those hecklers got under my skin and made me think.
“You know what? Yeah, Beverly and Bradley are two different people. But Sunrise made me realise we were the same people – but one with makeup.”
Why were you hiding behind Beverly?
“When I’m Bradley I’m quieter, Maybe this is an older person speaking now. In drag I‘m loud and boisterous and I can be as gay as I want.
“But when I’m Bradley I’m totally the opposite. I’m not ashamed of being gay but I just think when I’m Bradley I don’t have to stand out, I don’t have to be different. People say you’re a drag queen because you’re gay but that’s not the case.
“I can look awesome in drag but as Bradley I’m just a 50-year-old guy. In drag I can do anything that as a boy I can’t. A lot of drag queens keep being a boy and a girl separate. But me? Beverly is larger than life. Sunrise helped Bradley come out of himself.”
The first time he took up drag seriously he was in his 20s. “And I was 18 the first time I put on a dress. I had a girlfriend at the time and she did my makeup for me!
I can look awesome in drag but as Bradley I’m just a 50-year-old guy.
“I had a child at 18 – I don’t know how that happened. After my 21st I came out and said I was gay. After I got this girl pregnant I thought oh my God, that’s not what I wanted. It scared me.”
Son Beau (pictured together) is now 28 and very proud of his Dad. They get on really well.
“Having sex with a girl was what I thought I had to do. Putting on a dress didn’t make me gay. But having sex with a guy did.
“She knew I was having sex with guys. She thought I was still working it out. All my friends and family said ’We knew you were gay already!’ “
Where did you get the idea you were supposed to be straight?
“Just growing up. I got that message from society. I came from a Catholic family; did church and Catholic school and all that. I thought sex with girls was the normal thing you had to do. I didn’t dislike sex with a girl, I was just more attracted to men.”
His first public performance in drag was at 25 in a talent quest at the former Midnight Factory at Penrith, since closed. “I was really bad but it gave me the buzz. It was the attention! I got so much attention. I ended up going every week. Then I got involved in doing it for charity.
“I discovered that Beverly was so approachable. Everyone is more open to you when you’re in drag. It gave me the opportunity to stand out. I have three brothers and three sisters, I was always just one of a crowd.”
One of the greatest supporters of Bradley has been his workplace at Goodman-Fielder Moorebank where he’s accepted as one of the team.
“I’ve been so lucky to have such a friendly and supportive environment. That’s why I’ve been there 31 years. I’ve always been accepted there.
“They all know I do drag. It’s not a secret. I’m a machine operator there. I’m a slicer-and-bagger operator. We do 6000 loaves an hour. Guess where I got my drag name from? We make Buttercup bread there at the factory!
“Yes, Bradley still works at the factory he started at when he was 18. But look what Beverly’s done! I met Kylie at the Olympic closing ceremony and backstage at Mardi Gras. I chatted with Dannii at another Mardi Gras after-party. And I chatted with their mum Carol who was asking about my makeup and asked me to give Dannii some tips! I did a show with Carlotta and David Campbell.”
What if someone called you a faggott in public today?
“When I started, in 1992, we weren’t accepted. Gay people weren’t accepted. I came out before that so it’s been an uphill battle.
“Let me finish that story I started before. When those guys were heckling me at Westfield Liverpool. I pretended to ignore them for a moment and walked. I could hear them following me behind for a few good minutes, still taunting. ‘All shy now, are we Buttercup?’ they said.
“I stopped dead in my tracks. I thought of going to security. Turned that over in my mind. Suddenly I turned round . . . and they were gone!
“Sure I was scared. But I was excited! Beverly has a big personality. But this was the first time Bradley was as brave as Beverly. And those kids didn’t realise I was scared!
“Most of the friends I have is because of Beverly. She’s given me confidence, popularity. If I didn’t do drag I’d be boring.”
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