Vale Pussy Willow a tribute

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Shah Gopal Whybrow 1974 – 2012

Words by Steve Anderssen

 

Many of us in the local and wider GLBIT community are still mourning the loss of a special friend and talented showgirl. She was known on facebook as Pusswah Willow and affectionately as Pussy to the rest of us. We enjoyed her quick wit and she-male antics, on and off the GreyHound – Friday Night Project stage, in St Kilda. “Free Entry before 9pm,” as she would always add with a chuckle.

Pussy had performed at various venues over the years, including the Xchange Hotel and Love Machine in Prahran. Her adoring audience and vast circle of friends remember her for being funny and for her warm and generous heart. I guess you could call me a fan and friend by association.

The news of her sudden passing on Sunday 8th July 2012 was announced on facebook by her close friend and comedy partner, Miss Tabitha Turlington. It was shocking news to all of us because Pussy was only 38. My first thoughts were for Tabitha but the ripple effect of such sad news soon included Pussy’s family and friends from around the globe.

It saddens me to be writing this article after only recently officially meeting Pussy for the first time, as Shah Gopal. It was for an exclusive St Kilda News interview, only a few short months ago. When we spoke, he was happy and enthusiastically enjoying life. Pussy spoke to me extensively about her friendship with Tabitha and her on-stage cohorts. She also expressed her happiness regarding her improved health, following lap-band surgery, the previous year dropping some 40 kilos in weight.

Pussy’s appearance was always immaculate and she was fun and charismatic. Her friendship with Tabitha cultivated a brand of humour that was always good for a belly laugh, so meeting her as Shah Gopal was a special treat for me. Little did I know then, that I would be writing this tribute.

Close friend Alan Mayberry said that “Pussy’s favorite quote was “if you don’t’ have anything nice to say about somebody … come and sit next to me.” She adored a gossip, especially if it was malicious. She could be brash and rude, at her funniest when you least expected it, a scathing aside as someone walked by or a throwaway line. All were hilarious. Nothing was scripted she was just genuinely funny. I always worried that ‘fat’ was her gimmick, but she proved that a slim Pussy could still pull a laugh.”

I have adored Tabitha’s performances for many years now but watching her and Pussy’s friendship ‘connect’ live on stage was one of those magical partnerships realised. Occasionally, I would pop down to the GH to film the show, as a courtesy. Thankfully, I just happened to film their performance of ‘Sisters’ just weeks prior to Pussy’s departure.

It can now be viewed on You Tube as a reminder of their friendship for eternity.

STEVE TV…Friday Night Project at the GH “Sisters” 22 June 12

 

It is times like these that I am reminded of the stark reality of how fragile life actually is. I’m sure Pussy would have been impressed to see the overwhelming support and friendship shown by the community towards her friends, family and colleagues at the GH.

Pussy left us at a time in her life when she was enjoying it to the fullest. “She was out partying as Pussy on Friday, then on Saturday at a friend’s birthday as Gopal, then on Sunday watching TV before getting ready for another fun-filled night at the Love Machine. She had even booked to fly to Thailand the following week.” said Alan Maryberry.

They say in show business that “the show must go on”.  The following Friday, the GH issued this statement, “As you are no doubt aware, this has been a very sad week for all of us at the GH, with the sudden passing of Pusswah Willow. Our two early shows tonight, at 9:30 and 10:30 will take place in the main showroom and will be a celebration of the life and times of Miss Pussy Willow, expect laughter, tears, and the odd tantrum, in true Pussy style! As always, it will be free entry before 9:30.”

For those who were unable to attend, I have filmed the event and posted it on You Tube, so that we can all remember a star and a friend. All the performances on the night were dedicated to Pussy’s memory. The strength and unity shown by the drag performers on stage, so soon after the event was to be commended. As I was filming from the audience, I found myself surrounded by Pussy’s family and unable to control my emotion. It was very sad for me to experience their loss and I can’t even imagine how Tabitha Turlington, Miss Paris, Monty Dee and Millie Minogue were able to perform so brilliantly under the circumstances. It was an amazing show and Pussy would be proud.

Paris commented, “Pussy was a wonderful entertainer she’s been a big part of Melbourne since she started. What she did was unique. She always got on stage basically portraying herself. That was the beauty of her act. She didn’t rely on diamante and feather she just relied on her own humor and wit. Paris spoke to Pussy on the Sunday she died, ‘She had never been happier and high on life. She went out happy and as positive as I’ve seen her in my years of knowing her, and that’s the one comforting thing.”

You Tube Tag: Pussy Willow Tribute Show at the GH …parts 1 – 4

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the recent funeral service at Boyd Chapel, Springvale Crematorium or the memorial service afterwards at the GH. Photos have since been posted on Pusswah Willow’s facebook page and I respectfully send my sympathy.

I would like to take this opportunity to send my heart felt condolences by way of this tribute to Pussy’s family. I believe people come into our lives for a purpose.

Pussy Willow lives forever in our hearts.

 

1.Photo Pussy Willow © Copy right unknown (as lifted from her facebook page)

2-5.Photos © Alan Mayberry

 

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