GATE 69- All Seat belt signs are off. Dennie checks out the home of Cathy and The Trolley Dollies in downtown Cape Town
I first set eyes on Cathy Specific whilst working on a Marks and Spencers photo shoot. I was dressing hair for a street scene on Bree, down town when suddenly I saw this 8ft tall female, hourglass figure, shaped with glamour and sparkle. She was alluring, beguiling and magnetic; standing there at the entrance to Gate 69 on the red carpet. Her beautifully, blonde coiffed beehive and lashes hovering like tanacious hummingbirds stunned me. I couldn’t help myself, I dropped my kit and ran to her as a child would run in awe, arms outstretched as if to hug Cinderella or Mickey Mouse at Disney land. I was received and embraced with warmth, I could feel the love and I was hooked then and there.
It occurred to me that during my career of styling hair and makeup on models for fashion editorials and shows that the persona of beauty is typically depicted as aloof, distant, detached and unforthcoming. Love only emanated from women who looked like mother Teresa, certainly unexpected from a man dressed as a woman.
Cathy Specific is a woman with presence created by the darling Brendan Van Rhyan, actor, singer, performer, writer and female impersonator. Cathy was born out of six years of his being a flight attendant for South African Airways. She is the pin up personification of aviation from the seventies when girls would dress and die to fly and the exclusive, universal cabin crew were hailed as living the dream.
Gate 69 is the home of Cathy Specific and her trolley dollies. The satirical show is original, funny and thoroughly entertaining. The experience pays homage to an era that once may have been considered outrageous but now seems refreshingly cozy; or as they say in Afrikaans- “gesellig”.
The theatre is magical and the only one of its kind in South Africa: only eighty seats gives an air of intimacy. It is a journey of mutual self-discovery for the audience and the cast who meet and greet, serve the food and then go back stage to prepare for the show. Fabulous makeup and hair has to be layered and blended each night before doors open and that’s a two and a half hour process. The food is thoughtfully prepared served on a lazy Susan with delicious surprises and bites (very Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party) The staff are engaging and hospitable. It feels like a family affair. It’s as if you were dining at their home.
Let’s be clear this is not a gay club and the show is not a drag show. There is no comparison. “Our audience,” says Brendan (I had a chance to chat to him when the gate was closed and the cleaner was busy vacuuming), “is an older family crowd. We entertain without lip-syncing, although that is a challenging art in itself. There is no pretense. We sing and perform. Our characters are real women let loose in public and our guests identify with them. I am old fashioned, an old soul who simply wants to touch people. We live in a society that is so detached. We want our guests to be touched on a emotional, spiritual, physical,mental and an inappropriate level,” Brendan laughs .
“Women want to be us and men want to have us.”
Gate 69 is the venue built for cabaret. I have always been enchanted by purple velvet drapes, the sound of footsteps on the boards, costume and a candle lit room. I am thrilled to be entertained and tantalized by the weird and the wonderful, reminiscent of my days in the early eighties in Las Vegas. Gate 69 is the perfect space to hold any kind of function that lends itself to this atmosphere. I have yet to see the exciting Burlesque Hhow 69 – ‘For your (adult) eyes only’ which claims to be a naughty, sexy, visual feast. You will not witness anything like this anywhere other than gate 69.
Brendan Van Rhyan and his partners, the elegant Luanna Shonfeld and Christopher Dudgeon have created the set and are open to tailor a private function for special events. Let your imagination soar. At Gate 69 it is all about having fun whether it’s business, family or friends.
They surely have me in the palm of their hands and as long as they are working this room I will be there.
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071 589 2915