I’m not sure how to tell you this, but notoriously grumpy bloke Steve Price is going to have a walk-on part in the stage production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
The 2GB radio host, frequent The Project guest and former I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! contestant is going to have “several” walk-on, tailor-made roles during one night of the musical.
“The show itself is absolutely outstanding, it’s amazing,” he told PEDESTRIAN.TV. “I’m very honoured they’ve invited me to come out and be a part of it. I hope I can do the right thing by them. I’ve got four or five costume changes. And look, it really does take me out of my comfort zone, which I’m making a bit a habit of doing that. I went into the jungle for 46 days, had cockroaches and snakes poured on my head and ate testicles, all that, I’m probably a bit more nervous about this than I was about that. It’s so far out of my comfort zone.”
Ah, yes, ‘the jungle’, where the long-standing contrarian came out a “changed man”. It was part of the reason I agreed to do this interview. Price has never proven himself to be an ally to the queer community, and at times, has been actively hostile (case in point: the homophobic vilification of The Block‘s Waz and Gav in 2008, which took Price and 2UE some five years to settle.)
But after coming out of the jungle, Price spoke often about how he was a “changed man”.
“It was a big risk, and a big challenge physically and mentally to do that show,” he told P.TV. “I didn’t have any idea that I’d be there for 46 days, and so during 46 days you obviously think about a lot of things. One of the things I came to realise was that no matter what your age, you need to continue to open yourself up to interesting new challenges.
“I think I softened as a person while I was in there, I think some of my views were challenged, particularly with my new mate Nazeem [Hussain] about Islamic Australians, I just feel that you’ve got to be more open to ideas and people. So when somebody offers me a challenge now, I find it very difficult to say no.”
Price might be a changed man when it comes to the experiences of Muslim Australians, but it doesn’t yet feel like he’s an ally to the LGBTIQ community – which, when talking about the celebration of queerness that is Priscilla, is important. Cis, straight, white men inserting themselves into minority spaces deserve to be questioned.
And this is Price’s track record: He supported the deeply hurtful marriage equality plebiscite, opposed Safe Schools, and makes light of the struggle for equality and recognition that transgender and gender non-conforming people face every day.
Big trouble at Sydney Airport this morning …boarding calls asking Ladies and Gentlemen to go to the gate !! Thought that was banned !— Steve Price (@StevePriceMedia) March 8, 2018
Airing “two sides of a debate” when one side is advocating against your humanity? That’s not staying neutral. You’ve already picked a side.
So I asked him why queer Australians should welcome him back into their community, hoping for a “my time in the jungle has opened my eyes” type answer. Spoiler: that’s not what I got.
“I don’t think this show is aimed as a political statement,” he said. I jumped in to explain that I wasn’t saying that, either – merely that it’s a celebrated representation of queerness.
When I pointed out – perhaps unwisely – that his past actions may have been hurtful to the queer community, he replied:
“I think that’s unfair. I don’t think that anything I’ve unsaid has been deeply hurtful at all to the gay community. For The Project, for example, I was part of the gay and lesbian Mardi Gras where we spoke to the originators about the battle that they had had. My views on same-sex marriage and the plebiscite, yes I was supportive of the plebiscite for one reason: that the Coalition government went to an election saying that they would, if elected, have a plebiscite as to whether the marriage act should change. That was their policy. The Australian public then voted to put Malcolm Turnbull in office.
“To say that that plebiscite has been deeply hurtful to the gay community, I’m not gay, so I don’t presume to speak on their behalf. What the plebiscite did was that it ended up legalising gay marriage in Australia. Malcolm Turnbull is the Australian prime minister who changed the marriage act to allow gay people to be married. Not Julia Gillard, not Kevin Rudd, not all these administrations before who said they’d do it and then didn’t do it.”
He added: “What you should be celebrating is the fact that it changed.”
Credit where it’s due: Price acknowledging that he can’t possibly know what LGBTIQ Australians went through during the plebiscite is great, but saying the ends justified the means – in this case, legislating marriage equality – is the kind of damaging, infantilising crap that minority groups have faced for time immemorial.
So is this a new Steve Price, ready to dip his toe into the fabulous, resilient world of drag and musical theatre and perhaps learn something about the queer community? Or is he very much the same media grump we’ve always known, albeit one throwing himself at new experiences with a touch of the mid-life crisis?
If you’re interested in finding out, Price appears for one night only this Friday April 6 at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne (book tickets here). Otherwise, you can catch up on all the drama when the piece airs on Network Ten‘s The Project, which, in the end, is what Price is doing it all for, anyway.