DT’s Hotel’s 29th Birthday Extravaganza – Event Review

Perfectly timed during Pride Month, DT’s Hotel celebrated its 29th Birthday with a special event on Saturday the 1st of June.

Originally co-founded in 1995 by Dale Smedley and Tules Round, the beloved venue, located on Church Street in Richmond, is Melbourne’s oldest all-inclusive queer bar and has been a cornerstone of Melbourne’s LGBTQI+ community for nearly three decades. During this eventful night, DT’s had an abundance of impressive drag performances, held to commemorate the Melbourne venue’s historical achievement, with drinks and snacks to keep you going throughout the night.

Normally, every Saturday night at DT’s there are drag performances with a team of three queens performing a showcase every hour from 10pm, however because it was a special occasion, the show kickstarted earlier and there were 6 drag queens in attendance! All queens present were ready to bring the house down with their charisma, stage presence and unique talents.

Transforming the normally cabaret seat set up floor to standing room for patrons to vibe and dance, the queens of the night consisted of voluptuous dainty songbird Esther Rix, hilarious hyper bunny Jacqui Meoff, the suave and sensational Rubi Taboo, music theatre connoisseur Sara Tonin, the wig snatching and chaotically entertaining Xena Ghost, and Melbourne industry icon Suzie Ridge.

With a massive cast list, the setlist was equally as epic. With four fabulous shows from 9pm, patrons were spoilt for choice with music from all eras and genres including 90’s tune ‘One For Sorrow’ from Steps, a tribute showcase to the legendary Shirley Bassey and there was even an ABBA medley that had everyone singing along. When these fabulously entertaining queens were performing together, they each had their moment to shine with multiple solos throughout the night.

Jacqui Meoff was hilarious off the bat with her performance of the 80’s hit ‘Mickey’ complete with giant Mickey Mouse hands. Her other number consisted of twirling and a performance to ‘I Just Wanna Dance’ from Jerry Springer the Opera, discofied by Alison Jiear, which has turned into its own queer anthem. If you weren’t laughing and smiling during Jacqui’s numbers, then I’d say there’d be something seriously wrong with you.

Sara Tonin is clearly a deeply passionate theatre fan from her choice of songs which included Cabaret’s ‘Don’t Tell Mama’ and Funny Girl’s ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’. Her presence and visuals made me feel like she was some long lost in time Golden Age of Hollywood superstar. Supreme.

Keeping with the theatre tunes, Rubi Taboo took to the stage in a dynamic performance of ‘No Way’ from Six the Musical where Rubi’s boobs hilariously also did some dance choreography, followed later by a solo performance of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’, originated by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. I adored her blue tuxedo looking gown. One would think she wouldn’t move well in it but damn, she could move! The way Rubi interacted with the audience was also brilliant. You felt like you were part of the show whenever in her presence. Rubi Taboo is as professional as much as she is delightfully delicious whenever in the spotlight.

Xena Ghost is a force to be reckoned with. All of her performances were filled with a fierce passionate energy that patrons (including myself) adored, leaving the audience gobsmacked during both Kylie Minogue’s ‘On A Night Like This’ (one of my all-time favourite Kylie songs), and Florence and the Machine’s ‘Dog Days Are Over’ which included impromptu wig snatching and parting the crowd like Moses and the Red Sea to run through the venue during the performance to the lyrics, “Run fast for your mother, run fast for your father. Run for your children, for your sisters and brothers.” Genius.

Suzie Ridge is a pioneer of DT’s and can proudly call the venue one of her old haunts. Shamelessly sharing she was snatched from playing Diablo 4 to be part of the momentous occasion, the audience cheered so very loud whenever Suzie would take to the stage. Her solo performances included a disco dance rendition 60’s song ‘You’re My World’, an Italian song made famous in English by Cilla Black, and an Olivia Newton-John cover of the glorious tune from same named average movie (you can fight me) ‘Xanadu’. We love a gamer queen and although not frequenting DT’s weekly anymore, Suzie’s still got it.

Last but not at all least is Esther Rix. I have a wonderful history with Esther, having watched her grow both as a talented drag queen and as an individual. Keeping with the Olivia Newton-John tunes, Esther lip-synched to the Grease famous ballad ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’ in a delicate white gown that she spun in and made her dress look like wings. However, it was during the performance of the Liza Minnelli famous ‘Maybe This Time’ from Cabaret did Esther really shine. Esther is a singing queen and performed this song live with incredible passion, power and precision. As someone who witnessed Esther Rix’s evolution for over a decade, I must confess, it has been an honour to have some small part of this brilliant queen’s journey and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

With group performances to the Gloria Gaynor rendition of ‘I Am What I Am’ from the musical La Cage Aux Folles, and from the 60’s Broadway music revue Jackie Barnett’s Playgirls ‘If You Don’t See What You Want Up Here’ which made for a wonderful conclusion for the night, complete with singing ‘Happy Birthday’ and party poppers, overall the celebrations for DT’s 29th Birthday Extravaganza were executed without a hitch. My only criticism is that while there is an opportunity to take photos with all the drag queens after the show, unless you pull out your own phone camera to grab a snapshot, your photos may never see the light of day. I am still frustratingly waiting for the photos I had taken by the venue to be published on their social media and I don’t think I will ever see them.

Overall, DT’s Hotel is a wonderfully welcoming, entertaining and inclusive venue in Melbourne that everyone should visit. It was great seeing long time supporters of the venue thrive in its space. Personally, I am not a club person so DT’s Hotel being a bar and not a club was a happy relief for me and I never felt anxious nor unwelcome in its vicinity. With high quality performances, one would be mad to not visit and have a drink while seeing the best queens of Melbourne lap it up on stage, all living for your applause. A lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears has been pumped into this venue. It is an irreplaceable establishment and safe space for the queer community that I will definitely revisit. I also genuinely hope it will still be around to celebrate it’s 30th birthday, next year.

Whether you’re part of the queer community, are a theatre fan, or just want to visit a great place to top off a great night, I implore you to take every opportunity to visit and support DT’s Hotel. Happy 29th birthday, DT’s Hotel. You’re a real one.

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Photography by Grant Alexander.

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