If you don’t know who Paul Burston is, you’ve clearly been living under a rock. A stalwart of the gay scene, ACTUP activist, one-time editor of TimeOut’s LGBT Section, a writer for multiple magazines and newspapers including the Guardian and author of 4 best-selling novels.
In your time you must have had some incredible brushes with the rich and famous – who has been your favourite?
I’ve been a journalist for 25 years and I’ve been lucky enough to meet a great many famous people I admire, including Debbie Harry, Victoria Wood and Princess Diana. But if I had to pick one, I’d say Elizabeth Taylor. I met her at London Lighthouse in the mid-90s. She was so tiny – and every inch a star. I’d always loved her, and she didn’t disappoint. She was one of the first stars to speak out about AIDS and a true original. Watching Helen Bonham-Carter play her in that TV drama recently only highlighted just how unique she was. Nobody does Liz Taylor like Liz Taylor.
We love that you call her Liz, like totally on first name terms. Bravo Gay stripes.
Finish this sentence: Champagne is…
…Great fun while it lasts, not so much fun the following day. Champagne hangovers are the worst!
We hear you, Paul, we hear you!
Ultimate girl band: Rihanna, Katy Perry and Miley or Kylie, Madonna and Belinda Carlisle?
I’d have to go with Kylie, Madonna and Belinda. But only because Kate Bush, Debbie Harry and Stevie Nicks weren’t an option.
Ooo you’re ultra old skool, (and you’ve made us spell School in that kooky way…) Excellent.
The campest moment of your life?
Introducing Celia Imrie at Polari last year. We managed to keep her surprise guest appearance a tightly guarded secret, although a few of the regulars had their suspicions. As soon as I announced her, there was pandemonium! If you’d asked me before then, I’d have said it was introducing Fenella Fielding – also at Polari. Both are fabulously camp women, beloved by gay audiences. And both are great supporters of the LGBT community. It was a privilege to introduce them.
You are kind of like Cilla Black, matchmaking the gays with their icons. We love it.
What do other people think your most attractive feature is?
I’d like to say it was my cheeky smile and sparkling personality, but it’s probably my legs. I was a keen cyclist for years, so I have well-developed leg muscles. And yes, I’m familiar with the saying, “nice legs, shame about the face!”
Ooh He’s got footballers legs and self-effacing. Are you single by any chance?
If you were PM for a day what would be your first ruling…
I’d bestow honours on Bette Bourne and David Hoyle. Dame-hoods, naturally.
What are the two things you couldn’t live without?
My husband. He’s the love of my life and I can’t imagine life without him.
My iPhone. I’ve written most of my new novel on it. I no longer carry a notebook everywhere. Everything is written in Notes on my phone and backed up onto my desktop. Now I can actually read my own notes!
You are ridiculously modern. Furthermore, you managed to plug the fact you’re working on a new novel. The man is a professional.
Most embarrassing drunken moment?
Meeting David Bowie at an after show party. I’m a massive fan and got hideously drunk on free Champagne. When he arrived, I launched myself at him and announced that when I was 15, he saved my life. He smiled knowingly and said, ‘really?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘And you’re still the man!’
I couldn’t believe the crap coming out of my mouth. I mean, ‘you’re the man!’ Who says that? He must get it a lot. He’s David Bowie, after all. But he was very gracious, a perfect gentleman.
We know exactly what you mean, we did that with Kelly Osborne once. Well, we think it was Kelly Osborne. It was dark.
Is there a gay Mafia?
Not really. But some of us like to dress the part.
Liza needs to do… next?
I love Liza. She’s been written off so many times, but she’s still here.
She’s a living legend. She just needs to keep on living. That’s enough for me.
Gotch ya, long live Liza. May she stumble from party to party forever.
Check out Paul Burston’s monthly Polari Literary Salon at: www.polariliterarysalon.co.uk