Carlotta is nothing short of a living legend of the Australian entertainment industry. Styled the ‘Queen of the Cross’, she began her career in the long-running Sydney male revue Les Girls, as a singer, comedian, compere and not long after, lead star. Undergoing one of the earliest sex change operations in Australia in 1971 catapulted her even further into the limelight, where she very quickly became known and loved across the country for her honesty, infectious chuckle and ribald sense of humour.
Now, accompanied by award winning pianist Michael, Griffiths, Carlotta will celebrate Christmas as only she can, with Carlotta’s Christmas Special coming to HOTA’s summer festival, HOME.
Folks may not realise, but Carlotta has actually been a Gold Coast resident for more than a decade.
“I moved here nearly thirteen years ago now darling,” she recalls during our chat. “To be with my best friend actually. I fell in love with the place and I’ve been here ever since.”
Sadly, Carlotta’s friend succumbed to pancreatic cancer a couple of years ago. And that’s not her only brush with the Big C. Last year, she saw a specialist after repeated urinary tract infections were not responding to antibiotics, and it turned out she actually had bladder cancer.
“Look, we just keep an eye on it right now. I truly want to tell people to go and get yourself checked. I was fortunate I had it checked early.”
Onto lighter subjects, I wonder how she keeps work fresh and exciting for herself, after such a long career in the industry.
“I’m one of those fortunate people – I enjoy what I do,” she states. “I feel sorry for people who are in jobs that they hate – life’s too short for that. I’m lucky to be still doing it at my age.”
A pioneer of the drag and transgender scene in Australia, Carlotta has seen her fair share of changes over the years. She’s impressed by some of the elaborate and artistic makeup and costuming that’s seen on many younger drag queens these days, who are getting more exposure through platforms like Instagram and Ru Paul’s Drag Race.
“I think [the queens] are just wonderful today,” she gushes. “They’re like an exaggeration of us. We all looked like Las Vegas Showgirls, and today they’re over the top, they are Jessica Rabbit! They look better than the Kardashians anyway. Three foot tall and big fat bums, no thanks!” She laughs that throaty chuckle, and I giggle along irresistibly.
Carlotta is known for not pulling her punches, and her public opinions – as well as just her existence as a proud trans woman – have stirred up a variety of reactions over the years. But she couldn’t really care less.
“I’ve got skin like a bloody rhino, it bounces off me,” she dismisses. “These trogs today [Editor: we think she meant “trolls”] can just get off the planet! Go and get a job, it’s just ridiculous they’ve got nothing to do but sit around on social media you know.
“I just say ‘Please don’t start on me, my mouth would clean you up in five seconds flat.’ You know I’m the drag Joan Rivers, darling.” She laughs again.
Carlotta’s Christmas Special is part one woman show, part Christmas Special. There’ll be music, glamour, and plenty of her trademark humour. At 76, Carlotta is still working regularly, and can’t envision ever wanting to give it up.
“When the curtain comes down, I’ll come down, darling,” she declares. “As long as I can give ‘em a laugh, I’ll be on that stage.”
Have a laugh with the Queen of the Cross when she features stories and songs from her 50 years on the stage at Carlotta’s Christmas Special, running on Sunday 15 December in the Lakeside Room at HOTA, as part of the HOME festival. Tickets start at $45 and are available from hota.com.au.