I think you can tell a lot about my deeply closeted teenage self from the way I chose to decorate (if you can call it that) my bedroom. Thankfully I had the presence of mind to take a Hanimex snap of one of my teenage bedroom walls, and I still laugh out loud every time I look at that photo.
Starting from the top left and moving in a roughly clockwise direction, we start with a poster for “John Lennon: Imagine – The Film”, a choice that would feel way more credible to my adult self if not for the knowledge that my teenage self had never even listened to The White Album from start to finish. I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to really delving into John Lennon and The Beatles, so I’m not sure exactly why I had this poster but I suspect it was a lame attempt to seem much cooler than I actually was.
Moving on, there were carefully cut out posters of Elton John and the members of U2. Then there’s a Donald Duck mask, which my adult self can’t figure out the significance of at all, a big yellow novelty street sign that says “Last Dunny 240km”, a big sticker of a can of Tooheys Draught beer, and then comes the good stuff: two posters that I now can look back on and see as clear and obvious signs of my being, as people used to put it in my home town, “…a bit of a worry”. One of them proclaims “If you think sex is a pain in the ass YOU’RE DOING IT THE WRONG WAY!” and the other one says “Unless you’re a haemorrhoid GET OFF MY ASS”.
In an apparent attempt to offset all of that extremely suspect bum talk, right next to those signs was a poster of my favourite race car driver, Dick Johnson, driving his number 17 Ford Sierra. Next to Dick was a picture of what was – at the time – my dream car, a convertible Ford Capri. (I ended up with an 1982 Green Ford Laser hatchback… close enough, I guess.) Next was an autographed picture of Gavin Miller, a rugby league footballer I happen to share a first and last name with who used to play for the Cronulla Sharks. To the left of the other Gavin Miller was a large poster of Mick Jagger, then the ticket stubs from the first two international acts I ever saw live in concert, Elton John and Melissa Etheridge, and finally, a poster of a chocolate cake with the slogan, “Too much of a good thing is simply wonderful!” (Again, kinda suspect in it’s campness… Simply Wonderful? Hello Frisco!)
What can’t be seen in this photo is that on the opposing wall of my bedroom were two large block-mounted posters. One of them was the poster for Rocky III featuring a shirtless and oiled up Sly Stallone, and the other even larger poster was a shot of Prince live on stage, wielding a yellow guitar whilst wearing nothing but matching undies. I will never forget how much I squirmed when my mother came into my room, examined the Prince poster, then called my father in.
“Ian, come and look at this! You can see his pubic hair coming out of the side of his little pants!”
I’m amazed that Mum and Dad didn’t figure out that I was at least a little bit queer based on the way I chose to decorate my bedroom, but then again this was the 80’s, a don’t-ask-don’t-tell decade full of super gay public figures who were somehow able to hide their sexuality in plain sight. Freddie Mercury’s band was called Queen, for Christ’s sake. Remember how they used to say that Liberace just hadn’t met the right woman yet? If you require further proof of what I’m on about here simply do a YouTube search for Wake Me Up Before You GoGo then take a look at the pants George Michael was wearing in that video clip and ask yourself how there could have ever been a moment in time where any of us thought that man was in the slightest bit heterosexual.
I was 22 when I came out, which is 8 years after that photo was taken, and I now realise in retrospect that my bedroom was pretty much a shrine to unresolved sexuality. My bedroom walls had it all figured out way before I did. (If I were able go back in time to point that out to my fourteen year old self, that daggy kid would have spontaneously combusted on the spot at the mere thought of it.) I laugh at myself when I look at that photo of my old bedroom wall now, but I was just doing what any teenager would do. I was using the space on my bedroom wall to express my emerging identity. For the first time in my life I had control of my very own space, so I did exactly what I wanted to do with it… and that just happened to be very very subconsciously gay.