VALE ALBURY HOTEL FATHER LEIGH JENNINGS

In Legends by Clyde Mooney

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Wednesday saw a farewell to another legend of Oxford Street, as friends and celebrities mourned the passing of the Albury Hotel backbone, Leigh Jennings.

The Albury Hotel reached its peak popularity during the most dramatic period in the gay community, seeing the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the onset of the AIDS epidemic.

Jennings and business partner Nanette Theakstone ran the pub from 1980 to 2001 and created an institution in the largely still-closeted gay scene where many men found acceptance and sanctuary.

The hotel became famous around the world for its commitment to drag shows, attracting many performers that have remained prominent in both cross-dressing and straight genres. Legends such as Peter Allen, Julian Clary, Boy George and Bernard King have trodden the boards of the Albury Auditorium, as it was known.

Craig Petrie developed his now-famous alter ego Polly Petrie during the course of 16 years working with Jennings. Polly’s Follies still runs weekly after 25 years at the Stonewall Hotel.

Image: Marcia Hines' Facebook

Image: Marcia Hines’ Facebook

Singer Marcia Hines paid tribute to her old acquaintance and the glitter-studded hotel she describes as perhaps the “most interesting” place for fun, entertainment and a good laugh.

“I am proud to say [Leigh] was my friend and I will miss you my dear, more than words will ever be able to express. Go with God… RIP x.”

And Anthony Carthew, who spent eight years at the Albury Hotel as Amelia Airhead, told SX “It was Leigh that really put Sydney at the centre of the drag universe”.

Jennings passed away last week, on his 67th birthday.

Albury Hotel, 2010. Image: Flickr

Albury Hotel, 2010. Image: Flickr