March 18, 2011
BEST-SELLING gay author Armistead Maupin says he could not believe what he heard when he and his husband Chris Turner walked into Bojangles Saloon in Alice Springs for lunch last Friday.
Turner asked a staff member if he could use the rest room.
"The guy said, 'Sorry, we don't have one in here but you can go across the street and use the public facility,'" Maupin said.
Maupin, who had used the toilet in Bojangles the day before, said he had pointed in the direction of the toilet and asked, "What's that over there?"
"The barman gave me a very pointed look and said, 'That's reserved for real men,'" said Maupin, the San Francisco-based author of nine novels, including the Tales of the City series.
"Neither of us could quite believe he said it and he actually repeated it."
Maupin, 66, told ABC radio in Alice Springs that he and his partner left the restaurant after the comment was made and reported it at a tourist information booth.
Later, a tourism official sent him an email saying the owner of Bojangles had been as "shocked as we were, and the man had extended his apologies".
A representative of Bojangles management could not be reached for comment.
Maupin said he was happy with the response from Tourism Central Australia and the incident would not make him avoid Alice Springs in the future, hinting that he might make it the backdrop for one of his future books.
He said that when he posted an account of what happened on his Facebook page, he had received many messages of support.
Some said they had contacted Bojangles to express their outrage.
"The reaction to it was quite extraordinary and it took the bad taste out of our mouths, that's the best part of it," Maupin said.
"As a gay man I look at this as progress, that there is a lot of reasonable folks out there that don't think that acceptable behaviour any more."
Despite Alice Springs's reputation as a hard-drinking, rough-and-tumble desert town, it is home to dozens of lesbian couples, some of whom proudly describe it as Australia's lesbian capital.
With saloon doors, a life-size replica of Ned Kelly and a stuffed wedge-tail eagle suspended from the ceiling, Bojangles is one of the best known restaurants in Alice Springs.