An elegant charm was her best material
Published: August 22, 2011 – 2:00AM
Trying to bring some order to my files – as I find pieces of interest I will put them. Here is a tribute to one of my favourite Sydney people.
Even people who never met Rose Jackson or saw her on stage might have gained a glimpse into her warm and gracious personality. Whereas Terence Stamp is said to have based his version of the transsexual Bernadette in the film Priscilla: Queen of the Desert on Carlotta of Les Girls fame, Tony Sheldon, who has played the part on stage in Australia, London and New York, says he based his classy, ever-so-tender Bernadette on Rose.
Rose Jackson was born Barry Charles Jackson on September 11, 1935, in Paddington, the son of Trevor Jackson and his wife, Ruby, and said she knew ”from the minute she was born” a male body was not right for her. She was trying on Ruby’s clothes and make-up from the age of five.
Barry, however, loved to swim and for a period was even a Bondi lifesaver. He preferred attending the cinema at Double Bay to school and, at the age of 15, discovered Marilyn Monroe. After leaving school, he worked briefly collecting rent for his uncle’s real estate business in Kings Cross, where he was drawn into Sydney’s then-bohemian artistic demi-monde and largely hidden homosexual milieu.
Handsome and successful gay men introduced Barry to a secret world of fine dining, high fashion and wild parties. The pull of his feminine yearnings was also starting to take hold and when Barry began going out in public as a woman he took the name Rose, after Monroe’s character in Niagara, Rose Loomis. From the outset, Rose was known for her elegant demeanour and charm.
By 18, Barry was working as a window dresser at David Jones. He was so talented, he was soon display manager for Curzons, on Pitt and George streets, where he co-ordinated about 300 fashion parades as well as designed and supervised the seasonal window displays.
After a few years overseas, Barry returned to Sydney in 1964. Not long after that, he discovered a club in Kings Cross called the Jewel Box, where some of the female impersonators were taking hormone therapy. Rose was encouraged to ”soften her look” and she never looked back. Living as a woman full time (she never underwent surgery) obliged Barry to give up a day job as a costume maker for the Old Tote Theatre Company, where Rose was not accepted.
By the late ’60s, she had a hectic schedule making clothes for Bobby Lloyd’s costume-making business, including outfits for the Phillip Street Theatre revues and even bigger productions such as Jim Sharman’s Hair. By now, every female star of note, from Nancye Hayes to Toni Lamond, knew nothing would make them look more eye-catching than a new frock by Rose Jackson. She was even once rushed to the Opera House by Sir Robert Helpmann, who, suffering a serious wardrobe malfunction, insisted only she could save the day.
By night, Rose performed at the Purple Onion, in Kensington, where shows such as A Streetcar Named Beatrice attracted critical acclaim. In 1969, she moved to a club in Oxford Street called Capriccios. Debbie Reynolds got so excited, she wanted to take the troupe to the US.
In 1983, at Kinselas, Rose starred in Rose’s Turn, based on her life and written by David Mitchell and David Penfold. It was so successful that Rose opened her own club, Rose’s, in Goulburn Street in 1984. The chef was a young Japanese migrant she had met in the Kinselas kitchen, Tetsuya Wakuda. Then one night at the height of its success, Rose’s burnt down.
Rose returned to making costumes, this time for the Costume Design Centre in Surry Hills. One of her last assignments was to help iOTA realise his transformation into the transsexual character for the hit musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. By her own count, Rose created about 70,000 costumes.
Rose Jackson never married.
This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/national/obituaries/an-elegant-charm-was-her-best-material-20110821-1j4li.html