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2020/54/1 Headpiece, 'Carmen Miranda,' lurex / cane / foam / polystyrene / jersey / foil, worn by Erif Benham, made by Michael Gates, Lismore, New South Wales, Australia, 2008. Click to enlarge.

'Carmen Miranda' headpiece worn by Erif Benham

Made
Designed and created by drag performer and costume designer Michael Gates, the Carmen Miranda style headpiece is an excellent example of the witty, sculptural designs Michael creates for his alter ego, Maude Boaté to wear on stage. Michael's work also inspired the headwear for the highly successful Australian musical 'Priscilla Queen of the Desert.'

Fourth generation Lismore local Michael Gates has been an active member for many years of Tropical Fruits, a GLBTI social club in the Northern …

Summary

Object No.

2020/54/1

Object Statement

Headpiece, 'Carmen Miranda,' lurex / cane / foam / polystyrene / jersey / foil, worn by Erif Benham, made by Michael Gates, Lismore, New South Wales, Australia, 2008

Physical Description

Soft padded cap in black with gold Lurex stripes embellished with flower shapes in green, orange and pearlescent 3-D sequins. The cap is lined in green jersey. Silver sequinned balls are attached at each ear and a band of silver sequins separates the cap from the fruit bowl. A cane bowl is covered in a silver Lurex mesh decorated with gold sequins. The bowl contains padded fruit shapes of bananas, a pineapple, grapes and a watermelon slice which are covered in commercially produced Lurex and sequinned fabric. The pineapple has green foil strips cascading from the centre of the leaves. The oranges and apples are made from polystyrene balls covered in sequinned Lurex.

Production

Notes

Designed and made by Michael Gates, the Carmen Miranda style headpiece was originally created for a Tropical Fruits production dragshow, 'Ain't No Matter High Enough' in which he performed as his stage persona, Maude Boaté, with Nora and Helen Vidler, who were also wearing identical headpieces.

As a successful drag performer, Michael began making his own wigs and headpieces as a more affordable option to buying expensive commercially produced wigs. Hollywood leading ladies, past and present, provide the inspiration for the exuberant, exaggerated almost cartoon quality of his work. The Carmen Miranda headpiece is styled on the distinctive fruit turban made famous by Carmen Miranda, a Portuguese-Brazilian singer, dancer and Hollywood superstar of the 1930s-1950s.

A signature of Michael's designs is the sculpted wig which was adapted for the stage play and movie, 'Pricilla, Queen of the Desert'. In 1996, Maude's polystyrene wigs were featured in the Powerhouse Museum exhibition, 'Absolutely Mardi Gras' - two pieces were acquired - and an exhibition of the costumes of Maude Boaté was held in Lismore in 2015. Gates also made several of the costumes featured in the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. In recognition of his outstanding contribution to the art of drag, Gates has won over the years, many Drag Industry Variety Awards (DIVA) and in 2007 was inducted into the Diva Hall of Fame.

History

Notes

This Carmen Miranda headpiece by Michael Gates, was originally made for a Tropical Fruits production dragshow, 'Ain't No Matter High Enough' in which he performed as his stage persona, Maude Boaté, with Nora and Helen Vidler, who were also wearing identical headpieces.

Established in 1988, Tropical Fruits is a GLBTI non-profit community group run by volunteers in the Northern Rivers area of NSW. In 2002, the group was infused with a new energy and purpose when Erif Benham (Saint Benham) emerged 'as an indomitable community organiser'. In 2008, Erif was diagnosed with terminal cancer. When Erif began losing her hair, Michael gave the Carmen Miranda headpiece to keep her head warm and because he knew Erif would appreciate the glamour, colour and fun aspects of the piece. Erif passed away from her illness in January 2009.

As part of the radical, lesbian, feminist movement in Australia Erif Georgina Benham has been an outspoken campaigner for lesbian and gay rights and through Tropical Fruits was instrumental in creating a safe community space and events for the LGBTIQ community.

References
Swieca, Robert. Jones, Glynis. et al, Absolutely Mardi Gras, Powerhouse Publishing and Doubleday, 1997, p.70
www.tropicalfruits.org.au, history, retrieved 9 January 2017
www.lismoregallery, Maude Boate: Maudeville, retrieved 9 January 2017
www.northernstar.com.au, No ordinary memorial, retrieved 9 January 2017

Source

Credit Line

Gift of Erif Benham, 2017

Acquisition Date

22 June 2020

Cite this Object

Harvard

'Carmen Miranda' headpiece worn by Erif Benham 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 25 September 2022, <https://ma.as/548071>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/548071 |title='Carmen Miranda' headpiece worn by Erif Benham |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=25 September 2022 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}