SceneDolly Bellefleur is the alter ego of cabaret performer and lyricist Ruud Douma. As a figurehead of the GLBTI+ movement, Dolly has been drawing attention to human rights in general and the acceptance of GLBTI+ in particular for thirty years now. by Wil Groot
- 10 May 2020
| length: 7 min. |
|Singer and Comedian Dolly Bellefleur's Thirtieth Anniversary|
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length: 7 minuten
For her unbridled commitment to the struggle for emancipation of GLBTI+ people she was awarded the “Roze Lieverdje” in 2012, received the Andreas Medal from the city of Amsterdam in 2014 from former mayor Eberhard van der Laan (1955-2017). And in 2020, the Bob Angelo Medal was awarded to Dolly.
I am at the Lloyd Hotel on a rainy Saturday afternoon. I have a date with Dolly! The attractive waiter brings us coffee and tea, with the famous “Eberhardje” heart-shaped cookie. We admire it together for a moment, and give the waiter our sweetest smile.
In 1989, a flower emerges at the Anthony Theatre on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, located opposite Paleis van de Weemoed in Amsterdam’s red-light district. This flower is announcing artists as the female host, but soon also starts singing herself. With her velvet voice, she manages to touch the hearts of the audience. The intimate theatre becomes her laboratory.
“Yes, my 1989 début brings me straight back to Manfred Langer (1952-1994), former owner of the renowned iT disco. I knew him of course, but I didn’t have the courage to talk to him for a long time. Finally mustering up the courage, I told him I was going to do a show entitled ‘Royal Crossdressing.’ He offered to advertise it. There were two colleagues who would act as Empress Sissi and our former Queen Beatrix, and he told me he would promote it in a ‘regal’ way. The week prior to the première, we would organize a Royal look-a-like party at the iT. He immediately arranged two carriages and we went through the entire city and visited various gay cafés, including the Havanna in the Reguliersdwarsstraat and Gaiety on the Amstel. It felt like a state visit.”
It was the early 1990s when I first saw this radiant flower performing as a therapist of the D.I.A.G.G. - Dolly’s Institute Ambulatory Mental Healthcare, who chose me as the strong man from the audience to show the audience a workshop “decorating a man.” “Build it up calmly,” Dolly cried, twisting her legs around my body. It was an honor to carry her in my arms, La Belle Fleur.
Dolly, you have been performing and advocating gay human rights for more than thirty years now! “Yes, I started when I was ten,” you said as the chairperson of “Het Roze Lieverdje.” The audience laughed and “La Belle Fleur” was radiant. Of course, there has been no wilting on her part over the years.
“Yes, thirty years, why don’t you rub it in. Everyone in the audience was counting back in time, of course. All of those diverse candidates were so inspiring, and it was so wonderful to see that there are so many who, like myself, are committed to a better world, as I sing about in my signature song ‘Pink Planet,’ in which it doesn’t matter if you are gay or straight. Gay, straight, lesbian or transgender or bi! We are family.”
I have listened to your songs on SoundCloud and YouTube, have watched your performances several times, have viewed and read your website, and you have also committed yourself to my foundation “Willen en Doen” several times in the past. You are a true activist.
“My activist side came into full force when I first performed at the Homomonument. The seed was planted there. I noticed that, as Dolly, I can make a little difference sometimes. In my anniversary show, of course, I also deal with that black period in history, when our community was hit by AIDS. I also performed at the Prinsengracht Hospital, one of the very first hospitals with a separate wing for AIDS patients. I was allowed to rehearse in the theatre above the Spijkerbar to practise my performances. Raphael Brandow was the owner at the time and knew our director. He wanted to see the show, but he could no longer visit the theatre. Thus, we brought it to the hospital for the patients to enjoy. I can still see them there. They were huge men I knew from clubbing, but in a few months’ time they had changed into brittle shells.”
On July 5, 2018, the exhibition “AIDS in Amsterdam 1981-1996” was opened in the City Archives on the Vijzelgracht. What I especially remember about that was your speech and the song you sang there.
“The impact that these fifteen years have made on the Amsterdam gay scene can’t be underestimated. It was an emotional meeting where, among other things, I spoke to a mother who had lost her son. AIDS to me was the abbreviation of ‘Altijd In De Stress’ (Always Stressed). You never knew whose obituary you would read in the papers next.”
The Long Live Love Award?
“Yes, you can worry about so many things, but what could be better than love? Whether you like a man or a woman, what difference does it make? Unfortunately, there are still groups that act against this notion. The good news is that last week, I was at a school in Haarlem, where the ‘Long Live the Love Award’ was presented. It was the fourth executive year during the Week of Love. It was a motley crew, and it was wonderful to see how youth is embracing the theme. There was a moving video of a fourteen-year-old boy who came out of the closet, finding it easy because he knew that no one at school would have a problem with it.”
“It is fantastic to see that young people are committed to being true to yourself. Gay and straight youth united in action, for instance in organizing Purple Friday. I am often asked as a guest speaker for debates. A girl at such a meeting dared to come out of the closet because of the relaxed atmosphere. At her graduation ceremony, I was asked to give a surprise performance. Two weeks later, at the Canal Parade, I suddenly saw a small boat with her on it alongside her parents. They were dressed in pink and she was holding sign with ‘I love Dolly’ written on it. That is heart-warming!”
Irrevocably Dolly, I’m even shedding a tear.
We were talking about love?
“Yes, let’s talk about Love.” She smiles. “It would be best if no one had to come out of the closet any more. What could be better than to shout from the rooftops that you are in love? If you do that as a straight person, in most cases your parents will also be cheering you along. Not if you are gay or bisexual. Even though there are parents who do support their children. Furthermore, love is here to share and we all do it in our own way anyway. Not for nothing, my motto for the past thirty years has been: Let Love Rule!”
For thirty years now, Tycho Boeker is the one who makes your costumes.
“Yes, he is my regular designer. The great thing about working with Tycho is that we wanted to develop our own style from the start. And Dolly does not wear dresses, but robes. A dress is something you buy at C&A. "
Oh well, Tycho is Dolly’s main supplier. He makes theatre costumes under the name ‘Prince Charming.’
"He once made me a huge white petticoat. Due to lack of space, I draped it on a mannequin in my bedroom at the foot of the bed. Waking up at night, I was not used to the doll standing there, and was horrified, as I thought it was a white Angel coming to get me. Fortunately, that was not the case yet.”
Special (writing) assignments and performances?
“In 2013, Bernt Schneiders, mayor of Haarlem at the time, asked me to sing a self-written hymn to the Royal Couple. The demonstration against Putin at the Maritime Museum in Amsterdam, as a protest against Russia’s anti-gay laws, for which I wrote a protest song. The Hubrecht Institute conducting research in the field of stem cell biology, and the Gay Games in 1998 in which we were a majority in Amsterdam for the very first time.
What a wonderful flower power atmosphere in the city. Also, the Out Games in Montreal, with Hans Verhoeven as one of the driving forces, the annual May 4 Remembrance Day at the Homomonument, and the education boat during the Canal Parade and all the other parades. Oh well, you know, every assignment or performance is equally dear to me.”
“By the way, did you know that as Dolly, I have wed two employees of the LLOYD Hotel? Alongside the public OBA library, the LLOYD Hotel is my favorite place in Amsterdam. Its staff is amazing, and so diverse and colorful. Look at what the letters in LLOYD can spell out!”
DOLLY Bellefleur, La Belle Fleur, was to perform at the DeLaMar theatre on 11 April with her anniversary show “Dubbel & Dwars: Thirty Years of Dolly.” But as so many performances, this has also been postponed due to the Corona situation. Just check out her website for the new date.
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