On March 31, my partner of 30 years, Sacha Mahboub, and I were finally legally married. The ceremony itself was on the mezzanine floor of the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre and we exchanged vows as the sun set behind us. After the vows we moved into the theatre for the reception where the stage was decorated lavishly as a surprise for me from my partner. It was without doubt the happiest day of our lives.
However, it has been a long journey to actually reach this point in our lives. I was a country boy raised by very strict but loving parents who in spite of their strong Catholic beliefs were finally able to come to grips with my homosexuality. Sadly, the same could not be said for my partner, Sacha who was raised in an orphanage in Rockhampton where he was horribly abused — sexually and emotionally.
Sacha was involved in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The commissioners flew to Perth to interview Sacha for almost a whole day and I have never seen him more exhausted than he was after that interview. However, he said they were very sympathetic and compassionate. Though nothing can ever completely heal the wounds inflicted on him in the orphanage — perhaps the physical wounds healed but the emotional wounds are still raw and easily reopened — the results of the royal commission did certainly go a long way towards the healing process.
Our life journey took us on very different paths to opposite sides of the world. I went to work in London and Sacha worked in Australia in musical theatre, including being in the chorus of Funny Girl, which starred the legendary Jill Perryman, who is now a most special friend and who was able to share in our marriage celebrations.
Sacha and I met in 1998 in the offices of the most prolific Australian theatrical producer John Frost — the producer of My Fair Lady, Wicked, Book of Mormon — who was my friend of seven years in the early ’80s, and who became a sort of go-between for us.
As partners, Sacha and I have had been involved with many exciting events and seen a great deal of change over the years. We also brought Hollywood legend, the late Debbie Reynolds to Australia to appear in the musical Irene at His Majesty’s in Perth and became fast friends. Debbie was a total joy; she exceeded all expectations and was one of the kindest, funniest, most outrageous persons we have ever met. We loved her and she especially adored Sacha. Our hearts were broken when Debbie and her daughter Carrie Fisher both passed away a day apart in 2016.
We moved to Mandurah in Western Australia more than 10 years ago, after Sacha was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer, which necessitated in a full prostatectomy. Thankfully he has the all clear now but it was touch and go at the time. Since arriving in Mandurah we both worked at the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre. Sacha also hosts the monthly Morning Melodies at the Arts Centre and has developed a large and loyal following.
I’d written my memoir My High-de-Highlife and the media in WA knew of my involvement in the gay scene over the years. They came to our home to film our reaction to the news that the WA government was issuing an apology to the gay community for the actions of various governments towards gay people in this state — for us a very positive step towards reconciliation.
However, even greater events were to come with the legalisation of gay marriage. The passing of same-sex marriage law in parliament in December 2017, was such a deeply moving day for us. We decided there and then to legalise our relationship after 30 years ‘courting’. A long journey, but certainly a very worthwhile one.
Unfortunately, the saddest part was that my beloved mother could not join us on our special day. She adored us both and accepted us as partners unconditionally — long before any government. She always introduced Sacha as her son-in-law. Almost two years after her death, I still often go to dial her phone number. We miss her so very much. We are now happily ‘legal’ and have a group of friends who are so special that having them in our lives is like being embraced by a warm blanket of love.
We treasure each moment together because at 73 and 77 years of age, we are very aware that we have less time ahead of us than behind.