“…I love show business…I love putting on shows…”
Bernard Jay arrived in South Africa with a lifetime of theatre experience to his name. If you come from a poor family and at the age of ten you spend your weekly sixpence pocket money to sit in the gods and watch plays, this could read that you have started your theatre education aged ten. In Bernard’s case this was true. By seventeen he was the theatre manager of that same county theatre and by twenty-one this experience would find him in London managing the famous Establishment Club. From there his life became crammed with encounters and stories of legendary stars, Douglas Fairbanks Jnr, Glenda Jackson, Richard Gere…
A trip to America swept him into the hurly-burly of New York in the decadent hustle of the 70s where Studio 54 was the world’s epicentre of glamour and excess – doors opened to him and his client extraordinaire, Divine. Divine was already appearing on Off-off theatre stages around New York, but Bernard took him on and turned him into an international cult cross-dressing disco star. He was in demand across the world and it was across the world that the two of them went.
Bernard was not inclined towards drag artists; Divine was a heady whirlwind in his life which came to an end. In New York he met a South African who suggested a job for him here. He arrived in South Africa seventeen years ago and his impact here as CEO of the Joburg Theatre and on the South African theatre industry in general has been enormous.
Another story to fill us with awe and hope.