The man behind the acid

JOSH DARE meets Melbourne's clubbing enigma, Grandpa Acid.

Sydney has Troughman. Studio 54 had Disco Dottie. And Melbourne has its clubbing legend in the form of Grandpa Acid.

An enigma in rave gear, Grandpa Acid – real name Richard – has been a fixture of the club scene in Melbourne for 20 years now. I wanted to chat to the man himself and find out exactly what makes him tick, what’s important in his life, and, just out of morbid curiosity, find out how many drugs he takes.

“A lot of people think I’m on drugs at first,” he tells me. “But they’re the people that don’t know me. There’s a hell of a lot of people that do know me.”

But even if they don’t know him personally, every gay guy in Melbourne knows him as Grandpa Acid. If it wasn’t because of drugs, how did it come about then? “It came back in ‘91 from when I was dancing with Kylie on the podium,” he says, referencing his infamous boogie at the Market with Ms Minogue. “The press at the time asked who I was. And somebody else piped up, ‘Oh that’s the grandpa acid of the gay scene.’ The ‘Grandpa’ part came from being an older guy, I suppose; and the ‘Acid’ part probably came from acid dancing, because I was never into drugs.”

How old? He doesn’t tell, calling it a ‘trade secret’ – and that’s the way he likes it. “When people guess it varies,” he says, “so sometimes I don’t want to disappoint people, and sometimes I don’t want to disappoint myself!” (He revealed later that, after his birthday this week, it will “end in a 0.”)

The stories of his clubbing and the realization of his sexuality are intertwined. “About the mid-‘80s, I started going out. I’d lived a reclusive family life before that, and I just broke out and decided I wanted a change. I went out with this model – a female model – and she introduced me to the gay clubs. I remember the first time I went to the Peel – it was probably the opening night. She felt comfortable there, and I felt comfortable there.”

He continues, “I’d been married and divorced when I met this boy – it was ‘88 at the time – and we hit it off really well together. He was determined to find out how far he could go with me at the time, and he succeeded. I actually fell in love with him and we had a relationship for a really long time.”

It’s not just all partying for Richard though. “I lead a busy lifestyle,” he says. “A lot of people think I don’t work, but I do. I work for myself, I buy and sell antique furniture and second hand goods, and sometimes artwork. I work hard, and I socialize hard.”

It’s probably this balanced grounding that allows Richard to deal with any criticism that comes his way. “Occasionally you’ll get somebody who’ll have a go at you,” he says. “Of course you do, you’re not going to please everybody. If you think you’re pleasing everybody all the time you’re deluding yourself. And there are people that have a go at me – particularly very straight-laced gay people, they can’t handle me. They think I’m too much. And that’s fine – I don’t worry about that because I don’t give a damn about it. It’s their problem, not mine. If I do get an insult, sometimes it hurts. But that’s very rare – I get more compliments. One compliment for the night does me.”

For a person so outrageous, he’s surprisingly both flippant and candid about his persona. “As a person, there’s not a lot to me. Sometimes I think I’m boring. But then again, when I look back at my life, I’ve had a very interesting life – a hugely diverse life. When I was younger, I didn’t get to do the things that I wanted to do – I did it for other people more. And now I’m doing things for myself. It may sound selfish, but it’s time for me now. And I enjoy it.”

“Who knows what the next twenty years are going to bring me?” he concludes. “Maybe something different, I dunno. I live my life from day to day, and that’s taught me to appreciate every day I get. If you act young, you’ll a long life. If you act your age, you’ll die young. And that’s my philosophy.”