The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert | 1994
The Abba-inspired three-pack of drag queens in this feelgood Aussie road movie take a journey through the outback in a silver-painted bus, christened ‘Priscilla’, to a booking in Alice Springs.
The trip starts out from Sydney – oohs and aahs for the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge – before striking out across the inhospitable desert of New South Wales.
The first major stop-off is Broken Hill, an outback mining town about 750 miles west of Sydney, where Mitzi, Felicia and Bernadette raise eyebrows when they go shopping on Argent Street, the main drag (pun definitely intended).
The eccentric hotel the girls check into, with the extravagant murals, is The Palace Hotel, 227 Argent Street at Sulphide Street (yes, all the street names – Bromide, Chloride, Oxide, reading like a chemistry textbook – reflect the town’s mining history). At the time of filming, it was 'Mario’s Palace’, presided over Mario, who appears as himself in the movie. Mario is gone, but you can stay in the Priscilla Suite.
If you’re in the area, a few miles northwest of Broken Hill is the ghost town of Silverton, one of the most used Australian locations, seen in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, and a few miles further on from here you’ll find the next stop, the Mundi Mundi Plain Lookout, where the dragsters find themselves stranded after Priscilla breaks down.
Help appears in the shape of good-hearted Bob and his strange wife, Cynthia, who give the three a lift to Coober Pedy, a further 500 miles west in central South Australia.
Another mining town, Coober Pedy is tougher, rougher and even hotter than Broken Hill. The terrain is so inhospitable, in fact, that most dwellings are built underground (the name means ‘White Man’s Burrow’). The strange mining-scarred landscape is another favourite location, providing the post-apocalyptic wastelands of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World. If you want to try out the subterranean accommodation, the stopover here is the three-star White Cliffs Underground Motel, Catacomb Road, to the north of town.
From here the journey heads north a few hundred miles into Northern Territory, finally arriving at the ostensible destination, Alice Springs, where it’s best bib and tucker for the dressy nightspot they perform at – Lasseters Hotel Casino on Barrett Drive.
King’s Canyon is the site of Felicia’s triumphant climb. The spectacular gorge, a cousin of the USA’s Grand Canyon, is in the Watarrka National Park at the western end of Ernest Giles Road, a couple of hundred miles west of Alice Springs.
The original script specified the much more iconic Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock) – and what an image that would have been – but Uluru is a significant feature of Aboriginal culture, and the idea of three drag queens traipsing over it was a complete no-no.