Tell me, Mayday, how did it all start thirty years ago?
She smiles and begins: “Thirty years ago, Amsterdam was a vibrant city. The iT opened its doors in 1989. It meant an explosion of new energy. House music was introduced, and the use of recreational drugs was on the rise. A new world opened up to me. I met drag queen Nicky Nicole. Manfred Langer, owner of the iT, welcomed us with open arms. "
"Then there was the Havanna. We did shows and were in the spotlight. Despite of AIDS, Amsterdam was a bustling breeding ground. Anything was possible. I can still remember my first time on stage. That was with Nicky Nicole in her show at the Havanna. It was freedom and beautiful, with a candy box of beautiful men and lovely people."
"Nicky and Manfred taught me the best lessons in life. I learned all the tricks of the trade at the iT and the Havanna. To me, the iT was like coming home. Finally, a place where I felt free, and, with me, many others who felt the same. Everyone was there, famous and not, and all was great, with everyone as one. Manfred made me feel like a star.”
What kind of celebrities did you meet?
“I met Grace Jones there. We immediately got along, as Mayday was her name in the James Bond movie ‘A View to a Kill’ in which she played a part. I met Take That, the boy band that also included Robbie Williams. I was in a two-year Living Apart Together relationship with one of the lads.”
She smiles and then turns quiet. “Well, then there were the Chippendales, all of them so-called straight. After the drugs, they let themselves be sucked off in the dressing room."
"See what drugs do to you? A lot happened in the corridors of the iT. It was a bit of a Sodom and Gomorrah, but I was young. The iT was vibrant. There was a pool party at one time. The fire brigade filled the pool on the dance floor and again the next day. You can forget about that nowadays. The iT was flamboyant. Then there was the Roxy for pushing borders. A kind of underground club. When you rang the bell there was a peek through the window to see if you were part of the in-crowd. If not, they would not let you in.”
So, Grace Jones gave you your name?
“No, Nicky gave me that name.”
How did you end up in Amsterdam?
“I was born in Amsterdam, but grew up in Muiden. At the age of four, I wore my first dress. You get wiser from trial and error. Of course, it was an eye opener, but my mother was fine with it at all. I was still a teenager when I left for Amsterdam. Amsterdam became my family.”
What was different about freedom then compared to now?
“Don’t get me started Wil. So much has changed over the last thirty years. In those years it didn’t matter how you dressed. You could be wearing a diaper with patent boots underneath. Or a skirt, kilt or tight pink pants on heels. It did not matter. Now, that is a thing of the past. Whenever you wear something extraordinary, you immediately go global because of Instagram or Facebook. People have lost their nerves. "
"Internet has changed things. Pubs and discos were creative breeding grounds, but new generations have their cell phones for social contact. Pubs close and so do discos. Younger generations go to festivals or maybe to parties once a month, such as in Paradiso or at the Westergasfabriek.”
Are you also committed to charities?
She smiles. “Yes, in 2007 I presented a benefit in the Engel at the Zeedijk because an HIV positive man wanted to make his dream come true to open a children’s home in South Africa, which he also succeeded in doing.” We both smile.
Yes, thanks again for that Mayday, you certainly helped me out there.
There is a moment of silence in which we look each other in the eye, but with a great smile.
Then Mayday continues: “I mainly work as an ambassador ‘for life’ for safety, acceptance of diversity, and inclusion. We have to try not to pigeon-hole. There is too much of that, for instance denominators such as the bi-cultural trans community. Those are little islands. Together we are strong, which is extremely important. To be safe with each other and put our egos aside. We have discussions with the municipality, gay interest group the COC, the Night Mayor Foundation, the police, the judiciary and of course our mayor Femke Halsema about this. "
"I started to work harder for that when a drag queen friend of mine was beaten up at Central Station. That truly was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Together with Donnie Bergsma we sought out the media and we have activated all restaurants in the city to display a rainbow flag. Three hundred and fifty businesses participated. The A’DAM Tower and Paradiso were enveloped in rainbow lights. The whole of Amsterdam must say, ‘Keep your hands off the people of Amsterdam.’ I had a gun to my head on the Reguliersdwarsstraat. But fortunately, everybody knows Mayday. The press was all over it. That really put me in action mode."
"Diversity is colorful. With as much diversity as possible around us, pink hair, crazy pants or skirts, you name it. Being diverse and accepting creates freedom. Yet these are moments, as the Dutch Ministers walking hand in hand was one of those moments. Acceptance of diversity should be the whole year round. It should be part of education, that is the most important thing. The younger generations no longer know the value of our freedom people have fought for.
I also support Mac Cosmetics. In Amsterdam alone, they donate 150,000.00 euros to AIDS-related charities every year.”
“Thirteen years ago, I took the step to become a DJ. Nowadays, I do the Pride in Gran Canaria. I also regularly spin in Manchester and of course at the Pride there, and also in Paris, which is my favorite city. And yes, the Amsterdam Pride is forever in my heart. I will celebrate my thirtieth anniversary on October 5. I am currently working on a photo album and DVD to give away.”
Diva Mayday, known from media in all areas. She is a fighter who still goes on the barricades to make her voice heard, proclaiming that acceptance of diversity creates freedom.