I think women are stronger than men

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Todd McKenney, 52, Single.

My mother, Peta, owned a dance school in Morley, eight kilometres from where we lived in Tuart Hill, Perth. After school, she’d collect my older sister Lisa and me and take us to the studio. I’d do homework, then dance from 7pm to 10pm. Saturday was Mum’s biggest class, then Sunday was about ballroom championships.

Mum’s probably the best dance teacher I’ve come across, as she’s a stickler for technique. Her class also had a lot of men, so regardless of what my sexuality was going to be, I danced like a man, which has been so important to me.

My maternal nana, Dorothy, was also a dance teacher. She was a Highland champion. I have photos of her taken in 1913 and 1916 where she’s in full dancing regalia, dressed in a kilt, with medals on her tunic.

Nana was a big influence on my life, and watched everything I did. She used to confide in me like a friend. She called me Boy and I called her Girl.

My grandfather, Selby, would kiss her three times on the lips. When he died, I took that over that special kiss in his memory, which made us very close. 

On her deathbed, Nana said to Mum: “I don’t know where I’m going, but I wish Boy was coming with me.” I’ll never forget her. She’s always with me.  

Mum and my father, David, divorced when I was about nine. He was a car salesman and then a warden at Fremantle Prison. I grew up without a dad, but never resented him for it. I was glad my parents didn’t stay in a loveless marriage for the sake of us kids. I love my mum so much; I didn’t miss out on anything.

My first female crush was Sonia Kruger. We met on the ballroom competition circuit: she and her partner were representing Queensland, my partner and I, Western Australia. She was my girlfriend at 12. We held hands, like you do at that age.

Sonia makes me laugh like no one else. She is really bright and is great at doing a million things. She has a big heart, too. Sonia is driven – I like driven women. 

I was 12 when I saw Peter Allen in concert, as Mum had got free tickets from a dance student. I remember thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to have a 2000-seat auditorium loving you like that?”

I think Peter’s mother, Marion, would have preferred that The Boy from Oz musical didn’t happen. She found his death so hard to deal with. 

Peter’s sister Lynne and I became friendly, as our dogs played together on Bondi Beach. En route to Sydney airport for the London audition, Lynne called and asked me to drop by.

Marion had left a note with three of Peter’s sequinned shirts for me to wear. It said if the musical was to happen, she hoped it happened with me. Peter was tiny, but I cut the shoulder pads out and poured myself into his shirts. They were like cling wrap on me, but I wore them.

I never met Marion, as she didn’t came to the show. But if I was ever ill, and it was in the newspaper, she sent flowers. I felt good that she endorsed me in that role.

I met Georgie Parker when I was 23 at a pas de deux class in Sydney. She was my partner and, for two hours a week, I’d throw her above my legs and between my legs. When you’re dancing with someone like that, you become friends quickly. 

Georgie is like a sister to me. We have so much fun together. We are at a point in our lives where we know what we are doing, and don’t compete with anyone else. We know our strengths and weaknesses and both want to do a good job. 

Another woman I love is Julie Bishop. We met at last year’s Melbourne Cup. She has a style about her, as well as being tough. A lot of female politicians think because they are in a man’s world, they have got to be a bit manly in their appearance, but she’s not.

I got a selfie with her and she asked me to send it to her. She gave me her number. I told her that if ever I were in a Turkish prison, she’d be the one I’d call.

Anne Wood is one of my best friends. Together we have a 10-year-old daughter, Charlotte, through IVF. Charlotte lives with her mother in Melbourne and is a gorgeous, thoughtful little girl. I love her to bits.

All of my good friends are women and a lot of them are over 60 – I just love that generation, and Mum is now 73. My 81-year-old neighbour Judith is one of my dearest friends. We get on like a house on fire. We go to art galleries and just hang out.

I think women are stronger than men. My whole life, I’ve been surrounded by women, so I just get them. They are also more competitive than men. If a woman walks into a room where there are other women, she will give them the elevator eye. Men don’t do that. Women judge each other a lot quicker than men. I find that fascinating.

Todd McKenney stars in The Adventures of Peter Pan & Tinker Bell, Sydney, July 7-16, and Melbourne, July 21-30; ozpanto.com



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