Features, Outback, Truck driver

WA truckie wins drag Fashions in the Desert title at outback festival

A Perth based dangerous goods road train driver has dazzled at the Birdsville Big Red Bash, taking out the top prize in the fashion stakes for his colourful ensemble.

The Big Red Bash takes place each year in the Simpson Desert in outback Queensland, with a whole range of events on offer.

The 2023 rendition ran from July 4-6. As part of the festivities, the Bashville Drags attracted more than 800 people who came along dressed in a Priscilla – Queen of the Desert theme.

The impressive outfits made for a colourful display. Photo: Facebook/Big Red Bash

Organised by the Outback Music Festival Group, the Bashville Drags is a charity event that raises money for the Royal Flying Doctors Service.

The spectacle included a 500-metre race down a sand dune, followed by a fashion contest, where a panel of judges determined who was the best dressed.

Judges were at the finish line and roaming through the crowds to select drag queens and drag kings to strut their stuff on the catwalk.

Wearing this headpiece was a bit of a balancing act.

And it was 53-year-old truck driver Chris Hockley – or ‘Baby Cakes’ as per his drag queen alter ego – who stood out from the pack (pictured left).

Originally from New Zealand, Hockley began his truck driving career across the ditch and then drove over in the UK, which is where he met his partner Jill Barker.

Hockley has been a truckie for over 30 years, having first got behind the wheel at the age of 19.

Carting dangerous goods out of Perth with a pocket road train, his main runs involve carrying liquid oxygen to and from gold mines throughout WA. His longest runs are around a 2000km round trip.

“I love being away and getting out of town – away from the yard and the office. I used to do the east-west run, but now I’m away for three days at most,” Hockley said. “It’s mainly carting dangerous goods but sometimes I do around town work or containers. I carry anything and everything.” And this pic below is a case in point.

Chris Hockley with a Hawker Hunter aircraft he transported from Nowra to a museum in Perth.

The couple have become regulars at the Birdsville Big Red Bash, also serving at volunteers at the event.

Last year was Hockley’s first appearance in drag, which came after a chat with a fellow volunteer named Kate, at the campsite.

Last year’s 80s inspired costume was put together at the last minute.

“We’re in the volunteer camping section and have made some friends there,” said Barker. “And last year one of them happened to have some eighties inspired clothing for Chris.

“But this year she actually made the costume for him and put a lot of effort into it.”

Complete with full make-up and false eyelashes, Hockley donned a purple sequinned tube top, together with psychedelic flares, a floral lei, and yellow gloves with matching pearls.

But the icing on the top was a huge heart-shaped headpiece. Standing at 6ft 6 inches, Hockley was quite the imposing figure with his massive headpiece.

Perhaps not the best item to wear while running down a hill, but it certainly stood out from the crowd.

Hockley revealed he had no idea what the costume looked like until just before the event. “I didn’t see it until that morning. It was a bit of a worry seeing the size of the headpiece – and wondering how it was going to stay on!” he said.

“Going down the hill, I had to keep my head up and try and balance it, so I ran pretty slowly. I guess it was more of a prance,” he laughed.

Kate made the headpiece using four cans of expanding foam, affixed onto a piece of cork, which was then attached to a cap. It was decorated with paper flowers.

When asked if Hockley needed much convincing to take part, Barkly was quick to respond, “No – he did not! Last year he wore Kate’s clothes and took a little too long afterwards to remove the make-up,” she joked. “All the others kept their blokey persona, but last year he came down on his tippy toes. And this year he had false eyelashes and full make-up. He thoroughly enjoyed the limelight. It’s all good fun and he carried it off so well.”

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