Frontstage with the passengers

Seafarers dressed up, several wearing evening dresses

A steward serving passengers. Image courtesy of Dave.

For camp men places such as the dining saloon were their stage, cruising place, playground, club and mini-theatre for informal entertainment all meal long. Gay dining room stewards minced, flirted with passengers and made a camp show of waiting tables.

Passengers, especially regulars, welcomed camp seafarers because they gave good service. Camp seafarers were aware of how far they could go, especially in passenger areas. They were on licence, but often pushed the boundaries.

Camp men adapted their uniforms in feminine ways. Waiters could be sent back by the head waiter if they were dressed too overtly femininely, but they still tried.

Passenger spaces could be used to advantage, for example as an opportunity for making liaisons or to try on women passengers’ clothes. In front of the passengers gays talked privately to each other using the secret language of polari.