Growing up in Dumfries, Scotland, only made Donald quite frustrated, so he ditched college and made a move to Glasgow at the first opportunity. Clubbing there virtually every night, experimenting with all manner of drugs and drinking to distraction soon made him aware of his own mortality. Deep inside, he didn’t want to die young but, if he did, he’d want to make sure to leave the “most beautiful corpse in the graveyard”.
He eventually left Scotland to dip his toe in the big pond that was London’s ’80s club scene. There he soon met Scarlett, Leigh Bowery and Tasty Tim at Cha Cha’s, but also got himself a boyfriend. The pair soon headed to Tokyo to indulge a spot of modelling. Ironically, working for ad campaigns only made the teenager realise that he only really wanted to be the girl models whom he posed with.
Upon his return to London, he started performing at the hotspots of the day, the likes of Beyond, Heaven, Kinky Gerlinky and Smashing. “It was only just for a laugh and showing off in front of friends”, he quips. Taking into account the huge personality, undeniable charisma and the remarkable devil-may-care attitude, Donald could only gain instant acceptance in Blighty.
The very notion of a potentially serious career began sinking in when the Playground offered him a 20-week run, working a different show every week. Hard work but it turned out to be a good learning process too. The Piano Bar also hired him for long singing sets, backed by a pianist. Subsequent touring with Pete Burns/Dead or Alive proved to be an equally invaluable experience. It often involved turning up at gigs without soundcheck or rehearsal and having to improvise. “Seeing Pete spewing verbal abuse at German audiences and sometimes throwing chairs at them, can only teach you respect for your public,” he chuckles.
Promoting from 1993 to 1995 his own monthly themed club, the innovative and terminally out-of-control Beautiful Bend, held at Central Station in Kings Cross, left clubland with indelible memories. Donald would put a lot of attention to concoct weekly events as outrageous as The Wonderful World of Beige, Heal The Sick, Potting Shed and Skat on a Hot Tin Shoe. He even dutifully drew, wrote and printed short stories and poetry every time. It paid off and, after its demise, The Bend became a much-missed classic.
By then, he’d already acquired a solid reputation for liking a Bloody Mary or two. That meant anything could happen on the night and often did, sometimes to hilarious effect. In such moments, you could always expect him to impersonate Margo Channing and you might want to fasten your seat belt anticipating the proverbial bumpy ride. Bette Davis’ fans cherished his snarl-and-shriek impersonation of Baby Jane Hudson’s hair-raising antics. Another favourite icon of his being Norma Desmond, you’d better not cross him when he goes off on one of her turns! Other times, he’d simply prance about seemingly like an unhinged, dishevelled Cyd Charisse on amphetamines on the Brigadoon film set.
A force of nature if ever there was one, Donald is, away from clubland, a talented artist who has exhibited his art around the world. He is represented in London by the Herald Street and Maureen Paley galleries.
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