In the course of a few short years, Darwin’s only gay nightclub had gone from being a social pariah to a weekend highlight for blokes on the worksite.
“Now, if you haven’t been to Throb, they look at you and question your integrity and your morals,” Mr Palmer, who was born in Darwin, said.
Mr Palmer, whose nightclub celebrates its 18th birthday this weekend, brought up the story as an affirmation of the acceptance Throb’s presence has helped generate within the city’s small, vibrant and highly diverse community.
Turn up on the right night, and its dancefloor is a melting pot of this diversity.
You will find anything from corporate types, bucks and hens nights, and Indigenous drag queens strapping on stilettos, applying fake eyelashes and sashaying into the humid Darwin night.
Lack of permanent venues
As recently as the turn of the century, public queer space in Darwin was still contested.
“There were very limited opportunities to mix,” activist, academic and queer historian Dr Dino Hodge said.
Pianola Palace, a bar opened in 1969 by a flamboyant businessman who occasionally dressed in drag, was subsequently known for being gay friendly but was destroyed by Cyclone Tracy in 1974.
“The attitudes were still not favourable in the private domain, even though privately many people adopted a live-and-let-live attitude,” Dr Hodge said.
By the turn of the millennium, public opinion towards homosexuality had softened considerably but homophobic incidents still occurred.
People were occasionally assaulted; some venues embraced what Dr Hodge termed the pink dollar, but generally only on quiet weeknights and at the discretion of owners who could leave and turn previously struck deals on their head.
“That was really the motivation to step up and do something,” Mr Palmer said.