Archived 1994 Articles about  Pieter-Dirk Uys

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New South Africa has drag queen for its guide

– Michael Hill, The Baltimore Sun, 17 September 1994

Johannesburg, South Africa — It is not every country whose citizens can sit down in front of the television on Friday nights and watch some of their top government officials getting interviewed by a drag queen.

Then again, not every country is South Africa, where the times have been changing so much for the last few years that what was up is now down, what was sacred is now profane and Pieter-Dirk Uys is as close as you're going to get to Barbara Walters.

Indeed, Mr. Uys' character of Evita Bezuidenhout seems the perfect guide through this nation's ever-changing landscape. Created 15 years ago, in the hands of Mr. Uys, Evita became one of the most effective weapons of subversion in the last decade of the apartheid era.

"Evita is the most famous white woman in Africa," sums up Pieter Cilliers, executive producer of "Evita's Funigalore," the new series that is airing on the country's subscription channel.

In this land where politics provides the celebrities, these half hour programs feature interviews with some of the country's biggest names — Cyril Ramaphosa, who heads the African National Congress, Joe Slovo, the communist minister of housing, Frene Ginwala, speaker of the new Parliament, Mac Maharaj, minister of transportation, Patrick Lekota, premier of the Orange Free State, and Roelf Meyer, minister of local government.

"No one turned us down," Mr. Cilliers said of those contacted to be on the show. "That shows the kind of respect people have for Evita."

Mr. Uys first came up with Evita in the late 1970s when he was writing a column for a Sunday newspaper. At first, she was an anonymous Pretoria matron who kept showing up at parties and saying the most outrageous things.

According to Mr. Uys, readers gave her the name Evita, after Mrs. Peron, the title character of the then-popular Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical. "Evita has always grown out of the public's reaction to her," said Mr. Uys. "That's where she got her name, she was our Evita from Pretoria."

He was speaking from San Francisco where he is currently performing an Americanized version of his one-person show "One Man, One Volt."

"Even here, she's the character who steps out of the chorus line," he said. "People respond to her. It's like everyone has known an Evita in their lives."

Eventually, Mr. Uys wrote a biography of Evita which, like all good parody, was completely fictional but full of truth. "It was really the history of apartheid," he said.

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