Richard Lawrence Byron
2 September 1943
|Residence||Gold Coast, Queensland|
|Other names||Carol Spencer, (Carolle Lea,(Number 96)|
|Occupation||Cabaret performer; TV actor|
|Known for||Les Girls (stage revue)|
|Television||Number 96, Beauty and the Beast, Studio 10|
Carlotta (born Richard Lawrence Byron; 2 September 1943) is the stage name of Carol Spencer, a transgender Australian cabaret performer and television personality, who briefly appeared in soap opera Number 96. Her stage name was sourced from that of Princess Luisa Carlotta of Naples and Sicily. "The Queen of The Cross", as she has been termed, began her career as an original cast member of the long-running male revue Les Girls (pronounced lay-girls) cabaret show, which started in 1963 in the purpose-built nightclub building owned by Abe Saffron in the heart of Sydney's Kings Cross. The revue was performed exclusively by males in drag costume, and Carlotta performed spot-numbers as a singer and comedian. She eventually became the show's compere and lead attraction, performing also in Leagues clubs.
Carlotta was born in Balmain, New South Wales, in 1943. As a child, she was taught song-and-dance routines by her mother. Neither her mother nor her stepfather approved of her subsequent transgender performing career. She had a sex change operation in the early 1970s which, though not the first such procedure in Australia, was the first to receive publicity.
Les Girls cabaret
Les Girls and Carlotta became an attraction for visitors to Sydney. Carlotta departed in 1992. Inspired by the film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, she mounted a revue, "Carlotta & Her Beautiful Boys", planning to tour Australia. This was not a financial success, bankrupting her, after which she mainly appeared as a one-woman performer.
Carlotta (credited as "Carolle Lea") appeared in the soap opera Number 96 in 1973 as Robyn Ross, the new girlfriend of Arnold Feather (portrayed by Jeff Kevin). In the story it was soon revealed that Robyn was in fact a transsexual showgirl, a revelation that led to the character's quick axing from the show.
Beauty and the Beast and Studio 10
From 1997, Carlotta became a regular panellist on the talk show Beauty and the Beast, hosted by Stan Zemanek. Between 2013 and 2018, when she retired, she made regular appearances as a panel member on morning show Studio 10.
A 90-minute telemovie, Carlotta, was screened in June 2014 with Jessica Marais acting the title role. The film "presents a romanticised perspective that offers only hints of the harsher realities of Byron's complex life."
In 2005, she presented her own half-million-dollar stage production, Carlotta's KingsX, in the Big Top at Luna Park, Sydney. Produced by Brett Elliott and Richard Bernardo, the 90-minute show consisted of classic storytelling, stand-up comedy, lavish costumes, and "Les Girls" dance performances throughout. She also toured Australia with her one-woman show Carlotta: Live and Intimate.
- Guinness, Daphne (30 August 2003). "The queen who makes a reluctant subject". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 October 2009.
- Robson, Frank (14 June 2014). "Carlotta: Let me entertain you". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
- McMahon Jeannette. "Carlotta's journey from schoolboy to sequins". ABC Newcastle, 7 July 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2018
- "Jessica Marais To Play Carlotta". tvtonight.com.au.