'Pauline for PM': Inside Milo Yiannopoulos's farcical Sydney talk

I step off a tram stop I've never before heard of – Lilyfield – convinced I'm in the wrong place.

Organisers only released the Sydney address for Milo Yiannopoulos's talk two hours before doors opened, following violent clashes outside his speaking tour in Melbourne the preceding night.

But this can't be it. Deepest, sleepiest suburbia, for this leopard fur coat-wearing show pony? Surely times aren't that hard.

"Looking for somewhere?" a gentle voice mysteriously whispers. "Milo?" he nervously ventures, delighted at my affirmative response. We walk together for four minutes before I reveal I'm a Fairfax journalist and his tone changes quicker than Bob Katter at a press doorstop. A string of expletives explodes, offensive more for their inarticulacy than their invective, and I walk on.

It takes me a while to find those who'll go on the record – many seem to want to rejoice in his controversial views from the safety of the shadows. But when I find those who do, a common theme emerges: freedom of speech.

Freedom time

"We don't have [free speech] any more" says attendee Cindy Tomkins. "I'm disappointed we're losing our right to it," says Suzanne Evans, whose daughter bought her a ticket as a birthday gift. It's a surprising misconception considering an army of police stand outside, defending this very right.

It's also surprising to see a scattering of women are here, given his praise during the speech of "gloriously effusive toxic masculinity" and childish, sneeringly superior but intellectually vapid descriptions of them, variously, as "feminist gorgons of the ABC"; "harpooned marauding feminist assailants," "gruesome gargoylic apparitions" and "fat c---s."

At first there are whoops and thigh slaps but as he labours whatever point he's trying to make, the laughs taper off into schoolboy titters. Suzanne, next to me, has fallen silent. Maybe she's finally been 'triggered.' Or maybe she realises this is a comedy show with less genuinely funny jokes than an episode of Mrs Brown's Boys.

Isaac Twells, sat the other side of me, doesn't agree with everything Yiannopoulos says. "How can he live an openly-gay lifestyle while accepting the Catholic church's socially conservative teachings and the natural law when it fundamentally opposes that? Homosexuality is a violation of natural law."

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He laughs hardest at the misogynist 'jokes' as his female companion plays with her phone.

Same same but different

Yiannopoulos and I have an uncomfortable amount in common. We're both from Kent in Britain, both gay, both journalists, both in our early 30s. Both our dads were bouncers and we both had embarrassingly bad peroxide hair dos. I gave mine up a decade ago. Yiannopoulos still persists with his.

His October birthday is the day before mine. His entrance music is my favourite all-time song, by one of our joint heroes: Madonna's Vogue. His opening line genuinely makes me laugh: "How dare the Sydney Morning Herald call me attention-seeking?"

But I don't relate to any other part of his life or views. Although he had a privileged upbringing with a live-in house-keeper and cook, he was expelled from his grammar school and from one university, and dropped out of another.

He resorted to self-publishing his book which Simon & Schuster dropped following his paedophilia remarks (which also led to resignation from Breitbart News), then tried to sue them for $10 million, in a spectacular dummy-spit. Like him, I was very close to my late, grandma – although mine isn't spinning in her grave with shame at the things I say about women like her.

In a reflection of his silver-spooned life, things start well for Milo, but then deteriorate. Initially, the 1200-strong crowd hangs off his every word, chanting "Pauline for PM" and every time he mentions a Muslim, "terrorist!"

Faces in the crowd

Anthony Butler, 22, likes "how he uses facts and doesn't bring in emotion."

James and William Jefree have come on a family outing with both their dad and granddad. All of them wear 'Make America Great Again' hats.

William says: "Look at his finer points unlike these people protesting, and you'll find the absolute truth of what's going on in this world." James says: "He's provocative and I honestly had nothing better to do. He obviously created a persona to help with book and tour sales but when you get down to it, there's a lot of truth. Like anything, you'd have to fact check and take some of it with a grain of salt."

Meanwhile, protesters outside chant "Kill yourself like Hitler." Seven are arrested tonight. One protester threatened to rip off Suzanne's jacket and spat at her daughter. Not her greatest birthday, then.

Rapid deterioration 

People of colour attending don't seem to mind Milo's comments about "your animals in petting zoos will be mounted by migrants" if our "sensible" immigration policy is relaxed. Omer Sayaad is "looking to have fun." He says: "I've been following him for a long time. If you get past the being offended part, a lot of things he says to make a lot of sense if you think about it."

But things soon descend. A protester storms the building, lights come up and Yiannopoulos has to stop talking before dismissing the "idiotic" left as more interested in violence and silence than ideas. But it feels hollow. In the next breath he spouts: "Your gun laws are retarded. Get guns!"

His attack on "perma-tanned male feminists on the ABC" gets a laugh so he continues: "Does anything scream social and sexual dysfunction like a 'male feminist?'"

The bitter end

Towards the end, he starts to lose his audience. They begin heckling sarcastic compliments, often sexual, that first interrupt, then actually drown him out. People begin to natter amongst themselves, clearly bored. Seven illuminated phone screens in front of me surf the web.

During his 'Big Gay Q&A', hordes of people leave while I spot a queue: the only event I've ever attended where the men's loo line is longer than the women's. I spot right-wing commentator and Spectator editor Rowan Dean strolling out, half way through another Yiannopoulos-tirade. Even his most ardent fans seem to be seeing him for what he really is: not a show pony, but a one-trick one.

Sadly, they miss the only touching moment of the entire night when Yiannopoulos, in response to an interrogation about same-sex marriage, says: "I used to be against it but my view on this evolved, because I fell in love. It's mean for the state not to allow it."

It's a rare off-guard, earnest moment. But everyone's too busy playing Candy Crush to notice.

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