Sunday, December 27, 2020

Amiria and the Green Tara.


It's hard for me to fathom that today, the 27th of December, 2020, marks 10 years exactly for the passing into infinity of one of my dearest friends, Amiria. She was a reliable support, a companion at shlock movies that no one else liked, a shoulder to cry on when I was sad, and a great joy, knowledgeable and compassionate. She could give you a reality check without putting you down, a true taskmaster who spurred me on to be a good soul and not a fuckwit. And when I was framed for armed robbery by crooked cops in 1993 she was my alibi, a witness as to where I was at the time of the crime, standing up to the pigs and laughing in their faces, and they were nonplussed, as she was very intelligent and attractive.
She stuck by me for the three years it took to go to trial out at Campeltown Courts, disappearing every ten minutes to go into the courtroom next door where they were trying Ivan Milat, the horrid serial killer, then reporting back to me, whispering into my ear about the chilling demeanor of the murderer, while my own judge was intoning a long summation as to why I was innocent and what a waste of public money the bullshit charges were. After my acquittal my Queens Counsel, Phillip Boulten, took us both for a meal on Oxford Street Darlinghurst, and oh how we laughed at the cops, the goings on in Canberra and my final reprieve as a cake-shop robbing criminal.
In 2010, on December 31, I was sitting in a chai shack on Vagatore Beach in Goa, India, getting ready for the big trance party at the Hilltop Hotel later that evening, when I got a phone call from another friend of Amiria with the sad news that she had died a few days previously, having fallen off a chair and gotten a blood clot that travelled to her brain and sent her into a coma. I was devastated, I could only stare out at the Arabian Sea in shock, into infinite space, thinking of her, and crying, because I would never see her again.
She was a Mahayana Buddhist, giving much of her energy and hard-earned wealth, from working as a nurse in Emergency at the Prince of Wales Hospital, to that much beleaguered nation, Tibet, even sneaking into forbidden Lhasa with her lama friend to give what succor she could. She referred to the Dalai Lama as his Holiness and prattled on about reincarnation, Bodhisattvas and Nirvana and she had me half believing the mumbo jumbo, so impressed was I by her sincerity. She balanced this cosmic spirituality with an intense critique and dislike for what China was doing to Tibet, basically destroying its culture, its identity.


So there I was, in a blue funk, in my friend Prem's chai shack, "Green Eyes", reminiscing about Amiria. I'd known Prem and his family for 14 years, loyally eating with them and, knowing I love seafood, they spoiled me with the most exotic catch of the day. OK, it's un-PC of me but I do as the Hindu Goans do, they live from and on sea food, and no other meat. Suddenly, into the beach shack, stomped five Indian muscle Marys, bloated on steroids and drunk as punks. They carried their own bottles of noxious booze with them and, collapsing around a table, demanded Prem bring them glasses to drink from.
He refused, saying they had to buy their drinks from him if they wanted all the facilities of the shop. The leader of this gang of thugs bellowed in fury, jumped up cursing and, picking up an iron bar lying in the sand, whacked Prem over the back with it. I yelled for him to stop at which he smashed the glass counter-top next to me then swept my laptop off the table, telling me to, "Shut up!"
Prem has three brothers in the business but two of them were away at other beaches while his older brother, sitting at a table nearby, got up and ran away in terror. Other patrons also ran away, inside and outside the shack, foreigners and Indians, everybody wailing with fear. But I stayed with my friend, I didn't even think about it. (To reiterate: I'm no hero desiring a militant masculinity as compensation for my homosexuality. As a boy growing up in social housing, used to the rough and tumble, I don't think out these affrays, otherwise I'd probably also run, I simply jump in to help friends, it's a knee-jerk reaction. a peace-keeping tactic, not glorifying violence but to not live in fear either.)

While the monster with the iron bar kept swinging it at me, and I kept ducking it, another of the thugs rushed over to Prem and, grabbing him by the hair, slapped his face, hard and continuously. The creep attacking me got bored with me ducking his swipes and went back to Prem, brave lumps that they were, to beat him with his fellow devil. He hit Prem a few more times over the back with the iron bar then cracked him on the head, heavy handed. I freaked out, if that didn't kill my friend the next blow would. The brute lifted the iron bar and was about to whack him on the head yet again. At this I felt to do something, no matter my own safety, I couldn't let my friend die in front of me, I thought I could throw sand in the father-fucker's eyes then run at him with one of the cane chairs and bowl him over, even though the other four might stomp me to smithereens.
As the iron bar descended towards my friend's head and I was about to jump into the fray, I screamed, with that voice of authority I had long learned on the streets of Melbourne, as a charge nurse in the toughest of hospital wards, and in the back alleys of Indian cities, where robbers and serial killers had targeted me as a likely victim. "Don't do it!" The idiot's arm froze in mid swing, the iron bar poised; the dope, as if awakening from a trance, looked about him in glum stupidity and then threw the iron bar to the floor of the shack. He marched like a zombie out into the sun of Vagatore beach and the other dickheads followed him, their chests puffed out, as if they'd won some grand victory.

Green Eyes Beach Shack, Vagatore Beach
The local Goans showed up quickly, Prem was sent off to the hospital to get stitches put into his split skull, his face was swollen like a pumpkin from the weightlifters' slaps; he was furious with his older brother for running away, and he told all the Goans that I, the Aussie, was the only one who stayed with him and had made sure the bastards didn't kill him. Wherever I went for the next few years the Goans treated me with great respect, it was a wonderful respite from the usual stranger danger one gets as a queer renegade. At the Hilltop New Years Eve party that night I couldn't enjoy my usual abandoned trance dance as I kept thinking of Amiria and my great loss, and Tibet's and the world's, for she is a great soul.
But immediately after the event, as I dwelt upon it, it drifted into my awareness that I had felt a presence standing next to me throughout the entire ordeal, and as I focused Amiria's smiling features came to me, as if she'd been there in the form of a guardian angel. And not just Amiria, when concentrating upon the vision, she morphed into the Green Tara Goddess of Tibet, who I was not particularly familiar with, but there She was, in all Her effulgent glory, hovering over me, green light enveloping me.
I know I'm a bit of an hysteric, with a run away imagination, and I have "tripped" a lot in my life, especially on Vagatore Beach, since 1972 to 2010 in fact. Yet I have always had strong intuition, and lived by it, my life saved countless times by obeying it. So I was intensely impressed with Tara's fantasised aid. Years later I discovered the "meaning" of Tara, the Green Goddess, which I swear I never knew. She is the Protector from harm, She keeps one safe and Heals one's wounds. I was blown away.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a rationalist, a scientist, an atheist, but there is a thing called magic realism and, let's face it, this Universe is a mighty mysterious phenomena. The Mind is capable of creating all kinds of hallucinations, for all I know my unconscious dreamed up Tara and projected Her next to me, I could be Tara myself. While Amiria would smile enigmatically at this, I don't want to present like a crackpot, a follower of Pentacostalism, communing with a personal God, talking gobbledy gook, receiving a reward, I'm adamantly opposed to such religio-fascism.
So here I am, exactly ten years in the future, on the anniversary of Amiria's passing, blessed by her friendship, for she is still with me, in my heart, in spirit. The world has radically changed, in the middle of the COVID pandemic I'm stuck in Sydney for New Years Eve, I can't even visit my family in Melbourne, and I'm not able to make my yearly pilgrimage to India, to the Himalayas, to Goa beside the Arabian Sea, and all my "Thief of Bombay" adventures. But to kill this virus I don't mind staying put, weathering lockdowns, wearing a mask, keeping a social distance. It's okay isolating in my room, with my videos, books and reminiscing on my rambunctious life.

I cry for all those who are ill, who died and for their grieving loved ones. I send out vibes to the Green Tara, please heal the planet, the human race, for all its flaws and squabbles, bring wisdom, peace and protection. Amiria emanates that.



Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Artist Who Got Smoke Blown Up His Arse.



Somewhere around June 2020 I was approached by a woman to participate in a project of putting art up in the windows of empty shops in King Street Newtown, to liven the place up and make some kind of political statement. I was told I was free to paint what I wanted, even be as radical as my passionate nature desired, for Newtown was full of "alternative" types, hippies, anarchists, ferals, rebellious youth in general, and my outlandish cartoon style would go down a treat. In her application for the Sydney City Council grant she even photoshopped some of my famous poster work into shop windows as examples of how the art would look, it look graphically eye-catching and thus she got the money to pay eight of us plus herself for organising it.  













Saturday, December 12, 2020

The Artist as the Beggar at the Door.

 

Surveys have been done that revealed most of those who succeeded in 'arts careers', i.e. made a good living at it, came from families with money. They went to the best art schools where they formed mutually helpful cliques; were supported with a generous allowance while they practiced art; were introduced to Society's elites, the arts bureaucrats and gallerists who could connect them with rich collectors; and were provided with sharp lawyers who could protect their copyright, make sure they were paid properly for their work and not ripped off in any way.
What a foolish dreamer I was to think I might make a decent living from art. I'm a queer anarcho-activist from social housing with no connections or money. I was rejected from the NAS, the snootiest art school in Sydney, when I applied in 1982. I won't draw/paint crap just because I think it will be fashionable or sell like a piece of decorative furniture. And I won't enter the Establishment's art competitions as I think they prostitute "art" as apologists for The System i.e. high capitalism, fascism and elitism, with wankers judging them based on their personal taste and politics, or whatever is flavour of the month.
I got a small level of notoriety from sheer perseverance and hard work, wall papering the city with my posters, exhibiting in numerous shows, handing out flyers to every urbanite I could get near, showing my films in all mediums possible and expressing my creativity on every digital platform I could think of. Maybe this is enough, I might even be able to claim the grand title of "artist", after all being renowned on "The Underground" has some cachet.
But No God help me if I ask to be paid for my work or attempt to have my work taken seriously. The poster I've included with this story is a good example of the continuous fuck-over I've experienced in my turbulent life. I was a member of The Prisoners Action Group and was seriously concerned with prisoners' rights, for as a queer man and anarcho-activist my very existence was considered criminal. I've been continuously threatened with gaol and I felt terribly for the harsh conditions prisoners had to endure within The System. Myself and fellow travelers, lesbians, gays, feminists and allies, decided to do something about it. We pursued campaigns to stop screws from bashing the inmates; we got Violet Roberts released after many years of incarceration due to her murdering an husband who bashed her throughout her marriage; and we tried to help Ray Denning, the bank robber who'd had a shocking life of neglect and brutality, till The System indeed turned him into the human animal they'd long branded him as.
Some of us, Wendy Bacon and friends, got arrested a few times, either at "Right to Life" rallies fighting for women's issues, or for barricading ourselves into the screws' union office to highlight their cruel practices inside the gaols. Many years later these stunts were held against me by the pigs, the activism was indicative of my own criminality and I was thus easy to frame for an armed robbery and have any small chance at a successful life ruined.
I considered my political activism as part of my art practice, the "situationist" stunts, the posters, performances and gigs, all of it holistically connected. I organised the Garibaldis benefit with the help of Women Behind Bars and allies, I silk-screened the poster at the Tin Sheds and I used my film "My Survival as a... Deviant?!" as one of the acts, as that's what I had to offer and I felt it had some merit. We raised money for the campaigns and managed to communicate facts about prison issues to a wider public.
On the night three drunk witches threw wine in my face and accused me of trying to get fame off these political issues. My eyes stung, it was vicious, I was crestfallen as it had been hard work, no one else had volunteered to do it. Fame hadn't entered my head, I had come from the gutter and I knew I was going back to the gutter, and that's where I went, for the next forty years, middle class cunts be damned. I knew anyone connected with Ray Denning would get the opposite of fame, disgrace.




In 2019 I submitted the "Garibaldis Violet Roberts Campaign" work to the Paper Tigers Poster Exhibition put on at The NAS Gallery by the SEDITION Festival. Two of my works were accepted, nicely framed, not submitted by me, (I don't know who), and I was very happy about it. But my poster below didn't make the grade, not "seditious" enough, or maybe it didn't even get reviewed as it somehow disappeared, perhaps stolen while it waited in a stack for the curators to peruse.
Someone must've realised its value, as a hand-crafted artefact and an historical document, and stolen it. It never made it back to me and when I've mentioned it to the organizers or my rep, Mr. Minton who carried it out of my apartment, I'm told, "I don't remember it." It might not mean much to others but it meant a lot to me and I'm absolutely seething when I think of it. It's par for the course when one is a powerless, nobody artist. Mr. Joseph Lebovic, Paddington poster-seller extraordinaire, if someone approaches you with it, remember, it was stolen from me, as were many of the posters of mine you've been selling, which I made while on the dole and starving.
Recently I was sent an email by the State Library of NSW that an old 1979 work of mine, "Garibaldis Benifit - Cabaret Conspiracy" is to be shown at an exhibition titled "Coming Out in the '70s". This of course pleased me. But there would also be merchandise depicting this artwork of mine, on tea-towels, lens cleaner cloths and tote bags. Not a word asking for my permission, it was a fait accompli, and no mention of any financial compensation or a contract to be signed. I quickly wrote the curator a peremptory letter asking, "What's in it for me? If there's nothing then I'll have to talk to Arts Law and my LGBTQ community about it." I got an urgent message back, "Please consider 10% royalties of net and come in and sign the contract ASAP", which I gratifyingly did.
It took a long time, I'm 71, but I'm getting stronger about these matters every day. What annoys me about things like this is I have to chase them and, after being upset for a few days, I had to ask like a beggar at the door. When I went in to the gift shop to sign the contract for my measly 10% I gazed lovingly at the lens cleaner cloth, so gorgeous with my "fluoro queer gang" upon it, but was I offered a discount if I wanted one? Not on your fucking life!
I'm not talking about art as only worthy if it's making money, bullion art, big money. I've made art, not as a commercial proposition, but for the sheer joy of it, or the community need for it. Nearly everything I've ever done was given away, stuck up on walls or shown on social media. But it pisses me off when I discover some entrepreneur making big bucks from what I starved to create. Or they turn up repeatedly expecting artists should do it for free, then go die in their garret, the romantic bohemian ending.
All through my life-long non-career I've had to plead to receive any sort of payment. It's hard enough getting considered for inclusion, one is meant to be ever so thankful and honoured to be in a show, a book or whatever, one is willing to bend over and get fucked up the arse for the sheer joy of it. I promise you, I'm over it. Glory doesn't put butter on my butt.
(Many years ago one creep asked me if I'd submit one of my prize-winning drawings as an illustration in the book of poetry he'd got a grant to publish. I said, "OK, you're offering no money but I'll give it to you for free anyway." And he replied, "Oh no, you have to pay me $300 for the privilege of being seen in my book." I told him, "Stick your arse-wipe poetry where the sun don't shine!")



Sunday, November 29, 2020

Betrayal vs, Love as the Human Condition.

Now I’m at the end of my life, in my seventies, I look back at my long travail and I feel weary, beat, depleted of my reserves of optimism, hoping to end it all. Yet at the same time I can say, for all the beat-ups and betrayals, I still had a great life, I went for it like a whirling dervish and squeezed it of maximum euphoria, adventure and achievement. I didn’t need to push my way to the front to receive some gilt statue, it was enough to read an inspiring book, hear some soulful music, dance abandoned by a fabled sea, and watch a sunset from a temple atop the highest mountain in the world.

So before I go let me tell you about one man’s tough journey, a tale both harrowing and informative. In the veritable dark ages of 1955, a five year old child was left to run wild on the streets of an inner-city Melbourne slum. He didn’t seem to have any guardians, no mother or father, only an old grandmother who was always in the front room of the house attending to his dying grandfather. He was as cute as a kewpie doll, with huge blue eyes, a Tony Curtis cow-lick hanging down upon his forehead and an angelic, shy smile. He was new to the neighborhood and lonely, desperate for friends.

When he tried to befriend the bigger kids across the road one of them, for no good reason except heartless cruelty, kicked him viciously in the balls. The pain was explosive, the attack incomprehensible, as if innocent beauty had to be destroyed. He ran home holding his crotch and writhed upon his bed in an agony that lasted several days. Yet he didn’t relinquish his desire for friendship and he tried again to approach the nasty lords of the flies as they played upon their veranda.

He was fascinated by a pile of glass baubles they were fingering, the scintillating lights of which were psychedelic in his impressive mind. He put his hand upon the gate and asked if he could join them to which they yelled, “No! Go away!” And then they slammed the metal gate upon his thumb, crushing it, a fountain of blood spurting out upon their precious gems. He shrieked in dismay as they shuddered in horror. He ran home to his grandmother who quickly bandaged the wound and soothed his broken spirit.

To compensate for the trauma she took him to his first movie at a cinema nearby, a convict melodrama starring Alan Ladd and Patricia Medina called “Botany Bay”, the protagonists in chains and getting whipped, a fitting allegory for what life held in store for him in class bound Australia, of slaves, whip-masters and callous captains. Yet at the same time the silver-screen magic of sailing ships and exotic destinations thrilled the boy and fired his imagination with the possibilities of life entwined with art, if one could only find the wherewithal to realize one’s dreams.

Not long after a little girl up the street was having a birthday party and her parents built her a stage in their backyard upon which she was going to perform a song and dance, like a spoilt Shirley Temple. An audience of local kids and their parents gathered to watch the little genius, only she had a hissy fit and wouldn’t go on. They waited an eternity and our little blue-eyed scene stealer lost patience and jumped upon the stage and performed Doris Day’s latest hit, “Que Sera Sera”, tap-dancing to the beat and singing perfectly note for note.

The audience clapped along, enjoying his act enormously but party-girl was furious, she'd been upstaged. She enlisted a few cohorts and they rushed upon the podium and pushed him off the edge to land hard upon his arse, and everybody laughed at his humiliation, as if it were a clown act.

All this drama was a reality check for the little boy who henceforth sang the blues. The world in general was not fair, people could be insufferably cruel, and even the smallest ray of limelight was precious to ego-maniacs and fought over with no compunction.

For the rest of his life his path was blocked by the (not so) hidden agendas of class, tribalism, nepotism, fame-whores, backstabbers, plagiarists, brain-washers and power-players from desperate wannabes willing to sell their souls for money and fame. And in the face of this ugly rat-race many applaud the brats, winners are grinners no matter how they won, and losers are boozers no matter what great work they’ve done. For a gay boy from skid-row it was hundred times more difficult, more tortuous, more unjust.

This flawed human condition left him bewildered as he believed in caring, sharing, co-operating, informing, entertaining for the joy of it, remaining that naive five year old at heart for much of his life. Beware, for those who snigger at this story are probably one of the cold fish who screwed him over and cold fish they remained, all their lives with just a hook in their mouth to show for it.


Possibly the greatest betrayal of his life happened at the very beginning when, as a one year old baby, his father hit him because he was crying and knocked him off the bed to crack his head against a dressing table. It was a rude awakening. Next, after beating his mother to a bloody pulp and having her taken away in an ambulance, at three years old he was told his mother was dead, never to return. This was devastating and untrue, a betrayal he could not get over, perhaps leading him to grow up queer and recalcitrant, with an oppositional defiance disorder.

While minor betrayals dogged him, such as being beaten up at school by the bullies because he was a dysfunctional sissy, the next truly major betrayal happened when he was nineteen and studying to be a nurse in a large hospital. An older nurse befriended him and, as a trusted big brother, got him to confess his homosexuality, convincing him he had a mental illness because of it. He was encouraged to attend a clinic in Kew called Newhaven where a shrink offered him psylocybin therapy, ten trips would straighten him out and turn him into a model, placid citizen.

What he wasn't told was that the clinic was in actuality a secret cult, The Family, with a mad woman named Anne Hamilton-Byrne at its head, pretending to be a new messiah and hoping to pair his reformed masculinity off with one of her nurses, "aunties", and produce blue eyed babies she could then sequester on a bushland farm and get ready to take over the world after the apocalypse. His friend, the older male nurse, had been sent out into the world to recruit acolytes, never telling them the truth. We shall call the protagonist of our story Billy, everybody's favorite son, he had four mind-bending trips that changed his life, but ran away without finishing the course as he intuited something mighty amiss with Newhaven, the shrink and the aunties. he only learned the truth some years later, reading about the scandal in a newspaper, and was shocked that friendship had been betrayed so egregiously in the hope of claiming his soul for nefarious, insane purposes.

Newhaven Clinic
Anne Hamilton-Byrne

In 1971 Billy ran away to India to find himself and take plenty more LSD to get on top of the heebie jeebies, to find his strength and confidence, and get over his fears of Satan and the Heavenly Father fighting for his soul. His next great betrayal happened after he returned to Australia in 1976, when he discovered part of his life-calling was to be an artist but little realising the gladiator pit of cut-throat back stabbing arseholes he was entering into.

(to be continued...)




Tuesday, March 26, 2019

7 Reasons For Being a Grumpy Old Dick.


Recently I happily put on an art show in a cute, little gallery near Sydney University. The opportunity came out of the blue and it was quite a success, a large crowd came on opening night, I received much applause and sold half the work, a great result for an ignominious gutter artist, finally after 40 years of hard work I earned a small amount of money.

But the usual cold water also got thrown in my face as, just before the show was to open, I was asked by an associate whose opinion I value, "How come everybody says you're a grumpy old dick?" "Who says this?" I snapped. "Everybody!" he assuredly replied.

I  hastily spluttered out my response, mumbling excuses, hard done by tales, accusations, demanding names, explaining that for every complaint against me there was a back story that would give me some vindication. There are 7 damned realist reasons why I've grown from a naive, wide-eyed angel to a hissing, spitting grouch and I will now bitch on about them.



1) Since early childhood I've experienced many of my fellow humans to be nasty, mean spirited and downright cruel, often for no good reason except the pleasure of hurting. Example number one, my very own father hit me when I was an infant, because I cried too much or squealed like a girl. Example number two, when I was five years old the big kids across the road crushed my thumb when they slammed a heavy iron gate upon it to deny my entry in to their game-playing, and on another occasion one of them kicked me in the balls, causing me intense pain for days afterwards, and then he laughed about it. 

There have been many other vicious incidents in my life such as rape by a so-called fellow of my "gay community", but I will give a last example of another kind of meanness, not particularly heavy, more like the repetitive rat bites a feral capitalist society inflicts upon one. Not so long ago I was just back from a tough travel sojourn in India, exhausted and emotionally flat, and while lying prostrate upon my couch I received a phone call from an acquaintance asking me if I'd do a gig for him at his deadbeat club as he couldn't get any artists to confirm their appearance. I politely refused as I was too tired, it meant a lot of work for no recompense, no money, no taxi fare, not even a cup of coffee.

Two weeks later he rang again and begged me to perform in his shaky line-up as still very few acts had agreed to turn up on the day. He pleaded on and on and eventually I reluctantly acquiesced for I considered him a friend and wanted to help him out. A few days before the gig I went over to the venue to suss it out, donated a video screen to the space as I would use it in my act and other bands might need it for a light show, again telling him I was doing it purely for him, there was nothing in it for me except trouble, I'd already spent hours getting my show in shape, writing a story and putting together a slide-show to illustrate it. This time, as I talked to him, he had a weird scrunched-up look upon his face and I wondered what now was his problem.

The next day I got a phone call from him telling me he had too many acts on the bill, there was no room for me and he was bumping me from the gig. I spat chips, called him a father-fucker for bothering me and wasting my time. I'd done my act for him a few times, it was good, it seems he'd decided he too had an act of story-telling and video/slides, (only he was a wanker with no through-line, no punchy urban folklore to relate and his music was cacophonous noise), but still he dreamed of some stodgy fame with his klunky, purloined act. 

He lied to everyone about begging me twice to do his gig then kicking me off the bill, and to really put the boot in he trolled me on Facebook as a tizzy, complaining prima donna.This is what I mean by a back-story to every myth about Toby the Punk Poofy Cat being a dick, mostly it's from some arsehole who has screwed me without compunction: shit happens and it comes from arseholes and Sydney is full of them. To this day he has blackened my name: I'm used to it, he should join the queue, there have been many dead-eyed careerists who have fucked me over in this shitty city, I just don't turn the other cheek and politely whisper, "That's Ok, all's fair in the middle-class war to get somewhere and stay afloat." No! I'm tired of being trodden on. I tell them to "Fuck off!"
 

2) Being a working-class queer, a bit of a sissy from childhood on, I've had to fight my way from the gutter up. I spent my youth on a social housing estate and went to state-run schools, where every bully, bigot and bastard it was my bad luck to run into tried to bash me, throughout the day, after school, on the streets, at home, and outside the rock clubs when I made it into my teens.

As an adult my queer sexuality has followed me everywhere, when trying to get a job, rent a room, deal with police or fellow workers, mix socially, just walk down the street, the first thing my associates see is my queerness and then position me low on the pecking order of humanity. Until we homos were decriminalised in 1984, (and ongoing), I was seen as a twisted monster, a beast of the night, to be hunted, locked away, bashed and tortured, converted and straightened out. I've had to fight hard, to survive, to stay sane, to achieve, to be myself and not some milk-toast department store mannequin putting on a squeaky clean act. I am tired of pea-brained, atrophied hearts and ignorant bigots seeing me as less than zero and having a go at me. I give them the punk snarl, maybe even a bitch slap if they come on too strong.



3) As a palliative care night nurse, usually in charge of the ward, the buck stopped with me. There would be seven emergencies a night, often a death, and I had to solve every problem, bleeding, fits, comas, falls, heart attacks, irate relatives, absconding clients, you name it! I'm also a world traveler, which can be hard work, from having all my papers in order, to keeping to my itinerary, to beating off all interlopers, ( clever thieves, horny hustlers, serial killers, unwanted fellow travelers.) To make sure I have a great time instead of a tedious trial, I have to have my act together.

And I'm a tireless artist, either preparing gallery shows of my paintings or nightclub performances of my story-telling and films. Then there is the creating of the paintings, stories and films, like climbing Mount Everest, especially if you're an ignominious, underground artist like me with no money or connections. To make sure I complete my art projects to the best I can, to get the applause, prizes and sales, I have to be on the ball, with one-pointed, goal oriented concentration and a clear idea of what I'm after, and not be thwarted, fucked around or distracted.

To do all these things, to stay alive and brainy, to research, study, practice, pay the bills, struggle on, I do not suffer fools gladly. So many fools get in my way, bullshit me, blow smoke up my arse, stab me in the back, fuck up the simplest of jobs I give them, that I end up snapping, I say rude things, sack them, avoid them when I see them coming. Thus I get a "bad reputation". I don't really give a shit, I've survived up till now and done a lot of it by myself, with brains, guts and heart, for very few put the butter on my bread.


4) As an artist, with some talent and notoriety, having operated in Sydney for 40 years, wall-papering the city with my posters and paintings, performing in innumerable venues, and winning local and international prizes, I've experienced some desperate, low-talent flakes trying to suck off me like human tics. They think any charisma I might have could rub off on them if they get close enough, they flatter, knock on my door, give me gifts, buy my art and think they own me, all the while sucking, sucking, sucking like vampires, but I don't swoon, I shudder.

When they think I won't notice, they plagiarise my work, claim me as their partner, steal my gear, broadcast that they were my muse... uurrrggghhhh! Till the very sight of them makes me sick and I want to scream and lock myself in my apartment. And I'm not even famous. No god help those who are, everybody wants a piece of you. I don't mind genuine appreciation and regard, I live to inspire the sweet hearted dreamers, I just don't like desperate wannabes who'd sell their grandmothers to the glue factory for a bit of celebrity, and I let them know it!



5) I'm a political animal, my art not only talks about the human condition as it has evolved into these contemporary times but also cuts to the bone on how wrong it is that neo-capitalism, the corporate State and an elitist class system rule and destroy the world, 1% of the population owning 95% of the world's wealth. I've been arrested 7 times on issues ranging from prisoners' rights to womens' rights, housing for the homeless to anti-nuclear industry and the environment. I've put my heart where my art is.

I'm nearing 70 years old, I've eschewed money, fame and power, (or it avoided me), preferring to nurse the dying and for the most part give my art away. Instead I have been an outlaw, a vagabond, rocking the boat, risking it all, unwelcome in polite society. Considering the urgency of world problems, the wars, climate change, environmental pollution and exploitation, animal extinction, the upsurge of neo-fascism and racism, there is no time to fuck around. I find it hard to humor flakes, pseudo arm-chair revolutionaries, apologists for the system, reactionaries, spoilt brats, wannabe celebrities, faux experts, wankers. I don't want to waste my breath on them, I get that look of disbelief, even contempt on my face,  turn away, I'd rather be alone, or with real radicals, though very difficult to find them, (I know, this rave is probably a wank also, what to do, I'm 70 and retired.)

Still, I'm only impressed by people who want to change the world, improve what is bad, and they are around, trying to stop freeways, save forests, rescue animals, run shelters, protect the indigenous, nurse the dying with compassion.) Sometimes real honest humans are refreshing enough.


 6) Life for many of us is a challenge, a hard slog: working for little reward, paying the bills, looking after a family, keeping a roof over one's head, getting down the street without being mugged. I've been unemployed, homeless, threatened with imprisonment, had the police harass me and frame me for a crime I did not commit, a cult tried to brain-wash me, psychiatry tried to chemically castrate me. I was threatened with conscription during the Vietnam War, my free speech and freedom of congregation is curtailed under a repressive government, I could be annihilated at any moment by a Christian come fascist dictatorship. And I'm alone, no family, wife, few friends, no clubs or support group, I face the chilly winds a loner, a freak, a punk outsider. No wonder I'm grumpy.


7) So now maybe you're thinking, "I figure why this guy is uptight" or "This fuckwit is one of the most narcissistic curmudgeons I've ever come across!" After 42 years of ducking and weaving in the gladiator pit that is Sydney, always impoverished and disreputable, I've got nothing to lose by continuing to tell my truths, bitchy though I may be. I've met a long chain of whores, hustlers and arseholes, and every day I run into one of them and can't help but give off the cold vibes, maybe even say something, such as, "Hey, you dickhead loser, where did all that Machiavellian backstabbing get you? Nowheresville in a hessian bag, that's where, ya pathetic piece of shit!" Needless to say, I'm not popular with the shit-heap climbers.

Take today for instance. I went to the Piccolo Cafe to arrange a print of my artwork for a friend of Vitto when in walked Crim Candy looking like an ICE leftover in a shrunken bother-boy suit. I immediately froze, wondering whether I'd get the king hit he's dealt out to the unwary who'd got his goat, and I stiffened my backbone ready for it, looking for a weapon I could break his arm with. He'd once run into my flat begging me to hide him as he'd just knocked out an unhappy driver at a pedestrian crossing and now the cops were after him. 

He then went on to ask my for my door gizmo that would allow him into the main building of my housing complex so he could crack some empty flats and rent them out to traveling backpackers. I refused for if he was caught they'd trace the door gizmo back to me as it was numbered. He then snarled, "What kind of anarchist are you?" I curtly replied, "One who wants to keep a roof over his head, thank you very much." We've never spoken in a friendly manner since.


Let me describe a few other contretemps that involved me being bastardized then bad-mouthed across town when I fought back. These stories mostly involve the world of film-making, where the competition for funds, credits and awards is cut-throat. First off, to be supportive I agreed to partner my animated, musical short, "The Thief of Sydney" with a lesbian thriller, "En Guard" for its cinema release at the Paddington Twin Theater. On the night of the premier the crowd went wild in applause over my colorful sci-fi film and then went glumly silent for the feature length klunker, "En Guard". The lesbian film-makers seemed to blame me for their flop and to this day have held it against me and I get only peeved resentment whenever I meet one of them. Especially as "The Thief" went on to win a Bronze Dragon in 1985 at Krakow, Poland International Animation Festival and has shown around the world many times.

I was going to tell the sorry tale how I was ripped and thrown on my arse from the ruthless careerists at the Australian Film Commissar but I've bitched about that plenty of times in other Blogs, and it will be a major sore spot in my forthcoming novel "Punk Outsider." Instead I'll tell of a silly incident I've never told before, proof that people can destroy your well-being in the smallest, nastiest way. 

In the mid '80s I was at a lecture being given by an American, gay cultural historian at the Chauvel Cinema in Paddington Town Hall. He was discussing a book called "The Celluloid Closet" involving homos and lesbians in Hollywood, from pansy characterisations to total gay orgies held by the stars in their swimming pools. He showed slides and movie clips of many of my silver-screen heroes and I, of course, was fascinated.

As I listened, mesmerised, I drifted off into a voluptuous fugue, imaging myself in the arms of Tyrone Power, Tab Hunter and Rock Hudson. In those days I had longish hair and when I was in a dreamy mood I had the habit of twirling a lock of it around and around my fingers, over and over, a form of masturbation I guess. In the middle of a particularly poignant anecdote from the inspired American, with the audience enraptured, a hand came from behind me, over my shoulder, and loudly slapped my hand, to stop my fingers in the midst of twisting my hair, causing the American lecturer to halt for a moment in quizzical dismay and the whole audience to freeze and stare over at us. I jumped in shock, let go of the lock of hair, freaked out totally and quickly gazed behind me to see who the offending martinet was. There sat a hatchet-faced dyke with a smug, screwed up mouth, glaring at me in satisfaction.

I sat there for awhile in cold fury, the American continued on with his lecture, though somewhat hesitantly, as if some climax had been attained and it was all down hill from there. I tensed up and waited, counting the eternal seconds, knowing that sooner or later she would shift her bony arse as we all do. I'm from the gutter, going back to the gutter, I don't have good manners, am not scared of anyone, no matter the monstrous opponent or polite environment, I'm not even scared of being politically incorrect and taking on a lesbian. I was fuming, steam literally spouted from my crown, and I waited. 

And then she did it, she started twitching and wringing her hands, knowing she had been out of line. I let her shift about in nervous agony while the lecture on gay Hollywood misdemeanors droned on and then I turned in karmic retribution and resoundingly slapped her hands, it echoed throughout the auditorium and the audience collectively gasped. The "Celluloid Closet" limped on, and I sank into my seat, satisfied, I'd punked her out, too bad if it came across as violence against women, if she wanted to act like a bloke she had to contend with how blokes respond. I'm not bragging, this was a shameful event; lesbians are not my enemies, many have supported me in my survival and career, and many have trashed me, the same response one can get from others, straights and poofs, humanity is either for you or against you, it's up to luck the kind of person you come across.

Thus my guttersnipe reputation precedes me, right across the city, I think the word got put out, to the close-knit dyke fraternity and the squeaky-clean government gays, Toby Z is a bastard with balls and is a challenge, don't cross him and don't give him an even break. To reiterate, I don't have a respectable career, I'm from the gutter, I'm used to being trashed, I'm forever pushed to the edge, and I relish being the outsider. Even other outsiders think they're one up on me, it keeps my work punchy.


                         www.amazon.com/author/tobyzoates

Thus I'm not only a grumpy old dick, I'm a nervous wreck, a misanthrope, a recluse, and sometimes, when the music's cosmic, I'm a satisfied tripper who's walking on air. For all the pitfalls and kicks in the arse I've gotten I look back at my wild life and am ecstatic that, for the most part, I realised my childhood dreams of adventure and artistic accomplishments. I never did find true love, being a twisted sister because of social opprobrium, I couldn't settle down with anyone, promiscuous at heart and restless, ever wondering about what lay over the horizon and wandering there to discover its secrets. 

I experienced great pain but oh, what wonderful times I've had, family outings to drive-in movie theatres, slam dancing to rock bands in funky '60s night clubs, communing with nature in the Australian bush, trekking in the high Himalayas, winning art prizes in cognoscenti France, smoking hashish in Morocco, grappling with punks in the mosh pits to thrash bands, having sex with the hottest guys in existence, abandoned ecstatic dancing in Goa by the Arabian sea, being mesmerized in spectacular movie houses to great works of cinema art, being swept away by awesome classical concerts by great masters in the Sydney Opera House, I can go on and on, my joys are never ending.

Always someone steps out of the mist, when I least expect it, and gives me a helping hand, lauding my efforts and promoting my art. Or takes me to some extravaganza, such as last week when a girlfriend took me to see Richard Straus's opera "Salome", very Oscar Wilde salacious, Fellini-esque psychedelic in its staging and costumes, the dance of the 7 veils performed by several erotic dancers, John the Baptist's head cut off with red lighting washing the stage with blood while Salome wailed her curse and the orchestra zinged, blared and thumped, imagery that will stay with me for ever. Fuck life can be grand, all because people can be generous and compassionate as well as mean and cruel.

 
For a moment, high on the beat of a diamond bright heart, which we all share, for those who are lucky enough to feel it.


  Aunty Dolly Feeding Me, Eternally, at Northcott Housing Estate.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

It Hurtz Not to be a Darling of the Vitto Fan Club.


I first met Vitto in 1979 at Garibaldis Cafe in Darlinghurst when I put on a benefit to get the old Italian man who ran the cafe some money as he was going broke. I enlisted Cabaret Conspiracy with the great drag artists Doris Fish and Jacqueline Hyde as M.C.s and created portraits of Fifi L'Amour and Doris striding out of Kings Cross, the poster depicted above, me pasting 300 copies on the walls of Sydney to advertise the gig. The heavy fleuro colors against a black background enhanced my ribald cartoon and created quite a stir among local artists and within a year the style became ubiquitous in Sydney. I found Vitto drooling over the table where I'd stacked some of the posters, hoping to sell them for one dollar each. (In 2019  they sell for $2000 and more if you can find one). He refused to part with a dollar and I told him to fuck off. That's kind of been the style of our love/hate relationship ever since.

For the forty years since then, I've been watching him as he's sung like a canary given the third degree, to any and every magazine, newspaper and pamphleteer that's shown up to interview him on his favorite subject, himself and the celebrities he's waited upon at the Piccolo. A bad joke on him would be if he mistook who his interlocutor was and his face got printed on shiploads of toilet paper. (Sorry, my humor is black and half the reason Vitto and I fight like cat and dog.) 

The role-call of stars is endless, Marianne Faithful. Jeff Buckley, Geoffrey Rush, Chrissy Amphlet, Penny Arcade, Noah Taylor, Martin Sharp, on and on, to satisfy shallow, celebrity mad Sydney, forgetting all the mere mortals that were regulars and gave him his bread and butter. In forty years of going there nearly every day, I rarely spotted a celebrity, they bought one cup of coffee every six months, hardly enough to pay for the juke box let alone anything else. (Richard Roxburgh is showing up there in the next week or so to be interviewed by the winner of a Peace Prize, he's reprising his "Rake" persona and a jolly good fellow he is for doing it. I'm not that blind to the comings and goings of celebrity!)


Thankfully Vitto never forgets to mention his particular favorites, a gang of friends who did regularly patronise the business to gossip and promote their shows, darlings whom I also love such as Elizabeth Burton, Fifi L'Amour, Jeannie Lewis, Danny Aboud, Ayesha, Paul Capsis and a few others, but in all the years, no matter how many shows I did or support I gave, he absolutely never mentioned me. I'm just one of the faceless nobodies who spent a lot of money there, helped pay his bills and buy his flat in Randwick. It's not that I want my ego stroked, I've had a great life with enough limelight to satisfy me. It just grates on me that stars are the only worthwhile humans in his world.

There was a whole mob of us gathering there over the last fifty years, many of them now dead and their names remembered on the site "Vittorio Bianchi and Friends" in a long list that Terry Johanson started and we've all contributed to. But many of us are still alive and kicking, (or getting our arses kicked) and as I've said, we're nobodies, non-stars and monstars. Tramps, junkies, hookers, sluts, thieves, hustlers, paupers, artists, strippers, dealers, potheads, rockers, pagans, witches, maniacs, the entire crew from "Walk on the Wild Side" and "Desolation Row", fighting, squabbling, philosophising, loving, smoking, fucking, keeping each other company.


Oh, and let's not forget the quiet angels that sat among us but didn't blow their trumpets, yet are the real stars of "society": nurses, carers, teachers, pro bono lawyers, street musicians, single mums, low-paid cleaners, the place was a sanctuary for them to also rest their tired feet and get some attention, from Vitto and us unruly mob, we were company of a sort. The Piccolo was often referred to as "the artists' cafe", sadly 99% of artists don't get famous, they die in penury. Given the "hell's kitchen" nature of Kings Cross for much of the twentieth century, I suppose I should be grateful to never get a mention as a patron of such a disreputable "lifeboat for losers" on "freak-show alley", it would be bad for my artist's non-career. Still, it's the thought that counts. 

(In mid February 2019 I'm sharing a show with Martin Sharp called "My City of Sydney", we've supposedly both dedicated our lives to plastering Sydney's walls with our artworks, otherwise we're opposites, he was born in Sydney into a wealthy family, went to top art school, was famous, heterosexual and his work wonderfully decorative. I was born in Melbourne and am from an extremely poor family, was rejected from art school, am an ignominious nobody, unashamedly queer and my work is political.)

 
 
I'm sad that all those years of pleasure and pain have been wiped, forgotten, ignored by Vitto's selective memory. There was the time when the electric transformer for the area blew and we sat in the gloom with candles barely lighting the dark for four days and nights, a storm raging outside, me and Vitto freezing our arses off, this event forgotten by his celebrity obsession. The few times Vitto got dragged up to Kings Cross police station to be questioned, psychologically tortured by the pigs, accused of selling marijuana, us anxiously waiting outside for him, this never to be mentioned by him, (him selling pot, oh no!) The many times the pigs raided the cafe, locking us in while they searched us all, going over that "hole in the wall" cafe with a fine tooth comb, a pot dealer kicking his deals under the table to land between my legs, me kicking it back, it becoming a deadly soccer match till the cops caught the mug trying to dislodge the baggie from high up in his lap where I'd kicked it. All of this a contretemps to be written out of history

I cried with Vitto when his Clayton's boyfriend, David, took his life-savings and squandered it on a truck which he then crashed and destroyed. He sold the wreck to buy a motorbike, then ran away to Queensland with an Asian girl riding pillion. I hurt for him when a certain drag queen who lived across the road took that same useless boyfriend home and Vitto stood under her bedroom window and wept as the lights in her inner-sanctum were turned on then off. 


I winced with him when a rough-trade Lebanese hunk named Tony slapped him across the face because he wouldn't give him fifty dollars and I was ready to jump upon the bastard and get myself punched out only he ran off. I giggled hysterically, like Jimmy Dean in the police station in "Rebel Without a Cause", when Vitto showed up one afternoon with his head shaved and a huge lump/cut on his skull, making him look like a concentration camp victim. He'd been attacked by some home-invasion thug in his flat and again his savings robbed from under his mattress. He mistook my sympathetic hysteria for callous laughing at him and ran up Roslyn Street weeping, Lorenzo having to fetch him back. From that day he never went on night shift again, only daylight would get him to the Piccolo, and thus the good old "Nights of Cabiria" at the Piccolo wound down.

When he let it be known that he longed to go back to Europe in 1994 to visit his old family and home it was me who put in the hard work, hiring the venue, (Les Girls), lining up the acts, creating the posters and pasting them up, and organizing the show on the night, me being one of the acts, and getting him $2000 for his trip. It hurt when he not only claimed it wasn't enough money, it really cut me to the bone when many years later he announced from a stage in Redfern that it was Elizabeth Burton who organized the show for him. I don't want any medals or gold cups, let him keep them all, and while I think he's an amusing character who has put in an inordinately long time sealed in a concrete box shouting "helllos" and expletives from the doorway, I don't see him as a saintly Mother Theresa looking after all the down and out, though he does look a bit like her.

I've been bashed up there 7 times, no kidding, once actually knocked out and dropped to that "strange attractor" spot in the middle of the cafe with Vitto screeching like a mother hen and trying to protect me under his wings. I've also received 7 awards because of the help I've received from Vitto and the Cafe's patrons in putting on my shows and distributing my art by handing out my flyers and posters, thus I have a lot of appreciation for the joint, I wasn't completely left off the dance card. Lately it's been Eulalie and her family that have got me back in there with their honest friendship. And the tussle with Vitto is ongoing. The other day I called him "Mary Poppins" and he flipped, saying he hated Julie Andrews and I'm a cunt. Like, who hates Julie Andrews?

Vitto's an amazing guy made up of angel and devil, like most of us, the human condition we all share. It hurts to hear him lionize a mob of fame-whores who wouldn't piss on him if he demanded a golden shower. I was there the day in the Noughties when Cardinal Pell was brought in by Father Syn from the Catholic church down the street. Pell's eyes popped when he clapped them on me like he'd seen Lucifer, then he turned his back on me and was introduced to Vitto. The old devil held out his hand and Vitto kissed his ring, like a good, somewhat deranged, lapsed Catholic, (I was reminded of the hallucinatory scene from "Rosemary's Baby"). Smugly satisfied he'd received obeisance from the queen of Roslyn street the monstar retreated with nary a look my way and after he'd gone in a puff of smoke I rounded on Vitto and hissed, "How could you kiss that man's ring, you silly old queen?" 
"What can I do? I believe in God, and yet I don't, at the same time. I'm terribly conflicted.!" 
"Hmmmm... that sums you up," I thought. "We're all in the same boat only with different leaks."


Monday, January 21, 2019

At the Cafe of the Fool's Nemesis.






At the Café of the Fool’s Nemesis.

Arthur stared into space, stoned, lost to his surroundings, lost in thought. Where had it all gone wrong? Was it when he was born into his low, working class station? When his father beat him too many times about the head? Or was it when he hit puberty and found his sexuality aberrant and his personality disordered? Was it when he crash-landed in Sydney, choosing the wrong city to operate from, a city rigidly class conscious, shallow and cruel? No matter, he couldn’t afford regrets; he was determined to let go of his grudges as it would only drive him further into madness and dysfunction.

He snapped to attention, aware a garrulous fool was asking him a question, hoping to impress him with a rambling story about what a hipster he was. Arthur knew he didn’t really rate in the guy’s estimation when, in the middle of his reply, his vacuous companion looked over his shoulder to see if anyone more glamorous had come through the door of the Piccolo Bar Cafe. Artie gave up, Hell indeed was the need for other people, and they didn’t give a fuck, wasting one’s time, gazing fixedly into their own narcissistic projections; he wondered why he bothered, no one seemed to have anything really interesting to say, at least not to him. And what of import could he communicate?

Can a few words in the right place save someone’s life, or change History, by inspiring a different course of action and thus defying fate? He cynically didn’t think so. He knew he wouldn’t have listened if someone had said to him not long after his arrival in this convict city, “Leave Sydney now, it’s not the city for you, go overseas, you’d stand a better chance of being recognized as a happening artist!” He had persevered with Sydney for forty years as he felt a burning desire to prove something to the nation that had bred and fucked him. He ordered a café latte from Vitto, the grumpy Italian barista, waiter and carnie barker for this Café on Freakshow Alley. With melancholy he then thought of Godfry and his shocking story, whose fate not even Mother Mary could’ve averted, with all her pious prayers and wise emanations.

Arthur and Vitto agreed that Godfry was one of the best looking, hunkiest of men they’d ever clapped eyes on, good-natured and masculine, alluring and athletic. Arthur remembered the night he’d sat at this very table with young Godfry, smoking a joint in bonhomie, before the shit came down. If only he’d spoken up and said what he truly thought, he might have helped avoid a lot of angst. If nobody ever really listens, what could a poor poof do? Godfry had inherited the Cafe Bread and Circuses from his Uncle Ozzie but he was only nineteen and had grander ambitions, too young and silly to take charge of a Second Reality hotspot. Whereupon his father, Joe Podesta, stood in the breach and tried to run the Cafe for him, keeping old Vittorio on as front man and star attraction.

Joe was dying slowly from prostate cancer and was in no fit state to handle or humor the rag-tag, freaky crew that frequented the Kitty-Litter Café. He particularly hated drug dealers and addicts, loudly bemoaning the Welfare State that supported them, forever trying to rouse the dazed Kings Cross Businessmen’s Association into cleaning up Roslyn Street, wherein the Cafe was positioned, ejecting the suspect denizens lurking in its doorways. Joe’s own daughter had been a long-time heroin user and had dragged him to the end of his tether; after all her wheedling and stealing he could only ban her from his presence, and blame drugs for all that was wrong with the world. His rancor built until he took to carrying a gun and waving it at would be drug interlopers, frothing at the mouth, scaring them off, for awhile, and scaring most of his faint-hearted customers as well.

All the excitement was doing poor Joe in; arse on fire he called in the cavalry and hired a Security Firm to visit the Cafe three-hourly to check all was quiet on the battle-front. Whenever trouble exploded, the Security Guards came after the event, making of themselves an added nuisance by glowering at the innocent potheads cowering over their coffees. Joe badgered the Police into harassing the area’s vagrants off the scene, any Bohemian type got questioned and searched, and the Café regulars couldn’t talk their subversive bullshit or smoke their ganja in a relaxed and civilized manner.

As a last resort, when some down and out junkie proved particularly tenacious at clinging to a table or shooting up in the dungeon-toilets, he called in his burly son, Godfry, to beat the shit out of the recalcitrant sod. There was much muttering and moaning of shock-horror from his peacenik patrons who had to witness the degrading spectacle of humans reduced to punching bags. The Café was devolving into a zombie-plagued wasteland, not like the Golden days when Ozzie ran everything smoothly and the place was a haven for artistes and intellectuals.

The mutinous mutterings against Joe wound down and the regulars stuck to their perches, for they belonged nowhere else. Vitto endured every calamitous brouhaha, ignoring the blandishments and threats thrown his way by the never-ending stream of seductive hoods, coping with Joe’s cranky peccadilloes and deaf to the cacophony of abuse and demands from the Café’s patrons. Joe had been a Security Guard himself for twenty years and dreamed of his son going one rung higher and becoming a Policeman, the epitome of a respectable career in his eyes.

Godfry should have settled for the Sacred Weed Cafe; with pot dealing on the side it was a hip, viable business; but why be a small time ganja crim, he thought, when you could jump into the big-time and get a Doctorate in Crookedness simply by joining the Police Force. He was smart enough to realize he could amass greater wealth under the cover of a Cop, a legalized, protected criminal as it were. Thus Godfry and his father’s dreams vaguely coincided, though Joe would turn into stone if he knew the eventual outcome.

That night when they sat at the table together, as he passed the joint, Godfry told Arthur that he was applying to the Police Academy to be a Cop. Arthur should have strongly emphasized, “No, don’t do it! You’ll make your family miserable, destroy your youth and bring on ruination for all. Everyone will hate you and disown you. You are inviting disaster and damnation!” Instead Arthur said nothing, he just mouthed platitudes like “Everyone’s gotta do what they gotta do” and “Que sera sera, whatever will be will be”, toking on the spliff, smiling enigmatically, for he hated Pigs and hoped never to know one. What to do? Godfry had a date with his Kismet.

While most people derided Joe as a mean old dork who wouldn’t even give Vitto a Christmas bonus, Arthur liked him, for he was a stalwart old bastard, straight forward and upright, gruffly naïve for all his conservative, narrow-minded views. Poor Honest Joe died of cancer within the year and Godfry went on to become an outstanding Police Officer who tried to corner the franchise on party drugs for the inner-city ravers, running his whole operation from the Bondi Junction Police Station.

His partner was a steroid-addicted fellow cop by the name of Johnny Stompano, not too smart, but as an over-muscled body-builder he could stomp on anyone who got in their way. Together they hustled the Sydney-city clubs and ware-house raves, the gyms and beach-side cafes, selling Ecstasy tablets, marihuana, Acid, Speed, cocaine and steroids by the plane-load, and, devil may care, they sampled too much of their own wares. It all got away from them, blew up in their faces, and try-hard Old Joe rolled over in his grave.

Urban Myth would have it that Godfry’s courier, a naïve French guy, also sampled the goods he was carrying, taking copious amounts of Ecstasy and Acid on a three-day binge, till in the end he didn’t know which planet he was on. He tried to do a runner with all the contraband but Godfry and partner were on the trail and, after an all night drug binge also unhinged them, they badly spun out and would’ve done in Queen Elizabeth if she’d crossed their path. The Frechman’s room-mate stupidly rushed to the Bondi Police Station and blabbed to them he was worried about his mate who was running amok on the beach with a knife. This was the info Godfry was waiting for and, rounding up a posses of pigs to back him up, they blundered down to Bondi Beach to confront him and stop him from ruining the drug-running scam. They had worked themselves up into a tizzy and there was no way they were going to let this French wanker rip them off.

They cornered the tripping Frenchman at dawn on the famous beach; he blathered on idiotically about the drugs and their bastardry and was about to give the game away to anybody who had ears to listen, slashing a butter-knife at the demonic cops advancing upon him. While most of the cops from the station must’ve known about the illicit business, they kept their mouths shut and, as usual, closed ranks and let Godfry do what he will. He wanted his drugs back and he wanted the Frenchie to shut the fuck up! But the guy kept on babbling, waving the knife in their faces, he was in Lala-land with the fairies, and ogres were about to devour him. And Godfry was just as dizzy.

A few joggers passing by watched as the pressure mounted, Godfry and Johnny the Stomper both shaking their Service revolvers at the Frenchman, screaming for him to put down his weapon. The group hysteria ballooned, the maniac tripper jerked about like a robot in shock, the Cop’s fury flared white-hot, and the onlookers screeched. Godfry was drug-addled himself, lost in the heat of the moment, there was no way out, the fucker wouldn’t shut his goddamned, thieving mouth and chill out! “Rave! Rave! Gobble gobble! Gook gook!” gabbled the Frenchman.

“Blam! Blam! Blam!” They shot him dead.

The ensuing scandal shook the Halls of Piggery to their dungeons. While Godfry was hauled over the coals and indicted for murder, his partner fled to New Zealand where he eventually hung himself in his hotel room from the shame of it all. The outrageous details of their drug business were revealed at the Inquest, and it was mooted that their tentacles of corruption spread far and wide in the Emerald City. Johnny Stompano committed suicide over the mortification he had caused his good Italian family but he should’ve braved it out because after many years of investigation and sub-trials, like every other cop ever accused of anything, Godfry got acquitted of manslaughter.

As a Police Officer who had suffered a stressful situation in the line of duty, he was allowed to get away with it, cops being masters of mayhem and deceit. To this day his name is whispered ingloriously among the cognoscenti of deadbeat Café society and the stupid mug must hang his head in regret that he never took on the Dumb Luck Café where he could’ve led a laid back life, Prince of the Potheads, lording it over the hordes of damp-squids and bandage-queens slurping at their coffees.

If only Arthur had tried to talk him out of the Pig idea, but he couldn’t have influenced such a destiny, he was hard put to organize his own affairs; waking life for him was like a dream in which he tried to wrest control and find direction while a hurricane raged about his head. Swimming in a torrent of chaos, distracted, it was a miracle he stayed afloat and it was a hell of a job to get focused. All was in flux, the Café shimmering, its quantum particles colliding, scintillating, as if he was experiencing the flashback of a psychedelic hallucination, life-forms rushing by like in a time-lapsed film, the light strobing, darker, fainter, darker, fainter, until the Café Time Machine disappeared and Arthur passed out, too stoned to care anymore.

Before cranky, upright Joe Podesta died, fed up with all the malicious dramas, he tried to sell the Lifeboat For Losers Café but there were no takers, it was too much trouble and quackery for most businessmen’s taste. In fear that he’d have no reason for living if he was booted from his galley-post, Vitto mortgaged his apartment to raise the money Joe hankered for and thus, in his old age, Vitto had finally become the owner of the establishment he’d slaved in for forty years.

Vitto had humored, outwitted and cajoled the druggies for the longest time and they were unable to drag him down easily, and while the Ship of Fools Café felt like it was sinking into a morass of self-indulgent mind-obliteration, it was full steam ahead as far as the Old Queen Vitto was concerned. Night after calamitous night, Arthur jived to all the Café’s shamanic gigs with Vitto as the old Berdache, nights like a cave-man’s séance attracting restless spirits with a never-ending variation on absurdity, a freak-show wherein Vitto was the Mother of all Monsters. Movie stars, non-stars and monstars patronized the Vampyres’ Crypt Café over the years, Vitto welcoming them in like a camp Count Yorga, and if he were asked who was the Crown Prince of Monsters he would unreservedly shriek “Arthur Farthing!” and cross himself, for he was still a good Catholic, lapses notwithstanding, and Arthur was a child of Lucifer.

Arthur had worked hard to become the accomplished terror he was, he’d studied under Grand Masters in Divine Foolishness, and nobody could crack a ribald triple entendre, a salacious witticism, a scathing curse, faster than he. He waxed ecstatic taking the piss, calling Vitto Mother Theresa or Grandma Moses, mocking his mythic saintliness. He often had Vitto lamenting his victimization because he couldn’t get the joke, he had no sense of humor about himself, moaning like a mock-turtle, “Oh why don’t you cunts leave me fucking alone? Why are you always putting shit on me!” Long before other accomplished cabaret artists used the “Hole in the Wall Theatre” to portray its generic red-light history Arthur had treated the Café as if it were a twisted stand-up comedy club with Vitto as the straight man, and he milked the silly old poof for every laugh he could get. The passing crowd lapped it up like it was a bent Laurel and Hardy born again show.

Vitto loved to waffle on, making grandiloquent pronouncements about obscure, meaningless Hollywood movies and Arthur would tear him to shreds by making up ridiculous titles like “Splendor in the Arse” starring Arnie Shwartzbugger and Dolly Farton. The bad joke would suck the tizzy old queen in for awhile, mulling over the conjured-up, sordid movie scenarios, then he would suddenly flash that his third leg was being pulled and he would hiss, “Is nothing sacred in your fucking universe, Arthur?” Vitto loved to dish out the crap but couldn’t take it, so it was with mischievous pleasure that Arthur constantly teased the old Fairy, and anyone else who wanted to join in the banter.

To Arthur, Reality was a Divine Comedy of Horrors; laughter made the sadness bearable, if he didn’t laugh, he would cry, like Jimmie Dean at the police station, Beauty could only laugh in the face of the Beast. The very mention of that long dead film-star would suck Vitto into movie histrionics further, mooning and ballyhooing, as if he were drowning in a bottomless muck-pit of Hollywood detritus. Movies, shmovies, he went on and on about them like a scratched gramophone record, lamenting the passing of the “Golden Years”, “They don’t make stars like they used to” and “Where has all the glamour gone?” He was a fan of Mussolini, pre-World War Two in his mindset and he couldn’t swing with the pop culture of today. The rest of the peanut gallery joined in on the litany to the gods of the silver screen and Arthur found plenty of dumb opinions to crack apart with bad jokes.

Arthur felt fearless, he had been through a thousand levels of Heaven and Hell, been called every fag-arsehole under the sun, sat with the mighty and the humble, won a few accolades and many kicks in the arse, and nothing seemed to really faze him anymore. Life was short and shy boys got left without a dance. Toking down deep on his joint, Arthur reminisced into his cup of café latte on how it had been a long, bloody hard road to attain his kind of resilience, confidence and humor. He’d lived through much to become a punk freak and was determined to make subversive use of it, for the sacred cow of celebrity-mad Sydney needing badly to be satirized. Ever the horny satyr he determined to be the satirist to do it. And though its gutters were the toughest to surf, even if it took fifty years, he would make of Sydney a breakfast of champions.