Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Piccolo as Movie Theme Park.

I said there was nothing unusual happening at the Piccolo Cafe except the usual madness but I forgot to mention the movie within the movie scenario, where there's the quotidian excitement of film companies shooting their melodramas, nearby, on top of, inside the cafe. Recently the TV serial "Underbelly" shot scenes down Roslyn street and into the small park across the road, two real life junkie hookers even had a fight for the camera crew's benefit which we watched bemused from the windows.

Why has the Piccolo become a movie set? It's true old Vitto somehow met a lot of show business people over the last fifty years and he's made his cafe a mausoleum to celluloid/stage fame: icons, has-beens, wannabes, never will be tragics, his walls are lined with their musty photos and like ghosts they grimace down upon us.

But obviously it's the area that's picturesque, red-light, money-crazed, inebriated and the action all funneled down Roslyn street and delivered to the Cafe' door, ripe for good stories. I've hung around here for 35 years and I've got plenty of Piccolo yarns stashed, me often in the midst of the melee, winding the springs. Lots of artists have been attracted to this Cafe of Broken Dreams, we've organised our shows from here, music, cabaret, movies, theatre, paintings, eventually the Pic got the sobriquet of "the artists' cafe" and this fed a myth and more artists showed up.

It's like, get in line, so many bands of serious young insects have had their video shoots poncing about the cafe, they've never been there before or since, but somehow they were sucking up the cachet of "artist" they hoped dripped upon them from the eaves. I'd been reading in a corner for hours when one uncharismatic band called "The Flapjacks" asked me to move because I was sitting where they wanted to film, I told them to "Fuck off... and you should change your band name to The Muffins!"

But the cachet has ballooned, the Piccolo has become a theme park, Bohemian Artists and Ditzy Queens-land, the movie crews are so thick on the floor there's no seating place left. The last few weeks They've been shooting an ABC drama called "Rake" inside the Piccolo, lots of stars involved, some bullshit of human's jabbering nonsensically at each other like all soaps, with some wanker playing Vitto and the stars no doubt playing us, the loud-mouthed regulars. It's surreal, like meeting my doppelganger, I wonder if I've stumbled into a movie plot that wants to turn me into a ghost, like all the others flitting down Roslyn street.

Now I hear Jimmy Barnes is coming next week to shoot his latest video clip amidst the desperados' decor, he's gonna rock the Casbah Cafe, we must be hitting an arcane peak of "IN". Richard Roxburgh has since returned, not for a coffee, just to put up a photo of his ugly mug upon the wall, he'd never come before and will never come again, such is show biz. And not long later we got crowded out by yet another movie mob, this time to do a drama about Ita Buttrose of all people, now she's claiming Bohemian cachet, nogod save us, next it'll be John Howard turning back the boats from the Piccolo's doorstep.

What all these faux fans of the Piccolo don't realise is the cafe is always on the brink of bankruptcy as not enough people come there and actually buy anything. The phone got cut off last week and the electricity may get cut off this week and few give a shit. Yesterday yet another low-talent showed up to have her photo taken hugging Vitto in the doorway, then she had the nerve to sit at a table pretending to write her masterpiece while the famous dyke photographer fried our eyeballs with her explosive flashbulbs, the serious artist writing at the "artists'cafe", then they fucked off without even buying a coffee. I was hissing with fury and then called an "arsehole" for telling them to their face what pseudos they are.

Maybe it's cranky, bitter-sweet old Vitto They come for, to receive his blessing as if he's some shaman of celebrity survival. It's also the milieu we, the regular bums and art-slaves, have built up over fifty years, artists from the gutter, not just the penthouses and television studios. And I'm telling you, it would've been easier to have been a rocket scientist than artist, forget all the fame-whores!

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Nothing Happening but the Usual Craziness.

This is a wild cyberpunk 21st century world we live in but, for all that craziness, it's still an awesome challenge to stay alive. Sitting at the Piccolo we are told that Mark is dead, they found his body in his flat in Roslyn Street this morning, only 37 and a disaffected gay. I remembered his smiling wan face clearly, a big guy but pale and frail, he was on a cocktail of pharmaceuticals, anti-psychotics, anti-anxieties, anti-depressants, anti-epileptics, he even had a fistful of Ritalin the other day, and he had many grand mal seizures. I'll miss his enthusiasm for all things "movies", we used to swap DVDs, he wore great rock'n'roll T-shirts. Now his ghost will join the others swarming through the Cross, and I'll see him everywhere.

Otherwise nothing much but the usual is happening at the Piccolo Groundhog Cafe, Gregory the Kings Cross reigning Schitzo had to be taken away by therapeutic Police again for abusing the customers, shouting profanities into the air as if keeping the demons at bay. And a junkie crept into the Pic's Gelato Bar while Vitto was down in the dungeon toilets and somehow worked out the code for opening the till and made off with $100 but the ubiquitous CCTV caught his act in b/w clarity, his ugly mug greedy amongst the ice-creams, who then stupidly walked passed the Cafe the next day and was photographed by Richard Machine, then obviously found by the Cops on the Cross, (otherwise the workers get blamed for the missing cash.)

And all is quiet on the Northcott front too, Cursula rarely visits next door, whoever she lets crash at her flat is quiet like little mouseketeers, peace rules again, except for the fire alarm going off every day/night and the fire brigade rushing to the rescue, with only the Void to save, repeatedly, just when I fall asleep, and I'm in the Twilight Zone. The gay guys down the other end still argue like rabid pitbulls fit to kill each other and the sweet old lady who replaced Eric the Viking next door to me has terrible alcoholic binges once a month and brings drunks home from the Pub who raucously curses to bring the building tumbling down, "you cunts!" till dawn. But all this can be handled as the usual human drama.

The Cops have now got a No-go, No-warrant Needed Zone at infamous Northcott Estate and my front door is the only one in the whole complex that faces onto a public footpath, every deadbeat in the city marches past. I often find a mob of drug zombies having an injection confest on my doorstep, pre-dawn before the sunlight fries them, and I have to walk thru them, tentatively, like tigers and me the intrepid urban Jungle Jim.

What's really hard to handle are all the grudges and gripes that spin through my dysfunctional head, of bad turns done me in my turbulent Sydney experience. I've just got to get over it and break free. I got upset over a program I saw on SBS TV last night, "Every Family's Nightmare", how a fifteen year old boy got wrongly accused of rape but the Cops were incompetent and the Dept of Public Prosecutions ruthless in pursuing the flawed case till the defendants' parents had to sell their house to pay for all the legal costs. When the parents cried with relief at the end of the trial, when their son was found "not guilty", I cried also for I relived my own story of the early '90s when I was falsely accused of armed robbery, (of my local cake-shop!) The Cops in my case were too lazy/stupid to find the real culprit and verballed/framed me, later they were found to be criminally suss themselves, (believe those Underbelly urban myths.)

The Dept of Public Prosecutions pursued me like Nazi SS tho there was copious evidence to prove my innocence, why? Because there were jobs in it for all of them, lots of money to be drained while lives are ruined, and no compensation. (And not much later the Deputy Prosecutor got caught with kiddie porn on his laptop!) I eventually got acquitted of course, after three years of torture, I went mad, basically dropped out, who wants to contribute to such a fucked world?

And here in 2010 I'm still seething with fury, the Cops and Prosecutors will always tend to be powers unto themselves where the Almighty god of Money is concerned, when you see the number of drug busts across the country it's obvious there's too many jobs and too much money at stake, straight and illicit, for the Powers ever wanting to consider drug decriminalisation. While such fascists make sure their drug of choice is available every three doors, ALCOHOL, the deaths, the miseries, car crashes, fights on street corners and kitchen sinks, unconscious zombies pissing their pants in the gutters.

Yeah, real paradise, this cyberpunk Sydney is. But I have to chill, get relaxed, otherwise I'll have a heart attack. Let the shit go, find cathartic release in writing my Proustian chronicles, remembrance of things past and future, novels within novels, from my silent room. And one day I'll fly out of here, for a break.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

Friday, June 04, 2010

My Brilliant Non-Career as a Movie Star.

As I am a heart attack waiting to happen, I want to write a set of tales relating my brilliant non-career in the movie business, like testimony from a deathbed, to tell the truth of my travails, successes and failures, and curse my detractors. For 21 years I slogged away at it, “in the gutter looking at the stars”, but being a working-class fag I received little respect and had no connections, I didn’t go to a good school nor belonged to any powerful clique, so I was definitely “pushing shit up hill” wanting to be in movies in the bureau-aristocracy that prevails in Auz. The following stories are my truth, believe what you will, I swear by them.
Recently a mate of mine was shooting a movie on Kings Cross called “X” and he’d given me a small part in it, I play an old skeeze night clerk at a seedy motel and I drool over a teenage prostitute for 15 nano-seconds of screen-time. 

At last my star-turn had come! I have spent much of my life hiding in the dark in cinemas, living out endless fantasies, my fondest being the rags to riches variety, guttersnipe makes big in Hollywood as a movie star. So from childhood on I was possessed with the idea that I would somehow get discovered and become a luminous star, and I did kind of, only it was a mon-star I became, which is awful, but a catalogue of injustices made me so.
As a kid I’d stand outside the Princess Theatre in Melbourne waiting for the bus, while inside a grand musical like “My Fair Lady” was being played, and I’d sing my heart out in a high castrato voice, hoping a great Maestro like Diaghilev would stumble from the stage door and discover me, and like Judy Garland I’d sing on the silver screen “somewhere over the rainbow”. It was across the road at the Comedy Theatre that the great Marlene Dietrich fell off the stage and broke her leg, drunk from the angst of being so broke she had to wearily strut her stuff in a hick backwater such as Melbourne. So much for superstardom!

When I was sixteen Mick Jagger came to town to star in Tony Richardson’s movie, “Ned Kelly”, shot on location on the outskirts of the city. I fantasized crashing the casting agent and scoring a bit part as a wild colonial lad, in one stroke participating in iconic movie-making and getting palsy with my masturbatory pop idol, Mick. Only real life doesn’t have sunny Hollywood endings, proletarian poofs like me couldn’t possibly put a foot in Movieland, that abode of demi-gods, I was a little nobody from the Olympic Village Housing ghetto in West Heidelberg, destined for toe-jam to grease the Beast’s machine, at best maybe dress dummies in the window of Myers Department Store. And I had no stage-mother to push me, no encouragement at all, so I chickened out of even trying.

In my teens I did amateur theatre in suburban halls then I fled to India and pranced about in Goa with a group of musicians warbling silly sci-fi rock operas. As I grew into adulthood I figured the best way of becoming a film star was to make my own movies and put myself in them. Little did I realise the can of worms I was entering into when I cracked the backdoor of the Auz Movie-house. As I sat at the Piccolo CafĂ© waiting for my call to attend the shoot for the Kings Cross sleazebag epic “X” I thought about all the twists and turns that brought me here, the open-minded, kind souls who helped me and the smiling vampires, soulless artsholes and talentless dicks who fucked me every time I tried to realize a brilliant idea. I am a mangy old alley-cat squalling from my dumpster at the injustices of the world, those who ripped me will say it’s all a paranoid, dyspeptic bastard’s crap, who gives a shit, the telling of it will be fun.

The first of my grand film projects was called “My Survival as a…Deviant?!” By 1978 I had grown cynical and rebellious, anarchic and surrealist, I was a punk and reveled in anti-cinema via the underground, at pubs and rock clubs. A good friend by the name of Glen Lewis put a super 8 camera in my hand and I stumbled around Sydney shooting willy-nilly, interviewing all the city’s deviant and lunatic fringe types, swinging a hand-held camera about, the frame shaky, out of focus, the mike attached to the camera with the wind ripping up the soundtrack, very punk and cinema-verite. I had overheard two sharp politicos discussing the social relevance of “deviance”, I flashed it was a fitting through-line for all the claptrap I’d captured on Super 8, all the misfits finding their space and fighting for it, all good signs of a quasi-democracy in pursuit of happiness.

I’d been told there was a fair dinkum cool chap in the Creative Development Branch of the Australian Film Commissar, and while loath to be co-opted by Government handouts, I needed a few thousand dollars to put the raw material together for a complete final print, uncouth though it was. I tippie-toed into the functional, concrete building in North Sydney and up to the Film Commissar’s offices, and was lucky that the first person I ever met in the rambunctious, cut-throat world of the Australian film industry was the rare one in seven who will help a hot artist rather than hinder him. Chris Tillum was indeed a sweet, cool dude who, on sight of the footage and the script, recommended I be assisted as best as possible to help complete the project.

By 1979 I had shot many hours of shaky home movies showing how I lived in those times, broke and harried, at the Pyrmont squats where I lived with misfits attempting Utopia but constantly under attack, and the deviant types I came across blabbing their dispossessed souls out, pot smokers, anarchists, a gay aborigine, a feminist stripper, a stream of cranks and renegades, and me the iconoclastic artist wandering in and out of frame, pasting up my scurrilous posters upon the walls of the city. This “Survival” film was very bad and almost unwatchable, but so was the life I lived, unslick, and what do you expect for three thousand dollars anyway, “Godfather Part 7”?

I guess the toughest part of the shoot was outside the rock club “Rags” on Goulburn Street, while I was filming deviant teenage past-times a gang of rednecks attacked a group of Punks who all ran back into the club leaving one little fellow to bravely fight off all the thugs. Without hesitation I placed my camera on the ground and ran to the melee, throwing punches at all the morons’ heads, breaking the mob apart in their surprise. I picked the Punk up from the road and dragged him back into the club before the fuckwits realized we had escaped. Up until then I was the fag outsider, now I was told I was the only guy with any guts and welcomed into the Punk fold. This was just the beginning of all the battles that would ensue in trying to make it in the elitist field that’s called ART. (I know, the Big Hero, but that's how I grew up, punching it out with everyone.)

To be anarchically outrageous, I premiered this Super 8 monstrosity at a benefit for the notorious criminal, Ray Denning, at Garibaldi’s Restaurant, to raise money for his various legal challenges, he’d had such a hard life and I was suckered into his claims of prison-guard brutality, and it seemed to fit with my theme of deviancy. (I was a member of ‘The Prisoner’s Action Group’, we protested the brutality of prison guards and managed to reform the gaols considerably, but in this particular instance Ray was lying, wanting revenge against the System badly.) I designed a fleuro poster of a giant cartoon Santa Claus, with half-demonic face and horns, descending upon my squat to crush us squatters pictured in photos in the bricks of my dockworker’s cottage. “My Survival as a Deviant?!” was a graphic title that grabbed the oddball crowd’s attention and the night was a rollicking success, most of the punters liked the film and thought it captured ‘deviance’ in the raw.

As the interviewer in this documentary I had put myself in centre-frame but in case I felt too cocky I got wine thrown in my face by a gang of grumpy feminist dykes who accused me of using a deadly serious, political cause for the furtherance of my bullshit, artistic career. My eyes stung mercilessly, the “I am a camera” maestro blinded on his first big opening. I knew there was a bucket of sloppy mop-water in the loo and I badly wanted to tip it over their ugly mugs but for once in my life I took the punishment and smiled bitterly. I had, after all, finally arrived on the Scene. I would’ve bet the association with the much maligned Ray Denning would tarnish rather than brighten my reputation with the world at large, and as I was from the gutter I knew I was going nowhere except back to the gutter, for all my delusions of grandeur.

By 1980 I’d shown the film in many rock’n’roll venues, squats, pubs, coffee lounges, wherever they’d let me, the travelling presentation all part of my performance art. The Daily Terror newspaper miraculously gave me my one and only good notice ever by reporting that the Creative Development bureaucrats had cracked a bottle of champagne on the film being passed by the Censor, declaring it had artistic merit, all to my amused befuddlement. I tried to get it distributed by an independent agent, but to my dismay the only renters were government offices like the Department of Mental Health, who used it as a treatise on psychiatric aberration.

Yet all this attention whipped up the movie mogul in me and I schemed to make bigger and better films, politically incisive, only with a fantastic edge of science fiction because I wanted to throw some colour onto the squalidness of social realism. Dreary real life had lots of fantasy in it to soften the hard edges, or so the confabulist in me felt, and so I worked hard to learn animation to use as special effects for my next big film project, “The Thief of Sydney”.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.