|French's Tavern - The Night Ray the Bouncer Got Stabbed - Toby Zoates 2015.|
I hung out in its black dungeon untold times, made friends and got my nerve-endings frazzled by the electric guitar riots, rock music one of my enduring addictions. It was a tough dive, the big fat bouncer Ray had his hands full dealing with the raucous drunken misfits that stumbled in and out. I always wondered how he managed, being fat and all, I guess his strength of character was imposing. Sure enough, there came the night he got stabbed, I arrived not long after, was all agog, and relieved he survived. What a life! Bouncing at a rock'n'roll gladiator pit!
I was 27, naive, bold and adventurous, up for anything, hoping to make something of myself in the new brash city of Sydney. Thinking it was egalitarian, a level playing field, I was a fool, I didn't understand about old boy networks, private school backgrounds, class prejudice, conservative politics, I thought talent, intelligence and guts could achieve success: what a dope!
|My Mural on Pyrmont Squats - Toby Zoates 2015.|
We were under repetitive attack, from gangs of local rednecks, skinheads, junkies, motor-bikers, the City Council, bulldozers, Television News camera-men, Feature Film crews, fire brigades, and cops, cops, cops. Battling them all off and yet keeping our cool made us strong, smart, cohesive, we called ourselves The Pyrmont Self-help Housing Co-operative and we ran an anarchist media-response called "Panic Merchants." For the last 7 years of the squats the Council promised to renovate the 150 year-old workers cottages and give them to us as an Artists' Co-operative, and we met with the bureaucrats a hundred times, with architects' drawings, lawyers' proposals and much hope.
But yet again I was shown to be a naive fool, civil-ibertarian activists are not top of the popularity charts with govt. pollies. They reneged at the last moment, we took them to the Supreme Court and lost, THEY gave us Public Housing instead, which many years later I am still thankful for, tho sad I now live alone without co-operative renegades to warm the cockles of my heart. The cottages were indeed renovated but handed over to respectable restaurants, art galleries and art-colleges, and Scott St. is now a tourist attraction, thanks to us fighting off those who would destroy them.
|The White Bay Anti-Uranium Riots of 1977 - Toby Zoates 2015|
Some fellow rebels and I trespassed onto the ship to obstruct the loading, the rest of the mob fought the cops and threw Molotov cocktails at the behemoth trucks, or so my fantasy wishfully remembers. (We demonstrated against the possibilities that a traffic accident involving the trucks traversing the inner-city would spread radio-active material upon a great swathe of urban population, and that the yellow-cake potentially fueled nuclear-reactor accidents and bombs.)
We didn't even slow the trucks down but the riot got the city-burghers' nuts in a twist and THEY moved the operation up to Darwin instead, and uranium mining has continued ever since, the sixth mine opened by our then Environmental activist rock-star psuedo leftie Minister, Peter Carrot and the Pink Bats. The Aborigines on the land where they mine uranium see it as a dangerous serpent sleeping underground and not to be awakened by twisting its tail when digging it up.) I organized a benefit rock gig to pay our trespass/rioting fines, with the cops eyeballing me nastily from the front of Balmain Town Hall, They'd marked me down as the ringleader of a freaks' circus and worthy of suspicion.
I got involved with many other civil-libertarian issues, all of them threats to my safety and liberty. The Prisoners' Action Group and Women Behind Bars, Gay Lib, Housing/Squatting for the poor, Indigenous Australian Rights, Environmental Protection, on and on, not "rent a crowd" protest, more like "stand up to Big Brother" idealism. I was a naive fool, thinking I was in a democracy of free speech and allowable civil disobedience. THEY marked me as a serial pest, put a govt. spy next to me as my best friend and waited for me to trip up, in some back alley, where nobody would notice or care.
|The Present Day Sydney Gay Mardi Gras - Toby Zoates 2015.|
And we finally got decriminalized in 1983, ten years behind the rest of the world as always. Nowadays the Gay Mardi Gras is full of fun and color, the people, especially the young, liberated from sexual repression and uptight medieval mores, everyone dancing, laughing, free. There is still much on the political agenda for us gays, the big one being Equality of Marriage. For all that it might be an outmoded institution, let those who want marriage have it, Equality in everything I say. What do the right-wing fascists want, us to return to, toilets, dark parks, one night stands and pathetic loneliness? I will one day paint the '78 riot and bash-up but for now I felt like having as much fun painting as the parade itself encourages.
|A Sweet Kiss for Rev. Bile - Toby Zoates 2015.|
TV cameras zeroed in on us, the crowd screamed hysterically, the roar made my ear-drums thrum, on and on we kissed with the cops just roiling about, seemingly stymied at to what to do about it. Later on a Daily Terror reporter asked me, "What was that all about? You looked like an idiot!" I could only reply, "You just don't have anything to fight for!" To my horror it got on the TV news that night, and for years, on the ABC channel, every time a gay issue came up on the agenda, they showed this mad clip of my "protest kiss", and I cringed every time. We had the AIDs crisis at the time which needed Public sympathy and funding, plus I've always demanded acceptance of committed relationships among gays. Not that this wild "kiss-in" would achieve such, it was more like a Situationist stunt, to match the spectacle of Het normalcy the System is forever foisting upon us all.
|Framed by the Kings Cross Filth in 1993 - Toby Zoates 2015.|
Whatever, THEY didn't like it and in 1993 found THEIR chance to fuck me. I got framed for an armed hold-up of a cake-shop in a case of mistaken identity. At a time when big crims were selling drugs, guns, bank-robbing, pimping, murdering and extorting, innocent little me got picked on, as any bust looks good on their books, they were too chicken to take on the really BAD guys. Two corrupt cops from Kings Cross got a hold of me, looked up my record of civil disobedience, it maybe had a red-flag attached to it, they then psycho-tortured me in Surry Hills Police Center, put me under house arrest for three years and pushed me to the edge, reporting twice a week to the police station and countless preliminary court appearances, till I needed psychiatric intervention.
They changed my life path from "cult film-maker" to a bum wandering the world's highways and occasional performance-artist, and lifelong anti-authoritarian. I eventually got acquitted, in a courtroom next to that where Ivan Millat, the "Backpacker serial killer", was being tried. It was as if the State was saying to me, "You better watch it and shut that smart mouth of yours or we'll come and really fuck with you!" My case was an obvious frame-up, it stopped my ciil-libertarian media-virus output in its tracks, "Virgin Beasts" was my last film, I shat my pants and just couldn't give a shit anymore.
|The Man Who got Trumped, Happy Campers in Belmore Park - Toby Zoates 2015.|
I see the artist as outlaw, outsider, outrider. I only ever paint what I want to, I don't cater to, or get dictated by, ANYONE. I'm from the Underground, off the grid, under the radar, over the top, edgy, ahead of the curve. I'm a fringe-dweller, like my Koori brothers and sisters, an alien in my own country, dispossessed, disowned, dismayed. No matter the torture and poverty, I hope I'll always be creative, even from a park bench, it makes me ecstatic, and flies me higher into the Void.
These pictures and this rave are the basis of a show I'm performing on Sunday August 23rd at 583 Elizabeth St. Projects, Redfern, with my good buddy Paul Vassallo on electric guitar : "The Fool's Journey Thru Sydney in 7 Pictures." Below is my poster from 1985, "The Thief of Sydney", depicting the "Twisting of the Uranium Dragon's Tail" around Sydney's Centrepoint Tower, the dragon being a Koori myth I didn't know about till August 2015 while watching a TV documentary series called "The Story of Uranium", proving I was ahead of the curve from way back.
Naturally the National Gallery in Canberra didn't put it in the catalog of a famous poster exhibition it had hung in, "The Walls Also Speak", as it was too cutting. Instead They put in a trendier Jap DJ's poster, who told me he had copied its design from mine, with Godzilla attacking the same Centrepoint Tower, but no mention of Uranium. The mining companies, the nuclear power industry and the State want their filthy lucre so bad They don't want any nay saying so all I got was a kick in the arse for my endeavors. Such is life... on the wrong side of the tracks. Yet I'm so happy I did it all.