|Front Entrance of The Gunnery.|
All this nightmare-folklore horrified Artie, he saw the Skag Hag coming from seven hundred yards off and stayed clear of her. He was at least ten years older than all of the dark-castle’s denizens, he’d been around, inner-city Melbourne of the ‘Sixties, sleeping in the jungles and back-streets of India in the ‘Seventies, then the school of teeth knock-outs that was Pyrmont Squats in the ‘Eighties, surfing the gutters, cafes and brothels of Kings Cross and inner-city Sydney, and as such was no sucker for expensive thrills and nasty highs the kiddies of The Gunnery were indulging in. When he eventually realized what all the wannabe artists and young tear-aways were fooling themselves with he laughed bitterly and spoke boo-hoo platitudes, “To succeed in class-bound Sydney is tough enough without drugs adding to the trauma!” But they weren’t listening so he shut his mouth and left them to their devices.
|Pyrmont Cottages by Sully Herman.|
Drugs and artists seem to go hand in hand, they need the tranquilizing, the inspiration, the raw death’s edge to break-through mundane life and generate the wildest art; absinthe and opium, whiskey and heroin, artists generally need to be intoxicated to bring on their hallucinations and revolutions. But it’s what can also defeat them, bust their butts till not even a decent turd is produced, and all fond hopes for an artist’s paradise get shat on as well, their colonies collapsing in disorganized delirium.
Drugs, drugs, drugs, all the world is crazy for drugs, humanity's evolution into self-aware consciousness probably got propelled by drugs, mushrooms, opium, ganjha, yage, soma. Arthur's early education was perfected by an obstacle course of LSD and of late he danced ecstatic with MDMA on New Years Eve, but he always lived by the sage philosophy of "all things in moderation", just enough to get off but always in control. This rave is not Arthur's moralistic sermon against drugs, it's more a thank you note to himself for staying healthy, avoiding the pitfalls and having a long, adventurous life.
The '80s was the era when hard drugs really dug deep under the unwary fool's skin, like an extreme sport, death ever present, with no safety-harness, no shooting gallery, no needle exchange, no social worker to hold your hand and boo hoo hoo. To get a fit a junkie would have to steal, beg, argue, cajole, fight, hassle pharmacists till they relented and handed the gear over. Arthur wasn't just strong and smart not giving into the deep stone, he was also a wimp, putting junk in his bloodstream frightened him, as well as the milieu of scoring: the gangsters, stand-over merchants, and professional killers leaving bodies behind all the way from Thailand, Afghanistan and Mexico... uuuggghhhh! It gave him the creeps.
These were the late '80s when serial killer cops like Dodger Rogerson were on their rampage, running the drug trade from Kings Cross, bumping off anyone who stood in their way, the Gunners lucky to survive the onslaught. Arthur was not so lucky, to keep the attention off themselves corrupt cops framed innocents such as him with armed robbery charges, crimes they often arranged themselves.
The State didn’t need the cops to barge into and close-down freak-zones like the squats, the dreary white powder did it for them. (Look how the Hippie sub-cult of the '60s got fucked over by smack.) Punks believed in the urban myth of live fast, die pretty, touch death and earn your rock and roll credentials. Arthur viewed it caustically as a suckers’ philosophy for lost-soul dreamers. He was proud he never touched the poison, someone had to be a kind of role model to prove it could be done, creativity without zombification.
He didn’t give a flying fuck for the stoned rock and roll idols. He abhorred the act of shooting up and passing out, it was anathema, his skin barrier was sacrosanct. He was the type that wanted to get up and go for it, take the world out there by the throat, not get lost in the void of his intoxicated head. (Sadly for him he still ended up a deadbeat like most long-term junkies, it wasn’t just drug addiction that limited potential, it was also attitude, mental health and emotional balance to handle the fact that there was no equal opportunity in this world.)
There was the day Bawl wouldn’t cave into her carping and she ran at him with a huge carving knife, he threw at her the first thing that came to hand, a roll of barbed wire that wrapped around her legs, like garters for the torn black-stocking look she favored, her screeching to wake the dead, such sado-masochism not so cool to her anymore. Sardine, uptight trannie ordinaire, called the cops on him in defense of brutalized womanhood, the cops growing more weary by the day of the one thousand and one emergencies happening at The Gunnery that they were called upon to sort out.
|The Butchered Babies, Wendy, Mia and Hazel.|
Don't mistake Arthur's sub-text, the Gunnery wasn't only about drugs, this story is more a meditation upon the pitfalls of dangerous ART. To reiterate, not everyone fell into the drug trap. Goose and Susie from Box the Jesuit weren't into it, music was their high. There were two young interlopers, Marcus Gills and Jen Smith, innocent as Hansel and Gretel in the dark urban jungle, offered the luscious white rock-candy at many a party, told they had to pay their dues if they wanted to run with the hard rock crowd. They avoided the nonsense and listened to Arthur when he advised them it was fool's gold promising a wealth of false consciousness. Sadly, Jen was murdered in Newtown a few years later while trying to get money from an ATM, she was such a good, smart soul but it still didn't save her in this cruel world. Thankfully Marcus stayed strong and smart and went on to be a brilliant filmmaker.
Arthur was much bemused by one such dilettante named Mal Licious, a rich boy slumming it for the Bohemian kudos. He’d gone to King’s College, snootiest school in Sydney where they dressed in red soldier's suits like the Rum Core of the convict era. He thought he was the epitome of good taste, absolutely the coolest cat meowing at the Gunnery. He was a spoiled brat from a millionaire real-estate family, they would always be there to drag him out of any hole he threw himself into and buy him whatever career he finally settled upon. But like the rest of the fools, “rushing in where angels fear to tread”, he also got himself a heroin-habit thinking it was ultra-cool, he’d made it to the “William Burroughs” world of “live slow, pay dues, act tough, fuck-up, get monthly allowance, get saved”, doing time in expensive dry-out clinics like The Buttery to get over it.
Sometimes, on one of those rare nights when all was quiet, suddenly the Navy boys from the ship-yards would break in drunk as punks, screaming that the building was still theirs and they were gonna beat the shit out of the dirty squat poofters. This was when trannies like Sardine and Holly would step from the shadows and use their winsome talents to mollify the marauders, sweet-talking them into a back room and sucking their burning cocks, relieving their warrior machismo of tightly wound up tension.
|Gunnery Festival Program.|
|Art by Stu Spasm.|
Mal Licious, effete poof about town, was the assistant sound editor and one of the contributors who helped ruin Arthur’s rock-music film, "Virgin Beasts", fore-grounding the sound-effects instead of the music and, at a party in the backyard of the Gunnery, brayed to the collected freaks that the movie was nothing but a heap of shit without his glorious sound-effects work. Arthur snapped, he was a poor boy from the wrong side of the tracks and was never going to get an even break, and many of the spoiled brats he met along the way made sure he’d get fucked instead.
And Arthur thought of them every day that he creaked on, sweet and crazy souls such as Peter Read from Thug who was a joy to hang out with, and while frustrating in his wildness when it came to actually getting something done, contributed some of the wonderful soundtrack to "Virgin Beasts". Though himself supremely healthy, Arthur in his sixties often considered bumping himself off as he found the existential burden of responsibility in an unjust world maddening. And to do it he would love to just give himself a heroin hot-shot, to finally be the junkie he'd long struggled not to be.
|Thug with Peter Read on the far left.|
Stoned much of the time, she lived in a cloud of confusion. In a cabaret act with Mia from "Butchered Babies" she'd cooked up the brilliant idea of pulling a string of razor-blades from Mia's cunt for the delectation of the audience. Only she forgot to put sticky-tape on the edges of the blades and cut poor Mia's miff to shreds in the nutty fiasco. Another time she got onstage with a candle burning atop her piled up hair-do and while she croaked her "Salon Kittie" song and dance number the candle's flame spread to her hair and her whole head was about to go up in a conflagration. The audience merely watched passively, let the bitch burn, and Artie half agreed but he couldn't handle the tension. After waiting eternal moments, the fire spreading, he suddenly leaped up to her and swatted her head violently, bang, bang, bang, to put the flames out, much to her irate protests. Later on she swore the fire was part of the act, very daring, but Arthur thought she was full of shit, he'd saved her from terrible scarification.
Too addled to write a book, if she got a ghost-writer she'd likely wipe Arthur’s presence from the Gunnery's history: everybody not only wants to get into the act, they want to take over and be the only act worth mentioning. It’s who gets the right contact and prints the book or makes the video first that wins and, in the end, nobody gives a shit, winners are history's spinners and all that’s won is more shit. Thus was Arthur’s cynical surmise.
|Box the Jesuit with Beloved Goose Pressley Who Died Young from Leukemia.|