Monday, June 12, 2017

Irradiated in "The Lead Sheds!"

The Punk Poofy Cat is well known for howling, hissing, spitting and sometimes purring from his dumpster in a back-alley of cyber-city but I’m actually writing it from my social housing slum dungeon at ICE Central where I have lived out a laid-back life for thirty years fulfilling my creative dreams as I deliquesce into squalor via my penury.

At least starvation and ignominy has kept me punchy, I’ve got nothing to lose by being gutter-level out-front in my existential commentary and memories. I can’t help but cast back to the old days, when Sydney was vibrant with explosive new music, funky old architecture, grungy pubs and cafes that welcomed group conversation as well as juke boxes and pot smoking.

And I remembered a gig I put on in 1986 just down the street from where I live, The Graphic Arts Club, refurbished now into The Gaelic Club, just across the road from Central Railway Station. I had finished my 9 year ordeal of filming and cutting together a final print of my Super 8 meta-realist epic “Darling It Hurtz!” (Seven years in the Life of a Suburb and a Singer) and I hoped to premier it at The Graphic Arts Club. I hired the band-room, got onside some deadbeat bands including Paul Kelly and Some Colored Girls, got a few mentions in the press and got stuck into hand-printing 400 copies of a super fluorescent Punk-drunk silk-screen poster that I planned to stick on all the walls of Sydney.

The Lead Sheds Poster Workshop at Sydney University had long suffered my independent label, Toby Zoates, as a fringe-dweller to their “Dirtworks Collective.” They had cooperatively shown me how to make perfect, beautiful hand-printed posters using photographic stencils on silk-screens, and they encouraged my individual, original designs and tolerated my passionate social critiques and political causes, much of which they too supported. I paid for all my materials, cleaned up after myself, and helped them when they needed labor to put their own posters up on the drying racks. Promise, I would always be heartfelt grateful for their assistance.

Long before my “Darling it Hurtz!” poster, in 1978 I’d noticed cans of fluoro paints sitting idle in a dusty corner and asked who were using them, and was told, “Nobody, they are a new techno paint, almost ‘60s style fluorescent glow paint. We're not interested!” I recalled the fluorescent murals I’d seen in a hippie cafe in Bangalore, India, in 1973, of Alice in Wonderland in glowing colors against a black field, black-lights illuminating them into psychedelic mind-warps, and I’d been flabbergasted at how brilliantly the style could communicate visions.
Anti-Authoritarian Dance Poster 1978
I asked the workshop if I could use the unused cans of fluoros and, printing on waste computer print-out paper, I created my first fluoro poster, “The Anti-Authoritarian Dance” at Balmain Town Hall, with White Trash and A.W.O.L. bands playing and I must say the night was a rocking, roaring success.

Then I dreamed up my 1979 “Garibaldi’s Benefit” gig to raise money for the old Italian who ran the club in Darlinghurst and was going broke. I enlisted the aid of the rock bands “Tactics” and “XL Capris” to do the Saturday night music gig. On the second night I got the support of Cabaret Conspiracy with the drag greats Doris Fisch and Jackie Hyde, plus Simon Reptile and Fifi Lamour all doing their “Cabaret Conspiracy” and it was a thumping, rocking weekend, and old Garibaldi really appreciated the assistance we gave him.

By 1981 I printed “No Future”, a giant fluoro triptych, supporting the release of my comic book “No Future”, a sci-fi tale about a mutant race using Ulurhu Rock as a storage facility for nuclear waste and worshiping the radioactive monolith as a colossal godhead warning the future as to its eternal poison. 

All the while I shot my Super 8 film around the inner-city, particularly in Darlinghurst, in and out of its architecture, following the life of a new-found friend, a working-class woman, a junkie prostitute schizophrenic but hopeful singing pop-star named Jenny Jinx who dreamed of making it in the music business. She sang a few of her songs for me while she wandered about the backstreets of Darlinghurst, bouncing around in back-lanes. I wove this in and out of shots of most of Sydney’s contemporaneous rock clubs, bands banging on within, the obvious subtext being “it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.”

I went to the govt. arts body whose responsibility it was to make sure important artistic/cultural/historical works get made, The Creative Development Branch of the Australian Film Commission and I asked them for funds to do more filming of the current music scene and environs and complete the film. 

I got as my assessor an smart-arse trendoid who thought he was the final word in good-taste and hip, obscure Super 8 film, and who in reality had taken over the Sydney Super 8 Film Group and kicked me out as he couldn’t stand my style and the competition to his obtuse glory that I represented.

I call him Warnerbros and he knocked me back cold, me and my film about the Sydney inner-city music scene could go drop dead, (all that wondrous footage of the bands and the venues lost to history because of one fuckwit's small-mindedness!) I was furious at this dead-head’s nerve, his bigoted stupidity and blatantly jealous scumbag-nature. Thus I wrote a poison-pen letter about him to the bureaucrats at the Film Commission, telling them Warnerbros was a twerp who didn’t have clue about cutting edge film. THEY asked me to come in and I was given a check under the table for $6000 to finish my film.

I cut it together with some wild animation and put three Darlo folkloric songs in as sound-track, “Living in Darlinghurst” by The The, “Darlinghurst” by The Celibate Rifles and “Darling it Hurts to See You Down in Darlinghurst Tonight” by Paul Kelly. Paul got this line for his famous song when he saw the graffiti and mural I did on the Darlo Squat wall in 1981 and he promised me that he would reciprocate the inspiration by letting me use his song and personally appearing for 7 seconds in the film.

So there I was in 1986, having miraculously finished my film “Darling It Hurtz!” over a few dead bodies, and I was midway through printing the silk-screen poster for the film’s premier gig at The Graphic Arts Club. Before I could get over to the Lead Sheds to keep going I noticed this huge lug of a man loitering outside my Pyrmont Squat cottage for hours, pacing back and forth and giving me the willies. I stupidly went out and said, “Hey mate, don’t hang around out here, there’s nothing for you here, the smack dealer’s gone out!”

Without much ado he yelled, “Shut your mouth cunt!” Then he leaped upon me, half my age, twice my weight, and beat the shit out of me, broke my right arm and clawed my face till it looked as if a were-wolf had got to me. I called the cops, and though I’d seen the brute run up the hill to Wayside Terrace Council Flats, I told the cops I didn’t see where he went. An ambulance was called and I was taken to Sydney Hospital where I was operated upon, a pin put in my arm and my face bandaged up. I was there for a few days and thus couldn’t finish my poster, the gig was only 10 days away, everything booked and ready to go, and no poster promotion was ready.

Therefore I asked a few of my daring mates to break into the Lead Sheds and finish the poster for me, it needed two more screens of color applied and after drying would be ready to go up on the walls of Sydney. They rushed off to follow my directions, got into the poster-workshop from an open back-window and were finishing the job in wonderful zealous fashion.

But then one of the Dirtworks Collective showed up and went into shock at the temerity of my gauche gutter mates breaking in to use their precious facilities and complete my work. She abused them roundly, "How dare you break in here and use the materials without our permission! This is not a free-for-all!" She harrumphed and grumbled and they couldn't get a word in until she took a breath. Finding a break in her tirade they tried to inform her of my terrible calamity and need for help. But she nagged on and on, "What guttersnipes are doing mischief here?" Finally they blurted out how I was in hospital undergoing surgery from an assault and had begged them to finish the poster in time for the film’s premier. They then pleaded with her to be allowed to finish the posters as the film premier gig was important to me. She begrudgingly acquiesced, otherwise she wouldn't want to incur "the Wrath of Toby Zoates!" She shut her gob and allowed them to continue and in later years declared herself to once have been a “Punk” but I’d like to argue the point.

The film premier went off like a joyful brain-burst, I did some stand-up comedy, with arm in sling and face claw-marked, about the crowd in the Club coming over to Pyrmont Squats with me and taking on the gang of wharfie rednecks who beat me up, but I got a glum response to that dark joke. I’m happy to say that over the years the film, “Darling It Hurtz!” has garnered quite a reputation and been viewed a lot on Youtube.

There was a time at The Lead Sheds, in 1988, when the Bi-centenary of the European Invasion of Australia was to be celebrated by the Powers-that-Be and the general gronk population. It was proposed by all the artists that we each do a poster critiquing those celebrations, as they are in fact a cover for the brutal colonization and murder of a whole Indigenous race and culture that had thrived in the land for 60,000 years. We decided it would be best if we each also found a Koori to work with us on the design and content of the poster as that would give the First Australians their rightful input as well.

I had already lined up my Koori mate and fellow artist, Malcolm Cole, famous for creating the first Gay Indigenous float for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, him dressed up as a black Captain Cook at the helm of a mocked-up ship on wheels. Just as we were all rubbing our hands in glee at the subversive thrill of sticking the finger to the Bi-Centenary Celebrations Board, via a flood of hot, maverick posters stuck on all the walls of Sydney, a damp blanket was thrown over affairs.

Cips MacSalty
Chips MacSalty, genius poster maker and unacknowledged Captain of the good ship Lead Sheds “Dirtworks” arrived to inform us that his mother had begged him not to go ahead and do the anti-celebrations poster project as it would cast a dark cloud over events and go down in history as infamously bad taste and an insult to good manners, much better to go quietly, lift the wine glass and intone like robots, “Three cheers for the Queen.” His mother happened to be on the Celebrations Organizing Committee, and she also happened to be the Vice-Chancellor of Sydney University, and thus the existence of the Lead Sheds Poster Workshop was somewhat beholden to her kind patronage and discretion. I whined, “But it’s a great chance to show the reality of Invasion, to produce great art and get Kooris involved!?” 

“Oh no, too provocative, too inappropriate! Too much expensive hard work for something not so necessarily glorious.” I wept bitterly, and my Koori friend Malcolm was mightily disappointed.

Whatever, the anti-invasion poster project was abandoned, to my dismay, and we went on to cry crocodile tears for the downtrodden and polluted. Chips soon moved on to Darwin where he has run a marvelous design business supporting Koori causes for many years and is considered a hero of the leftist-design schools, and good luck to him. I thought he was a good mate, always praising his work, but I noticed over the last 35 years I have been excluded from any of The Lead Shed Shows, wiped from the records where possible, (I’m still in the collection in the National Gallery Canberra as thankfully I signed my named on all my works), and am never noted in Acknowledgements in whatever catalogs etc Dirtworks put themselves and their mates in, as if I was a plague case best forgotten.

I tried to be a caring, generous good guy, I helped him with his own work, cleaned up with them and even gave him my best toy, a “sputnik” style ‘60s TV set for him to watch his favorite shows while he labored over his masterpieces, a white plastic sphere with inbuilt television screen I very much cherished. I really thought we were friends! WTF!!! All along he was the straight son of the Vice-Chancellor of Sydney University and the Master Poster Maker and I was the queer upstart from a working class social housing ghetto in West Heidelberg, Melbourne. 

I sincerely thought the poster workshop was an open community facility where talent, especially from the dispossessed, was fostered. Perhaps they think I'm a self-promoting egotist who took advantage of their generosity and used them for my grand career. Guess what? I didn't get one. I've been penniless and art-workless since then, apart from what I've drummed up while on a pension or working with the dying in nursing homes. Never invited anywhere, rarely mentioned, and for all my squalling, I couldn't give a shit, because I still got myself a life, a wonderful life, of creativity and adventure, all that I've dreamed of since a child.

After seven years of toiling and creating brilliant posters in the Lead Sheds, even helping everyone else rack their hundreds of drying posters and helping them to clean up, I was never offered a paid job even once, chasing or dreaming up all my jobs myself. When finally a job came up "teaching silk-screen printing to Sydney University students" I applied for it, desperate for paid-work for I'd been unemployed for years, other than poster making. I got interviewed by "the cooperative", people I'd worked alongside of for several years, but they knocked me back cold, preferring instead a Greek macho prick who had walked in the door three weeks previously. Again, I was so pissed off with them, when one of them applied to be my Facebook friend after thirty years of my continued starvation, I firmly pressed the icon "IGNORE."

My bitching tales are my truths, this is how it went down, a bit of art history, honestly from my heart. I have just been reminiscing, about pseudo-fame, “collectives", the fun of abandoned dancing to real BAD-ARSE rock music, art gigs I put on, the race up the shit-heap of kudos in the “art-world”, the billionaire arms dealers investing in bullion art, and the artworks of mine that created waves I didn’t expect in the least. And I’m so fucking happy I did it “MY WAY!” Yet I got so irradiated at The Lead Sheds I passed into a shadow-world like The Invisible Man. 

Hmmmmm... life’s a blast, even in the middle of the gladiator battle, as the thumbs go in the eyes to gouge them out, it’s how quick you can weave and dance your way through the brutal attacks and thrusting knives that provides half the fun. Of course, I liked the helping hands better, they are the people that will shine in my memories.

If you liked, or were sympathetic to, my stories please go to the WEB address above and buy my book as you'll get the full tale of how I grew up and got driven into Freaksville.

Monday, June 05, 2017

I'm Dying to Put My Fist Through That Class Ceiling!

I know I’m always moaning and bitching, forgive me, but from being bombed in your home by arms dealers, stabbed on the street by a maniac, to being kicked in the arse by a jealous competitor, it’s a cruel world. I have often wondered why I can rarely get a break in the rigid class-bound society most of us live in and I can’t help but surmise part of it would be that I’m from a working class background and I’ve dared to try to get above my station.

I was at a rally to protest the funding cuts to the arts by our neo-liberal masters when I realized it was upper-middle class artists who were threatened with being dumped from the ARTS “gravy train”, the govt’s sink or swim policies having little effect on me as the twats running the arts bureaucracies hadn’t given me any funding since the 1980s. I thought this was due to the radical political/social critique of my work, even though I’d won world prizes for such, but a chance meeting with an old acquaintance gave me another clue.

I’d painted a mural around 1985 for a project in a social housing estate in Woolloomoolloo, “How Do You Feel?” It was a 20 foot high artwork on a pylon holding up the overhead railway-track to Bondi and was subversive of consumer capitalism, depicting the working people enslaved, trapped and beaten down within The System , and particularly scathing of the uranium industry and Australia’s subservient relationship with Ronnie Raygun’s America. Most of the other murals on the rest of the pylons were done by a middle-class intellectual, Mary Cloudsky, who was garnering many of the public artwork jobs about the city and getting paid plenty for it.

My work was up for a miraculous 25 years but was then taken down and destroyed by the City Council while Cloudsky’s faded, patchy imagery of the social housing history of Green Bans were left in place. When I confronted her with the fact that the destruction of my artistic critique was akin to the Nazis burning books and destroying "decadent art" she shrugged and said it wasn’t her decision, it’s just how things played out in our contemporary (chicken-shit) politically correct times.

But it brought to my mind the fact that we working class types are to be seen and not heard; uneducated and uncouth, it’s best left to our betters to speak for us, it’s their prerogative, they are born to the job of overseeing us underlings, there’s an industry of commenting upon our sorry condition and only the connected middle-classes are qualified to do it. Australia, for all the bullshit snow-jobbing of egalitarianism, is rigidly class bound, and us who actually live in social housing should keep our heads down and our bums up.

I know that since "Reagonomics" of the '80s, with deregulation of the banks and Wall Street, and massive reduction of taxes for the super-rich, the middle classes have been squeezed out and sunk more towards the working poor, especially in America. But here in Australia there is still a substantial middle-class that act as guardians on the door to upward mobility, professions  such as doctors, dentists, lawyers, advertisers, arts curators etc as well as an army of Govt. bureaucrats, and they make dam sure they keep a tight fist on those well paid jobs for fear that they might too sink towards the "lucky to  be working" poor. I, as an unheralded artist, sank even further down into that human morass called the "lumpen proletariat", the Underworld of the no-hopers, vagabonds, layabouts, prostitutes, thieves and beggars,  never to get an even break. There's only so many places on the gravy train and, as in the dystopian movie "Snow-piercer", it's a cut-throat battle to get ahead.

Many years ago, the Hollywood actor Jimmie Stewart, touring the world to tout for his best mate Ronnie Raygun's second term as President, was guest presenter of Hitchcock's "Rear Window" at the Sydney Film Festival. As he got out of his limousine I couldn't stop my Tourettes and I heckled him, "Hey Jimmie, Ronnie's gonna lose! History will tell, and Ronnie will eventually lose out!" I was rewarded with a free ticket to the movie by a bouncer which I enjoyed thoroughly, and I was right about the future repercussions of the old movie villain's policies, America's rich are bathing in money while the middle classes are squeezed downwards, and the poor are starving, begging for work at $10 an hour. This act, among others, surely did my non-career in, for the rich, the movers and shakers of our Society, were in the crowd and they were mortified by my outcry.

Pyrmont Squats.
I’ve discovered the ruthless fight for position, money and kudos in other sites I’ve tried to break into. I made posters as an independent artist at the Tin Sheds Workshop at Sydney University but got written out of their history. I was too smart by half and my fellows didn’t seem to like the competition, as in the future I was generally shunned, not because I was a bastard, but because I was a naive, cool cat and easy to fuck-over. There I was, a distillation of most of the under-class minorities our leftie intellectual elite champion, and they knifed me, out of sheer meanness and competitive jealousy.

And it goes on. Here in 2017 there is a "Dark Corporate" festival called “Livid” wherein “the connected” get to put on light-shows, especially in Kings Cross, my old hunting grounds. If you peruse these Blogs you’ll find many artworks and stories depicting the Cross, I’ve put on several shows there over the years, but the curators of “Livid” have coldly excluded me. A mate of mine referred to me as “the poet of the streets” and this has possibly done me in as there are other writers in the area who feel they are the only geniuses deserving of such a title; I renounce the sobriquet, I am a piece of shrieking shit and I know it, and I bet if my name was mentioned as a potential Cross character worthy of inclusion there would be a quick, “No, not him!”

 There's a guy named Jay Katz who once showed trash movies in a pub in Anandale for many years and I politely asked him to show my film " Virgin beasts" starring a few memorable rock performers of Sydney who had sadly died and I so wanted a show in a famous rock'n roll pub to remember them and give them the respect they deserved, but he politely declined.
At that same "arts funding protest" rally I spoke of above I saw Jay Katz with his fist raised like some low-rent Che Geuvera but when I went to say "hello" to him he turned his head away with his nose up in the air as if he'd smelt shit coming. He must've been in a bad mood that day, I have to understand that we're all fallible humans, but oh no god, why do I have to keep copping the blow off? His wife, Miss Death gave me a wan look as if to say, "What can I do, he's the boss and he's in one of his tantrums?" Instead of being diplomatic and self-effacing I should've heckled him on the spot, I'm tired of being the nice guy,but it only causes bad vibes, best to go my own way, I've got things to accomplish and he'll come around.

And a few years later he did, I think his wife read this Blog as a poison pen letter, he's being ever so nice to me, telling me what a genius artist I am, stroking my ego till I'm purring, he knows how to give the cat some cream. He's offered me a gig down in Darlinghurst showing my short animated film "The Thief of Sydney" and giving a talk afterwards so I'm quite mollified, I am the type to forgive and forget, but always be wary, the knife in the back could come at any time.

Most of the people who organizing  shows in Sydney are heterosexual couples and, for all the gay lib lip service, are secretly homophobes. I can just hear them in the privacy of their lounge rooms while they are getting pissed on cheap booze sniggering, “Oh, that Toby Z, what a nasty, presumptuous little fag he is!” Or they're upper middle-class gays monopolizing everything with money and kudos involved, screeching to a deaf and blind god, "I'm the most famous fuckwit on the planet!" No god, it's easy to get trampled in the rush for that 7 nano-seconds of tinsel celebrity. If you, my suffering reader, ever get to read my book, “Vagabond Freak”, you’ll find out what a cruel obstacle course I’ve had to run, the kicks in the teeth and the doors slammed in my face, mostly from untalented, yellow with envy, snooty shit-head middle no-class people who are desperate for the lime-light. Humanity crying to the Infinite Void, "I existed! I was loved!"

 I know I'm bitching like a real arsehole myself but what the fuck, we all know the dice get loaded against the poor, unconnected boat-rockers. The Sydney City Council fund and control most of the cultural festivals including Livid Light Show and the Council is run by a megalomaniac mayor with a tight cabal of PC squeaky clean dirty tricks brigade encircling her like a mob of mafiosi body-guards.

I've crossed her eminence's path a few times and she doesn't like people who speak back to her without kow-towing. Before her recent election, for her fourth term, she got a flunky to ask me for a painting for an auction that would help raise money for her campaign. Even though her mafia have fucked me over in the past, being a cool cat, I readily agreed and submitted the ink drawing below, titled "Undefeated", about the frontier wars between the indigenous Kooris and the invading Europeans in the first settlement days of Australia. This is a drawing I'd previously put a price of $1000 plus I'd paid a hundred dollars to frame it, and here I was willing to give it to her for free, and I'm a pauper on a pension.

The old flunky showed the JPeg of the drawing to her and the next thing I hear is it's been rejected, too controversial and violent, can they please choose another one, something nice, cows under gum-trees perhaps. I flipped and wrote them an e-mail informing them that their PC censorship was insufferable and they certainly could not choose another one. The Lord Mayor has the nerve to own her domicile in Redfern, an area where once the indigenous Australians lived and called their community but have now been moved out due to gentrification; in reality she's on their land, stolen from them, and has the nerve to reject any mention of history and fact. I was and am furious, she is no people's Mayor, she is a power addict, mixing with million-dollar elites, far from the street-level people's concerns.

Her and her cabal are a vengeful lot, never forgetting or forgiving the tiniest slight and they exert their poisonous power, secretly, behind closed doors, nothing which can proved, by blackballing from public events those they consider not onside or rude guttersnipes. This is a true story, not just my paranoid delusion, Sydney is a father-fucker of a city and I've been fucked every which way on every occasion, even when I've tried to contribute. No god, what a bunch of dicks rule here, they'd murder the Kooris all over again if they got between THEM, money for the boys/girls and redevelopment! 

Of course, I did myself in when I created the nomme de geurre, Toby Zoates, as The System will have blackballed me outright from every public event, the name being so subversive. Only tonight I was watching television and an add for the famous breakfast cereal came up, in between that amazing anarchic movie “The Purge – Anarchy”, and I flashed that my years of outrageous artistic output, particularly my writing, will have the Upper Class dogs who guard "The Door" writhing in their skid-marked undies. (I'm kidding myself, they wouldn't even have noticed me, too busy sailing on their yaghts and quaffing champagne.) What can a poor boy, with a brain and guts, do? I have to be true to what ART should be doing, telling it how it is for us downtrodden, people, animals and the planet as a whole!

Just when I’m about to have an aneurysm, I let go of the tension over all this shit as I have no power over IT or THEM, it’s just the way this dickhead place is. Forget my forty years of hanging around that shithole once called The Cross, (it's soon to be named upmarket West Potts Point), I'd be too paranoid to have the locals beady eyes upon me. I'll have to get into my mantra, meditate and know I have no worries. I’ve had a great life, my films have shown everywhere, my Blogs have had 59000 hits from all around the world and my new book, “Vagabond Freak” is a beauty and will surely, over time, get a readership as a wild 21st Century tale. So fuck you “Dirtworks” crew and Bug Swatter’s Gallery, my art will live on.