Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Do Deadbeat Freaks Have the Right of Reply?

At the risk of coming across as a boring nutcase I feel I have to yowl this one out loud. I want to tell you about the “long and winding road” that led me to here, Nowhere, the Infinite Universe in a back-alley dumpster. 

I went to a gig at Record Crate the other night and an old friend told me a woman I knew, Astrid, had died, at the age of 52 from a brain aneurism. He said a few people spoke about me at her wake and I couldn’t figure out why as we hadn’t had much contact over the years

I first met her in 1979 when she was about 19, vivacious and smart, the whole world ready for her grasp. She was a Punk Super 8 filmmaker, hanging around the same Punk scenes as I was, shooting the action. Against my advice, she got into heroin, for a very long time, and had all Hell getting out of it, so that, in my opinion, her stride faltered and, like many of us up against the wall of poverty, addiction and infamy, did not fulfill her artistic potential.

When she was about 27 she came up to me and confessed, “I was putting up your “Darling It Hurts!” poster in my office and someone congratulated me on the brilliance if its creation and I accepted the praise as if it was mine, that I was the artist behind the work.” I laughed and forgave her, at least she was honest and told me to my face, many another has ripped me and carefully wiped me from their history. I loved Astrid and I’m very sorry she had to die young. I've written about some plagiarisms in "The Artist as Outsider" so I won't bore you by reiterating them, I have enough quirky anecdotes left over to tell a rollicking bad tale.

In all the years I’ve never bothered to trawl the Net to see what is being said concerning my humble self, but lately I did it and noticed a torrent of bullshit, lies, mistakes, exaggerations, thefts and usurpers, and I’ve decided to set the record straight, from my heart, if it’s at all possible that a deadbeat freak like me should get a right of reply. I might drop dead at any moment and I’ll be fucked if the lost desperadoes, the money-grubbing hucksters and the fame-whore cunts get away with stealing my soul’s image.

It’s amazing, everything eventually comes out on The Internet, it’s like global mental-telepathy. And everyone wants to tell their story, a hurricane of blabbing, thus a vast amount of information gets communicated, every detail of history and folklore, and plenty of history revisionist wanking, winners are grinners and the shamelessly hungry make great bullshit artists.

Also I want to again take up one of the 7 narrative threads that weave through “The 7 Lives of the Punk Pooofy Cat”, of the travails of the struggling artist, (the other six are the Aussie misfit, the deadbeat freak, the homo liberationist, the anarcho-mystic, the global wanderer and the sci-fi nut.) Though it’s a literary cliché, I hope to explain the pain involved, the ignominy and difficulty of producing ART in this contemporary world of celebrity, venality and cruelty, to be heard above the clamor from the multitude of wannabes, all shouting that they too deserve to be Immortal.

So here goes folks, more hissing, spitting, yowling, howling from the punk poofy cat, enjoying himself thoroughly, giving the finger to the "control-gronks" who think they are “Masters of the Universe” but are in fact walking, breathing bags of interstellar shit. And so am I but this is my side of the story.

I cringed the other night when watching a documentary on ABC television, “Making Australia Great – Inside Our Longest Boom.” As some kind of political/cultural expert They brought on the environmentalist rocker come Labor Party turncoat, Peter Carrot, who seemed to claim that his band, Midnight Soil, were Punk in those long ago rocking years of the late ‘Seventies and early ‘Eighties. I was a Punk punter in those days and we did not consider his band punk, more like Christian activist/spastic, by making all the right moves they quickly joined the ‘Establishment’ with top venue appearances, record contracts and television shows.

French's in the early '70s, not so punk but very underground.
The real Punk bands remained in the Underground in low-rent clubs like French’s in Darlinghurst, pubs like The Grand at Central, warehouses and squats. Punk bands like The Rejex, Bedhogs, Soggy Porridge, The Slug Fuckers, The Nerve, Kiss My Poodle’s Donkey, Lipstick Killers, The Hard-Ons, Monroe’s Fur, Thug, Box the Jesuit and Lubricated Goat, (the last band being the rare one to get to TV where they performed naked.) Few of these Punk bands got record contracts, TV slots or footnotes in the history of Auz rock’n’roll, they were truly Punk, Underground and unknown.

Peter Carrot eventually became a govt. minister, (many of his songs were anti-establishment i.e. against Uranium mining, saying it feeds the nuclear war machine, then as a Labor Party huckster was made Environment Minister and given the job of opeing up a Uranium mine!!!) twenty years later he feels he has the kudos to rewrite history, the spotlight is owned by his kind, winners and cheesy grinners, he wants his $200,000 a year pension, his are kissed because he made it so far in the public eye, plus the cachet of being “Punk” and therefore cutting edge. He's greedy, he wants everything, both sides of the tracks. Many another is also rewriting history in their favor as they all want the hot rep of having “been there, done that”. I didn’t do that much but I still feel to correct the misrepresentations.

In early 1985 I premiered my short film, “The Thief of Sydney, at the Academy Twin movie theater in Paddington, in the beginning of which I show, in animation, Sydney being hit by a nuke, the water rushing out of the harbor and busting the bridge, and only a huge ditch left behind. Within the year Midnight Soil put out their “famous” record cover, "Red Sails in the Sunset", with a similar design, the harbor as an empty ditch with Sydney in ruins, the bridge broken, after a nuclear strike.

“The Thief of Sydney” can be viewed on Youtube, published there on Jan 13, 2015, with a credit below it reading, “by Oz Flashman” and “produced by Toby Zoates”. I don’t know who this Oz Flashman is or what he gets out of posting my film but I slaved over that piece of shit for 5 long, hard years, writing, producing, directing, designing, animating, acting in, choreographing and directing it. (I only hope he’s simply trying to help me by promoting my work and not trying to take credit for it.)

Troma of New York took me on and released “Virgin Beasts” with “The Thief” as prelude in 1991, giving me only $1000. Every year since they send me a bill telling me I owe them $63000 for distribution costs, which now in 2015 has been reduced to $57000, even though THEY have re-released the film in 2005, maybe because it’s a cult hit and is making money, though I’ll never know as THEY seem to keep two sets of accounting books. In the meantime I literally starve.

TROMA also have me down as being the director of “Wiseguys vs Zombies”, (Sopranos meets Dawn of the Dead) = WRONG! I’ve never had a thing to do with such crap, maybe it’s a misprint, or THEY are using my name as a tax dodge, or capitalizing on some “Underground Artist” rep I may have??? I don’t know or feel chuffed about it as I don’t get any work or even an extra seven bucks out of it so THEY can go fuck themselves.

A friend of mine, Brian, recently visited Troma Headquarters in Long Island, New York, he only recognized the down market building by the graffiti of "Toxic Avenger" spray-painted across a roller-door. Inside the dinky offices he found a shoe-string business model, no fancy decor or whiz-bang techno equipment, just a few volunteers working hard to keep the cheap-skate shlock enterprise afloat. He met Michael Hertz, co-captain of the BAD ship Troma, and again got the impression it was a business on the skids. 

Brian mentioned he was a good friend of mine, Toby Zoates. "Who?" "The fabulous creator of Virgin Beasts." "Oh yeah," agreed Michael, "that guy is very talented!" "Well, he's been so egregiously disillusioned by the movie industry, he's given up and not interested in doing more. He's been busy ever since starving!" "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that!" commiserated Michael, no sign of a royalty check appearing on the horizon.

My silkscreen posters have been sold to or being sold from several galleries and I have only ever received fifty bucks for a few of them. This includes the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, The Queensland Art Gallery, (a State that has knocked me back every time I’ve tried to enter my animations and artworks in festivals and competitions in their hallowed halls), The Powerhouse Museum, The Breathing Colors Gallery, Lawson’s Oriental Sales and Prints, and Josef Lebovic Gallery, (the latter, though selling posters I made from the dole for thousands of dollars, and giving me nothing, still did me the honor of putting my work in a major exhibition of influential Auz Posters of the late 20th century so I'm half mollified.)

Betterangelsnow.com has me born on December 31st 1969 and The Heritage and Conservation Register has me born in 1946, both wrong, I was born in 1949. The latter really gave me one of the best raves I’ve ever gotten, telling how my fellow squatters and I saved the 1850s heritage workers’ cottages in Pyrmont for posterity and how I’d premiered my short, “The Thief of Sydney” there, before it went on to show around the world, somewhat unique in the annals of cinema history.

The worst review I ever got was from some dickhead named Kevin Lyons who has run a Blog since 2005 called “Kevin’s Cupboard” in which he tries to come across as an incisive horror/fantasy movie critic, as if we don’t have enough of them on the planet. He tears “Virgin Beasts” to shreds, ending with, “He’s never made a movie since, thankfully, and he shouldn’t be allowed to.” If only he knew why I stopped making film maybe he’d give me a break, (read “The Big Fuck-over” in The Punk Poofy Cat’s Blog.)
 Everyone has a right to their opinion, I just think he’s a gronk and didn’t get IT, maybe he hasn’t read enough or seen enough, whatever, save us from “movie experts”. Many of them don’t care that Underground filmmakers have no money, they measure the works up against the spoiled million dollar fuckers, forgetting that my cheap shit still showed around the world and won Best Trash Film at Freakzone, Lille, France 1996 and those French Punks aren't dumb. Anyway, he mentions another work that I’m responsible for, “The Victim” in 1979 = WRONG, I never heard of it!

In the middle of this assassination dear Kevin refers to me as a "professional artist" = WRONG! I rarely got paid for my art, not enough even for a day's living expenses. I gave my work away, did the labor for free or got ripped off. I've lived off recycling garbage from dumpsters and govt. hand-outs and when I couldn't put up with that any more I went back to palliative-care nursing and gave up the pretense of doing art. If Kevin had his way I'd never have a paid job. In the face of "High Capitalist" greed, pollution and exploitation I'm happy to be a bum. In contemporary "western society" Art is a syphilitic old whore who has been fucked to death

This brings me to another kind of cheap film-making, that of Super 8, which is where I started in the late 1970s. I was trawling their site, “Super8FilmGroup. blogspot.com and I read about their taking over the Super 8 scene in 1983, running the ensuing festivals with a hardcore group of six film mafiosi hard-nosed dicks. I’d participated in the Super 8 festivals from ’79 to ’82 with my rough “street life” cinema verite but got excluded once these father-fuckers took over.

I’d already premiered my sixty minute ordeal, “My Survival as a Deviant?!” in 1980 at Garibaldis Restaurant in Darlinghurst. I’d got a big crowd and a lot of applause, as well as wine thrown in my face for being a pretentious try-hard, and the film went on to get a mention in the Daily Terror arts page as having “some artistic merit.” I didn’t realize it at the time but this must have made those hardcore Super 8 film Mafiosi nauseously green with envy and out to bump me off. While THEY have exclaimed upon “the democratic nature of the medium” their efforts were secretly focused on the inner-circle of six and their work, especially two guys, Mark Dickmush and Gary Warnerbros, they were the Masters and there was to be no sharing the limelight.

Throughout the early ‘80s I tried to make “Darling It hurts!” in Super 8, paying for the production with my dole money. In 1986 I needed a few thousand for the final print and applied to the Super 8 Film Grant Office of the Australian Film Commission, which had been infiltrated by Warnerbros and he knocked me back cold. All that coverage of Sydney's Underground musicians and their venues was to go unreported because of those jealous  mean-spirited twirps. I had to write a poison-pen letter about this “dimwit” to the Film Commissioners and THEY gave me a check for $6000 under the table. I got my precious print made and premiered the film at The Graphic Arts Club with Paul Kelly performing live his song of the same name, “Darling It Hurts!” The "Deviant it got a great rep and has played in many venues, over The Super 8 Film Group's dead body.

In their self-promoting rave on Blogspot.com the cut-throat six present an endless list of films and filmmakers from their innumerable festivals and shows as if it truly was a democratic enterprise but, mysteriously, no films of mine get a mention. That’s because THEY ruthlessly refused me entry, I was some guttersnipe upstart poof from the squats who didn’t wear designer clothes or come from a good art school and make meaningless video blotches, whatever, maybe it was my loud mouth or nerve at having got there first.

But everything comes out in the end, it’s impossible to stem the flow of information. At the end of their ego-stroking Blog one researcher, Kate Richards, writes in the Notes, "in 1982 a film was shown by Toby Zoates", so there is proof of the earlier exhibitions before the shit-head fame-whores took over. If you want to see examples of my early Super 8 work go to You-tube and reference Stations of the X – Darling It Hurts! (posted by Jon Hewitt in 4 parts) - Scribble Sunday School – XL Capris at French’s (1979) – Interview with Punk outside French’s Tavern (1979.) Shoddy garage-production values yes, but think of it as post modern abstract expressionist vox populi video.

Now I want to talk about any misunderstandings about my part in the “Darling It Hurts!” mural painted in 1981. I noticed online in the Australian Museum of Squatting photos of both my design and the earlier attempt by The Compound squatters to paint a message on their wall. All of Sydney drove past it so the squat-wall was a major eyesore and war-cry. I had already started making my Super 8 meta-documentary and I was fixed on the title, “Darling It Hurts!” to communicate the pain of some of the suburb’s denizens, particularly one woman, a shizo junkie prostitute wannabe pop-star named Jenny Jinx.

My mate, Karl Blonde, lived in the squat that had the wall facing the thoroughfare and he had got the squatters to paint a basic design of a wide road cutting thru some buildings, with the graffiti “Darlinghurst on the road to oblivion” written in the middle. We both felt it looked a bit boring and I suggested painting some dramatic human figures into it. I then told him of my title for my Super 8 film and how I wanted to pixillate it onto a wall as graffiti. He loved the idea and thought my title was much pithier than what the squatters had already done. So he painted out his previous effort and gave me the go-ahead for my effort, kind collaborative soul that he is. I then painted the junkie hooker with a needle in her arm being jumped on by an alien monster called “Godzdollar.” (I’d just seen John Carpenter’s “The Thing” and was inspired by his alien design.)

I also painted a boy basker playing guitar, a bum eating out of a garbage can, a punk run down by a Mercedes Benz and a woman stranded on a traffic island, circled by sharks. As I climbed the tall ladder to paint the graffiti I turned to Karl and said, “Maybe I should change the title to ‘My Darling Hurts’?” “Nah!” he said, “Darling It Hurts!” is much more telling and punchier. Do it!” So for a few hours I climbed up the ladder, painting a bit of the title, then down to a Super 8 camera to take a single frame, then back up the ladder to paint a bit more, on and on, to keep the title writing itself, magically.

The Powers knocked the buildings down of course and put through their FREEWAY and Karl moved down to Melbourne. (I filmed the bulldozing of the squats and it ends my Super 8 extravaganza.) I wonder if over the years Karl and some at the Museum of Australian Squatting haven’t said to each other, “That fucking cunt, Toby Zoates, taking all the credit for the compound mural, it was done by all of us!” I agree, the mural is by me and Karl Blonde, that’s what I wrote on the bottom of the fucking thing way back in 1981. 

The reason I believe it was me who came up with that title is I’d hung around the area for a few years and didn’t think I’d heard it before, and I had a burning protest, about all the gay-bashing I and my kind had received in our lives, Darlinghurst being a gay neighborhood. But even more, along with prostitutes, I wanted to cry out my remonstrance at being fucked up the arse when I didn’t want it, or when my fuck-buddy was too rough doing it, “Darling it hurts!” It had really stuck in my craw all these years and I just had to get it out of me.

The last and most recent thing that has stuck in my craw to which I need to reply is the Vlogging and reportage of “My SOB Story", a live performance I gave during my show of "thirty-five works over thirty-five years" at the Damien Minton Gallery in 2012. The video-shoot was without my say-so as people do these things and I just go with it, not really giving a shit, but it always ends in some kind of grief and I try to avoid it if I can, running away when I see the camera appear. It was shot by Haydn Keenan for his Smart Street Films and he did a really good job, promoting me wonderfully.

The video has now gotten picked up by many art sites, for instance, “Scanlines – Design and Art in Australia, online Center for Australian Art” and “50 Shades of Slack.”  Always with Haydn’s acclamation, “From acid to India, the squats to the cinemas, bravura recounting of Toby’s artistic journey,” I’m very pleased he commends me so highly. There’s only one little gripe I’ve got to squeak out of me, namely, there’s five minutes missing from the middle of the performance, which nobody out there in Cyber-ville would guess at.

One of my biggest bitch-rave sobs concerned an exhibition of posters at the National Art Gallery in Canberra, obviously a big deal. While THEY hung my “Thief of Sydney” poster on the wall I didn’t rate even a mention in the catalog, “The Walls Sometimes Speak”, supposedly about politics and free speech. To my annoyance there was a certain artshole, Rag Bamboozle, who didn’t do political posters at that time but did do famous T-shirt designs, was in a trendy pop-slops band and was thus worthy of kow-towing to, and he did get in the catalog. Bamboozle has gone on to be a millionaire, and held up as the hottest and best pop artist this country has ever produced, he gets every zillion dollar job going, from the Sydney 2000 Olympics to the Sydney New Years Celebrations 2013 where his art was projected onto the Sydney Opera House. That’s all OK, that’s the fall of the dice, I accept that. The guy is dam lucky and talented.

Way back in 1977 I had hired that same pop-slops band, “Mad as Cut Snakes”, twice, at fifty bucks a pop, to do political benefit gigs for me and I designed the posters, ("Blood On the Streets"). Bamboozle was about 20 and fresh out of art-school while I was 27 and fresh out of India. In about 2005 Bamboozle put out a coffee-table book of his art, hundreds of lush full color plates that any artist would give his front teeth for. Then I discovered, to my great piss-off, a small photo of one of the posters I did for the anti-uranium benefit gig back in 1977 with the caption, “We also did political benefits back in the day…” without a credit to me for the creation of the art, inferring he did it.

Why didn’t he credit the poster to me, such a tiny little pic in comparison to the full-page onslaught in the rest of the book? Because he doesn’t want anyone to know that he worked with me way back then, that if you compared my work of the late '70s with his work of the same period, you’d maybe see some influence. And the other reason is he’s just too small and mean to give anybody else a mention, he’s the greatest, coolest, cutting Master, nobody else gets a look in.

And I complained about this in my SOB story performance, showing the two books as proof, the catalog of “Sometimes the Walls speak” and Bamboozle’s coffee-table book, now and then crying into a giant red handkerchief at the injustice of it all. But Haydn has cut this out of his Vlogg, the only time I’d thought to get a right of reply. This is a fascistic act of censorship, I thought I was in a democracy where we had the right to free speech, not an artistic dictatorship where the rulers get any critique or protest destroyed.

I’m furious, I suppose I can hiss, "Haydn, you can stick your “Toby Zoates’ SOB Story” Vlog up your arse!", bravura recounting be damned. (He apparently has made an elaborate doco about the fabulous career of Rag Bamboozle and he doesn’t want to bite the hand that feeds.)

Of course, lots of generous people have applauded my creative attempts, such as the interview about my show ‘Regurgitated” in the Sydney Morning Herald Arts section by Tim Elliot; the rating of 8 out of 10 for excellence in writing for my comic “No Future” from Underground Comix Joint; the ‘78ers Honour Roll of The Pride History Group, and The Bible Society, (!!!???) – “Artists work out their thoughts on Eternity.”

I’ve got some weird allusions too, such as Routledge Studies in Contemporary Literature – "The Vampire in Contemporary Popular Literature” by Lorna Piatti-Farnell where she purports to quote me, “within certain limits, aggressive male behavior is accepted as a normal part of every day life.” I suppose I did crap on with this but I wouldn’t brag about it!

And some guy named Fritz Haeg in an essay titled “Homeboys – Uses of Home by Gay Australian Men” comments on my short story, “Alec Farthing” in the volume “Being Different”. He says the homo beats I trawled in the ‘60s were an extension of the home front, all I wanted was to get screwed illicitly in the fuck-room with mum and dad ensconced in the kitchen to welcome me home afterwards, or some such obtuse nonsense, I couldn’t figure out what he was on about, all the time quoting me with, “Toby said this and Toby said that" as if he’s an intimate friend. Maybe that’s the power of writing, readers come to feel they know you.

Most amazing of all is an enigmatic connection with a famous author, Peter Carey, who wrote a novel carrying on Charles Dickens’ story of Jack Maggs returning to Australia from London and involving a character by the name of Tobias Oates. The essayist of this piece wonders if the name isn’t a typical Aussie word-play by Carey on the breakfast cereal “Uncle Toby’s Oates” or the ‘Eighties cartoonist Toby Zoates. TZ is a nom de plume I created in1978 upon an epiphany I had during a television commercial involving that very word-play, the voice-over slurred his "S" to a "Z". I’m absolutely blown away that this Peter Carey connection might be possible, (tho I won't count on  it), that a bum like me from the Olympic Village, Melbourne, could become part of urban folklore, like Zorro with his slashed “Z”.

I'm afraid to admit it, I pop up in various cyber-alleyways like a mangy old mushroom, being interviewed on video at the Gunnery around the collective feast-table, in my apartment at Northcott Suicide Towers, at The Piccolo Café on the Cross with Vittorio bitching in the background, at French’s Tavern in the ‘80s, Pyrmont Squats, The Tin Sheds, Damien Minton’s Redfern Annex, on and on, it’s a camera-happy world, ubiquitous, best to be diplomatic and go with the flow, if a camera gets pulled on you, and you can't run away, the best thing is to smile and think fast. I often come up with a lot of Zippie Pinhead nonsense when caught in the lense's glare, the world is Topsy Turvy to me.

I can’t help it if I’ve been attracted to many hotspots, right from my early teenage years in Melbourne when I hung around a club called The Catcher and danced to Australia’s best cutting bands, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, The Wild Cherries, Purple Hearts, Python Lee Jackson, Lobby Lloyd. I went to Ourimbah Festival in 1970, to Goa in 1972, to the beaches of Crete in 1976, then to Sydney and AC/DC in 1977, all the rock clubs and squats of Sydney, then Narara Festival in 1985 with Talking Heads, The Pretenders, Eurythmics, INXS and Def Leopard. 

Where ever the dangerous rock’n’roll action was there was I jumping to the music, sound-surfing the BAD waves. My favorite band was Chrissie Amphlet and the Divinyls, I adored her and chased them all over New South Wales. The same goes for 'art' sites like The Tin Sheds, The Piccolo Cafe and The Gunnery, I'm like a moth to the light of a strange attractor.

Some low-level bureaucraps and artsholes could wonder how I end up at all these cutting scenes and manage to put my head in the frame? I'm the real thing, a rock'n'roll Punk. It’s who I am and this is what happened, I’ll get over it, and move on, if you will.

P.S. It seems deadbeat freaks don't have a right of reply as nobody's interested, few read this particular Blog. I must come across like a whinging ass-hole and nobody gives a flying fuck, but I had to get it out of me, it's a big part of my story, important to me, for the Akashic record. Considering the SHIT going down, I'm a light-weight, it doesn't matter what I say, it's just the ravings of a fallen angel.

My Poster at the 2nd Redfern Biennale 2015, Art as Refuse.

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.