The week began with news that Cilla Black had passed away at 72 years young. She'd had an awesome career, considering she was a singer delivering a series of charting hits throughout the 60s, hosted a chat show in the '70s and fronted a dating game show for almost two decades from the mid-'80s. I wasn't a massive fan, but knew a number of her songs that still stand as classics, as enduring and recognisable as her ranga bob and prominent choppers.
The first time I was aware of Cilla was when she appeared on The Don Lane Show, the long-running Australian tonight show hosted by the 'lanky yank' of the title. During her appearance, she happened to refer back to her previous visit downunder.
"You mean 'puffy'," Don corrected her, in his American accent.
"Yeah, 'poofy'," she repeated. "What's the difference?"
"Oh, believe me," Don explained, "there's a difference."
It was still the '70s, and Australia, so if making fun of people who speak differently or are in same-sex relationships was neither funny nor inoffensive, who could tell? (Or, more to the point, who would tell?)
In time I'd learn more about Cilla Black in passing: contemporary - and friend! - of the Beatles, who helped get her noticed by their manager Brian Epstein; real name Priscilla White, gaining the stage name she kept as a result of a gig booker muddling her name.
Some of her enduring hits include fine Burt Bacharach songs like Alfie and Anyone Who Had A Heart (or, as Peter Sellers delivers it in the sketch A Right Bird, Anyone 'Oo 'Ad An 'Art); Lennon/McCartney songs like Love of the Loved, It's For You, and Step Inside Love (the latter, the theme to her chat show, Cilla), and You're My World.
At its height, her dating show Blind Date rated around 17 million (if you were ever a fan of Ben Elton's stand-up, you'll recall the phrase 'strictly for the birds, Cilla; strictly for the birds…'; I can't remember the context).
And she maintained the respect of the next generation(s) of viewers doing a sterling job of hosting episodes of Never Mind the Buzzcocks: "Hullo and welcome to the Boozcocks…" (Thanks for the reminder, Cat!)
If I were a cartoonist, my tribute to Cilla would be a single panel with St Peter at the pearly gates, welcoming her with the words "step inside, love". Failing that, I figured I'd photoshop the same with some judiciously pilfered images.
However, in the process of locating suitable imagery, I cam a cross this lovely photo of Cilla hamming on the sofa as a guest of Jonathan Ross:
So I figured there might be a different 'tribute' to Cilla, a different song title:
You'll no doubt recognise the grim reaper from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. I think it's fitting, since my first glimpse of Cilla Black's Cilla was as a visual 'quote' in a season 4 episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. It's an episode of Cilla featuring Ringo Starr as a guest, so fittingly, the graphic brings Cilla, Python and Beatles back together (It's For You being one of the Lennon/McCartney songs she recorded).
However, my search revealed this gem: Cilla, when she was smoking hot!
Finding a suitable St Peter was more difficult than finding a God, and there's an awesome God in Monty Python and the Holy Grail - so again Cilla, Python and the Beatles come together:
Admittedly, the Old Man n the Sky comes across as a Dirty Old Man in the Sky, but… well, can you blame him?!
I apologise for my efforts failing to do justice to Cilla Black. The best tribute to her, of course, is the miniseries Cilla. Made in 2014, it's utterly brilliant, not only for the presence of Sheridan Smith in the title role - she's a knock-out and, apparently, supplied the vocals herself. That's the facsimile - imagine how amazing the real thing must have been in her own time.
On Friday 29 May, some football happened, as it frequently does, and I ignored it, as I usually do.
However, days later, media is still buzzing with a certain incident, reading all manner of threat and offense in it.
As I understand it, after consistent heckling from Carlton fans at an AFL game being played at the SCG, Adam Goodes kicked a goal and celebrated it with a dance.
As I say, football happens frequently to my utter indifference.
Even so, I'm not totally ignorant to the joyful celebratory activity of players overtaken with the elation of having scored points. Take the elaborate jersey-over-the-head antics of goal-kickers in the World Cup, say. To be honest, I'm not adverse to recreating the same in the front room when I score a goal against the kids in foosball…
Back to Adam Goodes.
Apparently, the game was an 'Indigenous Round'. I don't really understand the full ramifications of that title but I assume players are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background or ancestry, or at the very least, there is some link to those cultures that enable an otherwise broadly racist country/administration/sporting code/fanbase to feel it's doing its bit for race relations for another year.
It turns out, however, that Adam Goodes' little celebratory fancy-stepping is an alleged 'war-cry' dance. It was accompanied by some kind of 'hurling a spear' gesture. Although Adam later attributed it to an U16 team he's hung out with, the Flying Boomerangs, fact is, at the time, and in the days subsequent, the more Anglo aspects of Australian footy fanbase, admin, talkback radio and the population in general, appear to be losing it as a result.
There have been a range of often contradictory responses.
At half time:
“We’ve never seen that before and I don’t think we ever want to see it again to be perfectly honest, regardless of what it is.”
After the game:
"It’s quite aggressive, let’s be honest."
"Even if it made us feel a little bit uncomfortable in the first instance ... let’s not get too precious about the whole situation."
"Let’s discuss whether we want to have that type of celebration as an ongoing thing."
"I think we have to be careful on things where players are going to the crowd in any manner.”
"Personally, I don’t like to see demonstrative celebrations after a goal or anything else."
On Monday morning:
"Had we known before the game that Adam or the indigenous players were planning to do some sort of war cry, we could have been able to educate and understand the situation."
"This is a made-up dance, this is not something that has been going on for years."
What? Eddie McGuire contradict himself over controversy involving Adam Goodes? Really? That's never happened before. Except with the foolish girl fan called Goodes an ape, not realising the racist overtones of the term, and Eddie stepped in to smooth things over. And then cracked a 'King Kong' joke at Goodes' expense not very long after. Still. Rugger b*ggers, eh? Does anybody really expect them to think? I mean the ones employed to make important decisions and be media personalities and all that.
There have been other responses by other people. But they all seem to revolve around the threat posed by Adam Goodes' pretend spear.
Waleed Aly intelligently pointed out that, on occasion, footballers have given opposing fans 'the finger': "they might get a fine, but they don't get boo'd for it," he said. "The fact that this was some kind of cultural expression that people found confronting is the issue."
His take on the furor?
"Australia is generally a very tolerant society, until its minorities demonstrate that they don't know their place. The minute someone in a minority position acts as though they're not a mere supplicant then we lose our minds and say, 'no, no, you need to get back in your box'. And that's why Adam Goodes ruffles feathers - it's because he says, 'I'm going to express Aboriginality, and I'm going to do it at a time and a place in which the vanilla frontier of Australian society doesn't cope with it very well'."
Now, forgetting for a moment the expression of Aboriginality ruffling the feathers of the vanilla frontier, consider this:
Football is a ritualised recreation of tribal warfare. This team, the warriors of the tribe from this village, fight that team, the warriors of the tribe from the other village - and we can tell them apart by their distinctive battle colours - over the disputed, desired object. If it were a beauteous chick instead of a ball, and one team snuck into the other team's half, secreted in a giant wooden Brownlow Medal that appeared to be a gift from the gods, we'd have the classic Trojan War scenario. Indeed, if the losing team (or the winning team - academics still argue about it) was sacrificed at the end of the game, you'd have Ōllamaliztli - the ritualistic ball-game 'played' by various Mesoamerican cultures, often as a proxy for war itself.
But all of this, though not being irrelevant necessarily, is pointless to dwell upon. Spectators, commentators, the elements of the Australian population who took issue with Goodes' dance and gesture just don't want an outspoken indigenous Australian threatening them. With his pretend spear.
And this is where the nonsense lies.
Consider sporting events involving a New Zealand team. How do they begin? With a ritualised dance. The one known as the Haka.
A Haka is a war dance. No two ways about it. Traditionally, it was performed before battle. I've been told it's all about threatening to tear the enemy's heart out, and eat it.
Did you get that?
TEAR THE ENEMY'S HEART OUT. AND EAT IT.
It's okay, though. It's just pretend. The New Zealand team isn't really going to tear the other team's heart out and eat it. Not literally. It's just pretend.
This is my question:
Why is Adam Goodes' war dance and pretending to chuck a spear more threatening than a whole tribe doing a war dance and pretending to threaten to rip your heart out and eat it?
Well, clearly, it's because, as Waleed Aly says, we're uncomfortable with the Aborigine ruffling our feathers. The ritual of the Haka is now part of the performance, part of the game; we know it's harmless. New Zealand's white population reconciled with and acknowledges the history of its indigenous peoples. There is some kind of actual and more real harmony - it would appear - in the New Zealand culture, compared to Australian culture.
But forget the lesson we should learn from that.
Back to pretend spearing and pretend ripping out and eating the enemy's heart.
Surely the pretend spear is just as harmless as the Haka.
No, actually, the pretend spear is even less of a threat than the Haka.
Think about it.
Which would you rather face? A pretend spear being pretend chucked at you? Or a tribe of warriors pretend threatening to pretend rip out your heart and pretend eat it?
I mean, at least with the pretend spear, there's a chance it will pretend miss.
How long do you think you'd be able to pretend elude a pretend attack of a pretend band of pretend warriors pretend intent on pretend ripping out your heart and pretend eating it? There's a whole pretend bunch of them - at least pretend one of them's likely to pretend catch you and pretend proceed with pretend rippage and eatage...
I prefer my pretend chances with the pretend spear.
If only footy and furore, and whatever the latest human rights violations they're diverting attention from (decimation or total eradication of our health services; sale of prime farmland - the food bowl of Australia - to a Chines concern, for coal mining; human rights violations in detention centres; the Trans-Pacific Partnership…) were also just pretend.
Rest in Peace, Stuart Wagstaff - one of Australia's finest BLANKS.
There will be no shortage of tributes and obituaries for Stuart Wagstaff - an entertainer with a lifelong career on stage and screen. In addition to a series of cigarette ads I barely remember (tobacco advertising ended on Australian television in 1976 - replaced by intense ad campaigns for matches) Wagstaff was a regular panelist on the game show Blankety Blanks. Which was still enjoying repeats in the late 1980s. It also had a spin-off brand of lemonade. Featuring a who's who of Australian celebrities, it proved a popular DVD release.
Here are some random excerpts courtesy of Youtube:
(Here's the soft drink ad if you really need to see it.)
I was tickled pink by the news that the Grateful Dead were reconvening for their 50th Anniversary: July 3-5 at Soldier Field, Chicago.
Once I'd gotten my head around the staggering ticket prices - a three-day pass has been offered on StubHub for $116,000 (that's US dollars, I'm guessing) - a series of questions immediately sprung to mind:
Matt reckons he's selling the severed finger to raise money for said upcoming 50th Anniversary show.
"It pains me to part with this one-of-a-kind collectable," he writes, "but I believe Jerry would want me to see the last show."
Matt doesn't explain how he came to own Jerry Garcia's picked finger, preserved in brine solution and hermetically sealed "for long term storage".
Of course, this is the perfect marketing opportunity: individual vials with replica Jerry Berry Finger tabs, immersed in the specially prepared Electric Kool-Aid Acid available at the merch booth.
If they really wanted to, they could clone a whole new Jerry Berry from the DNA contained in the preserved digit.
At the very least, this concert should be recorded for posterity. Adorned with the image of Garcia's finger, it would be the perfect way in which to revive that series of live Grateful Dead recordings known as 'Dick's Picks'. Ladies and Gentlemen, Dead Heads, Acid Casualties, Mobility Scooter-bound Baby Boomers – may I present Dick's Picks Volume 37:
I went for a walk at lunch time on Friday, taking a slightly different route back to the office. In so doing, I came across an item of cultural ephemera not half a block away from a private Catholic school.
Relax, sensationalists, this isn't The Telegraph, and it's still school holidays. It could be any wastrel dumping their spent jollies-delivery-unit in the street.
Still, made for some nice photos that I couldn't help but share:
Parramatta, you bastion of kulchar you!
Still [life in the back streets of Parra!] more context
Of course the comments on Instagram and Facebook waxed nostalgic for the vintage equivalent from their youth:
"A step up from the Orchy Orange Juice bottles of the '80s ... Just." - nickhadleydarlo
(Orchy had the monopoly on single-serve bottled juice back in the day.)
Early on the night of Wednesday 1 October the SMH online published National Music Editor Peter Vincent's report that the family and management of one of AC/DC's founding members, Malcolm Young, had confirmed rumours of his dementia.
The story opened by bragging about Fairfax "breaking the story last week" (c'mon, the rumour was doing the rounds a couple of months ago) but cited "a major gossip magazine" claiming to receive confirmation from the Young family.
click for close-up
What I love most is how the article telling of Malcolm Young's dementia seems to exhibit symptoms of dementia itself: after paragraphs outlining confirmation of Young's dementia rumour, the band's success, its immediate plans, aspects of dementia itself, the article suddenly starts behaving like your favourite Great Aunt - not the one who flirts shamelessly and inappropriately with your best friend (she's got all her faculties; she's just a bit of a slut) so much as the one who changes the subject entirely for no apparent reason other than to treat us to an out-of-place, bizarrely off-topic tale. In this case, it's a closing paragraph that describes in great detail the American glossy People magazine.
click for close-up
Perhaps National Music Editor Peter Vincent is also Fairfax's International Publications Profiler (a job that can only be getting cushier with time, as more publications cease to exist…)
I am, of course, saddened that Malcolm Young is unwell; I wish he, his family and his band the best of the future.
It was a 'sort of' debut because Steamboat Willie was in fact the third animation that Mickey appeared in, following Plane Crazy and The Gallopin' Gaucho. However, the earlier two cartoons didn't appeal enough to distributors for them to take them on. Thus, Steamboat Willie was the first Mickey Mouse film to receive distribution, and it's considered important for many reasons, including the fact that it's the first animation to feature synchronised sound.
The title takes the - ahem - mickey out of comedian Buster Keaton's film Steamboat Bill, Jr. The title of Keaton's flick refers to a song, 'Steamboat Bill', which happens to feature in Steamboat Willie along with 'Turkey in the Straw'. In fact, what with the synchronised sound, an argument could be made that Steamboat Willie is the very first music video; it is, after all, a story built around two feature tunes. Consider, though, how quickly animated features with synchronised sound developed: it's only 12 years until Disney's Fantasia, a timeless masterpiece that wedded music and imagery so well. It's worth nothing that another part of the plot involves love interest Minnie Mouse almost missing the boat.
In the 90-odd years from his not-quite debut, Mickey has come a long way, and he's all over the place. Clearly, I can't avoid him, no matter where I happen to be strolling after work - whether it's on the entrance to a house in suburban Glebe after recording the audio of a spoken word gig, or in the window of a clothes shop in the high street of that fashion capital, Parramatta, as you'll see.
Although, in this instance, Mickey's activities are a little questionable. What exactly is Mickey Mouse doing, with his back to us, on this top? Where's Minnie now?
It seems somewhat of a distance from Steamboat Willie to 'motor-boating Mickey'.
Guest House Paradiso wasn't a cinematic masterpiece. It was, however, an opportunity to see Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson being violently hilarious on the big screen. And for me,thanks to the free weekly entertainment rag Revolver, it was the opportunity to meet Rik 'n' Ade in real life. They'd come to Australia to promote the film and were being interviewed in their hotel at The Rocks in Sydney.
I'd taken my sister Sylvia along to the interview. Having introduced her to The Young Ones via Monty Python's Flying Circus, she had - as most converts do - become the more zealous true believer. While I was off having my inner-city freelance writer adventures, she was dutifully compiling all the episodes of Bottom on carefully labelled VHS video cassettes; the series hadn't been released on DVD yet.
Of course, I'd had the good sense to leave my sister in the hotel foyer. I figured, get the interview in the can, then ask if I can bring her up to the room; if they get annoyed by unprofessional fan-boy and his sister, the work's already done.
So after the interview, I sheepishly began by saying, "look, I know it's not very professional, but I was wondering – my sister's downstairs, and…"
"You want us to shag her?" Rik interrupted helpfully. "Well, we've only got a few minutes…" – glancing at his watch – "…but we can give it a go."
Rather than my going downstairs and bringing her up, they suggested they come down to the foyer and say g'day. On the way down they asked me her name.
As the lift opened, the voice of Vyvyan of the 'Young Ones' - or Edward Catflap of 'Filthy, Rich and Catflap' or Edward Hitler of 'Bottom' rang out across the room: "Where's this Sylvia bird then?"
That Sylvia bird was on the sofa opposite the lifts, with the biggest grin on her face.
That was the day Rik Mayall offered to shag my sister.
So the Oscars - or 'Seppo Logies' as I like to think of them - have been handed out for another year. I didn't watch any of it. All I know is what people Tweeted or Facebooked about it:
John Travolta looks younger than when he first became famous as Vinnie Barbarino, the Sweathog, back on Welcome Back, Kotter! Not only that - he still has as much trouble learning stuff (like a possible award recipient's name), reading it off the autocue or card, and saying it out loud - as his character would have had, back then. But ask him about it now and I bet he'd still be all, "What? Who? How? When? Ahhh, I'm so confused!"
Travolta mangles Idina Menzel's name…
…mangles the Irish potato famine's name…
Kim Novak should have stopped having work done to her face some time ago. I know it's been years since she was the babe in Rear Window, but babeciousness persisted throughout her life until more recently, when - it appears - she tried to gobble the rear window… in one gulp… forgetting it was made of glass. (Let me put this bit in perspective, though: making fun of someone who refuses to grow old gracefully is, in this instance, the undertaking of someone who's refused to grow up at all; if she wants her appearance manipulated by external forces that's her business.)
What is it Kim Novak can't face?
An Ellen Degeneres-centric celebrities selfie got retweeted ad infinitem. What? A roomful of celebrities? At the Seppo Logies Oscars? Are you shitting me? No way!
All of that pales into significance when you see this awesome image of Benedict Cumberbatch photobombing the band U2.
I can offer two captions:
"Oy! U2?! Me too!"
1 Yes, of course, Grace Kelly was the babe in Rear Window and Novak was in Vertigo; not for a second suggesting Hitchcock's thrillers or his leading babes are interchangeable. It's just gag the 'gobbling the real window' gag suits this situation so well.