Beware the dreaded Kitchen Dunny!

Kithen dunny


"This extremely well-located, ground floor, Art Deco, studio apartment boasts both character and charm," claims the page dedicated to it on "This," it concludes at the end of its spiel, "is city living at its best." I'm calling b*llsh*t! Closer inspection to the photo above demonstrates what it actually boasts: a dreaded kitchen dunny!

It wasn't a problem in the 'olden days' when the euphemistically described 'smallest room in the house' was outside the house - hence that other euphemism, 'the outhouse'. It would be strategically placed - when space allowed - down the bottom of the garden, and the choko vine, ubiquitous to Aussie backyards, ensured putrid aromas (the sillage of sewage) were contained.

When hygiene and technology enabled outhouses to be moved in-house, its understandable why many ended up adjacent to the kitchen: that's where the plumbing was. I'm not sure if indoor choko vines were ever in vogue, but they weren't necessary. As long as there were walls and doors separating the can from the room where foodstuffs were prepared, and a window in the smallest room of the house to allow circulation of air, it was all rather bearable.

So what's with the kitchen dunny? Shouldn't there be a solid, non-see-through door (along with a wall) blocking the view of the lav?

It's barely two months since the prosecution of a landlord in Cambridge for turning a backyard shed into a granny flat. Which involved the loo becoming… yes, you guessed it... a kitchen dunny.


Lifted from MailOnline

It's not like I'm some sort of expert - even though I have written the odd article regarding remarkable restrooms during my time in trades publications. But I was, for a time, the victim of the dreaded kitchen dunny.

About a year ago, when the career trajectory dipped back into retail and I discovered that absolutely nobody wants a table, I also discovered the stinginess of shop owners could stretch to amenities. Rather than creating two rooms or a room within a room, the 'office' out back - separated from the shop floor by a curtained doorway - was more than an office. It was the classic kitchen dunny. Sink in one corner opposite the door, bar fridge diagonally opposite, dunny in the other corner. It was close enough to the fridge to leave no doubt that the stains running down the side were not from the herbal teas brewed atop the fridge, where the kettle was kept.

There was a strict 'no solids' rule for the kitchen dunny. There was no door separating it from the rest of the store, let alone the other elements of the room that constituted 'office' or 'kitchen' accoutrements and differentiated it from being a dunny. Which is good. As the saying goes, one should never eat where one sh*ts.

Although, if I had to, I could perhaps have pretended I was sucking nipples.

You know, like the dude who licks ashtrays since that's what 'kissing a smoker' was supposedly like - during a time in the late-'70s/early-'80s when that was the clever anti-smoking campaign.

The breastfeeding of babies within the toilet cubicle, because nursing mothers often have no other option, has been compared to eating a meal on the loo.



However, I never ate in the kitchen dunny, because that was also forbidden. Couldn't have customers smelling food or its by-product, as they browsed furniture.

Leaving the shop for meal breaks suited me fine, anyway. I had to go for a wander at lunch: I had to find a usable dunny!

There was a KFC across the road - but I resisted setting foot inside the whole time I was employed across the road from it.

The local Coles didn't seem to have a public loo.

There was a Thai restaurant that kept itself clean, but how many times a week could you have an indulgent Thai meal for lunch?

The café on the next blook was more of a 'most days' haunt.

Of course, the owner of the service station across the road from it didn't mind how often I borrowed the key. But you know how servo dunnies are: definitely not worth the cost of the cherry ripe or can of soft drink I'd buy out of politeness every time.

There was a rather clean office building next door. And it had amenities. Typically, the guys who worked there rarely flushed, and only occasionally lifted the seat, but it was better than all the other options. I'd even take my own lavatory paper. I had to: the non-flushing, non-seat-lifting pigs rarely replaced lavatory paper.

I discovered it because one of the tenants in the building was a magician of a physiotherapist who did amazing back work. He made all the horrible pain disappear. And there tends to be a lot of back pain when working in a furniture shop.

However, being a regular client of the physiotherapist wasn't enough: an accountant who also had offices realised I visited most days and would lie in wait behind his door, to jump out and tell me off.

"This isn't a public toilet you know!" he'd sternly admonish me.

"Look mate," I'd explain, "I'm his patient…" - pointing at the physiotherapist's office - "… and I'm doing you a favour - I'm the only person using the gents who knows how to lift the seat and flush; I'm keeping the place clean for you pigs…"

The thing that had me stumped, the whole time I worked there, was how did my boss get through the day?

I think I can best express the differences between us by drawing from the theme music to the nostalgic sitcom Happy Days. Remember it had two themes? Earlier seasons opened with 'Rock Around the Clock' by Bill Haley and His Comets; it was later replaced by a purpose-written theme song, an earlier version of which had been closing the show from the beginning.

When it came to crappy days at this place, my boss's disposition could best be described by a variation of the latter theme:

Sunday, Monday: he don't poo!
Tuesday, Wednesday: he don't poo!
Thursday, Friday: he don't poo!Saturday, what a day –
Waiting all week to poo!

My case, however, was clearly defined by earlier theme:

One, two, three o'clock, four o'clock: poo!
Five, six, seven o'clock, eight o'clock: poo!
Nine, ten, eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock: poo!
I'm gonna poo around the clock each day…

I've no idea how he got through the day without taking a dump. Maybe I was 'banned' from eating in the store so that, while I was out, he could shut the shop and duck out the back to lay a cable of his own. I don't know.

Point is, it's the 21st century; Australia is a civilised, industrialised, first-world country. There's no reason, let alone excuse, for a kitchen dunny.






Jack Klugman's last great role:
Livia Soprano


It was sad to hear of Jack Klugman's passing on Christmas Eve. If you grew up watching Australian television during the '7os and into the '80s, Klugman was hard to miss. For starters, he was one of the male leads in the television adaptation of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple. He played the unkempt sportswriter  Oscar Madison – the role Walter Matthau played in the film.

Opening sequence to
The Odd Couple. Note Don Pardo's narration

Klugman had portrayed this character on stage in the play, and so was perfect on the telly. And it was a successful series – the first, if I'm not mistaken, of Garry K. Marshall's adaptations of a successful film for the small screen. Marshall went on to adapt American Graffiti as Happy Days , and you did occasionally see a cross-over of actors. For example, Murray the Cop from Odd Couple was played by Al Molinaro, who'd go on to play Al Delvecchio, proprietor of hamburger joint Al's in Happy Days. (It was originally 'Arnold's', run by Pat Morita's Arnold character; how and why it changed name and hands is, like the disappearance of Richie Cunningham's brother Chuck after initial seasons, an unexplained mystery. But I digress…)

Klugman's other big television success was Quincy, ME (or just 'Quincy'), in which he played a county medical examiner who solved crimes from the clues left by dead bodies. Often, Dr Quincy was voicing the unpopular opinion and the more difficult course of action; when simply signing the death certificate would have been the easy way to close a case, he went the distance - looking into microscopes longer, following up hunches, ordering more tests. Kind of like a cross between Gregory House an Sherlock Holmes. (Not the Silurian Madame Vastra 'Veiled Detective' Sherlock Holmes from the Doctor Who Christmas special, mind.)

Quincy ran for more seasons than The Odd Couple and proved to be of great import: in an age before determining just how much spunk had gushed all over a crime scene, courtesy of the blue light, forensic investigation was a novel twist to both cop shows and medical dramas, and Quincy was special because of it. Often, it delivered commentary about society in the process of solving crimes. There's an episode dedicated to hate crimes of deranged juvenile delinquents, driven mad by horribly Satanic hard rock.

There's another episode that involves a micro engineered poisoned pellet being injected into Quincy's leg via a high-tech umbrella - clearly inspired by the KGB's 1978 assassination of Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov after he defected to the West and undertook sustained ridicule of the Bulgarian regime. "Cut me. I want you to cut me!" a disoriented, dying Quincy demands of his colleague, hoping the offending pellet will be detected and removed. (Other stuff happened in that episode, but for some reason that's the line seared into my brain some 20 years down the track.)

The Quincy character seemed to be pitched younger and sexier than Klugman, and creators claim there was an element of making him what would have been a 'swinging doctor' had he been dealing with living patients, rather than corpses. He lives on a boat, he flirts with all the women, and the 'sexy swingin' saxes' motif that runs through the theme music all lean towards a sex/death element. It's one that still turns up in forensic pathology crime shows (see Britain's Silent Witness, for example; although its theme music is all classical religious choir denial, of course).

That Quincy is, to a degree, playing it for laughs is evident in that opening sequence: one of the bodies he's investigating by looking at it intently while he prods with his fingers turns out, through a classic 'reveal' gag, to be a fully living, bikini-clad babe, with whom he's sharing a drink on his boat. Note, as you watch it, the 'call and response' of the music: the first phrase is on the beat, almost (for a lush, '70s TV-theme arrangement) militaristic in its delivery, because, after all, it is a cop show at its central core. But then the 'sexy swingin' saxes' motif responds - slurred notes, languid, off the beat. And it's total jazz soloing when the bikini babe is revealed. See for yourself:

Quincy, ME opening sequence.

Klugman's voice had a distinctive guttural timbre throughout his career. Turns out he suffered from throat cancer and as a result of either this, or treatment of it, he lost his voice and had to 're-learn' to talk. Interestingly, this happened in 1980 - some three years before Quincy came to an end. Did he learn quickly? Was there a sabbatical between seasons during which he could be treated?

In addition to Quincy and Oscar Madison, E!Online goes on to list other essential roles, such as Juror #5 in 12 Angry Men:

Klugman as Juror #5 in
12 Angry Men

And of course, his clutch of appearances in the original incarnation of The Twilight Zone:


'In Praise of Pip', Season 5, Episode 1, The Twilight Zone

It's disappointing that none of the obituaries I've read have acknowledged that other great role Jack Klugman nailed, and I must admit, I'd all but forgotten it. Yet somehow I found myself re-watching episodes of The Sopranos shortly after Klugman died, only to discover his brilliant portrayal of Tony Soprano's narcissistic and unfeeling mother, the ever-scheming matriarch Livia.




Before I finish, I'm going to recommend you locate episodes of Quincy. Whole seasons of them. So then you can play the Quincy Drinking Game I stumbled onto on the Internet Movie Database:


  • Take a sip every time Quincy cries about "bureaucracy".
  • Take a sip whenever Quincy asks Sam to get results back to him right away.
  • Take a sip every time Quincy is flirting with a chick way too young and attractive to be interested in a guy like Quincy.
  • Take a shot whenever Quincy gets outraged and starts yelling. Make it a double if Quincy pounds his fist against a desk.
  • Take a shot at the point in every episode when Asten is disbelieving of Quincy's theory about the death, and urges him to just sign the death certificate.
  • Take a shot whenever Sam gives Quincy some crucial information, and Quincy hurriedly runs out of the room and grabs his jacket.
  • Take another shot at the point in every episode where Asten finally realizes that Quincy was right all along and comes around to his side.
  • Take a shot every time Monahan yells something to the effect of "Dammit Quincy, stay outta this!"
  • Take a shot every time they do a camera shot of Quincy's giant black coroner's station wagon.
  • Take a shot whenever Danny makes a bad joke.
  • Take a shot when Quincy criticizes another coroner for not doing a thorough investigation.
  • Chug your drink when Quincy suggests digging up a body.
  • Chug your drink if Quincy is testifying in front of a committee.
  • Chug your drink when Quincy finally declares "It was murrrrrder, Sam!"


Jimmie Walker is actually quite funny

I can remember the time when two new television shows first hit the screens in Australia. They had similar names, so I wasn’t sure which was which, and they were both on at the same time, on different stations. One was called Happy Days and the other was called Good Times. After a while, one of them must have been moved to a different timeslot, because I know we watched both: one was a nostalgic look at 50s middle class America in Milwaukee, the other, a gritty look at contemporary working class American life in Chicago’s black ‘projects’. Both offered the comic relief of a main character with a catch-phrase: Fonzie’s ‘Aaaaaaeeeeeeeeeeh’, compared to JJ’s ‘DYNE-O-MITE’.

Both shows changed their focus after a few seasons, when the comic relief and the associated catch-phrase became more popular than the family that was originally central to the show. Fonzie was essentially adopted by the Cunningham family, moving into their attic, while JJ’s father James Evans Snr died in an accident when John Amos decided to leave the show (to star in the miniseries Roots ). His departure allowed for about the best screen reaction to death ever depicted: Florida Evans (played by Esther Rolle) smashes a serving dish, uttering the words “DAMN! DAMN! DAMN!”. (Actually, more like “Day-um! Day-um! Day-um!”) Esther Rolle later left the series also, allowing JJ to become the central character. By this stage, a very young, very adorable Janet Jackson started appearing on the show as the adopted daughter of another character. Jimmie Walker assured me that this was not her first role; she had been ‘discovered’ doing a Mae West impression on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. (As Sonny would have said, since it was his catch-phrase before Donny Osmond pinched it for The Donny & Marie Show, “Cute. Real cute.”)

Although you wouldn’t expect it from his sitcom background, and none of the local Australian press which dutifully filed stories on him came close to betraying this fact, Jimmie Walker is actually a great stand-up comic. Sure, the flyers and his website all tell you that he’s been on Letterman twenty-five times, and Time Magazine named him ‘Comedian of the Decade’ (back in in the 70s, when Good Times was at its height. But the fact is Walker is a funny dude. He was an established stand-up comic before he won the role of JJ, training at the Improvisation, a comedy venue on West 44th Street in New York. The one line I take away with me from his performance is his dismissal fo Britney Spears’s proposed autobiography; after all, being so young, what sort of events can she write about? “I was born, I had my period. The end.”

The only drawback of the night was the lack of audience – comedy always plays better to fuller rooms and bigger audiences. However, the people who were there were for the most part, fans, and Jimmie Walker happily fielded questions at the end – he hadn’d visited Australia before, so he was happy to answer any queries long-term fans had been cultivating since the 70s. But he would not give us a ‘DYN-O-MITE’ claiming that that sort of material had to be paid for: he just might do it at Vegas, but certainly not at the Harbord Diggers.

In addition to being genuinely funny, Jimmie Walker is also a dude; I first interviewed him on Thursday 29 April, before attending a Gud gig. I didn’t discover until midday the following day, when I was about to head in to edit the interview, that my minidisc recorder had somehow malfunctioned, and I’d failed to record the interview. At the last gig of his Australian tour, Jimmie was happy to let me interview him again.

The interview was broadcast Saturday 8 May. Here’s an MP3 version if you want to listen.

Music: Theme from Good Times

Good times –
Any time you meet a payment.
Good times –
Any time you need a friend.
Good times –
Any time you’re out from under.

Not getting hassled,
Not getting hustled.
Keepin’ your head above water,
Making a wave when you can…

Demetrius Romeo: Jimmie, I understand you were a stand-up comic before you landed the role in Good Times.

JIMMIE WALKER: Yeah, I was a stand-up for about ten years before that, working in New York and part of the Improvisation graduating class that was there in the early 70s and late 60s which included Bette Midler, Al Jarreau, David Brenner, Liza Minelli and many, many others that were around at the time.

Demetrius Romeo: Was it common for stand-up comics to land roles in sitcoms at the time?

JIMMIE WALKER: At the time, no. It was a whole different thing. The first three, besides Bill Cosby of course on I Spy, were me, Gabe Kaplan and Freddie Prinze Senior. Now a lot of people obviously know Freddie Prinze Junior but Freddie Prinze’s dad was on a show called Chico and the Man, Gabe Kaplan was in Welcome Back, Kotter and I was in Good Times.

Demetrius Romeo: Did you use much of your pre-existing stand-up persona in the role of JJ on Good Times?

JIMMIE WALKER: No, not really. I made a character out of the whole thing, a combination of all the people I’d known who did that. My comic timing, from being a comedian, obviously was involved on the show, but not from the ‘JJ’ character; that was a hole bunch of characters that I put together.

Soundbite: ‘Autographs’ - Jimmie Walker, from the album Dyn-O-Mite

You know, people get carried away. People say ridiculous things. Like, I'm flying on the airplane, little stewardess – caucasian lady – walks up to me and says, “excuse me, Sir, may I have your autograph? It’s not for me, it’s for my friend. She’s black.” I said, “all right then, I’ll print.”

Demetrius Romeo: How about after you did the show – did the role of ‘JJ’ effect the way you did stand-up comedy?

JIMMIE WALKER: It never effected the way I did stand-up comedy, but it effected the way people perceived me. Because, when you work clubs, not everybody sees you but when you’re on national TV, a lot of people see you. So a lot of people thought, “Gee, this is JJ, he’s gonna come out…” They didn’t know that I was a stand-up, so definitely, it effected the way they looked at me in terms of my comedic presence, because I was dealing with more mature subjects, and they didn’t plan on getting that from JJ. So, it definitely changed a lot of stuff in terms of acting, not to say that I’m an actor, but people don’t see you; you get typecast. Those sort of things do happen.

Soundbite: ‘S-Cool Daze’ - Jimmie Walker, from the album Dyn-O-Mite

Dig this:

“If Farmer Jones had a fifty acre farm that he had to mow, it would take Farmer Jones Twelve hours with a team of horses, but it would only take him six with a tractor.

“One day while mowing the lawn the tractor broke down, so Farmer Jones had to go to the horses. But he decided to use his son who, by hisself could mow a lawn in fourteen hours.

“Now, although his son, mowing a fifty acre lawn in Colorado on a sunny day with Farmer Brown passing by and a team of mules, taking all the rationals into rationalisation, using only [unintelligible mathematics examination jargon] and showing all work on a separate piece of paper, how long did it take them to mow the lawn? Give your answer in feet.”

Demetrius Romeo: Before you made it in showbusiness, you educated yourself. Did any of that effect the show in which you were the son of a family struggling in the projects?

JIMMIE WALKER: I think it did, because I actually came from that kind of family, except that we didn’t have a dad. We had a dad in our show, but we didn’t have a dad in real life. So I think it does affect you in that you have a lot of characters that you have in the projects, and like I said before, it was the kind of thing where a lot of the project characters were incorporated in what I did on the show, because obviously there’s a malaise, a whole bunch of people that you see that you just put all those characters together.

Soundbite: ‘The Black Prince Has Arrived’ - Jimmie Walker, from the album Dyn-O-Mite

So I went into the record store and I saw this album sitting there, and I saw this sharp looking dude on the cover and I say,

Is that him? The black prince?
Could I be right?
Could that be kid

Demetrius Romeo: Part of your persona on Good Times involved a catchphrase ‘dynamite’, which became part of everyday parlance and lived beyond the show. How does that effect you when part of your television shtick becomes part of everyday life?

JIMMIE WALKER: Well, definitely, here we are thirty, thirty-five years later, and people are still screaming it, yelling it, the whole deal. It is part of the fabric, literally, of the world, I would imagine. And as my late friend Steve Krantz – a writer – said, he said, “when you die, the obit’s going to say, ‘today, the dynamite fizzled’”. So that’s definitely going to happen. I’m very aware of that, I’m very aware that that’s what people know, that’s what they’re aware of, and you have to be very honest about that.

Demetrius Romeo: Do you still give a bit of a ‘Dyn-o-mite’ in your performance?

JIMMIE WALKER: [Lauging] Never! See, I’ve never done it in my show, ever, ever really done it in my show. But I know there is a percentage of the crowd who come to see that, they enjoy that, they’re into that, and I’m very aware of that.

Demetrius Romeo: But your website is called, you’ve got CDs that are called Dyn-O-Mite. How do you justify that?

JIMMIE WALKER: Purely marketing and mercenary conception. You know, it’s worked out well because people do look for me under that label – you’ve got to be honest about that.

Demetrius Romeo: So what about the people who come to the show expecting to thinking that they’re seeing JJ and not Jimmie Walker?

JIMMIE WALKER: You try to win them over, you try to prove to them that you are funny, kind of stuff like that. You know, you’re not going to get everybody but you hopefully can get a large percentage.

Demetrius Romeo: Is it working?

JIMMIE WALKER: I think we’re doing okay. I think it’s fine. I think people are enjoying what they see. Maybe, maybe not; but I hope they are.

Demetrius Romeo: Fantastic. Jimmie, it’s been a pleasure.

JIMMIE WALKER: Thank you. As usual, always sensational being on a big show, love it!

Music: Theme from Good Times

Easy credit rip-offs –
Good times!
Scratchin’ and survivin’
Good times!
Hangin’ in a chow line –
Good times!
Ain’t we lucky we got ’em?
Good times.