February 1985 – Pirates; SEQEB vs Joh; La Bamba and Late Night Coffee

To set the February 1985 Brisbane scene – Dwarves were being tossed – the Courier-Mail reported that about 10 burly bouncers from Gold Coast nightclubs competed in the “ironman challenge”, which included an event where they threw Brisbane dwarf, Wee Robbie (aka Rob Randell) as far as they could. That’s right, we’re Queenslanders; we’re the ones who when they throw us – we get back up again. Not sure what became of Wee Robbie, but me… I started the month with with a steak for lunch at the Victory Hotel and a Fred Astaire special on Chanel 2. Fast lane, eh?

These were the times when working on a Saturday meant working till 12:30pm. I used my afternoon to record foyer music for the by now imminent production of Paisley Pirates of Penzance (and a note to younger readers here, that meant recording from vinyl records to reel-to-reel 4 track tape) in the 4ZZZ studios at St Lucia with Ian Gray. Pip was moving from a flat on Dornoch Tce at Highgate Hill into the home of Ruth Propsting in Dorchester St, Highgate Hill and, after breakfast at a place called Colony House, which is entirely erased from my memory, despite many and frequent visits (apparently), a truck was hired and utilised for the movement of worldly possessions until, once again it seems, the Pancake Manor‘s siren call could not be avoided. The looming production of Pirates was in dress rehearsal at La Boite on the eve of the first Sunday in February and cast of about 100, I think, worked from 6pm till 10.30pm.

My February was obsessed with the production of Pirates – rehearsals at the Woodward Theatre at BCAE Kelvin Grove, radio spot production at ZZZ, renovations to the tables in the theatre foyer, more theatre meetings about La Bamba, loading beer into fridges, making foyer signs, setting up green rooms and dressing rooms, arranging tickets – and all this while working full-time and helping Pip continue moving – No wonder I still feel tired.


Paisley Pirates of Penzance, proudly presented by La Bamba at La Boite Theatre in Hale St, Milton opened on February 8th, 1985 and was slated for two performances. 230 tickets sold out in 25 minutes and 200 names were taken for priority tickets for the second performance the next day. Being an urban gent and accustomed to hard work, I had naturally worked all day in the cellars of the Unites Service Club, dispensing alcohol to the ruling class and reported for theatre duty at 6pm. My diary records our response to the second night’s queue as “Oh my God”, for OMG had not yet been discovered. For the 10:30pm show there was a queue three folk wide, three quarters of the way round the block. By 10:15 a third show was scheduled for midnight. The early show came down and 12 and the next one started at 12:20am. Heady times AND La Bamba made nearly TWO…..THOUSAND….DOLLARS. Nearly – from selling 700-ish tickets.

There was a cast party for those still standing and by that I mean everyone at the Brisbane Community Arts Centre at 109 Edward St in the City (after bump-out and clean up). Naturally, in 1985, the cast moved from the party to breakfast at – you guessed it, Brisbane’s number only choice for 24 hour dining – The Pancake Manor

My February quickly returned to the mundane. John Caskey had moved out of our house to share Ruth’s house with Pip. My search for house had to gather momentum and Anne Jones, Ron Layne and I searched in earnest for many days. La Boite opened Summertime Blues, most notable for featuring Ian Skippen live on stage. I went to the opening as a board member of La Boite.


La Bamba pushed on with it’s new, ‘Sharp Entertainment’ theme and featured Michael McCaffrey and Brian Brandenberg’s Cocktail Twins on the 15th and the 16th. I had lazy afternoons in New Farm Park with Pip; dinner at Feroza’s with John Caskey, Pip and Hollie (a forgetful Brisbane artist – not forgetable, forgetful); saw The Divinyl’s and Non Stop Dancers in Albert Park; meetings at La Boite; party for Maria Cleary’s birthday – and all peppered with black-outs due the great SEQEB vs Joh electricity wars. I record a dinner at Lucky’s, this is when it was in Ann St, next to The Beat. For $32, Pip and I had snails, Scalopine Pizzaiola, Caesar Salad, Garlic Prawns, Fettucine Gratinate, Tartufo and Trifle washed down with Marsala and short blacks – my diary tells me Lucky said that $32 broke the two people record. That’s how I roll.

February was winding up slowly. Saw a collection of Japanese horror stories called Kwaidan at the Centre Cinema. I may have been a smoker at this time as my Zippo was being repaired. Dinner at Woolloongabba with Buffy Lavery and Damien Ledwich with Pip and Deb Brown – there were a few shifts at 4ZZZ; a few houses missed along with tickets to see Ricky-Lee Jones at QPAC; more coffees at Le Scoops.

I have certainly lost the ability to drink copius amounts of late night coffee – most days seem to end with, “…drank lots of coffee till 1am” or similar. February ended with Mary Hickson advising the La Boite Council that she was slinging her hook, oh, and a new pair of JAG jeans and a t-shirt. 27 years ago I could fit JAG clothing.


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