Monday, May 30, 2011


Jackie Kennedy went to great lengths to try and censor William Manchester’s 1967 bestseller ,The Death of a President . In 10 hours of taped interviews, Jackie gave the author personal information which she later wanted struck out. This included the fact that Jack got about in his underwear and that she smoked , a secret kept from the public while she was the First Lady . While the book had been approved by Bobby Kennedy, he later strongly opposed it and asked for a magazine serialisation to be shredded. Lawyers were called in , and in the ensuing battle the popularity of Jackie suffered as a result , so to did Senator Kennedy’s political career. The book sold a million copies in double quick time and it was reported that passengers on United Airlines stole 1800 of Look magazine's first instalment copies from binders.

If Jackie Kennedy were alive today ,one wonders what her reaction would be to the TV series THE KENNEDYS being shown on the ABC in which Frank Sinatra has been portrayed in a most unflattering way , a crawling spiv, mixing with the Mafia , and trying to make out he has influence with the Kennedys.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


From the left : Killer commando Bill Cattell ; stunning model Julie Reiter, who stopped the traffic in India , and one of the daring London Oz magazine covers which shocked Britain,leading to the longest obscenity trial.--- Graphics by Four22 Images , Darwin.

Soon after the 1969 closure of the groundbreaking Broadside magazine, which he had edited, Pete Steedman, an acknowledged major force in Australian university publications during the Vietnam War period , left Melbourne and went freelancing along the Southeast Asia hippy trail . His intention was to eventually reach swinging London where the key players in the controversial Australian Oz magazine were causing a storm in the very centre of the British Empire with a local version, described as a psychedelic hippy publication .

Oz shocked the British establishment with its anti- Vietnam War coverage, drugs, sex and alternative lifestyles . It also revealed that the military junta in Greece was torturing people.

Travelling with Steedman was Jimmy Brandon, a News Limited reporter. Many and varied were Steedman’s experiences along the way. The adventures of Crocodile Dundee and Harrison Ford combined appear tame by comparison . Lobbing in Bali, they made their way to Jakarta and at Serena Casino played roulette for one week solid, ending up with about two grand ,a substantial amount in those days .

In Singapore's Orchard Road bars , they met three commandoes from the British Royal Marines ; one , Bill Cattell, who had been the light-heavyweight boxing champion of the navy and a karate and judo expert , expressed a disturbing desire to kill and maim . He had been a helicopter machine gunner in Aden where he had rejoiced in shooting human targets , even if they were small when viewed from the air . He preferred getting up close to his victims and killing them manually . His short and violent life is a wild , complicated and disturbing story ,involving drug running , a madcap deliberate intrusion into mainland China , people said to have been killed at random, their deaths hushed up. More extraordinary details will be revealed later in this post.

While Steedman decided to travel on to Kuala Lumpur , Brandon went back to the Serena Casino in Jakarata with Cattell and another commando, Phil, the latter claiming to have worked in London casinos and able to count cards dealt by croupiers, hoping to make another bundle.

The grandiose plan apparently failing, Brandon and Cattell ,who had deserted , subsequently lobbed in Thailand. Cattell got involved with a dodgy doctor who alerted police because the commando was carrying a military first aid kit which contained morphine,which he was entitled to have, and he and Brandon were locked up in a Bangkok prison for three months awaiting trial . While in there , Cattell deliberately picked fights with other inmates , including a kick box champion whom he almost killed . Both were released without facing charges , Cattell handed over to the military ; he was reported to have come out of prison a loner, hating everybody and “hard as shit.” Brandon took off for London , glad to be free of the homicidal soldier after the torrid spell in prison.

While this was being played out , Steedman was also experiencing dangerous situations. Run out of Burma by the army, he flew into Calcutta during an uprising by the Communist Naxalites and had to dodge machine gun fire driving from the airport in a taxi . When students from schools revolted they took over the Jadavpur University and used its machine shop facilities to make pipe guns with which to attack the police. The so called "revolt " by Melbourne university students over the Vietnam War and conscription seemed sedate when compared with what was going on in Calcutta.

An arrangement had been made for his girlfriend , model Julie Reiter ,whom he had met when editor of Broadside , to join Pete , and she flew in from Melbourne. Julie had been to London before and became his lifetime partner . That period of togetherness looked like being extremely short soon after . They headed off to Nepal, came back to India , and in Delhi ,Pete had several skirmishes with currency dealers who tried to short change him by sleight of hand when handing over bundles of notes. The knife had to be applied to the throat of a driver when three Sikhs tried to abduct them. At Meerut,where the Indian Mutiny of 1857 started, police had to rescue them as thousands of people engulfed them , all wanting to see and touch Julie’s blond hair.

With a penchant for staying in cheap accommodation, Steedman went to pay the account in a primitive hotel in Amritsar with an American $5 bill. The desk clerk refused to take the currency, demanding rupees , of which he had none . In the row that followed, the clerk ran out into the street and called for help from passers by ,claiming he was being robbed by this foreigner with funny money. A large mob of angry people, growing bigger by the minute, formed . Steedman rushed back to the room in which Julie was packing and informed her to arm herself with the tomahawk in his swag and dong the first person who came through the door,convinced they were going to be done in.

Clutching a flick knife –like a Boy Scout and Crocodile Dundee , he was prepared for any eventuality on this magical ,mystery tour- Pete went back into the street , the by now vast crowd (said to be in the thousands), surging about him . Steedman feared that they were about to meet their end . Out of nowhere , a man appeared , asked what was the trouble , and agreed that what Steedman was offering to pay was worth more than twice the bill. Saved from what looked like a life threatening situation , Steedman and Julie decamped .

In Kashmir , mixing with some of the separatists and living on a houseboat on Lake Dal with Julie, Steedman dabbled in carpets , the bright idea being that he would have them sent to Italy where he would sell them on arrival and buy a car in which to continue the journey in style to London. Old flintlock pistols,knives and swords were bought in Kabul, Afghanistan , where he also developed pleurisy . Trying to ease the pain,he tied bandages around his chest to restrict his breathing and , in theory, reduce the hurt. He was saved from another sticky situation there with the help of the flick knife and an airline pilot. Some time was spent in Tehran , Iran ,where he said the women were strikingly beautiful, and they journeyed to Israel and flew to Rome ,landing during an airport strike . A long way from the terminal, passengers had to tote their own luggage.

Feeling unwell , with a throbbing chest , Steedman undid his shirt , exposing the bandages . An airline official noticed , asked what was wrong . In an inspired moment, indicative of a vivid imagination, he replied that he was an injured racing car driver on his way to Turin to pick up a new Ferrari . “Everybody in Italy loves racing car drivers,” Steedman explained. He and Julie, with their luggage, were placed in a bus and driven to the terminal with the plane’s crew , while other passengers from the same flight were struggling across the tarmac, cursing the eternal city and its populace. Steedman’s grand carpet cash in scheme did not go the way planned because of a hold up along the way , the revolting Naxalites having caused the closure of Calcutta through which they were to be shipped . Two weeks were spent recuperating on vino and ravioli in Italy, waiting for the carpets.

Arriving in London, Steedman and Julie were soon in the thick of the London action . They first stayed with Australian Ian Stocks and wife Jane Ayre .Stocks was working on publicity for Stanley Kubrick’s movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

While the swinging 60s were over in London , the 70s were a wild, dangerous and vibrant period. What was described collectively as " the London scene," consisted of several separate scenes, all seemingly linked in various ways , each with its brand of politics. There were the colourful , boisterous Aussie expatriates, prominent in everything from drinking a yard or three of ale , art, academe and the media. The underground press and those into alternative culture were others who confronted and shocked the establishment.

Steedman met up with the Oz crew , did some work for them as a debt collector , proofread some pages of The Female Eunuch for Germaine Greer and got the rundown on the underground press. The people with whom Steedman and Julie mixed read like a Who’s Who of the counter culture, rising tycoons, artists , musicians and bands, eccentrics, crazies, Michael X , a man who said he was God.

For a time they stayed with architect Peter Burleigh who had drawn cartoons for Broadside . Also resident in London was the former Melbourne University architecture student, Mike Bastow , who had drawn anti-Vietnam War cartoons for Lot’s Wife/Farrago when Steedman was the editor. Bastow , who now has an art gallery in France and Belgium, wowed the glitterati back then by designing and making painted leather vests which sold for a pretty penny. Bastow was living in a mansion, owned by the Rothschilds, rented by another Australian ,Peter Oysted , who was running the Newcastle Theatre, later to become the first Dean of Drama at the Victorian College of the Arts.

While also living in that mansion , Steedman wrote for publications back in Australia. Down the road was an area known as Little Venice where there was this young , ambitious fellow called Richard Branson who ran a magazine called Student and lived on a houseboat . Pete and Branson swapped notes ; Pete also worked with John Varmon who played a large part in Branson’s early rise to fame as a seller of records through a chain of shops . In Branson’s autobiography,LOSING MY VIRGINITY , Random House,2002, Branson described Varnom as "the other genius" in the business in those early days. Next to the Virgin Mary, Branson became the best known Virgin in the world through all his business ventures and the Forbes 2011 list named him the fifth richest man in the UK and the 254th richest in the world. Others Pete and Julie met up with were Joan and Jacqueline Collins , actor Michael Caine, and Ed "Kookie" Burns from 77 Sunset Strip. Pete sank a pint or two from time to time with thirsty actor Tony Booth,whose daughter , Cherie, a QC, became the wife of PM Tony Blair . Tony Booth , of course, was the annoying lefty son of Alf Garnett in Till Death Us Do Part Tv series

Julie , of Prussian descent, was hired to do some modelling in Germany . Steedman quipped that the Germans had run out of blond Aryan stock at the time and had been forced to import them from overseas. Later on , Julie managed a highly profitable Estee Lauder stand at Harrod’s posh store , providing make up for the naked musical, Oh! Calcutta! cast , including the stunning Amazonian Afro-American beauty , Brenda Arnau , and later on wrote pieces for the fiery feminist publication, Spare Rib , edited by Marsha Rowe and Rosie Boycott.

Steedman was deeply interested in the uproar caused by London Oz , especially when the editor, Richard Neville, and co –editors, Jim Anderson and Felix Dennis, were fighting obscentity charges, facing long sentences , in the Old Bailey. Artist Martin Sharp , co- founder of the Sydney Oz , who drew dazzling psychedelic wrap around posters for the London magazine and record sleeves , which became highly collectable , had returned to Australia.

Contributors included Germaine Greer who had appeared nude in one edition (she only getting her gear off if the male editors did the same, which they did ), journalist Lillian Roxon ( of Rock Encyclopedia fame ) , artist and filmmaker Philippe Mora, photographer Robert Whitaker , Angelo Quattrocchi , radical English graphic artist Barney Bubbles, designer of many record sleeves, an LSD user , later bi-polar, who suicided on the anniversary of his late parents’ wedding anniversary, and Marxist writer David Widgery. Attractive Louise Ferrier , Neville’s girlfriend, and Jenny Kee, the well known Australian fashion designer, appeared in what was described as their" birthday suits" on an Oz front cover.

Steedman featured in a poster advertising Oz #31,said to satirise outlaw chic, which promised FUN,TROUBLE AND ADVENTURE FOR ALL THE FAMILY . Toting an automatic rifle , he posed with a woman and a child. The front cover of the magazine carried the heading BRAVE NEW MORNING and Steedman was presented in the same family group setting . He was wearing sunglasses, a Digger’s hat to which was attached a parachute cord with . a .38 calibre cartridge as a toggle. With a wild mop of hair, mutton chop whiskers, he appeared to be nursing a cute child, while also carrying the automatic rifle. Standing alongside , bullet pouches slung over her shoulder , was a topless , sultry-looking woman , brandishing a rifle . The child in the picture was Damon Hughes son of Robert Hughes ; the woman was Jamaican model , Mynah Byrd.

Text on the lower right corner said : " He drives a Maserati/ She’s a professional model/ The boy is the son of the art editor of Time magazine/Some revolution !". The leading American underground newspaper , the Berkeley Barb, which had taken an interest in the ground breaking university magazines Steedman had edited in Melbourne, and had invited him to come on over to California , reproduced the cover and ran off copies as posters.

( When Danton Hughes was three years old one of his babysitters was Jenny Kee who had posed in the nude for Oz. They later became lovers, and artist Damon, 21 years younger than Jenny, gassed himself at the age of 33 while living with her in Australia . Kee’s subsequent autobiography , A Big Life, was critical of Robert Hughes and said his son just wanted to be accepted as an artist by his father, but had not. )

One edition , the Schoolkids Oz which included a Rupert Bear sexual parody , had caused an almighty uproar in official circles . It was created by a 15 year old schoolgirl who pasted the lovable bear’s head onto the lead character in an X-rated satirical cartoon by Robert Crumb. Steedman did not agree with a lot of what was published in Oz, but nevertheless said it was a case of civil liberties.

In what became the then longest obscenity trial in British legal history, the Oz crew faced the serious charge of conspiracy to corrupt public morals ,for which they could face an extreme penalty. More specifically , they were charged with having conspired with certain young people to produce a magazine containing obscene, lewd,indecent ,articles, cartoons and drawings with the intent to debauch and corrupt the morals of young children and other persons and to arouse and implant in their minds lustful and perverted ideas.

The late John Mortimer,QC, who wrote Rumpole of the Old Bailey, represented Dennis and Anderson in court ; Geoffrey Robertson , recently mentioned in Little Darwin in connection with a Darwin spoofy hypothetical hypothetical case, was his junior. Neville represented himself .

John Lennon and Yoko Ono joined a protest march against the prosecution and organised the recording of what was first God Save Oz, changed to God Save Us. At the opening of the trial in 1971, Mortimer said the case stood at the crossroads of our liberty , at the boundaries of our freedom to think, draw and write what we please . Defence witnesses included comedian Marty Feldman, who had a row with Judge Michael Argyle , artist Feliks Topolski, artist and drugs activist Caroline Coon, DJ John Peel ,musician and writer George Melly and lateral thinker Edward de Bono .

At the committal trial, Neville , Dennis and Anderson wore rented schoolgirl costumes. While this was thought to be great fun, Steedman wrote that Geoffrey Robertson clashed with the"theatre"people who wanted to embarrass and overthrow the system, and yelled at them that the trio could be sent away for 10 years.

While this circus was getting saturation coverage in the media and the subject of debate in Westminster, Steedman was made managing editor of Oz and another Australian, lawyer Andrew Fisher, managing director , in a bid to keep the publication solvent and its assets out of the hands of the police. The police at the time , said Steedman, were out to totally destroy Oz by seizing stock , threatening printers , prosecuting the distributors and harassing retailers.

An independent weekly political tabloid –INK -was started up with Steedman becoming involved as managing editor. Police swooped on the Ink premises ,above, to investigate an alleged bomb threat. Shown here are ,from left,Steedman,financier-publisher,Ed Victor,boyish-looking Richard Neville,lawyer Andrew Fisher .(Further information about INK will be revealed in another later post.)

The " Oz Three" were found not guilty of conspiracy to corrupt public morals , but convicted on two lesser charges relating to publishing an obscene magazine, and sentenced to imprisonment. Judge Argyle gave Dennis a shorter sentence, nine months, because he said he was " very much less intelligent " than the other two and had been duped. (Today Dennis is worth squillions –one of the richest men in England ,probably a billionaire . He cashed in on the early days of the computer age , set up a vast publishing empire , became a prominent poet, selling French wine while making live recitations, wrote a bestseller book how to become rich, established a forest , assists worthy causes . In an odd twist of fate, Dennis sued The Spectator and was awarded 10,000 pound damages , given to charity , for running an interview with Mr Justice Argyle in which the disparaging comments made against Dennis in the Oz case were repeated. Dennis reportedly said he did not want to sue the judge because it would make a martyr out of him for the Right, and there was no glory in taking the 80 year old judge’s house away from him. )

The Oz three were taken to prison and had their heads shaved, an act which caused another outcry. At the appeal , where the defendants wore wigs, it was found Justice Argyle had grossly misdirected the jury on numerous occasions and the convictions were quashed .
On September 1971, Oz # 38 ran a story by reporter Jimmy Brandon detailing his experiences with the commando Bill Cattell , highlighting the three horrendous months spent with him in the Bangkok Hilton prison.

Much to everyone’s surprise , more like nervous shock, Catell arrived at the office of Time Out , another innovative and lively London publication with strong political content and a guide to the capital , of which Steedman was the business manager . It seems Brandon had left London and Oz directed Cattell to Steedman .

Demanding information, Cattell spoke to Steedman and revealed he had deserted yet again. In a boastful but open manner , he was eager to recall his previous misadventures . He said he deserted on this occasion because he had been told that the military was to go easy on the Irish in Northern Ireland , but he "wanted to kill the Paddies ." Time Out reported that Cattell had deserted from the Royal Marines in October 1970 and found his way to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, making contacts in the heroin trade. Sent back to Singapore , he and bored, hell-raising mates "ran over Chinese" and smashed bars. When stationed in Hong Kong, Cattell bet he could invade China , and while on night guard duty, slipped across the border for half a mile ,and tied his scarf to a bush so it could be seen through binoculars in the morning.

While in the Time Out office , Cattell mentioned connections with the heroin trade,which included supplying Australia. He also asked to use a telephone to arrange his passage back to Southeast Asia,using a stolen passport from another commando , James Gill.

Posing as a press photographer, Cattell returned to Vietnam and obviously became involved in the drug trade. Then the 23 –year-old commando, 6ft 2 in tall , weighing 15 stone, was found executed near Quang Tri , his hands tied behind his back, a bullet in the head ,in August 1972. Money and letters found in his room indicated he had been involved with the drug trade. One letter was from an acquaintance in Sydney demanding he complete a deal for which he had been paid. Another reportedly stated threats were"futile as we could have each other killed." It went on to say :"Let not your greed or forgetfulness overpower your logical mind ."

Time Out reporters Neil Lyndon and John Lloyd wrote a special article about Cattell headed HOW A ROYAL MARINE DESERTER FOUND HAPPINESS AND DEATH IN THE VIETNAM DRUGS BUSINESS .It detailed that the drug trade into the US and elsewhere was controlled by the US military, flying smack into the USA on Air America , the CIA run airline.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011


The 1994 first edition of the Lonely Planet guide to OUTBACK AUSTRALIA listed Raintree Gallery, 29 Knuckey Street , Darwin, as a place to buy Aboriginal art. Today the former owner of that now non existent gallery, Shirley Collins, has a not so lonely feeling as she heads to court again in the long running case resulting from her ruinous involvement in the Bank of America Down Under Tour of the US in the lead up to the Sydney Olympic Games . At the previous hearing in the Federal Magistrates Court Collins was denied future representation by Brisbane accountant Barrie Percival in her attempt to receive a grace in favour payment from the Federal Government for her involvement in the tour, she said to have been made the "scapegoat "for shortcomings in various places connected with that event . Darwin lawyer James Matthews has taken up her case pro bono . UPDATE:The matter was further adjourned by Magistrate Toni Lucev ,with the Canberra based legal firm of BlakeDawson offering no objection , saying Matthews had not had much time to become acquainted with the involved case. Lucev, who ordered costs of $2365 against pensioner Collins in the previous hearing, after again indicating he might hit her with another poultice , left in abeyance the question of further costs .

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Sorry to hear that longtime Darwin resident,Frank Geddes , who contributed so much to rugby league, the RSL and politics , is not in the best of health . A former coach of Brothers , he put a lot of time and effort into the position of honorary secretary of the Darwin RSL sub branch and presented the NT Library with a magnificient collection related to WW11 which he compiled . Frank had a long and close association with award winning journalist and author , Keith Willey , who worked at the NT News and played in Brothers. We wish Frank and his wife well.


* A Little Darwin display highlights Australia's fox problem, in this case with photographs more than 50 years old from South Australia.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Tension is mounting in Darwin on the eve of the world premier of the latest Vegemite Tv commercial featuring Darwin's famous ,unbeaten Rock Sitters’ Ice Hockey Team . Who will be the star of the extravaganza? Little Darwin predicts a veteran and scarred actor will steal the show . Known to rush about and stammer like a Pommie king after a night out on the town , he is likely to be signed up for a lead part in the next Pirates of the Caribbean after his brilliant,swashbuckling performance in the commercial.

Just as Popeye the sailorman developed powerful muskikals (sic) after eating spinach, this photogenic Darwin ice hockey pin up hunk says one slice of bread spread with Vegemite makes his biceps expand to the size of Arnie’s calf mucles ,not another contentious part of the Exterminator's anatomy.

The fact that a film unit came to Darwin to make the commercial escaped the attention of the local media –except Little Darwin,which does not miss a trick nor the opportunity to get a free jar of yeast extract. Local scribes,it seems , are more into Lotus eating and prawn nights.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Burmese demonstrating outside a French Embassy. See various websites for further information including US Campaign for which includes video that contains strong comments by Barack Obama,Bill Clinton , Ban ki-Moon , Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others. The Darwin media and the Henderson Government cannot remain silent on this connection with Darwin through INPEX. Chief Minister Paul Henderson must raise the plight of the Burmese when he is hosted by Total in Singapore and should announce he is going to do so before he departs.The NT and Australia cannot adopt a holier than thou stance in this matter as when the Indonesians were murdering, raping, plundering and oppressing the East Timorese, Australia signed an agreement to share the oil wealth of the benighted country. Only through an alert media and strong campaigning for human rights in government and international organisations can the mass of humanity influence multi- national companies and dictators. Another source of information is


Several people have drawn our attention to the fact that a road service van has been seen driving about Darwin belching smoke, its engine sounding like a clunker .Is this an ex-service vehicle still wearing the livery of a Territory company or just another example of rough as guts Darwin?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


We repeat ,when is anybody in Territory politics and the local media going to raise in depth the fact that the French energy company ,Total , a partner in the proposed INPEX project, deals with the brutal Burmese military regime? There are Burmese refugees in the Darwin detention centre , some even staged a demonstration on the roof . Burmese were found drifting in a large ice box off the coast.

There are Burmese refugee camps on the Thai border . Burmese refugees were discussed at a weekend conference in Darwin and a Burmese resident got a short run on TV.

A recent TV report about Australia’s new refugee exchange deal with Malaysia showed large buildings in that country where refugees are housed,one said to be mainly filled with Burmese who have fled the murderous military junta in their homeland. In an ABC interview just this week, highly respected businessman, public servant and diplomat , John Menadue, who worked for PMs Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser, once general manager of News Limited, made an informed comment about refugees and boat people.

A former head of the Immigration Department, he said most of the refugees Australia would take from Malaysia would probably be Burmese . He also convincingly demolished the misleading and vicious,divisive hogwash being trumpeted about boat people by Tony Abbott and the Conservatives.

A short time ago , during the early stages of the uprising in Libya, the NT News ran an obviously syndicated feature about the world’s dictators which described the head of the Burmese junta as a superstitious wacko with millions from exploitation of the nation’s resources in his pocket.

So here in Lotus Land , salivating over the megabucks to be made from the INPEX project,it could be said blood money from the oppression of the Burmese nation is contributing to that perceived bonanza and nobody in government or the media here is asking valid ,in depth questions or making any statement on this important moral issue. President Sarkozy of France is on record as having been unhappy with Total's involvement with the Burmese crooks, allegations made that "slave labour " had been used to build pipelines .

On TV last night Aung San Suu Kyi,denied the right to legally lead the Burmese government , locked up for 23 years , appealed to Australia for help and said the recent sham election in Burma had achieved nothing , saying hundreds of political prisoners were locked up. The report went on to urge Australia not to invest in any more oil and gas ventures in her country.

As the global community is increasingly taking collective action against dictators and human rights are raised between the Australian PM and China on official visits , is the Territory government,in its close association with the Inpex parties, using its influence to try and improve the plight of the Burmese populace? If not , why not ? The silence is deafening and the Burmese torture and plunder continues.

STOP PRESS: Since posting the above, it has been announced that Chief Minister Paul Henderson is off to Aberdeen,Scotland,to learn about what is involved in becoming an oil and gas service centre , as planned for Darwin, and then going to Singapore to have talks with Total. Now is surely the time for local reporters to ask the Chief Minister if he is going to raise the plight of the Burmese with Total.

Cheeky Little Darwin, suspecting the
local media would be too timid to follow up this issue, had prepared a list of questions to ask Total, the Chief Minister and INPEX about the Burmese situation. We are happy to make that list available to any reporter unable to frame meaningful questions unless it deals with what you would do in the event that your pet goldfish dies or if you wear shoes made from crocodile skin.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


It seems you must appear to resemble a potential young whirling dervish to gain access to the financially troubled Discovery nightclub. A middle aged couple thought they would have a special night out and rolled up to Discovery – only to be refused entry because they did not have any identification. UPCOMING : A special illustrated report about the Victoria Hotel , another cash strapped venue , when it was one of the busiest waterholes in town and a regular customer was a dog, the Oyster King claimed he was donged by Fong and an editor barked at the footrest while waiting for a Dutch uncle.

Sunday, May 15, 2011



Now that it is impossible for magazines not to have something about William and Kate on the front cover, it is surely time to take Darwin’s little known royalty out of mothballs . Our longtime resident Queen Mother, who graced the Pianola Palace in Smith Street, passed away and is undoubtedly in Valhalla, mixing with Queen Victoria and Mr Brown . The Queen Mum’s consort now has more smelly thongs than Imelda Marcos had shoes.

In Darwin political circles today we are told there is a person known as “ The Princess” , of regal bearing, who sweeps through the corridors of power , courtiers and lackeys bending their arthritic knees and bobbing their balding noggins in due homage . A free packet of French lettuce seeds to the first person to let us know who this titled person is and why she has been entered in Debrett’s.


Mark Twain remarked that reports of his death were premature . In the case of historian Glenville Pike , his reaction to the Cairns Post report of his actual death on May 4 can well be imagined. The paper said the noted Mareeba writer had written about the northern territories (sic) and North Queensland .

Pike, with a laugh , liked recalling the response he received when he rang the Cairns Post to tell them about what he thought was a good follow up story – an important development in the mystery disappearance in 1848 of German explorer Ludwig Leichhardt which supported his research and writing on the subject . The reporter had no idea who this explorer bloke was and asked if he had been a local. When Pike said no, the reporter emphatically responded by saying the paper was not interested . Pike’s extensive photographic collection of the NT and North Queensland is held by the Cairns Historical Society .

When Pike received an Order of Australia for his contribution to the history of Australia, he rang the NT News from Queensland , thinking the paper would be interested that he , a former Territory resident , who had frequent dealings with the newspaper in the tin bank days , had received a gong . Glenville who ? After explaining who he was , he was told that as he was now not a resident of the NT , it was not an item of interest for the local newspaper. Commercial parochialism is everywhere in this united commonwealth .

Saturday, May 14, 2011


* a 1907 typewriter available in New Zealand.-Little Darwin Photo.

Darwin’s myriad cockroaches are wearing black armbands , mourning the demise of the old fashioned typewriter . Never again will one of their kind become as popular as Archy, who learned how to operate the machines and expressed himself in endearing fashion. Despite being weak - wristed , Archy , a gifted cockroach, became famous for typing verse on typewriters , all in lower case because he could not depress the shift key.

Archy kept company with a cool alley cat, Mehitabel, said to have the soul of Cleopatra , and became her Boswell, recording her life midst the smelly garbage tins and hot tin roofs of struggle street .

A recent ABC report carried the melancholy news for Darwin cockies, never invited to Government House and Wedding Cake bunfights ( so they steal in late at night for the crumbs), that the last factory making typewriters in india has ceased production . It only has 500 left for sale. Like the cockies, I am sad.

My love affair with typewriters goes back nigh on 60 years . The clickety–clack of a typewriter is music unto my ears –even though I now peck away at a laptop. In his 2008 Boyer Lectures Rupert Murdoch spoke of "the chattering and pounding of typewriters reaching a crescendo in the minutes before a deadline ."

In various large city newspapers it was,on reflection, a privilege for me to see the many speedy women copytakers with headsets and typewriters taking copy from far flung reporters-the lottery numbers , sporting results , memos, shouting questions, checking spelling, whipping the takes out and yelling for a copy boy.

Women also played an important part in servicing the typewriters . They had special aprons that extended under the machines to catch all the droppings while they cleaned the gunked up keys and wonky rollers with special brushes and metho?

Some machines, chained to the desk, surrounded by cigarette burn marks , were so battered they should have been junked years ago. Apart from sturdy desktop models , there were the ever popular portables .

Out of sheer nostalgia, at a Darwin lawn sale a few years ago, I bought a worn portable on which a woman was said to have typed a thesis. It needed a new ribbon and when I went into a modern office equipment shop the young attendant seemed puzzled by my request for a typewriter ribbon.

I ended up with a useless tiny ribbon which I think was designed for a cash register. I felt crushed like a cockroach , and put the portable in the back of a cupboard to rust away. Probably made a nice hideaway for creepy crawlies.*

Friday, May 13, 2011


This reporter has long envied journalists adept at shorthand. Instead of going along to the Summerhayes School of Business Practice to learn shorthand , this stupid fellow in his youth was distracted by nearby Jim Buckley’s dark and arty Newcastle Hotel, in Sydney, or made other excuses not to attend . As a result, my shorthand resembled that of an amputee .

I read with interest that back of beyond politician , garrulous Dave Tollner , on seeing NT News chief reporter, Nigel Adlam , take shorthand notes , made the flattering statement that he must be a real journalist .

This comment was discussed with a certain long in the tooth reporter , a shorthand master , who has both impressed and annoyed me for decades with his neat calligraphy . It sparked unexpected snobbery , a bit of looking down the royal nose at Adlam. Ah, yes, but Adlam is not of the superior Pitman’s school of shorthand, I was told; he uses a form of speedwriting . In a way , I am also a speedwriter . I scribble so fast I have difficulty reading my notes, accentuated by senile decay , unless I happen to have my digital recorder with me, the operation of which I have not yet fully mastered .

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Still writing almost to the end , historian, author , publisher, Glenville Pike, 85, above ,died of pneumonia on May 4, at Mareeba. His passing went unreported in Darwin where he once lived and wrote early books about the Territory’s colourful past. Pike researched and wrote about the disappearance of the explorer Ludwig Leichhardt , his theory about where he came to grief confirmed recently by a reassessment of an item held in the South Australian Museum which turned out to be part of the explorer's pistol. In discussions with him about Leichhardt, Pike expressed the view that the NT Government could benefit from backing research into the Leichhardt mystery because it could become a big tourist attraction .

At a time when publishers were little interested in Australian history ,Pike started his own publishing company and, apart from writing books himself,sales of which ran in excess of 150,00, he helped many other people in the north to publish their memoirs. He went into partnership with Darwin journalist Jessie Litchfield, grandmother of former NT Chief Minister , Marshall Perron , in the North Australian Monthly which championed the development of the north, completion of the north -south railway , more defence bases, better roads and improved basic services for the populace.

Just over two weeks ago Little Darwin spoke to Glenville as he liked to be kept up to date about what was happening in the Territory. Battling cancer, with not long to live, he spoke about changes in Australian publishing, an approach from a person wanting to write a book on the Territory’s Ragged Thirteen desperadoes , about which he had written himself, how he had been writing for the North Queensland Register for more than 70 years nonstop, surely some kind of record in the annals of Australian journalism , and details of early Darwin newspaper editors . A tribute to Pike , his mother and aunt will be posted at a later date.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Frustrated soldier , Harry Draper, in France on August 7, 1917, sat down and penned a message on this embroidered postcard to “ Dear Linda” expressing his disappointment at again not having received mail from her. Linda’s previous letter to him had" been wandering about the world for about seven months ". After four days of rain, the weather seemed to be easing up and things were very quiet at the time . Harry had been reading the newspaper until he had “nearly gone blind.” Now he was writing for a change ; he hoped she was in the best of health as he was " at present". These kinds of postcards were called “silks”, because they were hand embroidered on strips of silk mesh , produced by French and Belgian women , who spent hours in their homes or refugee camps making them. The silks often had a flap,like this one, under which a personal message could be inserted . Postcard from Peter Simon Militaria Collection

Thursday, May 5, 2011


In a giant leap forward in NT passenger comfort, a new budget airline will ease the squeeze on frequent flyers . Little Darwin's exclusive photographs show the unusual seating features of the German carrier , Link Hansa . Passengers simply join hands as if in a séance and their feet are strapped into ski boots on the reinforced wings .In this way, the airline can treble the number of passengers it carries. We predict Territorians will be blown away by this brilliant aviation industry approach to squeezing more sardines into tin cans.

No longer will passengers have to fight to get a window seat as everybody will have a panoramic view of the world . The airline’s PR, Prunella Prunepuss, says another advantage is the fact that crying and coughing babies and children , who make conventional air travel such an ordeal, can easily be swept away in the jetstream .

Troublesome Darwin drunks on red-eye flights will literally be given the boot -their shoelaces will be untied , the pilot will make a sudden dive and the boofheads will disappear, much to the delight of the other travellers , busily licking their frozen inflight apple strudel on a stick . The top photograph shows members of the Henderson government about to take a flight over Tumbling Waters on a Meet the Fokkers VIP spin. In the bottom happy snap we show members of the Darwin Limp Fallers’ Club , Mitchell Street, trying out the new fun service. Jetstar and Tiger are reported to be deeply concerned about the latest competitor on the Darwin run. NOTE : Ms Prunepuss will make a guest appearance in the Channel 9 show COME FLY WITH ME, starring the Little Britain mile high clubbers .


During the big Easter race meeting in Alice Springs more than champion nags were seen running about the track. Racegoers who had another flutter at the casino were treated to mice sprinting about a bar open to the outside. Heavy rains in the Centre in past months not only produced a mouse plague but caused wild hops to flourish. Anthropologist, Aboriginal rights campaigner and artist , Miss Olive Pink , who urged eradication of hops for many years and ran a centre for the preservation of arid zone flora , would be seeing red if she were alive today .

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Paris for Australians # 2 : THE POMPIDOU CENTRE .

*Another special report by francophile ex- architect, cartoonist , man of letters and opera buff , Peter Burleigh, almost certain to be hung in a prominent place in The Louvre or from the Eiffel Tower after this provocative assessment .


Remember when the ape reached out to touch the mysterious slab in Kubrick’s 2001? For a similar experience – with you as the ape – try strolling through the gorgeous streets of Paris’ 4th Arrondissment to suddenly be confronted with The Centre Georges Pompidou.

This building, which my guide book breathlessly assures me contains more than twice the amount of steel than the Eiffel Tower, is an unhuman block of pseudo-industrial pseudo-architectural pseudo-fantasy which goes a long way to reverse centuries of design progress.

The idea of pulling the services and structure from the inside of a building – the ducts, escalators, lifts, columns, bracing and stuff - and exposing them on the outside has real merit. But it’s not enough. Even an ape would have known that a big follow-up would be required to make the pipes and beams aesthetically pleasing. This didn’t happen.

In the hands of designers Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers the resolution of their idea is as artistically sensitive as ripping the guts out of a chicken and plastering them on your kitchen window.

Because you can only fool some of the apes some of the time, it’s not a happy place. Despite its Disneyesque primary colours, intended to communicate the mechanical logic of the arteries of power, water and people-moving elements, the building simply looks more like the inside of a large-scale fuse box than ever.Outside, knots of disconsolate students, street people, drunks and beggars sit facing the building on an unmerciful cobbled hardstand. They stare blankly, waiting vainly for a sign of welcome. Any trees have been pushed away to the perimeter where huge air intake pipes you might have seen on the Titanic form a visual barrier.

While the building does its best to be repellent it’s what’s inside that’s worth the effort. The modern art collections are truly extraordinary, like a waterfall of Champagne that never runs dry. What does run dry are the superlatives required to describe the 1000+ works on permanent display. List all the names of the great artists from 1900 to the present day and you’ll have your description.

The experience of the building itself has moments of pleasure. Ride the external escalators which clank to the rooftop restaurant and you’ll rise above the rooftops with their multitudes of shapes and sizes and their mushrooming groups of chimneypots and eccentric loft dwellings. Ahhh. You’re still in Paris. Spires near and far poke through trees foggy with green shoots. In a few days the leaves will be out. Art and pragmatic design combine with nature in a...but wait - look back at the building you’re standing on and understand that the Pompidou Centre is not part of nature like the rest of Paris seems to be.

Georges Pompidou was the President of France from 1969 to 1974, and insisted on the modernisation of Paris. Unfortunately he believed in destroying things to save them. He was responsible for choosing the design of the Pompidou Centre. He tore down the wonderful Les Halles open-air markets ("the belly of Paris") and replaced them with a ghastly shopping mall, and he constructed an expressway along the right bank of the Seine.

On the ground floor schoolkids are having fun making small amateur films. The Centre has put up mock offices, restaurants, apartments and forests to use as backgrounds. The name for this program is "The Film Factory", and it’s spot on. Film, with its suspension of reality, is the perfect media for this building. Unlike film, however, the building can’t transcend its dour engineer’s demeanour, which was recognised in the James Bond movie Moonraker in which a fifth floor room is shown as part of the villain’s space station.

At night the Centre glitters with light but it isn’t gold. Get closer and feel its cold industrial rationale sneering at your humanity. At the end of our visit we pass through the excitement of being in the presence of great art to being ingested by the building’s "inhumanity zone" and spat out into the rain.

But don’t let
the building win. It’s taken me 35 years to overcome my nausea and go inside. I disliked it so much that every time I visited Paris I’d turn on my heel and walk away from it, and that meant I have consistently missed one of the great art experiences on the planet. Now I’ve been seduced by the art inside, The Pompidou Centre will always look to me as if a dirty paper bag has been pulled over the head of a beautiful woman.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Calling all Darwin reporters - what is killing so many of the worms? I don't care a fig about monotonous crocodile yarns .I just want to know what is wiping out the worms. There is a story here. Don't reporters venture outside airconditioned offices , walk about, and see the corpses all over the city ? I am told one dog has become crook from eating the worms. It is suggested that it is a seasonal thing. If so, what exactly? Another possibility is that because of the bumper Wet, the poor worms are being cooked by the hot weather and or crushed by the hardening soil as it rapidly dries out .


Our team of near-embalmed reporters strives to present readers with new and exciting experiences . Today we proudly bring you an account of a cultural evening in Paris at which it seems porky the pig ran out of grunt and took the final plunge.


Australian Peter Burleigh, first introduced to our subscribers through one of his brilliant cartoons drawn for Broadside Magazine in 1969 , when he was studying architecture at Melbourne University (the editor of Broadside, Pete Steedman, is the subject of an ongoing series in Little Darwin which is likely to challenge the ABC's Blue Hills in length).

After too much social contact with Steedman , Burleigh found it difficult to think or draw a straight line even with a T-square , so he wisely took off for the Mother Country to expand his scholarly study of curves and crumbling ancestral piles.

In March this year , Burleigh was back in Paris, much older but none the wiser : an esteemed ex-architect with diverse interests such as new technology, writing fiction, travel, travel writing, film & screenplays, design, literature, fishing, dogs, opinions & people, Roman history, family and the Robin Hood sport of archery .

In his self-assumed role as an interpreter of culture for Australian audiences, he sent us the following review of an unforgettable performance at the Opera Garnier. ( His son , Marc, a naturalised French citizen and a journalist with Agence France Press ,was unable to attend the evening as he suddenly volunteered to go front-line reporting in Libya. Marc returned soon after , escorting the bodies of two photographers who had been killed in a Gadaffi mortar attack. Burleigh commented his son’s going off to war was an extreme way to avoid the opera .)

The inimitable review of the orgasmic evening reads thus ...

We have a box
on the Port side of the stage. Our view of the action is somewhat limited, but we are up high and have a bird’s-eye-view of most of the set, which reproduces a corner of a dirty laneway somewhere in Russia. The brown and lime-coloured walls are peeling and paper litters the street. Scruffy apartment windows overlook the corner. Inside these windows people do things unrelated to the story, like leaning out and staring, scratching themselves, tentatively embracing, changing light globes or pretending to play a violin. It is pretty gloomy. By contrast, our box is lined with rich red felt and decorated with golden seraphim.

A few people hang about on the footpath, drinking vodka, looking miserable and shouldering life’s burdens. A very large wardrobe sits on the footpath, and soon a couple of people walk up to it, open the
middle door and reveal stashed carafes of grog. They toss back a couple of glasses and put the carafes back. This wardrobe lends mystery to the performance and remains a mystery even after the heroine kills herself. I immediately recognise it as a symbol, perhaps of the Mystery of Life or the Loneliness of the Cabinet Maker.

Anyway, this young woman Katia Kabanova, who the Opera is named after, is arguing with her father and mother in the street. The people in the windows must be able to hear them but no one reacts. From Katia’s body language and stressed demeanour I can tell the argument is not a new one, and I guess the neighbours are used to such tantrums. Her father is a weak, balding man and struggles with an overdose of angst but not as much as she does. Katia’s sister slithers about the place, a twitching dysfunctional rocker, clearly drug-addled . She’s a bitch.

The old guy, who somehow turns out not to be Katia’s father but her husband, leaves for Siberia. Despite the departure of this overweight loser, Katia feels sure that doom is impending. She is right, the audience is becoming restless. Suddenly her mother reappears, grabs a drunk off the footpath and, mad with lust, drags him into a bedroom which we can’t see from our seats. At the appropriate moment the
fountain gives an orgasmic squirt, getting the only laugh of the night.

Sorry, I forgot to mention the fountain. It sits in the middle of the roadway, obstructing any traffic intending to navigate the corner. Luckily no traffic appears during the performance. It has no water in it, save for a couple of brief orgasmic squirts. It takes a minute to work out what it is because it’s simply a few concentric brass pipes studded with spray heads. It seems heavy with symbolism because its ‘fountaining’ is limited to echoing the sexual climaxes of several characters, including Katia, and could have all the significance of a condom nailed to a nunnery door by Martin Luther or none at all.

Katia, whose mind is obviously deteriorating because her arm movements recall Joe Cocker in full flight has disappeared into the off-stage garden with Boris, another balding and aimless Russian man. They return after a discreet interval and a squirt of the fountain. He picks pieces of straw from her hair. Her load of guilt has increased tenfold.

The man responsible for this opera, Leos Janacek from Czechoslovakia, wrote the music based on a play by Aleksandr Ostrovsky. This is designed to be confusing to a black dog. All the time the cast sings about impending emotional ruin in Russia, French subtitles are flashed on the Proscenium. The two languages confuse my interpretation of the plot, so I ignore them and rely on my own innate appreciation of human nature. By this time a Tsunami of guilt is washing over Katia who seems unhealthily drawn to the fountain. Other characters appear from inside the wardrobe. Katia enters and reappears dressed like Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby. Things are falling into place.

While self-recrimination flows, in the orchestra pit below us the conductor displays a depth of passion and action sorely missing on stage. The music is good, although there is a repeated signature sequence which emphasises on-rushing doom in case you missed it in the faces and gestures of the characters. Whenever Katia sings an intense soliloquy the other characters turn their faces to the walls.
Boris, who is still hanging around, jams his head into the corner of the wardrobe.

One of the mysteries of the fountain is the dead goat lying in it. It sure looks like a dead goat to me. The word “peche”, which means “fish” in French, is sung often but no one looks into the fountain for fish or throws in a line. Alarmingly for the health of any fish in the fountain, the dead goat stays there for the entire performance. As a symbol of pollution in the Russian waterways it is quite effective, but Katia keeps wading in it and its imaginary water and may be suffering symbolic emotional pollution. It’s complicated.

Her evil sister and promiscuous mother now take a back seat in the plot, having succumbed to a plethora of sins (I learn later that in French “peche” also means “sin”, but luckily this doesn’t affect my appreciation of the plot).

Katia’s mind is now swirling like the storm clouds looming at the back of the set. The people standing in the windows and leaning against the walls slowly drift away or stagger off, leaving her and the symbols alone in the gloomy street. The “Wardrobe of Doom” has assumed the powers of the Tardis, time-shifting the characters into unseen dimensions but leaving the carafes of vodka untouched.

To the left of the stage, where our view is blocked, heavy footsteps suggest the cast members are queuing for glasses of Evian water or, indeed, vodka. There is no Interval in case the audience doesn’t return from the lobby. In our box there is an air of exhaustion.

When Katia sings that she can hear the feet of birds on the roof of her tomb, we know that the bats have finally got loose in her belfry. Clearly something devastating is about to happen, as if we didn’t know, and we wish it would hurry up. She steps into the fountain again, gesticulates at the sky and lies down dead. Boris spreads a coat over the
cadavers of Katia and the goat.

The other characters are drawn out onto the street, magnetically attracted by misery and death, but are not upset at Katia’s suicide – and neither are we. Obviously it’s a common occurrence, on average once a week. The audience gives the slump-shouldered cast a standing ovation, either because the Opera is over or because the lead actress has killed herself. All in all, this is a fascinating cultural experience. The best thing about it is the Opera Garnier building itself, a spectacular Napoleonic confection of marble and gold.

***The cartoon at the head of this story was drawn by Peter Burleigh, for Broadside , a publication ahead of its time , which had a slightly longer season than Katia and the goat ; editor Pete Steedman operated out of an office not much bigger than
a wardrobe during the Vietnam War period. At the end of Burleigh's review of Opera Garnier, the entire Little Darwin staff rose as one , shouted " Bravo!"-and got stuck into the absinthe like Toulouse Lautrec.