I met a bloke at the Tatts Hotel the other day after he helpfully taught myself and the barmaid how to say thankyou in Japanese.
You see the barmaid is soon off backpacking to the Land of the Rising Sun and he said he was visiting from Wagga.
Wagga Wagga’, I questioned, recalling Slim Dusty’s song, and.a brief visit to the city many years ago.
‘No Wagga,’ he replied with a smile, ‘I can get away with it, I’m now a local’.
I praised his choice of inland city, noting that it was the birthplace of Rex Airlines, which services Lismore.
‘I remember there are some impressive stained-glass windows in the chapel at the local army base, but I can’t think of its name,’ I recalled.
“Kapooka’, he replied.
‘So where did the flood get up to in here? he asked.
‘It got up to the chin of the hairy yak,’ I said, pointing to the much-loved advertising monstrosity hanging on the wall..
A few beers later and he was recounting a yarn which I thought was quite funny.
While accompanying Judy Garland on a tour of Hong Kong in 1964, he was approached by a young Peter Allen, who was performing with a trio at the Hong Kong Hilton.
Allen asked that he bring Judy along to a performance.
My new drinking buddy told me he thought he better check out the show first.
‘The other two weren’t very good but Peter Allen was incredible,’ he recalled.
Judy Garland duly went along and she ended up signing the act to open for her and also introduced Allen to her daughter Liza Minnelli, who he later married.
‘The funny thing was I was trying to keep Judy busy because Peter was busy shagging her boyfriend,’ he chuckled.
On another tour, he recalled helping Judy pee off the back of the ship because ‘when she had to pee she had to pee’, and she didn’t like the toilets on the ship.
‘Me and another fellow were holding an arm each while she was peeing off the back,’ he laughed.
‘Now I’m the same. Since the prostate operation I’ve got less than two minutes.’
I countered with a journey through the UK many years ago with my girlfriend’s parents, and grandmother … (although it’s hard to compete with a Judy Garland story)
‘It was like a tour of the public loos in England, Scotland and Wales,’ I recalled. ‘She’d no sooner finish a pee at one than she’d be asking where the next toilet was … I’m sure there were nice castles and all, but all I remember is the search for the next loo.’
We laughed, and I excused myself to take a pee.’
‘I was living in Chelsea for a time,’ he told me whenI returned.
‘That’s a coincidence .. I was working at a hospital in Chelsea in my early twenties … it was full of Lords and Ladies, and Duchesses and Arab Shieks,’ I replied. ‘Mostly lovely people and they loved us Aussies.’
‘I know,’ he smiled. ‘I was married to the daughter of a Viscountess.’
‘I went shopping with her once and she walked into a store where there were twenty people lined up waiting for service. She went straight up to the counter and they served her] first.
“I was astounded and told her so later.
‘No-one objected did they?, she replied.
We had just begun talking about the obscene power of the elite as a bunch of friends arrived at the pub.
Another round was ordered, and introductions were made.
‘This place is quite alternative,’ he mused, when we had a quiet moment.
‘Yes it is. It’s the best pub in town,’ I replied.’It’s always supported live music and the musos are about to pay that back,’ I said, pointing to a poster on the wall of an upcoming flood fundraiser at the pub.
‘More than 50 bands have lined up to play for free over three days to support the owners, Rod and Kim, to get the place back in shape.’
‘Pity I’m leaving tomorrow,’ he replied.
‘I’m off to Tenterfield. I haven’t been there for a long time.’
About then the Jazz band started setting up. We’d shared a few too many beers and it was time for my friend to say goodbye.
At 87-years-old, apparently you need your sleep, although I told him from what I’d seen, the next 13 years would be child’s play.
*nice chatting with you John