Barry Humphries is one of those faces that has haunted me for years. I have had to see his face on TV, in newspapers and magazines, on billboards and each time I remember him in our house, in my room, in the early 70s when I was a child. And the smile from the billboards never quite jells with the leer I remember. So reading about Barry Humphries’ Farewell Tour this June 2012, I felt, finally no remorse for the finale of an iconic Australian entertainer.
In 1970, when I was 7 years old, my family had moved from the small rented house into a big two story house in Preston. In went a built in swimming pool, well supplied bar, snooker table, chandeliers, mirror walls, and filled with antiques and racks of guns displayed openly on the walls. There was a revolver in the drawer of the front dresser just inside the front door.
My father was a car dealer, second hand cars. He also moved amidst criminals (convicted and unconvicted), the swells of the entertainment industry and ultimately cops who became ‘friends of the family’. His car yard life was filled with compulsive womanising and this extended to at least a few teenagers and I can’t be sure he bothered distinguishing between who was 18, who was 16 and who was 14. His back rooms were filled with porn, guns, stolen goods. He was a fence. So most of this was ‘dirty money’. And it came with parties, raging wild, weekly parties for his associates and those he schmoozed with.
The parties were full of alcohol but it was not uncommon for joints to be passed about and it probably didn’t stop there. It was usual to see my father literally dance on the snooker table, see people strip off and skinny dip in the pool, move amidst people having sex in the vast garden behind the high wrought iron gates, their rolled barbed wire over the top, the high brick fence out the front. Even the neighbors drew the blinds on our property and when the guns went off in domestic violence at and after the parties it was so terribly hard to get police to the property and even when they did come, strings were quickly pulled to replace them with cops who would take care of it as they were ‘friends of the family’.
In my 30s my older brother was talking to me about the parties at our house in the 1970s. He said, ‘we had some pretty famous people come to those parties’. I knew about entrepreneur and TV celebrity Kevin Dennis (Dennis Gowing) because I’d been taken to his car yard since I was at least 3 years old and then you see the same person on the TV (Kevin Dennis’ New Faces) and that’s not a hard one to forget. My father took the trade ins off Kevin Dennis since the early 60s and by the 70s they were still very close colleagues.
We had other celebrities of the era visit the parties, including Smacka Fitzgibbon, a close friend of Barry Humphries (aka Dame Edna Everage), who came to one of the parties sometime in a 16 month window between late 1970 and mid 1972. Smacka, too, was not one who was easy to forget. He was a chubby faced man who took over the kitchen one night during a party to cook fish. He played the banjo, sang and cooked a fish with me in the kitchen and it was the first time I tried fish. Smacka seemed a nice enough bloke. Never laid a hand on me and the fish was nice. ‘You know Barry Humphries was at our place, for the parties’, said my older brother.
Then he told me what he remembered about a man who had been taken out into the back garden and punched up out there. The man had been caught coming out of my attic bedroom. As a functionally non-verbal autistic 8 year old, I didn’t understand grooming and after giggling, scampering and jumping on my bed didn’t work, I’d begun to flail and bite. Things escalated. The rest is part of PTSD and therapy. Pedophiles project seduction onto the children they abuse to try and justify or water down responsibility for their own actions. They often claim they were seduced by the children they abused. But nobody could claim I seduced the pedophile who abused me.From 1969-1979 a famous Australian artist, Donald Friend, had a house in Bali where he had up to 20 Balinese ‘houseboys’ who stayed at his home. Donald Friend kept diaries detailing his pedophilia there with boys aged 9-12 years old. He finally bequeathed these diaries to the National Library on the condition they publish them. .
Australian film maker, Kerry Negara, who produced a film on the subject, ‘A Loving Friend‘. According to Negara, who interviewed the boys, now adults, the Australian art establishment kept silent on the issue, essentially sanctioning it.
Actor, comedian, writer, Barry Humphries AO CBE (aka Edna Everage/Les Patterson) wrote the introduction to Donald Friend’s diaries, referring to his way of life as ‘benevolent pedophilia’.
Donald Friend gave the boys money to attend school, gave them work, and lodging but clearly not without ‘cost’.
If a white child of 9-12 was school fees and pocket money in exchange for sex, I doubt we’d consider the pedophile doing this ‘benevolent’.
In 2011 Barry Humphries played The Goblin King in the film, The Hobbit.
According to Wikipedia:
A goblin is a legendary evil or mischievous illiterate creature, described as a grotesquely evil or evil-like phantom.
I wonder if Barry Humphries’ Goblin King will be somehow ‘benevolent’ in a world of small Hobbits.I’ve always had a strong reaction to images of Barry Humphries.
Edna Everage behaving like someone’s doting grandmother always felt more like the wolf from Red Riding Hood dressed in grandma’s clothes.
Les Patterson seemed synonymous with the drunks at the many parties held by my criminal family in the 1970s.
As an adult when I saw pictures of Barry Humphries I felt dread. I couldn’t help but see a leering, macabre clown. So I’m not at all surprised to find he’s now been cast in Peter Jackson’s film, The Hobbit as The Goblin King.
Goblins, described in Wikipedia, are legendary evil or mischievous creature, described as a grotesquely evil.
I had nightmares of such a grotesque clown, the hungry eyes, the leering smirk like smile broadening into teeth. I was one of those kids who was wary of clowns, all I saw were dressed up men.
Perhaps my own experiences colored that. My father was friends with entrepreneur and TV host Kevin Dennis since the 60s and entertainer Smacka Fitzgibbon in the early 70s, both of them mutual friends of Barry Humphries, who my older brother told me came to the parties too.
I’m sure, the parties in the early 70s would fit in the film, The Hobbit. Our parties were places of wild decadence and extravagance, places of no boundaries, the stuff of film really. Our parties had the very lack of boundaries so openly celebrated, enjoyed and written about in the diaries of self confessed pedophile, Donald Friend, a close friend of Barry Humphries whose lifestyle Humphries refers to as ‘benevolent pedophilia’.
I’m sure you could find many a Goblin King at our parties back then. As for Hobbits, as an almost eight year old around the adults swanning it at our parties, I felt like a hobbit, seeking out places to feel safe. But those parties were never safe for children.