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Ever the arty Autie

Louise Hearman and the Archibald Prize fail to truly capture Barry Humphries


Barry Humphries and Louise Hearman Louise Hearman and the Archibald Prize fail to truly capture Barry Humphries . To capture Barry Humphries you’d have to have been the 8 year old autistic child experiencing attempted rape at a party in his Barry MacKenzie heydays.

Donna Williams aged 8 with GTS convertible When I was born, my parents lived in a rented house at 7 Rowell Ave in Camberwell. They moved when I was a week old, first to Thornbury, then to Regent, and then in the summer of January 1972, when I was 8 years old, my family moved from the small rented house into a big two story house at 664 Bell St Preston. By mid 1972 they had put in 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.

Jackie Williams Bedrock Motors My father, known as Jack or Jackie Williams, 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 ulitmately that dirty money came with a very large two story house adorned with antiques, with built-in swimming pool, a massive snooker table, a well stocked bar and with it all raging wild, usually weekly parties for his associates and those he schmoozed with.

The parties, from 1972 to when I left for good in 1978, were full of intoxicated people. 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.

Sex was everywhere at the parties. I experienced it as a place of few boundaries, of child endangerment run by a matriarch alcoholic mother from a background of generational incest. My mother, who had also grown up in poverty, proudly gave visitors tours of my chandeliered attic bedroom to show off how ‘lucky’ I was as well as the views across to the city. These tours would happen at every party, sometimes several times in a night. So they’d happen from the time I was awake and other times when I would wake to the sound of (usually drunk) people in my room. In short, it was a difficult place to stay safe. If you didn’t fight for yourself chances were the adults were so hedonistic in their own pursuits of excitement and intoxication, nobody else would fight for you.

Marlene with guns 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’.

Around 1998, in a ten day visit to me in the UK, my older brother, Shane, was trying to connect with me. As part of this he was talking to me about the parties at our house in the early 1970s. He was 16 months older than me, so around age 9-10 when I was 8 years old. During the visit, he told me,

‘we had some pretty famous people come to those parties. You know Barry Humphries was at our place, for the parties’.

Then he told me what he remembered, that Barry Humphries had been caught coming out of my attic bedroom and that he had witnessed Barry Humphries having been taken out into the back garden by my father and other male partygoers that night and punched up out there.

There are a range of online citations that could be linked to this event:

Humphries’ alcoholism reached a crisis point during a visit home to Australia in the early 1970s. His parents finally had him admitted to a private hospital to ‘dry out’ when, after a particularly heavy binge, he was found unconscious in a gutter.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Humphries

“Humphries was pulled into an alley where he was knocked unconscious and robbed. His bloated and bruised face filled the Melbourne Papers the next day. As always, Humphries sidestepped public humiliation by not hiding from it but admitting it with laughter”

Source: page 155 of A Portrait of the Artist as Australian: LÕOeuvre bizarre de Barry Humphries http://bit.ly/1z5WyYF

“There are some friends of yours in a car outside who want to talk to you. My next recollection is of distant lights and mud. It was night and for some reason I was lying down in some kind of waste land surrounded by rubble and broken glass on which a fine drizzle descended. I tried to crawl but there was an excruciating pain in my abdomen and I collapsed back down into he mud. Slowly, however, I dragged myself toward the edge of a desolate road and, at length, attracted the attention of a passing car which dumped me off, like a severely damaged parcel, at St Vincent’s Hospital”

Source: Barry Humphries own quotation cited in A Portrait of the Artist as Australian: LÕOeuvre bizarre de Barry Humphries http://bit.ly/1z5WyYF

During the late 1960s and early 1970s Barry Humphries was closely involved with his friend, painter Donald Friend, who kept up to 20 ‘houseboys’ in his home in Bali. Humphries had stayed at Friend’s home in Bali, was a collector of his art (which also included works of underage boys Friend was sleeping with). Humphries would later write an introduction to Friend’s diaries in which he referred to this as Friend’s ‘benevolent pedophilia’.

Barry Humphries’ on stage character of Les Patterson was synonymous with the drunks at the kind of parties held by my criminal family in the 1970s.
Barry Humphries as early Les Patterson

Barry Humphries as early Les Patterson

In the early 1970s Barry Humphries lived in the inner suburbs of Melbourne within 30 minutes drive from our house at 664 Bell St Preston. He was close friends with TV entertainer Smacka Fitzgibbon and both were friends with well known Melbourne millionaire, art collector and restauranteur Kevin Dennis, (Dennis Gowing) who was well known for his TV Commercials and the highly successful program he started, Kevin Dennis’ New Faces on channel 9. Kevin Dennis was also a long term colleague of my father’s as my father would take Kevin Dennis’ trade-ins to sell in his own second hand car yard at Bedrock Motors at 275 St Georges Rd Northcote.

Kevin Dennis (aka Dennis Gowing) was one of my father’s closest car dealer colleagues and I’d been taken to his swanky car yard since I was at least 3 years old. My earliest memory of Kevin Dennis was him taking my handkerchief and photocopying it and handing me a paper version of it. In spite of Kevin Dennis being a respected and well known millionaire, they actually had a lot in common. They were both born illegitimate in the 30s and had each come from backgrounds of deprivation and poverty but made good through being exceptionally good at selling cars through their respective self built car dealerships.

fitzgibbong(hp000982) Smacka Fitzgibbon Smacka Fitzgibbon, a close friend of Barry Humphries (aka Dame Edna Everage) came to one of the parties some time between the autumn and spring of 1972. Smacka was a sunny, exuberant, chubby faced man who took over the kitchen one night during a party to cook fish. I knew him from the TV in those days and because his name was so memorable to me as an echolalic child. Smacka played the banjo that night, 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. He never laid a hand on me and the fish was nice.
Barry Humphries in the early 1970s

Barry Humphries in the early 1970s

RECOGNITION: Though I had a visual perceptual disorder which meant I processed people and their bodies and faces piece by piece, this increased my ability to remember those pieces and to rely on movements, tones, and the most striking features of a person. Although I’m faceblind, faceblindness can be primary or secondary, so effects people in different ways. I used peripheral vision to process faces and bodies as a whole but in looking directly I took in things like the hair, the eyes, nose, mouth, the hands, the movements, the tone with which the person sat in their body, their voice and laugh. As such I can do remarkable characterisations of people.

At the age of 28 I got therapeutic tinted lenses that allowed me to easily process faces and bodies as a whole. Now I could see the striking features I remembered, glued together as a single image. The media and advertising images I recognise today as Barry Humphries trigger disgust and PTSD reactions in me regardless of whether these are as himself, as Dame Edna or Les Patterson. His eyes and jaw remain the same regardless of disguise. In interviews as himself, I hear the same chuckle, the same voice, the same movements I remembered in the abuser. If it wasn’t Barry Humphries (and I have no reason to doubt it was) then it was someone who moved and sounded and had features so strikingly like him that in a court of law, I could not say I had any doubt in my own mind that it was him.

Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage 1970s

Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage 1970s
I knew what young adults looked like, people aged 20-30. Younger adults were usually not as ‘weathered’. This man struck me as older because he was pudgy with his dark sheeny hair was slicked over on top, more like someone 35-40 starts doing. The abuser’s eyes were full of energy like someone hungry determined to catch a rabbit in his sights. I remember how he held his mouth and jaw, not relaxed at all, tense, forced.

THE ABUSE: I can remember I was wearing long flannel PJs, so it was probably Autumn. We had moved into the house in Jan 1972 and the parties had begun by mid-late 1972. So some time in mid-late 1972.

The person who assaulted me wasn’t sunny like Smacka. He was intense. I remember his tone as he cajoled, trying to get hold of me. I remember the way he chuckled to himself, the way he feigned funny, the way he behaved as if he thought he was funny, and the feeling that this was some kind of funny he was having to himself. I remembered people’s builds, their shapes. And I remember his: medium build, pudgy but not obese. This man loomed at me with his hands outstretched trying to rib tickle me as if I’d find him funny, this leering middle aged macabre clown like stranger in my bedroom.

Donna Williams aged 9

Donna Williams aged 9
As a functionally non-verbal autistic 8 year old, I didn’t understand his grooming and after giggling with anxiety, scampering away from his grabbing hands and escaping by jumping up and down on my bed. I remember being pulled from the bed, his hands in my PJs, being groped and molested. It was here that I’d begun to flail, squeal and bite.

Barry Humphries as Les Patterson in the 1970s

Barry Humphries as Les Patterson in the 1970s
Things escalated. The rest is is fragments, full of panic and fear with my face shoved into the mattress still trying to fight and keep my PJ bottoms on. Then I only remember being wild and traumatised in the corner staring at the doorway as if I was frozen but electric. That was how it was from my side.

Though I also mentioned the assault to my psychologist treating me for PTSD from 1998-2002 in the UK, it was only in further treatment for PTSD and DID here in Australia with a Mental Health Social Worker in 2011 that I talked about this assault with anyone in great depth. My numerous articles on the events have been in the public domain since 2011, giving adequate time for replies. What I did see Barry Humphries suddenly announce his Farewell Tour where, as his swan song, he introduced his last new character, ‘Gerard’, a pedophile priest brother of the leering, predatory perverted drunk character of ‘Les Patterson’.

I have many questions. In the early 1970s, Barry Humphries, at that time a serious alcoholic, was found face down, unconscious, having been bashed. What was the year, the month, the season of this and another time he was bashed and left for dead? What had he done these nights? And were these events reported and within the vicinity of 664 Bell St Preston? What did his wife, Rosalind Tong, know at the time when she divorced him in 1970. Was his friendship with Smacka Fitzgibbon or Kevin Dennis suddenly altered and were there whisperings in their own families of what had gone on. Barry Humphries apparently doesn’t remember his assailants. Perhaps I can help him with that. Perhaps he doesn’t remember where he was or what he did that night prior to being bashed unconscious by persons apparently utterly unknown to him. Perhaps he also doesn’t want to remember. But there are those of us who are left to remember who cannot forget.


Andrew Denton: You were an alcoholic and you got through it, you gave it up.

Barry Humphries: Oh, I don’t say I was, I mean, I consider I am, in the same way as a diabetic is a diabetic.

Andrew Denton: But you haven’t had a drink, famously, for more that 30 years, which is remarkable strength.

Barry Humphries: I don’t think it’s a…not so much strength. I mean, I think it’s just a realisation that it’s, um…off the menu, you know. I mean, it doesn’t concern me. I have to buy the stuff for people. But I…I just don’t drink it myself. It’s rather a relief, really, you know. Don’t have to look in the newspaper and see what I did last night.

Andrew Denton: And you’re safe here. Let me tell you. What…what did that addictive nature of yours mutate into?

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/enoughrope/transcripts/s864967.htm

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.

I’m still waiting on my apology. If it was not Barry Humphries, then it was his look alike, his sound alike, who also happened to come to the party with Smacka Fitzgibbon. The person who did this was the kind of person to sexually assault and attempt to rape an 8 year old autistic child. The person who did this took lightly pedophilia, chuckled to himself about it, then, perhaps even now. If it was Barry Humphries, then in my view he is still dancing, kicking dirt on the grave of my childhood.

Donna Williams, BA Hons, Dip Ed.
Author, artist, singer-songwriter, screenwriter.
Autism consultant and public speaker.

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