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les girls, the boys from the cross come to bondi, things do not go well.

Some Sundays Bondi was so crowded a man would find himself trapped in amongst the thousands just trying to get to the water, with nearly all the available sand taken up by the massed bodies the only way through was to step over them, and it was on one of these Sundays when the troupe from The All Male Revue – Les Girls  – arrived for a leisurely afternoon at Bondi.

A Sunday when there were 30,000 bodies on the sand and 10,000 in the water and the rumble of conversation could be heard from Campbell Parade. When the Astras’ patrons had overflowed the bars and were drinking three deep on the road, the Baths had closed their gates and every tram to and from the beach was festooned with outside riders.

A small and irregular swell was being blown ashore that day, and any wave over two foot was greeted by the usual hysteria from the small children playing around in the shorebreak, and incredibly to the ears of the solidly masculine crew populating the southern corner, the falsetto squeals of a large group of men in there amongst them.

This was entirely out of the ordinary.

Apparently nobody had been concentrating and the barricades were relaxed, because suddenly they were all here on the sand, and over there in the surf, screeching to each other, flapping about like big double-jointed wading birds, all laughing with girlish enthusiasm as they splashed about awkwardly in the small waves. And more and more of them could be seen traipsing down the ramp to the beach, until the first dozen became fifty and then they were all finally here, at South Bondi, sitting about on their rugs and blankets drinking and laughing, giggling and teasing, posing and posturing and slowly providing a growing unease amongst the original stallholders, the South Bondi Boardriders. A group of normally stolid and taciturn men inured to heavy seas, bad oysters, dominant wives and lodging income tax returns, who were now richly aghast at this sudden phenomenon.

Meanwhile, here and there amongst the scented throng were several impossibly thin youths with unblemished skin the colour of milk, and who looked no more than fourteen or fifteen. These boys fetched and carried the bags and radios, the hampers and glasses; they spread the rugs and played the servant. More disturbing was that they carried out these menial tasks with the aplomb of a waiter at a wedding, despite the incongruous surrounds.

There were French loaves, anchovies, pickles, leg ham, cheeses, olives, salads, cold chicken, chilled champagne, fruit, all was laid out. They had cutlery and crockery laid on, champagne flutes and cigarette holders.

The picnic was not quite Manet, and not at all Bondi.

And over in the corner of the beach – gathered around the boulders and surfboards – the locals slowly festered up and grumbled amongst themselves, and got up from their towels and deckchairs and stood about in growing amazement as they slowly came to comprehend the ramifications of this unspeakable invasion of their sacred sands, and in particular the notion of the holiest of horrors; what if these peculiar people decided to come down on a regular basis?

Furious words were spoken, and fists smacked into palms, stomachs were sucked in and chests inflated, hard looks were cast about and everybody got very flinty.

No problem with Les Girls though, they were far too busy with their coquetry, their make-up and tanning lotions, teasing their hair and rubbing on lotion, lying around bottom up and bottom down. They chattered like kookaburras and preened like swans, they lay about like lizards and ate like horses.

And they drank like fish.

The young fellow sent out to scout the beach reported that Aub Laidlaw was twenty minutes away; measuring some immoderate bikini coverage and dealing with a couple of reporters from the Sydney Morning Herald up at the north end, his authority neutered by his vanity, again.

The Girls though slowly became aware that the ring of beach goers who had slowly surrounded them was singular in its multiple aspects; they were all standing, glowering, and looking very disgruntled.   Small brown children peeped at them from between their fathers’ legs and a couple of the younger surfers, as was the way with the idle youth of the time, shouted spontaneous and gratuitous advice. Some of the younger women, however, appeared to be taking fashion notes.

Nevermind that this end of Australia’s most famous beach was home to a group of extremely able and hardcore surfers; there were standards, and blatant homosexual social activity, like being an outrageous transvestite and drinking wine and laughing and swimming and sunbaking in an all male tangle on a public beach, and Bondi Beach in particular, was absolutely intolerable.

However there was some nervousness amongst the off-duty members of the Sydney Vice Squad, a core membership to the Boardriders club at the time, that complicated the public face of the day’s outrage, as any overt acknowledgement of a relationship, professional or otherwise, between them and any of The Girls might not be understood in the proper light of day. After all, the Pink Pussycat Nightclub and All Male Revue – wherein Les Girls earned their keep – was not unknown to them at the end of a torrid shift, and Mr. Abe Saffron was always good for a drink.

This was never a matter for record.

mr. saffron – having his picture taken

Some of these men quietly faded to the rear of the turmoil with their towels and wives, waiting for it all to go away. One or two retreated even further east and were last seen making their hurried way through the small swell, paddling their boards towards the open sea and the shelter of Tamarama around the point

Then Toad made a mess of everything.

Toad was a highly educated Anglicist with little regard to accepted norms of behaviour, in addition he couldn’t surf, was as ugly as a hatful of arseholes and he lost the only mate he ever had when he attacked that dark haired girl outside Smokey Joe’s Café in Gibraltar in 1964. Toad was unwelcome wherever he went, groups disbanded when he approached, and re-gathered after he had left – and here was his moment.

Toad grabbed a bottle of beer from some tourist with soft hands and strode through the perimeter of growling locals who surrounded The Girls, and when he was sure he had the attention of all of us he stalked over to the nearest trannie, a highly attractive young brunette with a truly remarkable set of legs – I recall the name Maureen from that distant day – and he poured the remaining beer over her head.

This done he grinned all around like the foolish trout he was, while she just gazed up at him through her streaming hair with a look of tired disgust.

Everybody cheered, everybody was happy, everybody was enlightened and justified, and everybody would have set fire to surfboats and burnt bodies if Aub hadn’t arrived and pissed on the party before it properly cranked up.

He had to break it up and The Girls had to go, and of all of us Aub was the world’s weariest man as he shepherded The Ladies through the mutinous throngs and worried them away to their cars and buses, away from the beach, and away from the protestations of the despicable Toad and his beastly extollents.

Just another Sunday at Bondi.

Published in Kurungabaa some time ago.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Abe, in his powder blue Rolls Royce, collecting the rents down Roslyn Gardens was always quite a sight. If only the girls had gone to Tamarama in the first place! Those girls, once so young . . .

    July 20, 2011
  2. I love your turns of phrase and descriptions; too many in this post to quote, but some of them are so vivid that I feel as if I’m looking at a painting. (Really: that’s what happened when I read this.)

    July 20, 2011
  3. carlotta still has some shabooooom ..

    July 20, 2011
  4. Rusty Steele #

    Pete, simply put…. this is one tasty post. 🙂

    July 21, 2011
  5. ta mate, bondi was very different in the late 50’s – a real city beach and one very clearly demarcated – no tourists, no kiwis, no backpackers – families at the north end, locals in the middle and balsa boardriders down south under the pub. kids like us got to see the whole spectacle – you’d never see a copper shoot a mad dog in front of a bunch of kids today would you – or a massive shark chomping up a dead cow twenty feet offshore – splendid stuff ..

    July 21, 2011

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