Monday, 9 June 2008

Graham Kennedy, the King on Frankston Hill.

"There are no limits, love, there are no limits". Graham Kennedy.

I am as they say, a patriot and thus an enthusiastic lover of Australiana, much as I am of Americana. I love the evocative details, the ghosts that arise from such arcane interests and the happiness and thrills that come from conjuring up er, lost worlds and times. No, really. And when an idea and a script is done so well, with the right people with a depth of meaning, and the feeling of reaching out for something more that “I can’t explain”, ah, I get a little Barry Humphries thrill. I do. In fact, I often have to sit down with a “nice cup of tea” and one of Aunt Doris’s “Iced Vo Vo biscuits”.

Aunty Doris: “Och, Colonel, have a wee bickie. They’re Vo Vo’s! The shiny biscuit!”

Colonel Neville: “I certainly will Aunty, as soon as I put away this rusted green and red Meccano set and 1962 Billy Bunter Annual”.

I am a fan of that most truly Australian of people, Graham Kennedy. For my brash young American readers, he was the man who understood the medium and the audience and thus made TV in Australia, for what it’s worth. Graham was instinctive and spontaneous, and especially with er, some preparation. He’s still called the King of Oz TV. He was highly intelligent, an individualist, naughty, crude, vaudevillian, an ahead of his time sophisticated modernist, uncompromising, rebellious, , singular, unknowable, mysterious, perceptive, sometimes appeared profoundly melancholy, a great actor, impressionist, improviser, dancer and he could sing, and he was er, gay.

He was the first classic Australian piss-taker for a mass audience via a contemporary medium.

Graham’s oddly ordinary boyhood and as a young man home, is just near where I live. His old address is rather unkempt and largely uncelebrated, except for an old PMG-like concrete post marker in the scraggly garden. He lived here with his thoughtful Aunty whom he adored, after being largely neglected and ignored by his rather wretched parent’s.

Now I just finished watching a wonderful, even perfect distillation of Kennedy, as much as one can, on DVD. It’s about a year old and called simply ‘The King: The Story of Graham Kennedy’. I think it’s a beautiful production. And it has a cathartic, elegiac and ambiguous feel about it, which I prefer and not something so common here, or what folks are comfortable with. The lighting, the casting, the pacing and the script are all excellent. Man, I loved it. And I dig Kennedy.

My English parent’s didn’t and as they often did, tried to keep me turned off from my own culture, eh? Oddly, they had great senses of humour, and on many levels it was much like Kennedy’s! Daft buggers.

Colonel Neville: “Hey Mum, I’ve got a new motorbike!”

Mother: “Excellent. Don’t forget to get out your shiny purple helmet! I’ll tell the neighbours to watch out for it!”

Hey, if it hadn’t been for spending my childhood watching often largely worthless TV, sitting in trees, playing in the creek, reading books and daydreaming etc, things would have been really dull.

And there’s the problem in Australia today. So much media-wise, is so proscribed, controlled, pre-market tested and meaningless, that most everything collapses into the pre-packaged death of monopoly and advertising agency styled boredom. Most things are utterly dull and totally ignorable now. No, really. The medium is the message and they mostly have the wrong one.

It doesn't have to be mate, and some stuff does get through by some kind of “in spite of” miracle. The talent is all there, but many of those in charge and who think they know everything, will bury us alive in mediocrity. The Graham Kennedy film seemed to receive curiously tepid reviews, when in fact it should have been noted as a Hell of an achievement by all concerned. And it was shot over twenty days! I kid you not.

"In Oriana Fallaci’s The Force of Reason, Oriana quotes Pericles: "...the secret of happiness is freedom, the secret of freedom is courage". From Phyllis Chessler at Pajamas Media.

And Jesus, Graham's crown was recently found in a junk shop for $5.00! We have little to almost zero rebellion, except for the odd Chaser piece, which are not realy rebellious at all. And I like rebellion that has an attitude of equal opportunity satire and insult, revealing the cant, fraud and dangers in our world. I often think of Graham living up in his uber-modern stilt home, jutting out into the void of Frankston beach and Port Phillip Bay. Much as he did on TV, and the opposite of the private Kennedy, sitting casually in the kitchen and back room expanses of his solitude. What did he see looking out from high on the hill? Loneliness and a joke, eh?

A funny thing, isn’t it, the misunderstood and profoundly irreverent? And the misunderstanding is not just in the joke, Joyce.

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