DIARY - 24 MARCH 2004 - ON THE ROAD TOO LONG PART 2
MAKIN' BACON - SHAVER HEART ACHIN
We are rolling
on a lazy two lane black top through the sweeping hills and valleys to
Bowral - the town where Don Bradman first punished leather with willow.
It's a long winding ribbon thin thoroughfare with antique stores and curio
shops lining the footpath and competing for the tourist dollar.
Somewhat fitting that this vaudevillian musical circus is coming ever
so slowly to this hill country retreat where time has stood still.
Rarely danced to a beat stronger than nostalgia for better times.
Tranquillity may be the strong suit for the natives but not my employer
who has just seen a signpost for Robertson.
"That's where they made Babe," the singing Texan crime novelist
announces to the dozing denizens of Tarrago No 2, "let's find Babe
before it's too late."
Richard 'Big Dick' Friedman is thinking of pigs, flying or squealing,
and I'm keen to find our motel - an historic haven nestled in seclusion
across the beaten track from the Bowral Country Club which boasts
its own golf course.
A sound check at equally historic Empire Theatre in leafy Mittagong
tops the agenda of Rob Hall from Rob Hall Promotions who fears for
the health of quadruple heart by-pass contender and joint headliner
Billy Joe Shaver.
High on my
chart is a remote chance that we'll check in on time to catch the last
half of the Geelong-Richmond pre season match on a local repeater for
a big city channel.
We negotiate the delicate art of key allocation and I'm finally laid back
on my heavily draped double bed as I wrestle with the remote and find
a one-day cricket clash before catching Geelong captain Ben Graham celebrating
as the Cats crush the Tigers.
SHAVER SONG IN MITTAGONG
There is a God in NSW but she doesn't bless Geelong again for another
month - she's too busy ensuring the Mittagong sound check, supervised
by Little Jewford, facilitates an effortless entry into the theatre that
embraces the cast with delicious dexterity.
The artists - Kinkster, Jewford and partners - are gracious enough to
share their love of Thai food with the chauffeur and Billy Joe who is
later energised by a small dingo bag of Oriental delicacies back at the
Shaver, still running on one artery, is conserving his energy for the
paying customers by living on selective takeaway treats.
Local artist Dave Debs, eager to play his originals for a hometown audience,
sets the mood for a gig that is both intimate and blessed by a theatre
owner, savvy enough to leave the doors open to catch the nocturnal breeze.
The international acts breeze through a show that is stress free, courtesy
of promoters and culinary cobbers who provide back stage platters while
the chauffeur drinks to try to forget the slow leaking back tyre.
We make it to our motel where morning brings a mammoth phone bill for
this dumb country lover who thinks motels share nocturnal Sunday rates
with their clientele.
They don't share or take AMEX so the flames of love are fanned by flapping
of $50 bills to ensure departure to Sydney; famous Daily Telegraph columnist
Piers Akerman - former Friedman flat mate of the seventies in L. A. -
has thrown open his Pittwater retreat for the Sabbath.
SHAVER STAKES HEART
but the chauffeur has carefully digested the detailed road map with a
direct route to Akerman's aviary where water taxis collect the entire
cast, including Shaver, who breaks diets and promises to God and eats
the tenderest steak and chops this side of Eden.
This is nirvana for the chauffeur where the present meets the past in
a hedonistic haze - an editor, who saved his Babe more than once, emerges
from the foilage where tree snakes coil and laze in the afternoon sun.
We finally retreat to reality and bed down in the same motel, now re-named,
where former Liberal Opposition leader Billy Snedden died on the job with
an anonymous, mysterious matron of dishonor.
Conscious of this and the mirthful means of how road mangler Phil Kauffman
tried to revive a post coital smack and booze fried Gram Parsons I ensure
there's plenty of ice in my fridge.
I have debated fast forwarding the ignition of my oldest flame and photographer
to cut phone bill costs but we haven't yet extracted the thorns from the
Artist and promoter shared anxiety about Basement bookings since the Tullamarine
touchdown that seems light years ago.
Monday brings relief in Valhalla Theatre book readings where driver reverts
to more familiar roles in the pre-nuptials at Glebebooks where he has
bought a Carl Hiassen parodic eco-terrorism thriller, Lucky You.
Friedman, in his less well-known role as altruist, has swept up Weary
Dunlop's diaries for Shaver and other tomes for friends.
Is there anything else he could purchase he asks driver?
OF THE PENIS
With 38 years of heat seeking headlines strapped to my charred chest I
suggest maybe a copy of two of The Puppetry Of The Penis.
A gift for all the family including Professor Tom at home in Austin, I
suggest, with all the sublety of a Carey cheating chirrup.
When Noddy Holder's Sydney Confidential column - the best read personality
pages in the harbor city - picks up the story the puppetry purchases have
erected to a dozen recipients including roadie Ben Welch and Kinky's pardner
Erin who is, of course, Ben's babe for the nightly Texas mooning.
is the start of an impromptu publicity campaign that finds Kinky and
Billy Joe embroidering the Sydney dailies for six days in succession.
That's on top of long ago organised feature stories which have all
run and a swag of radio interviews that have mushroomed.
galaxy of journos and musos - the moths long drawn to Kinky's fiery flame
-have ignited the box office and memorabilia demand that finds all artists
caught with their merchandise down.
Opening night finds the Valhalla crowd of Happening Thang duo Andy Travis
and Catherine Wearne and Audrey Auld replaced by, ah well, Audrey Auld,
Doug Mulray and a coven of judges, celebs and others whose names roll
off Sydney tongues much easier than driver's.
Shaver, uplifted by arrival of Sydney saddletramps who chased him across
borders in the U.S. and delicious duet partner Lyndsay Hammond, has worked
the passing of late lamented mentor Waylon Jennings into his passion primed
"I tried to talk to Waylon but he went and died on me anyway,"
Shaver reveals with the irreverence he wears like Dr Pussy's glove as
he laconically compliments his bill sharing stars whose humour is their
"He was a mean sucker, he'll be kicking arse now in heaven."
There's another anecdote about mineral water sipping Evian yuppies conned
by San Antone Mexicans.
"Evian is naïve spelt backwards," Billy explains, "the
yuppies think the water comes from the Swiss Alps but it comes from the
tap and these little Mexicans down in San Antonio who put stickers on
SHAVER AND DYLAN
Then there's anecdotes about Bob Dylan who performed Shaver's Old Five
& Dimers on tour.
"He said that it was an old folk song, written by old folks,"
Shaver, 62, drawled, "old folks wrote it. Sure, I'm older than him."
For a man, with three family fatalities and a Gruene Dance Hall heart
attack in three short years ravaging him like death duties, the macabre
mirth is refreshing.
Friedman, with his 84-year old DFC decorated navigator dad, Tom, fighting
a seven- year battle with cancer after a heart attack, is equally wired
Especially when he finds he has the choice of two southern photographers
- a Telstra plankee and a dairy reared cowgirl from Gnotuk, west of Camperdown
en route to the Shipwreck Coast.
The premature arrival of the latter finds REM sleeping re-arrangements
in Rushcutters Bay and beyond.
This is the last chance to see this dynamic double bill in the unlucky
radio country and enough perceptive Australians have risen to the bait
when the search and destroy team take Friday off on Sydney Harbour to
prepare for the finale show at a "lesbian casino" in the national
It's out there, courtesy of Sydney benefactor Akerman and lawyer wife
Susan, Kinky is belatedly exposed way out where the Port Jackson sharks
It's a fish free Friday and the Kinkster has nothing to hide as he strips
on deck into his swimming clobber - but the soft lens of a digital camera
catches Kinkster's silhouette as the angle finds him exposed to the gaze
of his teenage God-daughter Pia Akerman.
Not exactly Walkley Award winning stuff but a fitting entrée to
the evening's frolics where the artist invites his guests to join him
back at the Basement for a cigar chomp.
WILL AND KINKY
You see the
Kinkster, actor Will Smith and former President Bill Clinton - No 42 -
are set for a nocturnal foreign affairs summit.
tell them you're in my entourage," Friedman confides to the brunette
destined to shoot the President, "I want my entourage bigger than
Will's or Bill's."
The photographer, buoyed by thrills of the chase, cracks a not-so-secret
service code and bangs off 13 shots of the sax playing Maynard Ferguson
protege before the polite but firm hand of a minder ends the shoot.
There's no blood - just exclusive Presidential pix which make Akerman's
directive to hold the final edition of the Daily Telegraph for an extra
two hours, a worthy reward.
Mission impossible enables Kinky to adorn Sydney Confidential for the
fifth of six consecutive days - on the final day it's chauffeur who lights
Panic attacks dissipate before the Canberra trip when the artists board
the train with Judy Davis and the staff travel in the Tarrago with the
Everyone arrives in time for the triumphant tour closer - a capacity crowd
catches one of the best bills of the young year.
The Friedman finale is safe with our ACT femme fatale promoter, replete
with broken arm in plaster, embracing Shaver with gay gusto.
It's the end of the tour - but not road for Shaver - who turns in early
and tucks up for the flight home to heart surgery and redemption.
Shaver's surgery in Austin is successful - he returns to Waco where he
soon recovers for another lunge at performing with his heart stronger
The lost highway goes on forever and the party never ends for the sinful
survivors and sweethearts of the rodeo.
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