Did Russell Crowe really have to spit the dummy when they told him at the Virgin Australian Airline Sydney Airport check-in that the hoverboards his children got for Christmas were not allowed onto the plane? His flying off the handle caused me to think about what makes us what we are. It doesn’t take much to conclude that what we are is caused by the influence of many things. I think these many things include; mates, parents, climate, culture, education, income, machines and gadgets, and jobs. I also think that we become our jobs while doing them, and we retain some of what we become for the rest of our life. Russ has had quite a few jobs in his lifetime. These include; being a television child star, a failed attempt as a bingo caller, bartending, and working as a waiter. Could the jobs have caused Russ to have; a fiery temper, embrace arrogance and rudeness, and take up a volatile, combative bad-boy nature?
One of my first jobs was coordinating the delivery of the Golden Fleece Top Hits 45rpm vinyl records to Melbourne’s Golden Fleece service stations. Golden Fleece was one of the major Australian petrol suppliers and distributors; it was a pioneer of single brand service stations and its golden merino ram logo seemed to be everywhere around Melbourne and Australia. I remember a Golden Fleece station on the corner of Hotham Street and Douglas Parade.
Golden Fleece’s main petrol distribution terminal for Melbourne was on Douglas Parade just past the Newport Power House. The terminal was a farm of petrol storage tanks connected to several tanker loading stations. The petrol tankers would check-in and out at a dispatch office when entering and leaving the terminal. I spent six weeks one hot summer in the dispatch office. To entice motorists to fill their tank at a Golden Fleece service station, or just to stop in to get their windscreen cleaned, the company gave away a different promotional Top Forty hit each week. Each station was given a number of records at the start of the week and if they ran out, the owner would phone the dispatch office to request additional records; the additional records were matched to the truck that was delivering petrol to the station that week and when the truck left the terminal the records were given to the truck driver to deliver. I answered the phone calls from the petrol stations and assembled the caches of records to hand to the drivers; sometimes delivering the records to the loading trucks.
The Top Hits collection included cover versions of:
Bobby Goldsboro: Little things
The Seekers: A world of our own and I’ll never find another you
Herman Hermits: Mrs Brown you’ve got a lovely daughter
Ray Brown and the Whispers: Pride
Burt Bacharach: Trains, Boats, Planes
Brian Wilson: Help me Rhonda
Bob Dylan: Mr Tambourine Man
Ned Miller: Do what you do do well
Gerry and the Pacemakers: Ferry crossed the Mersey.
Recently Russell Crowe changed the name of his band. The millionaire actor allegedly changed his old group’s name from Thirty Odd Foot of Grunt to The Ordinary Fear of God because the names have the same initials and he would save money on not having to manufacture new merchandise. I wonder if The Ordinary Fear of God will play cover versions of Ray Brown and the Whispers Pride.
When my early seventies searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary walkabout took me to London I had a job during the long hot summer as a lifeguard in an outdoor swimming pool. The pool had to be as large as one and a half Olympic pools; it was surrounded by asphalt and concrete and the only blades of grass were outside; the concrete and pool were protected by a ten-foot-high brick fence. On each side of the pool was a men’s and women’s changing room that resembled dank, dark subterranean, grottos.
The attendant in the men’s changing cave was a thin, pale, long-haired, young English man; he seemed to be forever reading this incredibly thick book. It took several weeks for me to linger near to, and enter the cavern, and talk to the strange quiet man. The book that he read all summer was Tolkien’s The Hobbit or There and Back Again. During the summer we plucked quite a few little ones from the shallow three-foot end of the pool and were regarded as heroes by the young mothers; we also dragged a few from the deep end after they jumped off the diving board and discovered they couldn’t swim. It would have been no worries for Russ though seeing he made an appearance in the Australian television series Bondi Rescue; the series followed the daily lives and routines of the professional lifeguards who patrolled Bondi Beach.
In Lincoln, Nebraska, I was a van driver-transport aide. With other driver-transport aides we shuttled developmentally disabled clients from their places of residence to sheltered workshops; as well as to evening and weekend recreational activities. The transport fleet was made up of about ten transit vans of different colours. Several rows of bench seats were removed in some vans to provide lockdown anchoring for a wheelchair. Our morning route included collecting each client from a managed group home, or their parents home, and then dropping them off at their workshop. I think that each morning we usually picked up about twelve clients. Management tried to keep our routes and client pick ups consistent so we soon knew each other fairly well.
Our morning conversation would be; Good Morning Raymond. Seat belt on Raymond. John what you have for breakfast. Seat belt on Raymond. You have eggs. No Raymond toast. You have eggs. Seat belt on Raymond. See you this afternoon Raymond. Good morning Mike. Seat belt on Mike. Our afternoon route was the reverse of the morning route. After picking up the clients at their workshops we would then drop them off at their group or parents home. They knew their van by the colour so workshop pickups were routine; except when their van was in the shop for maintenance or repair. Some of the clients lived by the adage work hard and play harder: And we would transport the players to evening cooking classes or weekend bowling. Even though every ball was a gutter ball for the Saturday morning ten pin bowling game it was always high fives and an exuberant celebration for a game well played. I don’t think anyone understood the concept of winning; it was all about the satisfaction of bowling the ball. Our van became a special van on Friday afternoons. After workshop pick up we would stop at the drive-through for ice creams to go; even if it took an extra journey around the block we would make sure the ice creams were finished and any telltale dripped ice cream was cleaned up before we got to the group or parents home. I always wondered if anyone ever told their supervisors or parents about having ice cream: we were never asked about Friday ice creams.
I’ll bet you a shilling to a quid that Russ worked as a van driver-transport aide as he prepared for his best actor nominated role as John Forbes Nash in the movie A Beautiful Mind.
I didn’t know it at the time but the opportunities offered to me at Footscray Tech groomed me for later events in my life: none more so than walking the boards in George Bernard Shaw’s short play Passion, Poison, and Petrifaction subtitled The Fatal Gazogene: A Brief Tragedy for Barns and Booths. After spending a few years in Nebraska we moved to Springfield, Illinois. The opportunities of practising as an Instructional Designer in Springfield were sparse and soon we were receiving food stamps. To sidetrack my anguish of collecting food stamps and the empty, endless, days of searching for the hidden Instructional Designer position I auditioned at the Springfield Community Theatre. I was cast in an upcoming production. I busied myself in the Springfield theatre scene and my circle of knowing people in Springfield quickly expanded.
One day a thespian companion asked if I was interested in part-time work. And so I became a patient simulator. We recreated a patient through role-playing in mock doctor-patient interviews and examinations. Our stage was a fabricated doctor examination room. Half of one wall of the room was a one-way mirror so the medical student’s faculty could observe them practising doctor-patient communication and examination skills; the performance was videotaped for feedback. The day before becoming the patient we were given the profile of an actual past patient; medical history, personality, physical findings of X Rays or blood tests, medications, emotional temperament, and their response patterns. The medical students were rotated through the examination room for their thirty-minute encounter. Collecting food stamps became a distant memory.
Many famous actors have turned down famous roles. Russell Crowe turned down Aragorn in The Lord of Rings and Morpheus of The Matrix. I turned down the prostate and rectal examinations as a patient simulator; I wonder if Russ would have turned them down.
It seems that Russ and I have a lot in common. We both have turned down great acting roles and also have been active in the music and recording industry. And we both know about lifesaving and have a sensitive insight into the developmentally disabled. I’m glad I didn’t get a hoverboard for Christmas otherwise I would likewise have a combustible temper, be arrogant and rude, and possess a volatile, combative bad-boy nature.