Monthly Archives: January 2015

Our Naomi has a Double Four Weeks In

The new year is already almost a month into its term; already losing some of its shimmer and gloss as our planet realises it is just more of the same old, same old. There are the endlessly repeating headlines about mad jihadists and the climatic peculiarities of global warming. So let’s shut ourselves off in a bubble for a wee while and transport our imaginings to another place, courtesy of an enduring actor, then one who has endured before a ground-breaking and remarkable comeback. We all thought the latter was yesterday’s man.

This past week I journeyed to two morning sessions at my local art house for ‘St Vincent’ and ‘Birdman’. I like the sessions earlier in the day – generally a smaller, quieter audience – less distractions to being able to completely let oneself go off into the world being presented up there on the screen.

The common denominator in these two films, apart from both being quality product, were that they featured Australia’s own Naomi Watts in supporting roles. We know her quality through star turns in such offerings as ‘The Impossible’, ‘Mulholland Drive’ and 2013’s underachieving Aussie four-hander of mothers falling in love with sons, ‘Adore’. In ‘St Vincent’ her role was of a faded, jaded, very pregnant hooker; a weekly regular in ‘Saint’ Vincent’s bed. In ‘Birdman’ she is a fellow thespian of and ‘…shares a vagina…’ with Edward Norton’s edgy, manic character, Mike Shiner, in the film.

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I didn’t quite know what to expect of the first movie as its reviews had been mixed. Sure enough, of the two, it is the more ‘writ by numbers’ production, complete with a cheesy, typically predictable Hollywood ending involving the saint bit. I might add it still managed to produce a tear from this hoary old cinema goer. Raising it way above the normal dross is the magnificently dishevelled Bill Murray. It’s just his usual shtick, but he has it so down pat one can’t help but be charmed. He can do this sort of role in his sleep – it’s no stretch as he meanders along, obliviously creating mayhem with every step. He is raffish, he is vulgar, he is crass but we love him for it nonetheless. The icing on the cake is his star turn as dancer – not quite up to the Walken standard you’d have to say though– and his duet with his Bobness on ‘Shelter from the Storm’ for the closing credits – stay in your seats for that. The gambling, low-life hedonist Vincent needs money and looking after young Oliver – Jaden Lieberher (at last a cute child actor who doesn’t set your teeth on edge) – for feisty neighbour Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) seems like an easy gig. Murray milks the situation for all he’s worth, in both senses of the phrase, but it all comes up smelling of roses. Kicking back in a filmhouse watching Bill M in anything is always money well spent and this is far from the worst effort he has ever been involved in.


But ‘Birdman’ is on another plane entirely – as one may suspect given director Alejandro González Iñárritu. The Mexican virtuoso is well known for his interweaving sagas such as ’21 Grams’ – also with our Naomi – and ‘Babel’ – with our Cate. But here he changes tack and with some seamless camera work from Emmanuel Lubezki, gives the audience the ride of a cinematographic lifetime. If you are not mesmerised by this, then there’s Norton’s erection, death by falling stage light, blood on the boards and levitation to contend with. But in the end it’s Michael Keaton you will be blown away by. This is Keaton’s comeback, just as the adaptation of one of Carver’s short stories into a piece for the stage is the resurrection of Keaton’s character, Riggan Thompson. It’s Michael K’s performance for a lifetime. Forget about his Batman roles – this is what he’ll be remembered for. Ironically Thompson is also an ex-comic hero on the big screen. He also wants a more meaningful legacy to leave behind than being the inspiration for plastic action toys. But of course, it doesn’t go smoothly. Riggan’s ex is unhappy with him, his current claims to be pregnant and his co-star is shagging his daughter Sam – a great turn from Emma Stone. There’s also a vicious critic who is going to sink his ship come hell or hight water – a great little role for Lindsay Duncan. This movie is full of magic moments – just wait to you see Keaton fly! He is well backed up by other off-siders in lesser roles such as Zac Galifinakis and the eminently watchable duo of Andrea Risborough and Amy Ryan – as well as our Naomi. Yep, I adored this movie – one of the few I’d happily watch again.


I can only repeat what I stated in my last set of reviews for ‘The Imitation Game’ and ‘Mr Turner’ – the year is off to a blinder, with several promising features on their way as well. Can’t wait.

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Trailer for ‘St Vincent’ =

Trailer for ‘Birdman’ =

Dear Wendy

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You have moved around a bit. Just when I’d gotten used to looking out for you on a Monday, here’s a glamorous view of you on a Sunday. Will you be in the same spot next Sunday, or revert back to the following day? A whole week till I find out. Maybe Ms Lynne Segal is just a one off and you’ll resume your rightful position. You see, I am just the tiniest bit in love with you – well not exactly you, but with your words. And through them I feel I’ve come to know that part of you you allow yourself to share with the outside world. With your readers – with your fans like me. You’re up there with Flanagan and Wright, Ms Squires; you have been a salve to my disappointment that the beauteous Kate gave it away. Kate Holden that is. I had similar affection for her.

But back to our meeting last Sunday. I wonder why it didn’t work out, your ‘…most enduring relationship?’ To tell would be a step too far and I know, it is impertinent of me to inquire. After all, he did have his shed where he could ‘…hide and renew, ruminate, relax and write…’ And he had you as well, dear Wendy. What more could that man have wanted?

I feel I am almost one up on him though. I have the perfect mix. There’s your words on a Monday, or is it to be Sunday? Then there are Martin F’s and Tony W’s, as well, at various times too – plus other of your colleagues keeping the execrable Abbott and his obnoxious offsiders honest on a weekly basis. I have a beautiful woman to share my world, and yes, I too have a bolt hole. And as with your case, it is a room rather than a shed that I term my man-cave. I am not manly male enough to warrant a shed. No, dear Wendy, I don’t tinkle with muscle cars nor fashion wood nor weld nor make flies to tantalise trout nor have my private bar where my male mates can gather to be all blokey and discuss the footy or cricket. And I don’t really need to hide for my DLP (Darling Loving Partner) gives me all the space I require. It is also akin to your ‘…small spare room.’ I adore it so. In it I have the freedom to be me. I’ve never really had such a space before – mainly because my working life gave me so many other outlets. But now with it – and being somewhat like you, the more retiring type as well as retired – I treasure my good fortune.

Friend and former colleague Jan visited last week and I proudly presented my man-cave to her for the first time. ‘Why, it’s just like your classroom,’ she exclaimed. And that’s true. After being a secondary teacher, with rarely a room to call my own for most of my career, towards the end of my vocational life I started teaching upper primary. This was around the same time I discovered the joys of photography. My classroom was an array of images, plastered on every space amongst all the educational stuff. Thankfully my students were always very respectful of my attempts to brighten their lives visually – so, dear Wendy, I have used the same rule of thumb with said bolt-hole.

There are nudes in my room – exquisitely tasteful ones, or so I consider, I hasten to add – the largest drawn by my DLP’s own fair hand. Another is of Fleur who has allowed me to gaze on her vintage curvy assets for decades now. There are other art works by friends and family, a wonderful gift from DLP by a rising star of the local art scene and a cherished signed team photo of that amazing AFL team seeking a three-peat this newly minted year. And there are dozens and dozens of my own humble snaps, many featuring the world’s most photogenic granddaughter. But, dear Wendy, I do wonder what will happen when I completely run out of wall space. There’s a bed to recline, cogitate and even nanny-nap on and yes, Wendy, I am not adverse to producing ‘…the unmissable ordure of kebab.’ on occasions, within its confines, as well.

As with you, Wendy, I also ‘…like people, and most of the time I enjoy socialising.’ but I like aloneness too. My precious DLP is far more gregarious – having the ability to chat to anyone at any time. She amazes me in that and so many other regards. She tolerates my idiosyncrasies and I adore her.

Dear Wendy, it is perhaps unlikely that we will ever meet although, who knows? A couple of years ago I had the good fortune of having a chinwag with, as well as shaking the hands of, both Flanagan brothers, so… Just promise me you’ll remain on the pages of the Age and not move on to other pastures, as did the aforementioned Kate. For this luckiest of men you are one of the many icings on his cake,
Your avid fan

Wendy’s column  =

Chasing Betty Boop All the Way to Ukraine

I have a penchant for beautiful women. Nothing unusual in that – most men do. But I am particularly interested in beautiful women who, in some way, have imposed themselves on their times and/or communities – and not the ones we all know. I like going into the ether and researching, maybe even writing up, those who are relatively obscure but nonetheless pique my curiosity. I have blogged about an artist’s muse; a writer’s lover; a photographer’s model and sundry women who have broken through the glass ceiling in their own eras. The stimulus for this may be an obscure reference read in book, or broadsheet; it may be a painting or, as in this case a supposed portrait of a cartoonist’s inspiration. And what I can’t discover, I am at liberty to make up!

My writerly daughter knows this. BTD (Beautiful Talented Daughter) has taken to sending me images that she feels are worth investigating. The one you espy on this page arrived with the challenge, ‘Here Dad, see what you can do with this.’ On it was attached the caption, ‘Was this black woman the inspiration for Betty Boop?’

ra - bb

Suitably intrigued, I took to said ether – and, yes, it did end up leading me to quite a tale of not one, but four, beautiful women. One was a darling of her age and two certainly gave their times a shake. And the other one – well, we’ll come to that.

Now most of us know Betty Boop – still an icon of popular culture decades after she first emerged from an animator’s drawing board. She initially became a sex symbol for the Depression era and was a bold woman when bold women were decidedly not in vogue. She was conjured in the studio of cartoonist Max Fleischer and first appeared in the Talkatoon series for Paramount in 1930. Initially she was portrayed as a female canine, but was soon morphed into the figure we all recognise. She was appearing in her own cartoons by 1932 – a feisty vision of short cropped hair, big eyes and even larger hoop earrings. And she was decidedly white.


Now the image that came to me, via my BTD, features a lookalike of opposite skin tones, certainly a stunning appearing woman in the vintage style of the flapper age. She is a dead-ringer for Betty Boop. It claimed to be a period portrait of one Esther Jones. So who was she and what evidence is there that this beauty was indeed the inspiration for BB?

Typing the name into Google the sent image certainly appears, but it also doesn’t take long to figure out all is not as it seems here. If we turn our attention to Wikipedia the image it uses for Esther Jones, to my untrained eye, looks much less like an Afro-American version of BB than the one that started this inquiry. What is going on? We’ll investigate further.


Well it seems this lovely Ms Jones invented the Boops. She was a performer at Harlem’s infamous Cotton Club during the Twenties, operating under the moniker of Baby Esther. The Boops, a form of scatting with a child-like voice, later became the Boop-Oop-a-Doop, sometimes referred to as Baby Style. If you are aware of the song ‘I Wanna be Loved by You’, you know what’s happening here – and this style, of course, was part of the package that Betty B presented to the world – thus the connection to the black chanteuse. Esther died in obscurity in 1934 – but, as we shall see, her name resurfaces later in this tale.

Now the star who hit paydirt with the Boop-Oop-a-Doop was performer Helen Kane, an actor/singer who reached her peak of prominence slightly later than Jones. She went on to make movies in support of icons such as William Powell and Fay Wray – even topping the bill, in her own right, in one Hollywood product. But her ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ was fading just as Betty Boop’s was rising. She quickly realised certain similarities between the animated figure’s looks and voice to her own in those departments, particularly considering the use of the Baby Style. It seemed to her there was more than just a passing, accidental semblance to the Fleischer Studio creation. Kane was, as well, thoroughly white. Surely then Paramount et al were taking liberties with her image and voice, liberties which, after consulting legal people, she came to realise could be more than a nice little earner for her and would set her up for her existence post-celebrity. Kane vowed they weren’t going to get away with it. She sued the studios for the then astronomical sum of a cool quarter of a million green ones. They’d pinched her style and used it for their financial gain – she was therefore deserving of her piece of the action.

helen kane

The rub in all this was that it could be proved that, late in the previous decade, Ms Kane had visited the Cotton Club and caught a song or two from Baby Esther. Several witnesses testified to this effect – so the Boop-Oop-a-Doop was not her creation at all. It didn’t seem she had a leg to stand on. Ms Kane did not own the style so the judge found against her. Kane passed away in 1966, aged 62. In her remaining years she married several times and earned some peanuts appearing on shows such as Ed Sullivan as the Boop-Oop-a-Doop Girl. There is little doubt that BB’s vocalised stylings are based on Kane, but it seems visually Fleischer and his crew were hooked, along with most males in the US, on the surfeit of attractions posed in the one beauteous form that was the twenties ‘It’ girl, Clara Bow. Weight is added to this being the case by the fact that the Tinseltown superstar actually voiced some BB offerings, particularly when she sang ‘I Wanna be Loved by You’. Ironically, Kane’s voice, was also used, but mainly she was voiced by another lookalike – actress Mae Questel.


Clara Bow

So now, seemingly, there remains just one question – if the original image was not of Esther Jones, then who was the BB black doppelganger? Again the ether quickly provides an answer – this taking the story all the way to the Ukraine. Here there are a team of photographers who refer to themselves as Retroaletier. As the name suggests, these aficionados of times of yore are, not unlike your scribe, fond of beautiful women thrown up by the past – and use young models to, as accurately as possible, portray them. Of course, back in the Thirties, BB was all about style and non-repressed sexuality (some of her cartoons faced the wrath of the censor). Retroatelier found their BB in Olya, skilfully posing and kitting her out to resemble this ‘…time-honoured archetype of female allure…’ And obviously they were aware of Esther Jones’ role in it all, thus Olya is/became a comely black girl. Now, if you are thinking about checking out the work of Retroatelier for yourselves, just be aware some images are NSFW. They are also the perpetrators, perhaps inadvertently, of a minor internet hoax.

So thank you BTD for passing on the image and leading me, hopefully successfully, to produce an interesting story from the challenge. Pleasingly there is already another image from my daughter waiting for me to investigate. I love it. I so enjoy putting together these retellings.

A Retroatelier Gallery =


Ladd-lit – Kylie Ladd – 'Last Summer', 'Mothers and Daughters'

I love peering at road atlases. In doing so I am mentally planning road trips – road trips that I realise I’ll never do. Why? I hate driving – but still, I dream of the open road, of grey nomading and the places in Oz I’d nomad to. If only I didn’t abhor getting behind the wheel of a car. Still, I ruminate – and peer at road maps. I imagine being one of these wizened, ageing vagabonds who’ve been everywhere in this wide brown land, spinning yarns to others of a similar ilk around an outback campfire – like my good friends Noel Next Door and Kevin from Cairns (with their partners Jane and Kim). It’ll never happen – but I do dream and continue to peruse road atlases. I’ve bucket-listed the Kimberleys, Kakadu and the Daintree – and one day I’ll get to those, but more than likely in a manner far less romantic than those who Winnebago around Highway One. That is a forlorn aspiration.

One of the roads that I’ve often regarded with interest is the one that proceeds in a roughly northern direction from Broome up a peninsula to Kooljaman Resort and Bardi, passing by Beagle Bay and Lombardina – or, at least, that is what is indicated in my said atlases. According to Kylie Ladd, though, along its route is also the community, largely indigenous in make up, of Kalangella. It is here that the author places a bevy of female characters central to her fourth novel, ‘Mothers and Daughters’. Amira has been posted to this Kimberley outpost for twelve months on a teaching contract, with teenage daughter Tess in tow. By the time their mates arrive for a week’s visit, both have fallen in attachment to the place and shed their big city personas. The mother’s friends – Scottish Morag of fair skin, acerbic Fiona who’d need more than a week to fall in love with any place – and groomed to the max Caro, initially clearly have little notion of what they are letting themselves in for. Each is accompanied by a single daughter. Bronte, Macey and Janey are as different from each other as three teenagers could be. Stork-like Bronte is an ugly duckling on the cusp of becoming a graceful swan, Macey is pierced and professes to be a goth and Janey – well, Janey is a real piece of work. She is a self-absorbed bitch of the first order. All the visitors find the place initially too primitive for their tastes – what, no mobile reception! But gradually the location works its charm on a few and during the stay some find that they really do need to take a good hard look at themselves. Tess’ sophisticated mates also find that she is a very different kettle of fish to the school friend they thought they had pegged back in Yarra City. She’s gone all native on them.

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It did take a little while to settle into this novel and at times there is a little clunkiness with the prose – but Ms Ladd can sure spin a captivating yarn. Her protagonists, warts and all, did draw this reader in and I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with these creations of Kylie L’s writerly mind. With Janey, Ladd has produced a real horror and I was eager to read on to see if she receives her comeuppance. Tess is a sensible delight, but of the younger brigade Bronte for me was the most compelling with all her self doubts and general fragility. Will the experience toughen her up as Fiona so hopes? And with Caro, will she get to bed the charismatic black-hunk Mason – a serial child producer, wise to the ways of ‘country’. And finally, will Fiona get what a gem she has in Bronte. These are all fascinating questions that the author leads the reader on a wonderful journey to their solutions. So much can happen in a week. Throw in a bit of Aboriginal culture, with resulting culture clash and we have, in ‘Mothers and Daughters’, a fine flavoursome treat.

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As we do with ‘Last Summer’. Published three years prior to ’14’s above title, this novel had me in from the get go. The fact it followed a cohort of couples strongly attached to the sport of cricket aided it’s cause for me. It focuses on the social life and interrelationships between the men of a suburban cricket club – with each other, their WAGs and offspring. All are affected by the untimely death of another charismatic male, club legend Rory Buchanan. It throws the cosiness of the club dynamics all out of kilter, with all manner of sexual machinations ensuing. Ladd is a dab hand, as well, at describing the mechanics of the actual act and some males, in reading this, may be pleasantly surprised at her praise for the advantages of the smaller member in intercourse. She also introduces her fans to the delights of the mating game ‘flirt tiggy’ – try it out if you’re in the market. Perhaps the author’s only failing in this terrific tale is that sometimes her reproduction of the blokiness associated with team sport does not quiet gel – but overall this is only a minor quibble which certainly does not in the slightest detract.

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                                                                          Kylie Ladd

I ripped through both these tomes in a couple of days each, a sure sign of their pulling power and I am eager to track down Ms Ladd’s two other offerings – ‘After the Fall’ and ‘Into My Arms’. Perhaps this writer will never come into calculation for something like the Miles Franklin, but these two novels are engrossing page-turners. I loved them.

Ms Ladd’s web-site =

Spall v Cumberbatch

It’s the height of the holiday season and the multiplexes are full – there’s another ‘Hobbit’, another ‘Night in the Museum’ and another ‘Hunger Games’ for the masses to gawp and marvel at. Not to say these are necessarily below par films – just not my cup of tea. ‘The Water Diviner’ is doing very well at the box office too – at last an Australian movie people will actually leave their homes for – albeit it with the pulling power of a Kiwi-born superstar. Over half a million Turks have seen this title, as well, in their own ‘plexes. Maybe there will be Oscar nominations from the aforementioned, but I do doubt there will anything, in that lot, to match the extremely fine performances I witnessed this sunny first week of January from each of the duo of Benedict Cumberbatch (‘The Imitation Game’) and Timothy Spall (‘Mr Turner’).

Cumberbatch was simply remarkable in the story of a World War 2 hero, one who never fired a gun in anger. But his contribution in building a machine to break the Enigma Code probably saved hundreds of thousands of lives. For decades he was an unsung hero – his genius remained a British top secret hidden away until recent times. As well, his deciphering invention assisted the ushering in of our own digital age. Yet this illustrious soul ended his life by his own hand, reviled in many quarters for his sexual proclivity. Eccentric and riven by his own inability to cope on many social levels, Alan Turing, in the movie, is portrayed as ‘loving’, after a fashion, assistant Joan Clarke – a role that under-uses the acting chops of Keira Knightley. I very much enjoyed Matthew Goode’s engaging performance as Turing’s offsider, Hugh Alexander. Complementing these top billings was a fine English supporting cast, but it’s BC who mesmerised in the lead. At the moment he is also gracing our small screens in the ABC’s ‘Sherlock’, but his quirks in this pale in comparison with what he produced for Norwegian director Morten Tyldum’s fine offering. The actor himself related that he found the role almost too demanding, it was starting to do his head in – but for this scribe what he displayed in ‘The Imitation Game’ was a tour de force.

imitation game

Another director of note, in Mike Leigh, has used heralded actor Timothy Spall in earlier offerings – in ‘Life is Sweet’ and ‘Secrets and Lies’.The great character thespian, however, has never been as dominant a presence in any of his considerable oeuvre than he is in ‘Mr Turner’. This is Leigh’s tribute to the man who revolutionised art and out-impressioned the Impressionists decades before Van Gogh and his ilk were in their pomp. JMW Turner has always been a personal favourite and seeing him come to life, warts and all, has been a revelation. And, oh dear, there are warts a-plenty. There are also glorious depictions of the British countryside and seascapes – the light that infuses this film is a work of art in itself.


Spall is simply superb. His extraordinarily porcine performance is riveting. He actually spent considerable hours preparing for this movie by learning how to imitate the types of brush strokes Turner would have had to use to produce his atmospheric masterpieces. Many of these are also given context by the movie. From the sketchy (pun) details of the great man’s life, Leigh has filled in the gaps and taken us convincingly to the middle decades of the Nineteenth Century. Unlike Turing, Turner found blissful happiness in later life in the ample arms of a seaside landlady, Mrs Booth (Marion Bailey). I wonder how they treated gays in his day?



So 2015 is off to a flyer with these two silver screen attractions, both featuring outstanding re-tellings of the lives of historical figures, albeit two from different walks of life and centuries. Let’s hope our sparkly new year ends up rivalling the previous for cinematic excellence. Cumberbatch and Spall will certainly prove testing acts to follow.

Article on the women who worked with Turing to break the Enigmas  Code at Bletchley  Park =

Trailer ‘The Imitation Game’ =

Trailer ‘Mr Turner’ =

Snapper in the Age of Mad Men

He thought to himself as he entered Romanoffs, a noted hangout for Hollywood’s acting elite, camera at hand, that he’d recognise those four backs anywhere. It was New Year’s Eve, 1957. One of the quartet, the dark debonair one with the signature ‘tache, swung around to face the door and spotted him; then beckoned him over with the words, ‘Hey Slim – just saw your latest movie. I wouldn’t give up taking photographs just yet old friend.’ On that, the other three also turned away from the bar to see who their colleague was joshing at. They soon broke out into broad grins when they espied the butt of the good-natured barb. Of course Slim wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to take a snap of the four men at their sartorial best for a night on the town – these four gods of Tinsel Town.

‘Let me buy you a drink fellas, down payment for that photograph I just took. You never know, if my editor likes it, you might see it in next week’s new issue. What’ll it be? The usual?’

And yes, his editor did like what he saw. It was duly published – now it’s synonymous with the name Slim Aarons. It was filmdom’s old guard in their pomp. Their lustre would shine on for a little while longer, but a new decade would see them dead, or usurped by the young Turks Slim’d go on to photograph as well. The planet was on the cusp of change and it would come roaring down on the industry, taking away the old studio system, liberalising censorship. Dressed in white tie, in the late Fifties these were the ‘Four Kings of Hollywood’, as the iconic image became known – Clark Gable (the joker), Van Heflin, Gary Cooper and James Stewart. There were none bigger in the business than these dudes.

Kings Of Hollywood

There was a reason for Gable’s jibe. Slim was always hanging around film sets, hoping for another of those magic moments that fed his career. Everyone of note knew Slim. He was one of the good guys. The stars regarded him as one of themselves and treated him as such. They knew he was discreet in an age before our own one of paparazzi and minders. He’d look out for their interests and they trusted him. Occasionally, when someone was needed for a small part at the last minute, well, as Slim was on set, he’d often volunteer. After all, that’s all he wanted to do as a kid. He’d always imagined himself in front of a camera, not behind. His bit parts were never credited, but his actorly friends would recognise him in this film or that and rib him. And he didn’t look like a total idiot, nor did he ham it up hoping to be noticed. He just said his few words and went back to the sidelines. Some of his pals reckoned he was the dead spit of his mate Jimmy Stewart – at parties, where both attended, Stewart would often fend off unwelcome attention by claiming he was just a photographer – that there was the real Jimmy S (in fact Aarons) just standing over by the wall. ‘Why don’t you go on over there and introduce yourself? Say Slim sent you.’ Slim liked Jimmy immensely, despite that.

And he was, very slim – thus the moniker. He was born George Allen Aarons in the Big Apple, in 1916. He had his start, so the story goes, when he was given a Box Brownie. He’d take to staking out stage doors, snapping the stars as they left. He’d then send the images in to their agents, ask them to get the subject to affix autograph, then return it to him. Most didn’t bother, but some did and for a while he had a nice little earner going. He so wanted to be them, to have his name up in lights, but then came the war and that changed everything. He inveigled his way into picturing the conflict for the folks back home, by way of a Life magazine contract. This carried him into contact with other greats in his artistic vocation of the period – men such as Man Ray and Cartier Bresson. Despite winning a Purple Heart for bravery, Aarons is reputed to have quipped, ‘Combat taught me one thing – the only beach worth landing on was one decorated with beautiful semi-naked girls browning themselves in a tranquil sun.’

After the war Life kept him on and he soon found his niche taking images of the rich and famous in their natural habitats, usually awash in said sunshine. He travelled everywhere, following the jet-set from Palm Springs to Monaco. He didn’t take too many shots that were posed – his were usually ‘in situ’, or made to look thus. There’s the favourite one of mine, featuring the most photogenic woman of the era. No need for a name – we all know her. She’s in black lace stockings and red, satiny night attire. There are twin beds featured – a double might suggest unhealthy connotations – and the whole room is covered in piles of her fan mail. Slim professed to love her. Many did. She had that special something – still does.

Fan Mail

It is recorded that when he’d arrive at a pool party or a beach, young women, on recognising him, would immediately remove their tops to expose their breasts. They figured if they were ‘noticed’ in one of his photos, then someone in a high place may ask certain questions and they’d be on their way. Sometimes he’d snap them, sometimes he wouldn’t.

He liked his product to convey a story. There’s the yarn about the photo he captured of a sultry Melina Mercouri, sitting at an outdoor cafe. There is a child about to pass her, pedalling on his tricycle. On showing her the image before sending it on, the Greek goddess pouted to him, ‘Does the boy really have to be in it?’ Slim’s response was that the lad was the important feature of the image, not her – for with the young fellow there was a the story. There was none with her alone

Melina Mercouri

Eventually, as the sixties wore on, the old ways gave way to the new, but the photographer moved with the times and remained relevant. If we look at his portfolio from this later era we are reminded so much of the television series about a certain advertising agency that has so captured the public’s attention for the last decade or so. We could quite easily imagine Don Draper or Joan Harris disporting themselves in Slim’s oeuvre. Sadly ‘Mad Men’ is preparing to leave our screens, but the show has bought Aarons back into vogue. New books are being published about him, exhibitions of his classics are being held. There are plentiful examples of his work online as well – do check them out.

But in this day and age the like of a Slim Aarons no longer exists – the paparazzi have changed the notion of celebrity photography forever. The ease that existed between him and those enveloped in fame belong to yesteryear – but his work is still as fresh as tomorrow.

Slim Aarons’ On-line Gallery =

More Aarons =

CafeLit – 'A Trifle Dead' – Livia Day, 'The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul' – Deborah Rodriguez

At this point in time Nicolatte is my favourite – but it is a moveable feast. There the coffee is up to it, the staff ultra-friendly and the light snack fare tasty and of lunch-like portions – neither over nor underwhelming for that time of day. Wood fired pizzas are also available, but its paramount asset is that it is super tiny-tot friendly. This Wellington Court establishment possesses shelves of playthings for the little people, allowing some respite for their adult minders to conduct mature conversations. Even those customers without infant attachments seem to acknowledge that here kids are free to play and are therefore tolerant of the baggage that comes with that.

When solo in the city, without the treasured accompaniment of my wondrous granddaughter, I tend to gravitate to the cafe at the rear of Fullers Bookshop. Here I can take to the Age in congenial, bookified surrounds and if I manage to snare a window position, I can watch the passing parade, as well as contemplate the moods of Kunanyi above. Newly discovered is Moto Vecchia on the Eastern Shore, near Eastlands. 2015 sees me committed to visit it more frequently despite the haul to get there. I loved it’s retro vibe. When my beautiful lady and I are out and about in Moonah we usually make time for a visit to the Magnolia 73 Cafe – mainly for their pies.

And either of these books, about to be reviewed by this scribe, would make for very tolerable reading indeed at any of the aforementioned watering holes. They are both light in tone page-turners – in fact ideal summer reading all round.

Livia Day’s ‘A Trifle Dead’ also has the advantage of being as local as the above establishments. Her Cafe La Femme is neither down at popular Salamanca nor up on the North Hobart strip, but slap bang in the guts of the CBD heartland, as are Nicolatte and Fullers. I love any tome with a Hobartian flavour – and this one has it in spades. Her fictional eatery also possesses views up to the mountain. It is especially popular with the local constabulary, possibly because of its feisty co-proprietor and her eclectic staff. But as events, concerning forms of entrapment and murder, unfold too close to home to be ignored by the luscious Tabitha, she takes time out from pulling lattes to do a little sleuthing into exactly what is going on. Imagine Phryne Fisher in contemporary times and you get the vibe. Tabitha Darling takes to sneaking around the burbs doing her best to solve a couple of conundrums at the same time as the crime spree – are they all inter-connected? To add a little spice we have two love interests – a stoic copper and a mysterious Scotsman – the latter also being a dab hand at mural painting, using one of the cafe’s walls as his canvas. When the criminal is eventually unveiled I hadn’t picked it – but then it all made sense.

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Ms Day is perhaps better known as a successful writer for the younger brigade, but she is more than capable appealing to their parents as well. It’s certainly not a memorable work of literature, but as a competent, eminently readable whodunit she has won me over. She spins a terrific yarn.

As does Deborah Rodriguez in ‘The Little Coffee House in Kabul’. In this the writing is a tad more heated than the Tasmanian’s, but I would suspect it also sugar coats, to an extent, just how difficult life would be in one of the most dangerous cities in the world for a foreign small business woman. Still, some of what she related to us is grim enough – the fear of the Taliban, the misogyny and the never ending possibility that the person beside you – or serving you – could be a suicide bomber. But Sunny, a Yank, is trying to make a go of her cafe in the Afghan capital and is largely succeeding. The author has lived in the city herself for a considerable amount of time until it was in her best interests to get out, so she has a notion of what she is writing about. Her book also doubles as a layman’s guide into the labyrinth of corruption that greases the politics in that country. Sunny, unlike most of her countrypeople, does not ‘…infantalise everyone not like us.’ – perhaps giving an inkling as to why her business survives. The cafe, though, is under constant threat. She is struggling to attain UN certification, which would give it its best chance of ongoing survival. This challenge is one of the narrative threads, but it is also a love story on several levels. As with Tabitha at Cafe La Femme, Sunny has two potential beaux on the go – which of the duo will win her undying affection here? Also, as with the local book, the painting of a mural on a cafe wall is symbolic. Despite some terrible events occurring to our heroine and her mates, the awfulness of the situation is not milked for shock value, nor dwelt on. Thus it remains perfectly suited to the beach and languid, sunshine-y days.

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In the case of both authors, I would look forward to reading the subsequent publications now available – Day’s ‘Drowned Vanilla’ and the American’s ‘ The House on Carnaval Street’. Now, after all that, methinks it’s time for a shot of caffeine.

Nicolatte =

Moto Vecchia =

Magnolia 73 =


The Blue Room has a go at Boiling, Baking and Mashing for 2014

‘What a year its been for the dedicated television watcher.’ And so commenced the Age’s assessment of the year on the small screen – ‘The Couch Potato Awards’. The former broadsheet’s list of the gong-worthy is put together category by category, lauding a single selection in each. Stand-outs included ‘The Devil’s Playground’ in Best Local Drama, ‘True Detective’ in the equivalent Overseas Drama just to cite a couple. It assessed the ABC’s feisty Sarah Ferguson as the person having his/her best year in the medium, with the 10 Network having its worst.

A personal consideration of the year’s best, under the Green Guide format, is not possible for this punter as I would have to pass on so many genres. I would not have the slightest inkling on the Best Pre-schoolers – although this may change as my adored granddaughter becomes more television savvy – Best Competition Reality or Dog of the Year. If you’re interested, the latter was Seven’s ‘Lazy and Driving Us Crazy’ – whatever that may have been! No, the Blue Room’s unembellished list is in countdown format, with a few HMs (Honourable Mentions) and GPs (Guilty Pleasures) to round them out.

So, Coming in at No.10 – Hello Birdy – a gem hidden away in last summer’s ABC rota. Unheralded in the silly season, it was worth watching just to see William McInnes simulate sex with an emu.

09 – Italy (and Sicily) Unpacked – part of SBS’s selection of excellent culinary themed shows, this breaks from the norm and includes cultural perspectives as well. Equal with Yotam Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feast – simply yum!

08 – The Agony of Modern Manners – this offshoot of the Zwar franchise is perhaps tele at its simplest – just talking heads in conversation with Andrew Z and the viewer. It charms and beguiles as we get to know intimately some delightful personalities.

07 – DCI Banks – remember how we wept back in the day when the parish priest lost his Assumpta in the magic Ballykissangel. Well that parish priest is a very different kettle of fish these days in this top notch police procedural.

06 – Kitchen Cabinet – humanises pollies – although I notice Scott Morrison has yet to achieve a guernsey. I have no doubt it would take more than the sassy Annabel – irresistible to males of certain years – to make that odious man unbend an iota.

05 – Brilliant Creatures – another time, another place – but, my, how those Aussie expats shook up the status quo.

04 – The Escape Artist – not quite to the standard of last year’s ‘Broadchurch’, but David Tennant continues to reign supreme.

03 – Fargo – off the radar weird – what on earth is going on? And nobody does this type of weird better than Billy Bob!
02 – Happy Valley – a bravura performance from Sarah Lancashire as she gritted her teeth to bring that right royal bastard down.

01 – True Detective – From the other side of the Atlantic, this was 2014’s ‘Broadchurch’. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson gave stellar performances and kept us guessing from get go to blazing finale. Roll on Season Two and ignore the naysayers who diss it.


HMs – Janet King, Silk, Billy Connolly’s Big Send Off, Utopia, Vikings, A Country Road – the Nationals, Old Dogs, The Fall, Borgen, Time of Our Lives, A Place to Call Home.
GPs – House Husbands, Downton Abbey, Mr Selfridge.

The ‘Green Guide’s Couch Potato Awards =