26 Jun 2023


by Brian Coleman

My circadian rhythms dictate that I rise when the sun rises and sleep after dark. Adversely, I spent most of my career doing the graveyard shift in an industry often dogged by inebriated and unruly patrons.

Early in my PA hiring business I lived in a two-room apartment at the rear of my parent’s place; one room was for storing the gear and the other was for sleeping, or trying to sleep after working a gig at some 3:00 a.m. closing venue. Arriving home in the early hours of the morning I’d often greet my Dad having breakfast in the main house before he left for work. This highlighted the depressing fact that my body clock was out of sync.

Daytime gigs were rare, but I quickly snapped up any cultural events that came my way including ethnic events like a Spanish Fiesta or a Vietnamese wedding, and there was even an alfresco Catholic mass. So it’s ironic that amidst the turbulence and disorder of working late night venues where I’d had lit cigarettes flicked in my face, or had to untangle brawling punters who’d fallen into my mixing console, the only unforseen threat that knocked me off my feet was heatstroke during the load out at an open air event. The remedial treatment was to stop off at KFC for some sugary drinks and to help myself to a handful of their little salt packets en route to my next late-night gig at War and Peace. However, I don’t think this should be taken as responsible medical advice for heatstroke.

War and Peace was a popular 3:00 a.m. closing venue in Parramatta, which started life as a disco in the late 70s and by 1982 had become a firmly established band venue. It was a reasonably orderly venue, but it did have its moments. In those days ‘lockdown’ was only a term used in prisons, but I was twice in virtual lockdown, unable to load out whilst awaiting police intervention: once, after a knife-wielding patron held bouncers at bay at the door, and a second time when an inebriated customer, who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness, went berserk in the venue right on closing time.

During my sojourn in the Philippines in the early 80s I installed the sound and lighting and hired the bands at Rosie O’ Grady’s nightclub, which was just off the US Clark Airbase in northern Luzon and heavily patronised by US military personnel (see CX172 for full article). One evening three tanked US marines took to the dance floor, dancing with each other and spinning around while holding and spilling the contents of their beer steins over other customers. The venue manager, Jim Fox, who was ex US military security, told me to stay put at my sound and lighting consoles while he dealt with them. Jim had marched the marines almost to the door when the stage lights went out. This was a regular occurrence as our electrician had consistently warned me that my sixteen thousand watts of par cans were overloading the fuses, which were already as big as beer bottles.

I never tampered with the labyrinthine connectivity of Filipino fuse boxes, so I headed over to alert Jim who was dealing with the marines. Jim raced off to the fuse box leaving me with the drunken marines who thought I was some sort of security back-up. One of the marines sized me up: “And I’ll cut your ass, mother f***er.” Fortunately, as the words left his mouth another of the marines seemed to realise that I posed very little threat, and I learned later that Jim had already warned them that the feared USAF Town Patrol was only a phone call away. So, he began apologising and escorting the other two out of the venue.

US Town Patrol was only a phone call away.

The happy ending at Rosie O’ Grady’s didn’t eventuate back home at West Ryde’s Local Inn (formerly Jagger’s nightclub) which had such a troubled history that the new licensee changed the name to KC’s, named after Elvis’ 1958 record and movie King Creole. When I arrived as entertainment manager in 1987, I found the venue was booking garage bands, which then played to empty houses.

I was given a free hand to redecorate the club, which I changed to an agency band venue with DJs presenting a disco during the band breaks. Given the venue’s past infamy it was hard getting the numbers through the door, but when our biggest opposition closed down for renovations they poured in and discovered the new place to be. Bands that played at KC’s included the Sally King Band, the Wendy Saddington Band, and a host of covers bands.

Wendy Saddington

KC’s wasn’t without its troubles. The club would be absolutely empty until midnight when patrons already plastered would roll in from other venues. I recall the entertainment manager of the Silverwater Speedboat Club who attended one night telling me that we shared the same crowd.

“How could that be? We don’t close until 3:00 a.m.” “Oh, we close at six,” he said.

So, somehow licensed venues went from the enforced six o’clock closing times in the 50s (that’s 6.00 p.m.) to 6.00 a.m. in the 80s. The ‘six o’clock swill’ of the 50s, which brought about a frenzy of drunken anarchy as the deadline approached ended in 1955 in NSW, but dragged on in Victoria until 1966. And with all the bad press that late night venues get today it is novel to think that Australia’s most notorious venue riot at the Star Hotel, Newcastle in 1979 erupted at closing time, which was then 10:00 p.m.

The doormen at KC’s had their work cut out both inside and outside the venue. Brawls started over the most ridiculous incidents. There was the time an inebriated girl virtually cleared the entire dance floor when she began sensually pulsating to the music whilst making explicit sexual gestures. A drunken punter thought he’d cool her down by pouring his beer over her. Then the nightclub erupted into a giant free-for-all.

There was also the time when a band, prior to playing Lionel Richie’s ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’, foolishly offered a prize if any of the guests could achieve the feat. Two drunken punters grabbed a mate, inverted him and tried to elevate him so he could somehow dance on the ceiling. They resented security intervening, and another huge brawl broke out.

Ryedales VIP Lounge, formerly KC’s nightclub, Local Inn West Ryde

Along with adhering to the adage ‘keep you friends close and your enemies closer’, I also kept my heavyset doormen close. So when an irate punter punched his girlfriend to the ground just in front of my mixing console, I alerted security.

“Can you point him out?” they asked. So, accompanied by my security, I approached the offender.

“Excuse me sir,” I said politely. But before I could finish the sentence he turned and let fly with a glancing blow to my cheekbone. Security then stepped in, but he foolishly continued his tirade, which was always going to be a losing endeavour.

“That’s assault,” complained his battered girlfriend about her assailant’s treatment after security had neutralised him.

There were no RSA rules in the 80s, not that they’re all that effective today, but the general rule at KC’s seemed to be that you could order drinks from the bar until you could no longer pronounce them.


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