Book launch: Alan (“The Red Fox”) Reid
You may be interested to know that this fine film-noir front cover photograph of ALAN (“THE RED FOX”) REID almost never saw the light of day because two influential people, who shall remain nameless, did not want to see in 2010 a photo of someone smoking a cigarette! How about that? Yet sadly, although he stopped drinking and gambling, Reid never stopped smoking, and eventually died of lung and stomach cancer.
Speaking of photos, in our biography of Alan Reid the mystery of the ALP’s Faceless Men story and photos has been solved. There is absolutely reliable evidence that the famous 1963 photographs of what became known as the ALP’s 36 “Faceless Men” were taken by a Canberra friend of Alan Reid’s named Vladimir Paral – known as Val – who was a scientific photographer at the John Curtin Medical School.
As ALAN (“THE RED FOX”) REID makes clear, Reid got Vladimir, who lived in south Canberra, not far from the Kingston Hotel, to take the photos, develop them in a dark room at the Australian National University, and they were then dispatched to Frank Packer for publication in The Daily Telegraph. Reid never revealed Paral’s role to protect him – the use of ANU property for political purposes was highly irregular – but Val Paral can be named because he is no longer in the land of the living.
This needs to be mentioned tonight, as many punters under 50 won’t know that this revelation is indeed something special!
The 1963 photos of then ALP federal leader Arthur Calwell and his ambitious deputy Gough Whitlam waiting in the dark under a lamppost outside the Kingston Hotel in Canberra, where a special ALP party conference was in session, and which Calwell & Whitlam were not allowed to attend, significantly helped the Liberals win the next two federal elections.
Throughout his life, Alan Reid never disclosed who took the damning photographs, despite considerable pressure and speculation, including suggestions they had been taken by a working pressman. But that night there were no press photographers at the Hotel Kingston in Canberra.
With regard to finding the source of the photos about the Night of the Faceless Men, and Vladimir Paral’s identity, what happened is that my appeal for information about Alan Reid in THE AUSTRALIAN newspaper’s STREWTH column flushed out the story about Paral from Mr Ralph Westen of Canberra who had worked with Paral at the same dark room at the ANU in 1963. Westen saw the faceless men photos when he turned up to work on the Thursday morning.
Westen responded to my appeal, and as my co-author Stephen Holt (who is here tonight) lives in Canberra he had a chat with him to verify what Westen had told me. So there we are. The riddle of who photographed the 36 unelected delegates in 1963, with Calwell & Whitlam waiting meekly outside in the dark, has been solved.
Later that year, Australia’s first televised election results featured Creighton Burns, then a lecturer in Political Science at Melbourne University, armed with a state of the art computer. The 9 Network telecast began at 8pm. A mere ten minutes later, Alan Reid, wreathed in tobacco smoke, announced, “The government’s back in.
At 9pm, despite Burns continuing to announce that Calwell still had a good chance of winning the election, Reid reappeared in the telecast in front of a news-board, which proclaimed “MENZIES WINS.
The wily pressman opined: “Menzies is back with a majority of about thirteen. Confident that his man Reid had bested the machine, then and there Sir Frank Packer ordered BurnsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ computer to be removed from the telecast! Ã‚Â And as many of us here would know, this was the very same Creighton Burns who later edited The Guardian on the Yarra i.e. The Melbourne Age – from 1981 to 1989.
A final point. Unlike much of my previous work, Stephen Holt and I have deliberately written this book, without editorialising, so that you, and you, the reader, can make up your minds about the efficacy and morality of Alan (the Red Fox) Reid as a journalist, a participant, and a person, who played such a pivotal role in twentieth century Australian history and politics.
Thank you all for coming here tonight.
Author, Professor Ross Fitzgerald’s speech at the launch of Alan (“The Red Fox”) Reid, June 8, 2010