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Gloves are off in a ripping Aussie yarn

12 November 2011 1,543 views No Comment

BURDENSOME icon … Bond’s irrepressible alter ego, Aunty Jack. Photo: Marco Del Grande
Grahame Bond pulls no punches about his best-known creation.

An only child born in 1943, Grahame Bond is best known for two of his comic creations: the incredible Aunty Jack and butcher extraordinaire Kev Kavanagh.

Bond was born and bred in Marrickville in Sydney. His first hero was a neighbour from across the road, the legendary boxing trainer Ernie McQuillan.

As Bond recounts in this quirky memoir, two decades later, ABC TV chose McQuillan’s Boxing Gymnasium in nearby Newtown as a location to shoot a segment of The Aunty Jack Show.

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On the day of the shoot the only area for Bond to change into his costume was downstairs in the men’s locker room. Watched by half-a-dozen tattooed Tongan pugilists, he put on his blue dress and fat-lady padding. He then entered the shower area to find a mirror to adjust his wig and apply some rouge and lipstick.

At that point McQuillan yelled out: ”Where’s that young Bondy? Bondy, where are you?” Bond puts it thus: ”Fully frocked and partially made-up, I stepped out from the shower recess and greeted him. Poor old Ernie stopped dead in his tracks, looked me up and down and said, ”F— me dead! Bondy. Tell me you’re earning a quid out of this?”

Jack of All Trades, Mistress of One is certainly packed with amazing characters, including Bond’s quite indulgent parents; his Falstaffian maternal grandfather, Benny Doyle, who was a heavyweight boxer; his beloved dogs, both called Rusty; and especially his sadistic Uncle Jack.

After performing with distinction in architecture revues at Sydney University, Bond’s most memorable creation – Aunty Jack, replete with trademark golden boxing glove and threats to ”rip yer bloody arm off” – burst onto Australian television screens in the 1970s.

As Bond tells it, it was on stage and screen he found an imaginary (and, in the main, supportive) ”family” of other writers, musicians and performers.

Over the years these included Peter Weir, Kate Fitzpatrick, Charles Waterstreet, Rory O’Donoghue, Red Symons, Garry McDonald of Norman Gunston fame, Sandy Gutman (aka Austen Tayshus) the marvellous Margaret Fink and Australia’s most talented writer for comedy, the incomparable Bill Harding. Yet this often moving memoir makes it clear that, especially since the 1970s, Bond’s life and career have been a long way from easy.

Indeed, as well as working as an actor he has, 30 years after the fact, used his skill as an architect by appearing in lifestyle television, including presenting Better Homes and Gardens. He has also carved a more-or-less-successful career in advertising.

From time to time, in this finely illustrated book, Bond takes his revenge on those who have hurt him along the way. Thus he cleverly attributes the following telling quote to one of his lesser-known comic creations, Mervyn Whipple, Man of a Thousand Faces: ”Beware the wounded satirist; you could become part of their repertoire.”

Although much of Bond’s memoir is affectionate and caring, at the same time some chapters of the intriguing Jack of All Trades, Mistress of One demonstrate with clarity just how true this is.

What is especially fascinating is the revelation that what many think of as Bond’s best creation soon became a burden. As he writes: ”Aunty Jack was the 800-pound gorilla in the room … It became absurd when press and radio were only interested in interviewing Aunty, not me. Some even requested that I put on the dress to appear on radio.” In the end, that’s why Bond killed Aunty Jack.

Yet even though he swore never to play her again, time after time he has ”brought her back for several reincarnations, each one more painful than the last”. Sadly, Bond was never happy revisiting and reprising her, because he no longer enjoyed playing the character.

Gloves are off in a ripping Aussie yarn, Review By Ross Fitzgerald, November 12, 2011
Jack of All Trades, Mistress of One, Grahame Bond, NewSouth Books, 336pp, $32.95

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