Author Interview – Jim Toomey

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Back in 1979 as a glued-to-the-television-screen 13-year-old, I was watching Jim Toomey play drums in his band THE TOURISTS on COUNTDOWN – the Sunday night ABC pop music program that was a weekly ritual for a generation of Aussie teenagers of that era.

Jim recently published a memoir chronicling his three years touring with the band. Two members of THE TOURISTS went on to form British pop duo THE EURYTHMICS so his name is frequently mentioned in connection with the origin story of that band as well. I began by asking Jim how he feels regarding the possibly double-edged sword nature of that association –

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Having your name forever linked with the formative years of two other musicians (Annie Lenox & Dave Stewart) who went on to garner worldwide fame throughout the 1980’s, could make you feel in some ways a little like the so-called 5th Beatle, drummer Pete Best (who played in The Beatles during their time as a club act in Liverpool before they rose to international mega-attention in 1963). Do you look back on those years (1977 – 1980) with THE TOURISTS as three of the best years of your life?

 Those three years were spent travelling the world and thoroughly enjoying the experience. The answer is really in the conclusion of the book.

What’s the origin of the book’s cover shot?

The cover shot was chosen by the publishing company. It was one of hundreds taken of the band.

What was the process like of finding a publisher for WE WERE TOURISTS?

I got turned down by one publisher and asked to do a re-write by another.
After some negotiations I finally signed with Austin Macauley in London
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 I remember as a teenager watching THE TOURISTS on COUNTDOWN performing “I ONLY WANT TO BE WITH YOU” (HEAR IT HERE)  and thinking it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen and heard. Out of three albums worth of material, what would be your favourite TOURISTS song?
Tricky, but it would have to be Annie’s song ‘ONE STEP NEARER THE EDGE’ (HEAR IT HERE) on the album we recorded at Montserrat.

And your favourite EURYTHMICS song? (You can’t say ‘I NEED A MAN’ (HEAR IT HERE) ’cause I bags that one!)

 So many classic songs to choose from. Maybe ‘WHY’ (HEAR IT HERE).

I understand you taught English for a while in Japan (something I know a little bit about as well)  Could you tell us about that experience?

I lived in Japan for two years, an amazing experience. I wasn’t teaching English in the conventional sense. I was teaching English Conversation which meant I got to meet some amazing people. An amazing culture and amazing people.

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You appeared in the movie PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 5: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES. Any upcoming film projects?
After getting the part in the Pirates movie I did auditions for TV ads and I play a drunk in a movie not released yet called IN LIKE FLYNN.

Are there any upcoming gigs for ONCE A TOURIST – the band you assembled for the launch of the book?

There will be some further gigs later in the year.

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And finally, if you’re up to it Jim, some queries from the rapid-fire and unflinching QUESTIONATOR –

  • Do you have any tattoos? No
  • Best place you’ve ever lived? Brisbane
  • I love the sound of… music (not the  Julie Andrews movie!)
  • Whose look do you envy (you’re allowed to say Bruce Wayne, Doctor Who or even Donald Duck if you want to!) David Bowie
  • I wish my house had a … recording studio
  • I can’t live without… my MTV
  • Favourite quote? “We are only in it for the money”Frank Zappa (1940 – 1993)
  • Favourite movie? The Budapest Hotel

Ps.  On a completely unrelated note, your bonus read this week is the short story of an 88-year-old grandmother who decides the time is right to get her very first spray tan.

BASK IN THE GLOW HERE  or  HERE

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Incident at Chappaquiddick

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Looking back with the 20/20 vision of an Oxford historian, it’s pretty clear July 1969 was a firecracker month in American antiquity on at least a number of counts.

On July 8th the very first troop withdrawals were made from Vietnam. 13 days later Neil Armstrong took mankind’s first steps on the moon. And the Manson murders, the crime that many attribute to killing off forever the carefree flower-power era of the 1960’s, were only a few weeks away. Somewhere wedged amongst all that upheaval and horizon-transforming change was the incident at Chappaquiddick.

This post is mostly intended as a film review of the movie CHAPPAQUIDDICK which has just been released in cinemas here in Brisbane this week. To pull that off effectively however, a brief history lesson, like it or not, must accompany the price of admission.

The events which occurred on Friday night July 18, 1969, and became known as the Chappaquiddick Incident, involved a single-vehicle car accident that occurred on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts.

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The major difference between these two photographs is that today the bridge sides are protected by parallel-fenced guard rails. In July 1969 these were not yet installed.

CHECK THIS VIEW

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A little after midnight on this date, a car driven by 37-year-old Senator Ted Kennedy (youngest brother of John F. Kennedy – the 35th President of the United States – and Senator Robert F. Kennedy) plunged off a narrow, single-lane wooden crossing known as Dyke Bridge into tide-swept Poucha Pond. The car sunk to the bottom of the water channel with the occupants still inside. Ted Kennedy, who was married at the time to his 1st wife Joan, was able to swim free but his 28-year-old passenger Mary Jo Kopechne was trapped in the submerged vehicle and drowned. 

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Deepening the tragedy and scandal of the incident was the fact that Kennedy did not report the accident to police until ten hours after it occurred and the prevailing view at the time was he could have done more to try to rescue the life of his passenger. Kennedy pleaded guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of a crash causing personal injury, and later received a two-month suspended jail sentence.

The Chappaquiddick Incident became a nationally known controversy, and likely influenced Kennedy’s decision not to campaign for President in 1972 and 1976. Ted Kennedy went on to  have a long and successful career in politics, serving in the United States Senate for over forty years until his death from brain cancer in 2009. His memoir True Compass was published three weeks after his death.

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 At the inquest into the death of Mary Jo Kopechne held in January of 1970, John Farrar, who was the captain of the Edgartown Fire Rescue unit and the diver who recovered Kopechne’s body  alleged that she died from suffocation rather than from drowning or from the impact of the overturned vehicle.
He hypothesised that Mary Jo Kopechne had survived for at least one hour after the crash by breathing in air that formed in an air pocket inside the submerged vehicle. He further concluded that had Ted Kennedy alerted authorities immediately after the crash happened instead of waiting ten hours to do so, Mary Joe Kopechne could have been removed alive from the car. This is the theory of the accident depicted in the movie.

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I saw the movie CHAPPAQUIDDICK at Indooroopilly cinema last Saturday afternoon with around 16 other people in the theatre. ‘Engrossing‘ is one superlative that comes to mind when I search for how to recount the experience of this film. ‘Masterfully authentic’ and ‘sublimely nuanced’ are two others.

Australian actor Jason Clarke (DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, TERMINATOR GENISES, EVEREST) who cut his acting chops on HOME AND AWAY back in the early 2000’s, perfectly portrays the detached, born-to-privelage senator Ted Kennedy in a hairs-stand-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck-it’s-so-real Oscar-worthy performance.

Ps. Wanna travel back in a time machine?

Capture Then CLICK HERE or HERE or if you’re a conspiracy theorist HERE

Pss. A selection of the many, many books written on the subject over the years..

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Psss.  This week’s bonus read is an article written under the headline

Kennedy Clan Tries to Sink Chappaquiddick Film

detailing how pressure was placed on the producers of the movie from very powerful people not to release the film.

READ IT HERE

Letter from Her Maj – Again!

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I truly feel like my ship – alright, under the circumstances, better make that royal yacht – has come in.

A letter from the Queen will do that to you.

Then again, once you’ve had one letter from Her Royal Highness the others after that tend to be a bit ‘meh’. Right?

Wrong!

Like popping bubble wrap or running your fingers through your hair after getting a haircut or even opening your eyes in the morning and realizing it’s Saturday, some things never lose their appeal.

Last time I received a letter from Queen Elizabeth II (HERE) (not to be confused with Queen Elizabeth 1 (1533 -1603) was back in October of last year on the occasion of SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK recording its 100th follower.

This time she’s bestowing her royal congratulation for  SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK notching its 200th follower. And while there’s nothing that can quite beat the feeling of that very first time, may I say that, like tennis ace Roger Federer recording his 20th Grand Slam career title back in January with his victory in the Australian Open Final, it’s a thrill you never tire from.

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I’d like to show it to you if I may…

Dearest Glen,

It seems like only yesterday all the blessed here at Buckingham Palace were gathered around the royal fireplace warming ourselves with the news that SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK (is that how you say it?) had gathered, like goji berries in a blue ribboned basket, 100 dedicated and true followers.

And now to hear you have summoned 200 loyal subjects to your breast is indeed heartening news of the finest virtue. To mark the occasion I have commissioned a special certificate for you which you may place in your Throne  Room  Trophy Room, if you have one of those.

You may have heard that I have plans to retire from official duties sometime in the near future and hand over the daily slog reins of power to my son Prince Charles the Duke of Cornwall.

What you have heard is true and so I say that by the time you reach your next landmark of 300 loyal servants it is very possible that it is he not I who will give regards to your achievement. I would like to take this opportunity therefore, to again personally wish you every success for the future of your little endeavour.

With warmest wishes and kindest felicitations,

Her Royal Majesty

Queen Elizabeth II

Ps. Would it be too bold of me to enquire, should SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK at some point in the future reach the right royal milestone of say.. 500 followers, that you may consider upgrading the name to something a little, how should I put this, classier? Like maybe SCENIC WRITER’S PALACE ?  Just asking…

Ps. For this weeks book recommendation we go retro with a funny 1992 novel by English humorist Sue Townsend (1946 -2014) called THE QUEEN AND I. This book was adapted to become a stage play and the author penned a sequel titled QUEEN CAMILLA in 2006.

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Here’s the plot synopsis –

When a Republican party wins the General Election in Britain,, their first act in power is to strip the royal family of their assets and titles and send them to live on a housing estate in the Midlands.

Exchanging Buckingham Palace for a two-bedroomed semi in Hell Close (as the locals dub it), caviar for boiled eggs, servants for a social worker named Trish, the Queen and her family learn what it means to be poor among the great unwashed.

But is their breeding sufficient to allow them to rise above their changed circumstance or deep down are they really just like everyone else?

This book should in no way be confused with another title by the same name THE QUEEN AND I by Edward A. Weiss penned in 1979.

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Pss. Sticking with the royal theme, the other morning I was awake at 1am sharpening my maths skills by attempting to calculate how many hours sleep I would get if I fell asleep ‘right now’, when, in desperation, I did what any normal person would do when they can’t sleep and switched on the television.

Fortunate enough to somehow avoid the info-commercials for exercise equipement and non-stick fry pans, I lucked upon an episode of a send-up comedy series on Channel 7 called THE WINDSORS which hilariously depicts the royal family.  Funny.  Real funny. 

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GET A TASTE HERE

Psss. ABBA back at Number 1 on the music charts? Mama Mia!  With news late last month the 70’s supergroup will be releasing their first new music in 35 years sometime during 2018, this is a definite cellphone-vibrating-in-your-pocket announcement  for the entertainment industry.

To those who say it’s comparable to Arnold Schwzenegger making a return to body building or Bill Clinton attempting to re-enter the Senate (or even one-of-a-kind Cher touring again.. no wait… isn’t she coming to Brisbane with a show in September?) I say – you can damage your washing machine if you put in too much washing powder but is that going to stop you from trying to stay clean altogether? As metaphors go that one’s probably up there with a 1970’s homemaker mixing their clothes whites with their washing tie-dyes – something you would never do – but since the group’s first new song is entitled “I STILL HAVE FAITH IN YOU” we’ll all just have to wait and see what comes out, as they say, in the wash.

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Pssss. The bonus reads keep on coming and this week is no exception. The good folk at THE BOOK DEPOSITORY have put together a list of  95 OF THE BEST BOOKS OF ALL TIME. (SEE IT HERE) Making it onto the list was Raymond Chandler‘s classic 1953 hard-boiled (as opposed to soft-boiled) detective novel THE LONG GOODBYE. Chandler considered this work his best book and it was made into a film starring one of my favourite actors, Elliot Gould, in 1973.

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And that concludes this week with what has indeed been another long goodbye from SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK.

Weird Gardening Tips (I’ve heard a few)

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On the eve of World Naked Gardening Day this Saturday, hear me when I say I’m definitely no gardener.

About as far as I stray into the horticultural realm is mowing the lawn once a month, and I definitely wouldn’t class that as any kind of  enjoyable hobby.

In fact, the last time I can remember having dirt under my fingernails was probably sometime back as a kid when I used to get paid twenty cents to ‘trim the edges’ with a pair of blunt secateurs.

Yep, wouldn’t know my pumpkin seeds from my petunias, my potash from my perennials.

What I do know, however, is knee-slapping strangeness not to mention priceless quirkery when I see it.

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My wife is the one with the green thumbs in our family. Recently she’s taken to borrowing gardening magazines from our local library in an effort to grow her knowledge on all things soil/fertilizer/compost/organic/garden insect related.

This has afforded me the opportunity, on a few occasions, to casually leaf through some issues as they lay open on the lounge room coffee table and behold some truly wonderous and original gardening tips.

I’m not talking about your standard ‘use crushed eggshells for a calcium rich soil’ type of advice nor your ‘powdered milk and human urine (separately or together) are just the trick for healthy tomato plants order of instruction. Forks in the garden to keep animals away? Who doesn’t do that? And as for the ‘ol aspirin in the vase-water to keep cut flowers fresh? Your Nan was doing that a hundred years ago!

No siree.

What I’m talking about is the hardcore, twilight zone/full moon type of weirdness passing itself off as post-new age botanical genius. Try this little gem on for size for instance –

“Why not scissor the cups out of your old brassieres and set them out in your annual garden as little domes to protect fragile seedlings? It looks wacky but it sure does the trick!”

Then there’s this –

“Calling all Tooth Fairies! Don’t throw away your kids’ teeth. Save them up until you have a good third cupful, then scatter them around your tulip beds come spring, and you won’t lose one bulb to marauding squirrels. Scares the dickens out of them, I guess!”

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There was also a whole page article in one publication espousing the benefits of nude gardening. And the voodoo-science-backed ‘benefits’ listed didn’t extend to just the health and well-being of the person doing the gardening, but, if you can believe this, to the garden itself as well!

I’ve actually clipped this and magnetized it to my fridge. I plan to keep it there at least until the end of this weekend.

As to the first Saturday in May being World Naked Gardening Day, no, I’m not making that up. Can you believe its been a thing internationally since 2005!?

Ironically, not what you’d call one of your garden-variety awareness days that’s for certain.

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Ps. This week’s recommended read is THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN – a 2008 mystery novel from best-selling Australian author Kate Morton (Explore her website here) Since graduating from the University of Queensland in 1999, Kate Morton has gone on to sell more than 10 million books in 42 countries.

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The plot synopsis for THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN reads –

A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book—a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own.

On her twenty-first birthday, they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and very little to go on, “Nell” sets out to trace her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family.

But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell’s death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled.

This book reputedly simmers with secrets and is cleverly structured like a Russian doll, with stories within stories, histories inside histories.

Pss. More recently published (last month) is the satirical novel BOB HONEY WHO JUST DO STUFF penned (sorry!) by Hollywood actor/director Sean Penn. The story centers on a man named Bob Honey, who after his wife leaves him, becomes an international assassin who kills elderly people with a mallet.

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Reviews of BOB HONEY WHO JUST DO STUFF have been decidedly ‘mixed’. This week’s bonus read is from a Canadian book reviewer who explains in detail why he considers Penn’s book ‘the worst novel in human history’.

READ WHY HERE

Psss. Spotted in traffic this week (if the definition of the word ‘traffic’ includes the bottom end of my street) was a car sporting a SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK rear window sticker. As far as car accessories go, surely this has to be right up there with the iPad car headrest mount, moisture-sensing windscreen wipers and an in-car mini pizza oven.

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