Saturday, April 29, 2006

A Royal Visit

The second Monday in March is a public holiday in Melbourne; it happens to be Labour Day and it was originally a celebration called 8 hour day[^]. If you go to the corner of Russell Street and Victoria Street, just across the road from Trades Hall you'll find a monument commemorating the achievement of the 8 hour working day in 1856.

In later years it became Moomba[^], a day of parade and general silliness. Nothing wrong with a little silliness. I have fond memories of watching the Birdman Rally.

There's a legend that when the city fathers were looking for a name for the renamed 8 hour day festival the local Aboriginal community pulled their legs[^].

If the legend isn't true I wish it was. The Melbourne I remember from the very very late 1950's certainly needed a leg pulling!

On Labour Day 1977 we planned and shot a little movie all in one day. It so happened that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was due in town around then; I can't remember if she was already in town or if her arrival was imminent. We decided to make a 'documentary' about her visit to Melbourne. Given the unlikeliness of Her Majesty granting permission to a bunch of adolescents to cover her visit we used a stand-in, Gary.

Gary was quite happy to dress up in an evening gown and appear on the streets of Melbourne. One of the Daves donned my tailcoat and fake tophat to play the role of the Governor General, Sir John Kerr. I played the then state opposition leader, Clyde Holding (holding it obvious that if my middle name is Clyde I was a natural choice for the part - boom boom) and I think Heino played Sir Rupert Hamer, Victorian Premier.

I worked for Trident TV rentals at the time and had a company van; the van substituted, badly, for the official limousine. We set a camera up on the corner of Bourke and Spring Streets, trained on the steps of Parliament House. In I drove the van, the camera panning as I drove. Came to a stop as Dave solemnly walked down the steps, pausing as I opened the rear doors of the van. Out stepped Gary, waving to the crowd.

The policeman on duty was interested in the goings on but not really in a professional sense. A couple of minutes chatting and he was on side. So we shot the scene again. This time I stayed in the drivers seat; the cop opened the door and handed her majesty out.

A little later we shot a handheld camera scene with Gary swanning down Bourke Street, past the Melbourne Club[^], waving a little handkerchief at the bemused locals.

Then we shot a scene with Heino and I scratching out a very very bad rendition of God Save the Queen on violins.

We finished the day back at the studio in Freyer Street Williamstown. The offical banquet. This was an opportunity to combine the assuaging of hunger and a shoot. With as much pomp as was possible given that the studio was a suburban living room we shot her majesty arriving, followed by her governor general, her loyal premier and her equally loyal opposition leader, to sit down to a meal of fish and chips!

An unscripted idea occurred to me as we dined. It was the work of a moment to shake up my can of coke and spray her majesty! Well, it seemed funny at the time!

Edited up it was pretty funny. One of our number was working for Channel 9. He managed to raise some interest in our production with the local 'A Current Affair' people and it really felt like they were prepared to air our effort. A pity then, in retrospect, that I got cold feet. Remember that Trident TV van? The Trident symbol was blazoned all over it and I didn't want to get the sack! I think these days I'd say 'screw em' and go ahead!

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