Sunday, January 18, 2015


Another   extraordinary  special   about  Darwin   by a writer with the punting nom-de-plume, Shawtodds , who we suspect  in  the notorious  Prohibition  era in America  would have been  one  speakeasy  ahead of  Eliot Ness  of   Untouchables  fame.  Nowadays  he  uses  Bundy  Rum  as  anti-freeze in  New York’s  way  below  zero weather.
Darwin's Qantas transit lounge 1963 looking surprising civilised. Posed snap  for a tourist guide, no uncouth  journalists evident.  
I see some pretty funny things when I am out and about in Darwin's purveyors of fermented liquors  - or if you  prefer a more accurate description , hanging out in pubs  and which I do considerably in those days when I am much younger and can chuck down a beer with enthusiasm - unless it is Swan, which I cannot abide, unless someone is shouting.  

As I explain in a previous post on this fine blog, there is no shortage of joints to patronise and they are well known to the thirsty tipplers of the town at that time.

However there is one secret bar known to desperates as the only place to get a beer after the pubs pull stumps at 10 pm and they certainly are not spreading the word even in  their cups. I learn of it from Jim Bowditch, editor of the NT News which employed, pound for pound, the thirstiest and most disreputable bunch of jokers in town if you don't count the bank johnnies who are renowned  for getting on the grog  because, like the journos, the few single  sheilas available give them a major swerve.

Despite this, it seems to me such fine fellows are a desirable lot to hang out with which I do often. My opinion of such drinking companions is not shared by the local coppers,  together with many upstanding members of the community, who regard them as uncouth  toss-pots or something unpleasant they step in ,such as dog shit. 

The secret after-hours  boozer is at the Darwin airport, specifically the Qantas lounge which supposedly is open only to those good citizens who are meeting passengers on  flights from various overseas destinations  which in those days have to stop at Darwin to refuel before going on to  Sydney. The bloke in charge of the bar is a good mate of  Bowditch and overlooks the fact that most of the jokers present are  there to just  meet Messrs. Carlton and United - at least until he  calls time  gentlemen please around 3am, although  when I am there I witness very few gentlemen  present -just  a  mob of  drunks. 


If the Darwin coppers are doing their job and sweating on roisterers driving home from the Qantas lounge , they will have a hundred percent conviction record for DUI and this is in the days before the breath bag. As there is a good two-hour lapse between the pubs in town closing and the Qantas lounge opening,  one and all usually decide to get a feed before saddling up for a late night at the airport boozer. 

A most popular rendezvous for drunks seeking munchies after the pubs in town have closed is Eva's Grill Bar which is not as grand as the name suggests, but rather is a pie cart-like shack in a lane behind Smith Street.  Eva who runs the  joint hails from somewhere in  eastern Europe and is not a sheila to fuck with unless you wish to be spoken to sternly by Eva herself, who is built like a  brick shithouse and will brook no drunken shenanigans from the clientele, most of whom are stylishly dressed in  Darwin Casual - blue singlet, shorts and thongs and who do not smell so good unless you like  armpit  BO paired with VB  breath.

Eva does a great steak, snags or chops with or without onions and eggs but always with salad which is the real draw-card.  Just crisp fresh lettuce and a few slices of tomato which does not sound like much but Eva's is the only joint in town where it is available. All fresh produce is trucked into town from the south and is feeling the heat very much by the time it lobs in Darwin. Where Eva gets her fresh lettuce and tomato is a source of much speculation  and customers who ask her are usually told to mind their own bloody business. I hear some people speak disrespectfully of Eva regarding her appearance but she is not there to win any beauty contests, but to provide  drunks with  good tucker.
And once she  takes a shine to you, Eva is a real pussycat, although I do not know of anybody that she actually takes a shine to. She is also a regular contributor to the Fannie Bay bookies  and will no doubt do the same at the Winnellie dogs, except they are on Friday night when she is busier than  a one-armed traffic cop as she gives  the  steak  and eggs and salad  business  full attention  at the grill  bar .
One night we are all at the Qantas bar wondering when the incoming plane will empty its weary passengers into the lounge. What we do know is that it carries a very high ranking Japanese cabinet minister and a planeload  of  Japanese journos who are covering his trip - only the second  such visit by a top Jap  since World War ll  bombing raids knock the town around considerably .Why  such a member of the ruling elite is  lobbing in town, even for a brief layover, is  a very touchy subject. It is fair to say very few locals would  spread the welcoming mat and might even be inclined to chuck something at the  cabinet minister when he sets foot in Oz. 

Which is  why the local journos are on hand in case the arrival goes hostile . At least that's their story, but I know they are getting shitfaced as usual and will not be capable of using a phone if a big story does breaks, much less writing a coherent account. The plane lands without incident, and the cabinet minister is ushered very quick into the VIP lounge , leaving the intoxicated rabble which is the local press having  no chance  to  say hello  and ask what  are you doing  in  Australia  anyway. 

 Suddenly a throng of  young jokers burst out of the plane and into the lounge, bearing above their heads - rather like Vikings carrying a wounded warrior on  their shields - one of their number who calls it a day from too much whiskey on the flight from Tokyo. It is the Japanese press contingent travelling with the cabinet minister and I must say I never see a drunker bunch of  journos  since I am at Lou Richards pub in  Melbourne or the Evil Star and Shakespeare in Sydney.  The Japanese press have their pots on in a big way and it is fair to say none of them are feeling any pain. 

This does not stop them from hitting the bar with plenty of vigor and giving the whiskey with beer chasers a testing workout, having propped up their  unconscious colleague in a chair where they  regularly  lift their glasses to him- even if he does not  acknowledge  their honourable  gestures .  

It is my first encounter with the gentlemen of the Nippon Press and it leaves me mightily impressed although in later years I learn that as a group they do not have to be persuaded to toss down a cold one or  two  and will give their Australian counterparts a run for their money on  any day - even a hot one.  You can gather from  this  the Qantas lounge in those days is a jolly place for hard-working booze hounds  to  unwind after  a  hard day  at  the  office.