Frank Sinatra, 12 Dec. (1915-14 May, 1998) versus Bob Hawke, (9 Dec. 1929-16 May, 2019).
“A funny thing happened in Australia,” Frank Sinatra told a New York audience. “I made a mistake and got off the plane.”
The plane in question landed in Melbourne on 9 July 1974. Fresh out of self-imposed retirement, the 58-year-old Sinatra was visiting Australia for the first time in 15 years.
His career was back on the upswing after a decade of poor record sales and crappy movies; his five shows, billed as the “Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back” tour, were eagerly awaited.
Trouble began the moment he set foot on the ground. Nobody was waiting to pick him up. As he headed to his rehearsal in a borrowed car, he was pursued by a journalist, who was disguised as his then wife, the former Mrs Zeppo Marx.
Finally, he sprinted through the rain to the venue with a media posse at his heels, only to find himself locked out. Photos splashed across the afternoon papers showed a very cranky Frankie pounding on the stage door “like a demented fan”.
That night when on stage, the Chairman of the Board let fly. In a prickly monologue, he described journalists as “bums”, and as for “the broads who work for the press”: “hookers” worth “a buck and a half” at best. Shame on you Frank!
The crooner had bitten off more than he could chew.
When the journalists’ union demand for an apology was brushed aside, the Australian Council of Trade Unions slapped a ban on Frank’s tour.
At the suggestion of Gough Whitlam, Prime Minister the president, of the ACTU Bob Hawke, took personal charge of the campaign.
The Silver Bodgie was then 45, a champion pisspot, notorious womaniser and the artful manager of Labor’s industrial wing. He declared that unless Sinatra could walk on water, he would be stuck in Australia until he said sorry.
With transport workers refusing to refuel his jet, Sinatra was forced to sneak onto a commercial flight to Sydney. Holed up in the Boulevard Hotel, he considered calling on the US Navy to rescue him. Eventually, he agreed to negotiate.
On 11 July, the two men met in Sinatra’s suite. Over four hours, an agreement was hammered out.
In return for a statement that Sinatra “did not intend any general reflection upon the moral character of working members of the Australian media”, Hawke was prepared to green-light his remaining concerts.
Bob Hawke went on to become Prime Minister of Oz for some years.
Joseph McQuiggan, far right, at Nettlesworth Colliery, County Durham in 1965. Image Credit: Photograph by John Bulmer
I was 15 when I began mining. I had my heart set on it, and left school on the Friday and started on the Monday. I began with screen work, separating the stones from the coal.
Before long, I’d been trained to go underground. It wasn’t claustrophobic – even when you’re working a seam that’s only 18 inches high. Typically, I’d work at the face, up against the rock, chiselling the coal out.
We’d go down clean and come back up covered in coal. Every 18 months, you got a chest x-ray to make sure you had no dust on your lungs. I was OK; I always wore a mask at the coalface.
When this photo was taken, I was around 23 years old; I’m on the far right, looking cheeky. I remember the photographer, John Bulmer – he was a young man, a lot like us. He’d say: “Forget I’m here, get on with your normal day,” and we did.
We’d go to the stables with the ponies from the pit and wash them down with a hosepipe, put them in their stalls and make sure they were fed and brushed; all the while, John was snapping away.
They are the most intelligent animals in the world – just marvellous to work with. The ponies helped carry the coal out to a landing point above ground.
I had a little one called Anchor. He was small and white. He led me a dance for about a month, but I persevered, and by the end, he’d do anything for me.
He was that good, sometimes I’d give him my sandwiches. I’d give him both of them and go without lunch, because he was earning the money for me.
During the school holidays I would sit in the gutter out the front of Mum and Dad’s house at South Plympton and wish for lots of things.
I wished I was older, I wished time would go quicker. I wished I was back at school.
I wished the baker and his horse would pass by. Remember, those freshly baked loaves that had hot doughy centres.
Yummy! No sliced bread in those days.
I wished I had a pair of fluorescent glow in the dark socks. Lime green was the colour I wanted and when I got them I was too frightened to wear them.
I was too worried I would get a rock in the back of the head on my way home from the local Deli just for wearing them.
But most of all I wished the newsagent would hurry up each Thursday afternoon around 5 0’clock and deliver my precious copy of the British “Eagle” Magazine for boys.