The incoherent blathering and deranged rantings of the self-styled Guru Bob...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hidden Histories

At present I am reading a book called The Real Deadwood which purports to be a history of the town depicted in the HBO television series which I a recovering from my addiction to. In fact the HBO series has probably started a new gold rush of tourism for the actual town of Deadwood. But I don't think this book will contribute too much towards it as it is very put-downable and poorly written, however it is interesting to get the real story of some of the characters from the series.

One of the things which struck me about the show was that there seemed to be a number of similarities between the gold rush history of America and what happened here in 19th century Victoria. Visiting the genteel towns of Ballarat and Bendigo today, you would have a hard time seeing them as they were then, rough-as-guts semi-lawless frontier towns aflow with money and gold.

In fact the same could have been said about Melbourne and one of my favorite pictures at work is a very naive picture of Melbourne in 1836 which shows how rough and ready the place was. The thing to remember is that just 20 years later the town of Melbourne was setting up the first university and library in Australia, and would soon afterwards be a thriving centre of commerce and industry.

However the thing that is so appealing about a series like Deadwood wasn't the 'big picture' of history which it brought to life, rather it was the way in which the people and concerns of an era which is completely foreign to many people nowadays was able to become totally engrossing television. Rather then glossing over the less glamorous side of history it positively reveled in it..

So in this side of the water we have more then enough stories of our own to create some good television. Unfortunately it never really happens. The movie of Ned Kelly was strangely unsatisfying and the various outlaws and bushrangers of our history never seem to make a good transtition to the screen, becoming 'period costume dramas' rather than anything engaging or interesting. Even more recent histories like the current Underbelly series two, seem more like a bunch of guys dressing up in seventies clothes for a bad costume party then a realistic evocation of an era.

Anyway back on topic - I went to the launch of a new book the other night. Madame Brussells: This moral pandemonium which is published by the good people at Arcade Publications. They are committed to bringing to print some of the less known aspects of Melbourne's history and have published wonderful little books on the eccentric bookseller E.W. Cole and on the Making of Modern Melbourne and it has been working for them. Madame Brussells and her bordello was a name synonymous with the less salubrious aspects of 19th Melbourne, however in more recent times the names is associated with a rooftop cocktail bar which for some reason is deocrated with astroturf and the waits staff wear tennis outfits. However their jugs of Pimms are always a welcome treat...

Of course the books launch was held there which was fun and they will be having a more public launch a little closer to the site where the house of ill repute was actually located. So if you are in Melbourne on Wednesday 1st April at 6.00pm drop into the Coopers Inn (242 - 282 Exhibition Street) and take part in the official launch.

I am not sure if I will be there, I may be still reading my copy of the book, but it should be interesting.


  1. I'm looking forward to being financial again and getting some books on Melbourne's history.

  2. Deadwood, could the real Ellis Albert Swearengen, ever live up the character portrayed by Ian McShane.

    I so want to see his work in the new series 'Kings' which I am of course waiting till it is freely available in Australia. (wink, wink)

    (wonder how long before sites like piratebay & other bittorrent host sites are on the government's mandatory internet filter no-go list?)

    Suxs the book is so putdownable otherwise I'd have been keen to read it.

    Did Madame Brussels have a hooker like Trixie from Deadwood.

    Mr Flinthart - tres droll.

  3. April Fools Day - ambitious date for the offical launch!