We know you’re awful

When I emigrated to Australia in 1967 I was 37. My move did not go unnSue Rhodesoticed and led to a modicum of unfavourable publicity in the Australian press. It mattered not. Australians like a larrikin. I decided that I would go into publishing as soon as I got there. We had taken a house in Gladesville in Sydney and I went right to it.
I formed Gareth Powell Associates and took offices. I decided I needed to publish a slightly shocking book to get everyone’s attention. I worked out a trio of titles which I roughed out and then went in search of an author. I needed a sexy, interviewable female journalist. I got a list of female journalists and their contact numbers. The first one bombed out. The second one was Sue Rhodes. I incorrectly wrote that I went to see her in her apartment where she was living with fellow journalists Matt White and Ludmilla Hansley. (Sue has since written to me that she did not live with either Matt or Lida — which is what she calls Ludmilla. She adds: ‘By the way. Lida lived next door and Matt lived in Double Bay.My roomie was Deanne Stubbs.”
I am delighted to set the record straight.
Sue Rhodes loved the idea of the book and I could see she was perfect for the part. She roughed out an an outline which I still have somewhere. It had in it great chapter headings like: ‘Iron my underpants ma, I’m doing a hambone tonight.’ Which is how I came to find out that in Australia a hambone was a drink induced male strip tease. Sue suggested that the title should be ‘Now You’ll Think I’m Awful’ which, it was suggested, was what Australian girls said after sex. She told me that my suggested title — ‘Fucking Matilda’ would never fly. She was right.
I produced the book at the Griffin Press in Adelaide which was, and still is, perhaps the foremost printery for books in Australia. I liked the way the book came together and I had high hopes.Rory_Calhoun_-_1961
Then I visited Griffin Press and heard two pressmen discussing the book. One said to the other: ‘Is she really like that or is she all talk?’ I immediately upped the print run.
The book was published and caused a small uproar. I was attacked in radio interviews, in newspapers.
Wonderful stuff.
Sue Rhodes appeared on television. One obnoxious interviewer pushed his questioning too far and Sue hurled a glass of water in his face. I could not ask for more.
And so it became a bestseller. Not the biggest bestseller in the history of Australia up to that time. But certainly in the top ten. Perhaps in the top five. (Yes, yes, the Macquarie Press did much better but that was after Sue Rhodes.)
Sue Rhodes was back in the news again when she married Rory Calhoun, a sort of minor Western star who appeared in a lot of movies. And had, as I later found out, a strong criminal record. Now Calhoun is dead and I can find no trace of Sue Rhodes. But she and I, in the 1960’s, made a little bit of Australian publishing history.

About Gareth Powell

Welsh to the point of affectation. Retired publisher, journalist, author, truck driver, circus hand, sergeant. Lives in Australia and England. Prefers writing to almost any other human activity.

2 thoughts on “We know you’re awful

  1. Gareth,
    I haven’t vanished. I am living in the California desert with a bunch of Bulldogs. I tried to locate you a couple of years ago, but couldn’t. Shoot me an email and perhaps we can re-connect.
    Sue

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