Dancing down under isn’t as good as being home
In 1966, the world’s borders are much more flexible than today. I ask, “Paul, is it possible for me to join our group of dancers in Teheran?” Paul is second in command of the theatrical company I work for. “Rawhn,” Mr. Rudas will send you to a group when it’s the right time,” he replies. A week later, the big boss is on the telephone. “Rawhn (all Hungarians talk that way) I vunt you should go to Sydney. We have a group waiting for you. I have bookings for them in the Middle East. Paul will get your ticket for you,” he says. “How long will I be gone?” I ask. “Not to worry. Two months. Ian Maclaren, will find someplace for you to stay,” he answers, and hangs up. “Sweetheart, that was Mr. Rudas on the telephone. I’m going to Australia for two months,” I blurt out. Best to get it all over at once. Orllyene and I share running the house, raising the kids, everything. Now Orllyene will be on her own. She’ll balance the check book, ferry the kids to school on her own, and call the plumber, if a pipe breaks. When my parents hear that their grandchildren’s dad is flying to Australia, a plan is devised. My dad flies up from Hollywood, and we both fly from Vegas to San Francisco, where I board a Quanta’s Boeing 707 for Sydney. I know I’m supposed to be the man of the house, but, dang, Australia is at the bottom of the globe. For all I know, they walk on their hands down there.
The flight isn’t just long. It’s endless. For 15 hours I nap, and memorize the “In Flight Magazine.” Smoking is permitted; I smell like a Virginia smoked ham when we land.
When I left Vegas, it was fall. When I get off the plane, it’s spring. “Hello mate, I’m Ian Maclaren. I think you’ll like your digs. It’s right on the bus line. Shouldn’t take you more than an hour to get to the studio to rehearse,” he says.
I crumble when I see the “digs.” I have a room in someone’s home. I wimp out. “Ian, I’m very, very sorry, but can we find somewhere else?” I implore. Respecting my temperamental ways, he finds me a room on Bondi Beach. Bondi is famous for its lifeguards, and equally famous sharks.
The hotel is an old fashioned two-story affair. It’s off season, so I have the place all to myself. I feel like I’m back in Laguna Beach in the old days, before it became a haven for commuters. I’m as happy as a pig in mud.
I learn the Australian meaning of the word breakfast. You can have porridge, or an English Breakfast. This involves corn flakes, eggs, bacon, grilled lamb chops, hash brown potatoes, fried tomatoes, toast, and marmalade. Tipping is frowned upon. It’s considered demeaning.
I transfer twice on my bus ride to the studio. The suburbs are tree-lined, and many drop down to Sydney Harbor. The Opera House, Sydney Bridge and the Bay, are scenically spectacular.
The studio and home office of the Rudas Organization are on the 2nd floor. Would you like a “cuppa,” the wardrobe seamstress asks. “One teaspoon per cup, and one for the pot,” the woman tells me.
Rehearsals are “spot on.”
To keep from getting homesick, I walk along Bondi Beach. I go into a milk bar, just to see what a milk bar is. They serve coffee, tea, soft drinks, malteds, ice cream and the latest fad, cappuccino. The movie house is a relic with fold down chairs. When the movie is over, we all stand and sing “God Save The Queen.”
Five days a week, we rehearse. On Saturdays, I rehearse on my own.That leaves Sunday. Most stores and restaurants are closed. I plan a trip. I get on a long distance bus headed north to Brisbane, Queensland. An hour from Sydney, we enter miles of eucalyptus trees. Several miles later we pause at a rock formation called the three sisters. The driver explains that eucalyptus trees give off an oily substance, hence the bluish haze.
At Jenolan Caves, we’re on the edge of the vast desert that ends up at Perth, 3,000 miles away.
I have lunch at a charming inn that once serviced the railroad. On the pond at the entrance, are four black swans gliding peacefully by, oblivious to the gawking sightseers.
My next excursion is to Bulli Pass, and the Sublime Lookout Café.
The house specialty is Devonshire Tea. This consists of a flakey scone, slathered in fresh whip cream, and dappled with raspberry jam.
With a week to go, I’m invited to a barbie (barbecue). “Have you enjoyed your time here?” someone asks, and of course I say, very much. Softly from behind me, I hear, “He just can’t wait to get home.” And they are so right.
Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.