Vegetarian Restaurant/Venue 1975-1981
5 1/4 Brown Street, Chatswood, Sydney, NSW, Australia
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Stories: Simon I Sally I Jay I Paul I Kirk I Vivienne I Staff I Customers
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Sally's story

   
   

If not the first night, definitely within the first week of opening, I began my five-year relationship with ‘The Restaurant’. (‘See you at The Restaurant’ , ‘Working at The Restaurant’, ‘Did you see so and so at The Restaurant?’ So and so is ‘playing at The Restaurant’.) I was the girl who couldn’t say ‘NO’.

My friend Merrilyn Lambert was performing that night with Michael Norton. It was busy. I remember sitting at a table near the kitchen door with Merrilyn’s friend Dieter. The doors were swinging frantically back and forth. Ken Kurtz’ partner, French journalist, Bernard Glasser seemed to be the only front of house worker.

He mentioned something about needing some help and somehow I said OK. I didn’t know how to say ‘NO’. Anyway, never having waitressed before I was thrown in at the deep end. Not surprisingly, I loved it and I worked there, on and off for the duration of it’s existence. At times it was the centre of my universe. I dated Bernard for several months (got a lot of work at that time) before he parted with Ken, relieved some of his friends of our money, went to the country to dry out, but tragically overdosed and died.

In those early days it was a hang out for a lot of people from television, Wonder World cast members, Mike Willessee’s Transmedia staff and friends of Ken’s from the film industry. Of course there was music most every night. However it wasn’t until Simon bought The Restaurant from Ken that the venue’s reputation as a place for music really took off.

I think, at first, Simon eyed me with suspicion. I was one of Ken’s people. But pretty quickly we became great friends and working became a lot more fun. As a venue, it became the North Shore equivalent of the Roxy in Darlinghurst. Artists performing regularly at that time was something like - Graham Lowndes (Tuesdays or Wednesdays), Dan Johnson and Al Ward (Thursdays), Kirk Lorange (Fridays) and on Saturdays, everyone’s favourite Restaurant stalwart, Paul Dengate.

Initially, Paul performed as a solo artist, with his mesmerising array of guitar pedal effects. His original material was funny, sad, intelligent, astounding and to my mind the most creative and inspiring of the artists performing there at that time. Over the years he added the lovely Icki Na Na to his Orci Be Nay (sic). Vicki Larnach on keyboards enhanced the sound scapes considerably. Then drums too were added. Saturdays were usually a full house. The last I will say about Paul is that he was perhaps one of the most talented songwriters musicians I have come across, never done justice by the music industry, which, in itself, is a shame and another story.

So work was, nothing short of, full on. We could do 200 meals in a night with music blaring. We needed the constitution of oxen and stamina of athletes to survive…or did we? Thanks in no small part to ‘over the counter’ drugs, which in those days contained caffeine – Mersyndol I think mixed with copious amounts of alcohol and cigarettes, we thrived. We worked hard and played hard.

I disappeared for a carnivorous while when The Restaurant became ‘macrobiotic’ and seemed to be operating with a crew of serious young clean-shaven boys.

 

Happily, for me that period was short lived and I returned again to work with Cathy Matilda, Michael and Barb. Ken’s sister Gerte cooked for a while and I loved her.

Later Pauline and Jay (among others) joined the staff and as much fun as we had, our lives and loves were all heavily intertwined. At times the atmosphere was incredibly claustrophobic, emotionally fraught and distressing. Simon was a great boss and friend who would manage the staff by putting us on nights where we would not conflict OR he would just say ‘fuck it, get over it’.

What was happening for me though, was that through The Restaurant, I was developing skills (incredibly) that steered my career for the next twenty years.

I was aware of Simon’s ongoing problems with Ken and the Health Department. I admired the fact that, for the most part he kept it all under his panama hat and carried on regardless, moving and talking at a mile a minute, knowing that we could be closed down at any time. It was great working each night as if it might be the last night ever. We made the most of it. Eventually, of course, it was the last night ever.

My final hurrah was that I booked Sardine v, of whom I had become, a major fan, to play a New Year’s Eve show. It was a fantastic night, after which their producer Lobby Loyde said to me ‘You are a bit of a fucking smart arse. I am starting a small management company and am looking for a partner….’ I dropped everything and with Lobby and two others formed SCAM Management, where we managed Sardine v, Sunnyboys, Machinations and others. I just couldn’t say ‘NO’.

I was so busy, once again, learning on the run that I never really had time to reflect on the impact on And Now For Something Completely Different had on my life, until now. Thank you Jay for creating that opportunity.

Here is a list of the people I remember and am grateful for knowing through my five years on and off experience at The Restaurant – please excuse any omissions and lack of memory with surnames. If you read this you know who you are: Ken Kurtz, Bernard Glasser, Merrilyn Lambert, Michael Norton, Dusan Werner, Dieter Spitzenberger, John Bee, Cindy (where are you now?), Paul Dengate, Vicki Larnach and Elements, Cathy Matilda, Pauline, Michael (Fischer Z) and Barb Tate, Gerte, Jay, Glenn Cardier and all musicians who performed over those years, my brother Richard Collins for designing the Penguin menu, Anthony Smith and especially, John Ryder (who I met there when he was still at school. He became a fan of Paul’s and a sound engineer. We worked together, shared group homes and were great friends. I lost contact with him for many years while I was based between Australia and Europe. However eventually we reconnected and have been married for 18 years – we have two kids).

But last, but in no means least, Simon Brink – you were a fabulous boss and a wonderful and loyal friend and again I am very grateful to have had this opportunity to reconnect with you. You still make me laugh.

Now 30 odd years later, I still can’t say ‘NO’. And perhaps that has proven to be a much more of a blessing than a curse. It has enabled me to have the most wonderful experiences in my life, not the least of which was working at ‘The Restaurant’.



   
   

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Stories: Simon I Sally I Jay I Paul I Kirk I Vivienne I Staff I Customers
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Vegetarian Restaurant/Venue 1975-1981

5 1/4 Brown Street, Chatswood, Sydney, NSW, Australia

jay@AndNowForSomethingCompletelyDifferent.com.au