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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Simon's story

   

R.I.P. Simon 10/7/12
Thanks for the ride.

T
he first Story on the left below was an initial composite of info sent by Simon and edited together by me as an overview.

The second story on the right below was written as an official Story by Simon but has many overlaps with the first Story, so I have included both to give you the most complete picture.

At the 'Long Bar' at Raffles Hotel in Singapore November 2008 - accompanied wearing a Panama hat bought for me by my son, in Peru.

   
   
Story One:

Living in Blackheath in the Blue Mountains now, still doing events and parties and also selling Zulu and Ndebele craft that I buy in Africa

I retreat back to Africa and the veld as often as I can, feels good, feels real, the rhythm, the heart beat the beauty and the cruelty.

So happy you did something about the Restaurant. I would love to write a bit on ANFSCD.

I have tried to find Ken and Sally over the years but they seem to have disappeared, still in touch with Les Giesler - he ran the Kirk Gallery and played a big part in the final days with the music and publicity at ANFSCD. He lives in the USA but I will send him a link to the site, I am sure Les will write something. I see Al Ward and Dan Johnson from time to time.

Behind the Scenes:
There are some events of which you may not be aware of as you may have been away and I did not talk about everything that happened or the reasons.

This is not stuff that I am going to go into in my memories but I think it may give background to the story of ANFSCD, which I am pleased you are telling.

My relationship to Ken:
I really did not know Ken very well, its not like we hung out or got drunk or stoned together but I liked Ken I thought he was compassionate, intelligent and creative. I was the punk that crashed a hippy happening and trashed the party - I was a saviour and a persecutor. I was aware of Ken's cloak and dagger maneuvers with Council but really his machinations in that regard were peripheral to what else had been going down with council for some time... not that it didn't made a difference to me, I was quiet hurt and became quiet suspicious of people.

The Business:
Ken sold me half for $5000 and I sent him monthly cheques. Ken and I spoke (or argued) a lot about where I was taking The Diff but it was really getting a name as a venue and he was happy with the monthly cheques but as I took The Diff further and further away from Ken's vision the harder it got to agree on anything.

Eventually Ken signed his half over to me, he signed a statutory declaration that he would not interfere or have any influence in my business and I signed a statutory declaration to say that I took full responsibility for the Diff, all accounts and legal responsibility, signed and witnessed by a magistrate. My legal adviser Robert wanted me to go after Ken legally when he continued to cause trouble with Council, we had his signature on a statutory declaration swearing not do have any involvement in ANFSCD.

Given that Ken had no financial or legal responsibility it is hard to understand why he did what he did. I have my opinion on that but it's irrelevant

The Show Stopper:
We operated on a tearoom license as you would be aware, the licence we needed to charge for entertainment was a theatre and public halls licence. The cost made it impossible to comply with everything they wanted me to do including putting a fire escape down the outside of the building (ironic as the stair case was a fire escape).
    
Just after Ken sold me half I had a meeting with Mr Gosgrove at the council and left the meeting convinced that I would be closed down with in a month. And here is the thing, if i had bigger and better and more music the Diff would be full of happy people but it would be an outlaw, faced with the alternative, I just went with outlaw!

Soon after that meeting with Mr Gosgrove, a friend of mine called Robert, who had just passed his bar exams and is now a judge, came to the Diff to hear Al and Dan play. He had a great night, I told about the licence and council etc.... and Robert just made it his business to tie council up in as much paper work and appeals and questions....

For the next 2 years we fought a defensive rear guard guerilla war with the Council. We knew we could not stop it but we did delay it for nearly 2 more years. Robert rang me one day and said that he had run out of moves, that there were no more appeals or delaying tactics left to play, that council would walk in one day soon and that would be it. His instruction were to tell them that it was a free private party and to close the next day or face being fined $2000 for every day I opened after that. - The Diff closed.

I really don't think there was anyway to save The Diff. The Kirk Gallery and the Roxy had both been closed for the same reason over the past 2 years... maybe I should have tried to stay true to Ken's vision but that vision faded with Ken. I was just 'The New' person who saw something - everyone else was too close to the trees to see the forest.

The Diff is dead; long live The Diff, in cyberspace.

Anyway, that's what was happening in the background to everything, I really did not talk much about it with staff or musicians, I thought it would just make everyone feel a bit insecure and I really needed people to be happy and optimistic, just not good for a venue if word gets out that it may be closed down.

Nothing lasts forever - the only certainty is change.

Si

3/11/2009





 

 

Story Two:

THE DIFF: THE RISE AND FALL -
A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE

It is helpful to have an appreciation of chaos and order, sanity and insanity, creativity and destruction, luck and fate if you are to understand how this all happened but then maybe that was just me because I had absolutely no idea of what I was doing which had one advantage, you don't know what you can't do if you don't know what you doing in the first place.

The whole thing for me started by mistake or that's what I thought, as I climbed the 98 stairs to the And Now For Something Completely Different restaurant on the top floor of the old Dollar-wise Discount department store. With each step I regretted I had said yes, if only I had not answered the phone. It was my girlfriend Ruth calling to ask if I could help out in the kitchen of a Vegetarian restaurant she was working in. Ruth was a bit of a hippy, I had met her 6 months before in a forest in Western Australia foraging for mushrooms and if not of that chance meeting on the other side of the continent none of this would have happened to me.

Despite spending the night up to my elbows in dirty dishwater, I enjoyed it. There was a feeling of being in the moment, waitresses came and went though the swing doors, giving a glimpse of the of the crowd and a burst of music, bells rang, chefs cursed, waitress flirted, the pile of plates got big and bigger and then it was over, everything was as it was before, as if nothing had happened there that night. It reminded me of back stage in a theatre which I had worked in briefly with aspirations of being a set designer, only to end up decorating the homes of North Shore ladies in tones of beige and cream. However, despite my earlier misgivings when Jay, who was the manager, asked me to do some more shifts. I surprised myself when I heard myself saying, “Yes, love to” and so started the beginning of the end, which seems like a good place to start.

The end came as expected when the men in beige dust coats with clipboards from Willoughby Council walked though the door on a Saturday night and handed me a summons for breaking a list of regulations as long as my arm and demanding that I cease trading immediately or face prosecution. I said we had been expecting them for a long time and I had been advised by a friend who was a law student, now an eminent judge of the district court, to reply to said demand by saying it was a closing down party and that from this very moment on it was all free and so I was not in fact trading and therefore there was nothing they could do, so just piss off and so MotorCo kept on playing, the kitchen kept serving meals and just like any other night when every one had gone home we closed the doors for the last time.

It took a while for it all to come down on me and at first it was fun. The Midnight Mouth a.k.a. Mr Les Giesler set up interviews with a few radio stations and lot of people dropped by and everyone ended up in the Manzil room for 3 days and the party went on. Reality struck when I realised I only had $20.00 left and there was no money coming in the door, there was no one cooking in the kitchen, no waitress setting tables, no band doing a sound check. That moment came alone as such moments invariably do.

It was early evening, usually the Diff was buzzing as at that time of evening. I was sitting on a milk crate on the stage, looking around I realised that the interior was constructed from not much more then few semi-trailer loads of milk crates an illusion of miss matched rugs, cane blinds and cushions. In the grey evening light it looked more like an abandoned warehouse then a place were until just a week ago people had laughed, ate, had sex, danced and worked It was the first time I realised that the Diff was gone and would never return. The emotion of the moment was shattered with the realisation that all I had was the $20.00 in my pocket and there was nothing worth selling in the place except for an old cool room and so it was that I went and got a job as a dishwasher in an Italian family restaurant in Hornsby. Back to the dishes and time to think - what the fuck to do now - and reflect on how the hell I ended up washing dishes again.

The revolution began when the owner Ken Kurtz decided he had had enough and wanted to take off to Tropical North Queensland and live in a free love commune and write a screenplay but for this Ken needed money so he offered to sell me half of the Diff for $5,000, later he just signed over the other half to me in desperation but more on that in my memoirs. It was a good offer and half what I was prepared to pay but still a risk. There was no lease on the building and Willoughby council to operate as anything, let alone a rock venue did not license the restaurant, I was trading illegally and the cost of complying with the required theatre and public halls license was financially impossible. All of which was a bit beside the point because I was short by a couple of thousand dollars and Ken was in no mood to wait. But luck is a wonderful thing and I got lucky. A friend who was seeking asylum in Australia from the Junta in Peru offered me $2,000 to marry her and so save her from deportation to Peru and almost certain persecution and possible imprisonment.

So there you have it an illegal restaurant paid for with a bribe. No one could have been more surprised than myself. The best advice I got was to bring it back up to meet the regulations of a tearoom license and to trade as a Vegetarian Restaurant but I had a lot of other ideas. Unfortunately, the best advice I got on my idea was that it was illegal. Faced with this dilemma I did the only thing I could do, I jumped. It took a couple of years before we hit the ground but by then the Diff had gone where no one thought it could and anyway it was a hell of a ride all the way down or all the way up. It just depends on where you were standing.

25/8/10

   
   

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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