Leader of the plaque


This won’t hurt a bit

Yesterday one of the Dodgy Perth team had to undergo dental surgery. Being somewhat of a nervous disposition, they had successfully put this off for a number of weeks by inventing various unmissable meetings. But finally, the coward submitted to the chair.

Which made us wonder who Perth’s worst ever dentist was. The answer is Harry Derepas. Actually Harry wasn’t a dentist, just a dental assistant employed at Massey Crosse’s dental surgery on William Street. But small details like that weren’t going to stop him.

In November 1923 Lily Edwards, who worked at the Savoy Hotel, visited Harry for a regular check-up. He informed her she needed three gold fillings along with a scale and clean. He then proceeded to drill out a nerve and injected something into her gums.

In immense pain, Lily got back home to discover her gums had turned black and the pain was getting worse and worse. So she went back to Harry who took two swabs and told her the tooth would need to come out, which she agreed to.

This was not a success and poor Lily’s mouth became so septic a vile stench was given off.

Now the story takes a turn towards the weird. In the course of duty a policeman may sometimes be required to do more than just arrest drunks. But how many have been asked to sacrifice a tooth to an unregistered dentist in order to gather evidence?

This is precisely what an unfortunate probationary constable was ordered to do. He was given five shillings and sent to the William Street surgery to ask for a tooth out. The fee was paid and the tooth duly extracted by Harry.

Waiting outside the building was Constable Baumgarten who then entered and arrested Harry for practicing without a license.

We hope the probationer got some kind of medal for going above and beyond the call of duty.

Above top secret

It's flying. It looks like a saucer. What shall we call it?

It’s flying. It looks like a saucer. What shall we call it?

In January 1953, the Daily News ran an amused, but very short, article on four Dalwallinu residents who saw a flying saucer. Well, it may have been amusing for the journo, but the authorities took it very seriously.

A letter was immediately sent from Air Force high command to the Commissioner of Police demanding that the cops immediately interrogate the witnesses. The letter also stated that the matter was top secret and that the four individuals must not know it was the Air Force investigating their story.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s go back to the original sighting.

Richard H. and Keith M. were foxhunting just northeast of Dalwallinu. A strange object appeared in the sky, surrounded by a ring of white light. It travelled north for a while, before changing direction to the west.

Richard and Keith were able to watch the alien craft for more than twenty minutes before it finally disappeared from view.

In Dalwallinu itself, Les A. and Kenneth J. also saw something weird, this time around 9.30pm. The flying saucer was once again surrounded by a halo, but even after the craft itself had disappeared the ring of light remained in the sky for several minutes.

Les was an excellent witness, because he was an ex-RAAF pilot, and very familiar with estimating speeds and altitudes of flying things.

Just another mysterious entry in WA’s very own Project Blue Book file.

The truth is out there, near Bridgetown


You really don’t want to know what’s in there

Charles B. was a sober sort of man.* An inspector with the Lands and Surveys Department at Bridgetown, he was definitely not the sort of person to simply make up a UFO for the attention it would bring him. Yet report an alien ship he certainly did.

On 28 November 1951, at 11.03pm he was sitting in his station wagon in Chowerup, some 60 km east of Bridgetown, listening to the ABC news broadcast. Suddenly Charles saw what he initially thought was an aircraft at about 600m altitude. It didn’t take him long to realise that this was definitely no plane.

It had no wings, but did have orange lights on the port side, with green lights on the other. Five portholes on the left glowed an eerie orange. It was impossible to say if there was a tail.

Charles first saw the mysterious object in the east and it was travelling as fast as any jet plane. Yet it made no noise

He got out of the station wagon to get a better look when it suddenly gained altitude and disappeared from view. Its lights were quickly switched off, as if the occupants didn’t want to be observed.

Being a good government employee, Charles reported this enigmatic object to the police. Remember this was the beginning of Cold War paranoia and enemy attacks could be expected any day.

The police referred the issue to the Air Force, who were very, very fascinated by what Charles had seen. They sent a list of sixteen questions that the witness needed to answer immediately. Whether or not this list had been created just for UFOs, or whether it was adapted from a document from WWII is not currently known.

Charles B. has, therefore, the honour of being the first Western Australian to be interrogated by the authorities about flying saucers.

Surely this deserves some kind of plaque out at Chowerup.

* We know Charles’ surname, but have chosen to obscure it here. If you really, really need to know, ask the Men in Black sitting outside our offices right now.

It’s a bust! Strippers, cops and His Maj

Legendary American striptease artiste, Sally Rand

Legendary American striptease artiste, Sally Rand

Today Dodgy Perth answers the question on everyone’s lips. Who was the first stripper in Perth? However, the answer to ‘when’ and ‘where’ is much easier than ‘who’. The name of our brave pioneer has been lost to history.

In January 1940 His Majesty’s announced that Perth audiences would see their first ever American-style striptease. The producer, Jack Lester, promised it would be “an artistic contribution” to the programme, and not at all indecent.

On the night it was announced the quantity of clothing removed would be in direct proportion to the level of applause. The crowd, unsurprisingly, went wild.

First off came one glove, then a second glove, a dress, and—we shudder to even say the word—a brassiere. Then the scantily-clad miss disappeared in a subdued light and a storm of applause.

Perhaps ticket sales were not what Jack Lester had hoped. Following nights saw several girls stripped to the waist. And then Jack pulled off his greatest publicity coup. For the first time ever, Perth audiences saw someone go the whole way.

A dainty brunette, she gradually discarded her clothing piece by piece until the last, most important, item dropped at her petite feet and she pirouetted nude.

When the audience recovered from the shock, the reaction was deafening. They clapped and whistled our local girl until the last of her birthday suit disappeared from the stage.

The news spread and next night His Maj was packed. Among the audience were four cops standing at the back, ready to spring into action.

As the stripper appeared on stage, the crowd was in a frenzy. But the presence of the law meant her act ended with both tights and brassiere firmly in place.

Cries of “’Fraud!” rang out, but the presence of the police meant that there was to be no repeat of the previous evening. It was said that Perth had seen its last striptease.

And we firmly state that we assume this is true, and would have no clue if there are strippers in town today.

Getting into hot water

013150dThe office at Dodgy Perth HQ is a fairly relaxed place. Not much makes us angry.

But today, we read of how Dalkeith residents were forced to listen to people having fun on the foreshore.

You can imagine how that made our blood boil.

Pictured above is the notorious Hot Pool at Dalkeith, which for decades was a popular place to relax.

One of the best things to do was get to the pool around midnight, strip off and hold a nude swimming party. However, the installation of floodlights and regular patrols by the police made this a more difficult activity to get away with.

So most people just turned up with a picnic and a few beers to have a good time. Right up to the 1950s.

Enter the Dalkeith residents. They had not spent all that money on housing to have to listen to people having a good time. No sir.

They pressurised the Nedlands Road Board who passed a by law forbidding barbecues on the foreshore. And for good measure they outlawed alcohol too.

Police started nightly visits looking for evil doers who wanted to barbeque a steak.

Unbelievable as it might seem, the police once found a group of young people who had some beer and who thought it would be acceptable to get together within earshot of Dalkeith. That was quickly put to an end.

So now Dalkeith is exactly as it should be. Big houses and no nudity. And certainly no fun on the foreshore.

As your attorney…

Ye Olde Englishe Fayre was a fairground which included a freak show where you could see the monkey boy and a two-headed pig. It also had a variety show with the top acts of the day, in between local performers of varying quality.

By 1896 the Fayre had relocated to the site now occupied by His Majesty’s Theatre where you could see renowned singer Priscilla Verne do her best known routine, a song called ‘He Sits in the Front Row’:

He sits in the front row; he is blushing like a maid,
I love you, darling; be my hub; now, don’t be afraid.
Don’t turn away in anger, dear; I always will be true,
Accept this kiss, and give me one; for I love you.

At this point she would lean forwards and beckon to a male patron in the front row to act out the final line. This particular Friday, she turned to Gus McBride, who fancied himself a bit of a ladies’ man. Priscilla invited him on stage to kiss her.

For reasons which are not clear, Gussie declined this generous offer and retorted with an insult which made Priscilla’s blood boil. “You contemptible little cad,” she snarled from the stage. The next day she consulted a lawyer, who advised her she should have her abuser horsewhipped in public.

So Priscilla sent a letter, signed ‘Alice Chambers’, claiming she had fallen in love with Gus and would like to meet him outside the Town Hall on Barrack Street that very afternoon. Together with other members of the show, she lay in wait with a cane hidden in her dress.

When Gussie arrived to meet with ‘Alice’ he was shocked to be greeted by the assembled Fayre employees. “Come here! I want to speak to you!” said Priscilla. Gus began to run along Barrack Street, followed by Priscilla who kept lashing out at him with the cane.

“You cad,” she shouted, “I’ll teach you not to insult another woman as you did me.”

By this time a large crowd was enjoying every moment of the scene, and Gus had to plead with two burly police officers to defend him. Soon afterwards he left Perth and we never heard from him again.

There’s probably a moral in all this, but we have no idea what it is.

Fremantle sensual stew… and it’s not a recipe

NewportBack at the time of Federation, neither the Court Hotel nor Connections Nightclub were welcoming gay men. Since it was illegal to be homosexual, no one was supposed to be welcoming gay men.

So if you were gay in 1901, where could you meet other people on the scene?

Turns out the answer is a billiard room in a Fremantle hotel. Dodgy Perth strongly suspects that it was the Newport, then known as the Club Hotel. (Check out the Newport’s Thursday music nights. Coming up next week is Boom Bap Pow as the Divinyls. Which Dodgy Perth is definitely not going to miss.)

Some of WA’s finest citizens were known to go to this billiard room. The kind of elite who could afford the finest clothes, diamond rings, gold watches, and “even eye-glasses”.

It seems that the landlord of the Newport simply let out the room, and turned a blind eye to whatever went on. The local policemen were slipped a few pound notes every now and again and, strange to say, never saw a need to investigate the billiard room’s clientele.

It is even suggested that at least one police inspector and a local magistrate liked to play billiards from time to time.

In fact, had you attended before midnight, all you would have seen were some respectable citizens enjoying a game or two, while sipping a few beers.

But, come midnight, if you were a stranger and seemed likely to be gay, you would have been asked to stay on for “a little game on the quiet.”

After this, we cannot say for certain what occurred, but it must have been good because The Sunday Times described it as a “carrion filth heap of depravity”, a “foul Fremantle sensual stew”, and a “den of disgusting depravity”. Which sounds like a great night out.

So, when Dodgy Perth is at the Newport next Thursday, we will raise a glass (or two) to a generation whose love might not be able to speak its name, but could still find time for a game of after-midnight billiards.

Bodgies and widgies, leatheries and teddy boys

Helena has kindly lent me The Gap: A Book to Bridge the Dangerous Years.

A terrifying account of how in 1962, Perth’s parents had caused teenage delinquency to spiral out of control, and how the world would probably end because mothers were working and fathers were enjoying a pint in the pub.

Firstly, just admire Paul Rigby’s fine portrayal of the Narrows and Perth skyline.

Then, to whet your appetite for a short series of how people born in the 1940s were never going to grow up to be responsible adults (are you listening mum?), a quick taster:

In the office of Inspector C. E. Lamb at CIB headquarters, Perth, is a big box which could well be labelled “Remember.”

For in a mute, concentrated form it represents the highwater mark of juvenile delinquency as it loomed in this city three years ago.

That box and its contents are kept as a constant reminder of what was, and what could be again.

It is packed with a firm collection of in-fighting weapons.

Zip guns, flick knives, knuckle dusters, slashing dress rings, honed bicycle chains, timing chains, coshes… they are all there.

They were taken from bodgies and widgies, from leatheries and teddy boys, from plain larrikins.