Bob Ellis became known to me way back in 1969 when he sent in a brilliantly scathing letter to George Munster's Nation about my review of Larry Peerce's Goodbye Columbus. Called me a dolt, and, given my naivete at the time, was probably right to do so. Not that I appreciated the intemperateness of the language though no doubt Munster and the readers of that wonderful near-iconic fortnightly thought it all very droll.
Ellis could indulge in some of the most oafish public behaviour ever exhibited in this fair land. Long ago, at a Canberra preview screening of Tom Jeffrey's Weekend of Shadows (Australia, 1978) he leapt to his feet when the Q&A started and launched a tirade about the film "This piece of fake Kodachrome Dostoyevsky"...was one of the phrases he uttered in attempting to slag he film unmercifully. When asked to desist or at least ask a question he roared "How dare you?" as if that was the end of the matter. Moments later he roared again when the information was gleaned that a certain script doctor had worked on the film. "Oh no!" he muttered very loudly and when asked sotto voce who that person was he pronounced her,in a loud voice as the woman who ruined Newsfront, a film from which he famously had his name removed from the credits believing that the three hours or so he'd written had been savaged into mediocrity. Later he took out advertisements advising that he was now accepting credit for the film but as well that he was still sore at the butchery that had gone on.
Bob Ellis is a man with an asbestos hide and a supreme self-confidence. He directed several films of his own scripts and all were droll little experiences. He ceaselessly wrote books, plays, film scripts, articles, speeches for politicians, letters and pungent personal and political reportage about the day. That proved to be one of his occasional downfalls. When reporting as fact a spicy but apparently untrue anecdote about Peter Costello and Tony Abbott, he lost a libel case and had a ridiculously huge sum of damages awarded against him by a vindictive, Labor-appointed judge. But who can forget his exchanges with David Williamson which mixed a holiday in Bali and the state of Ellis's bowels.
Nothing stopped him though and anybody who reads his rollicking blog of recent years would know he fears no man, no lawyer, no judge and especially no Liberal political opponent. It may be that some of his current subjects will be glad if in fact he's on the way out and will be gone soon. You imagine that Bronwyn Bishop, whom Ellis reduced to a laughable figure, mad as a hatter and berserk with her own self-importance, might be one of those. It was Ellis who took her on in the Mackellar by-election and gave the harridan a giant shock that showed she was nothing more than some Antipodean version of the Wizard of Oz, grinding and cackling away to ever-diminishing effect and finally exposed as a know nothing ratbag. She has never risen back above parody.
Ellis, you liven up our lives and the Australian polity. If the news cotinues to be bad let me say while you are still alive, you, and your predictions of Labor victory, will be sadly missed