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Sunday, 3 April 2016

Bob Ellis dies

On the 19th July 2015 I posted an item headed "Bob Ellis announces he is seriously ill". Now I learn that he died today after putting up a stirring fight against cancer. He will be missed. Here’s a revised version of what I wrote way back when he first announced he was in trouble.

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 was a man with an asbestos hide, a supreme self-confidence who feared nobody. He never lacked for any view that he could do it all and frequently he gave the impression of some renaissance figure. He wrote and wrote and wrote.  He also directed several films of his own scripts and all were droll little experiences. He 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 his fear of no man, extended to no lawyer, no judge and especially no Liberal political opponent. It may be that some of his current subjects will be glad  he's on the gone. You imagine that Bronwyn Bishop, whom Ellis reduced to a laughable figure, mad as a hatter. He took her on in the Mackellar by-election that brought her to the House of Reps. It gave the harridan such a giant shock and 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 even though Tony Abbott, in a sign of his onw stupidity, awarded her the House Speakership, a role she traduced. Ellis had promised to run against her at the next election if she survived pre-selection but had to hand on the anti-Bronwyn batten to Dick Smith. 

And we shall see what we shall see.

That was a favourite phrase of a man who livened up our lives and the Australian polity.  His eccentric analysis of the polls and his predictions of Labor victory, will be sadly missed.

1 comment:

  1. Terrific piece Geoff! Bob would have loved it....