Hard to believe these days, but everyone was a little “way out” in the 60s. I didn’t care much for the music or fashion, but when Tarzan hit our TV screens in the late 60s it resonated with me deeply. I was a founding member of the Saturday Night Jungle Drum meeting in Balmain. Having learned a salutary lesson from the regrettable experience of the Roseville clothing optional debacle, I was determined to make a fresh start. We had greeters on the door in leopard print loincloths, and a variety of tropical fruits (canned) adorned the table. Each Saturday evening Charlie from Gordon performed a soulful yet earth-shaking rendition of the Tarzan call before the meeting. It spoke to me at a deep level. Drunks all over Balmain found the call strangely alluring and many left the bars staggering down the street in a trance like state to see what was going on in the Balmain Scout Hall.
I was engaged in fierce rivalry with Bongo Johnny to exude an image of exotic jungle mystique. Johnny was a hippy, or ratbag as we called them then. His long hair and beard covered a face uglier than a chewed minty and his breath!! But he had an undeniable gift on the bongos. Even though I could effortlessly share for 20 minutes at a time in beatnik verse, I had to admit he had the edge on me. On one of my trips to South East Asia I spotted a monkey at a market in Bangkok. Recognising my opportunity I smuggled him home on the ship.
Bo Bo, as I called him, became my constant companion in meetings. I trained him to bring me cups of tea, light my cigarettes and pass the hat around at the end of the meeting, to the delight of all. All except Bongo Johnny, who couldn’t hide his jealousy and resentment and one evening became engaged in a heated dispute with Bo Bo. The monkey flew into a rage pulling on Johnny’s beard and biting him hard on the hand. Bo Bo may have been small but he was a nasty little bugger, with tiny and disgusting needle like teeth. Fortunately, Johnny was no stranger to brawls or bacteria and handled the fight and the resulting infection pretty well. Joan from Balmain stepped in to break up the fight, and seeing her approach, Bo Bo’s eyes fixed in terror on her towering beehive hair style, which I can only assume he mistook for a large predator. He let out a loud screech and ran for his life.
That was the last confirmed sighting of Bo Bo…although the following week there was monkey turd in the 7th Tradition hat. For a number of years after that there were rumours of sightings of Bo Bo at Al Anon meetings.
The plan was simple, like Bongo Johnny, but unlike Johnny this might just work.