Heat by Rob O’Neill


Girlie’s big sister is in town. I don’t know what it is about her but when she’s around odd things happen. On Sunday she was down on the waterfront after visiting Luna Park with her sister and Che, her beau. They were watching a busker, a very good busker apparently, when a fire broke out in the “Toaster”.

The Toaster is the controversial apartment building between the Opera House and Circular Quay. There were loads of protests about it a couple of years ago as an eyesore and for disrupting a view of the Botanical Gardens. Personally I quite like it. Anyway, smoke started billowing from an apartment and it all got quite exciting for a time.

Luna Park is back up and running. The revitalized fun-park, which many don’t realize was originally set up in Parnell and then exported, like Pavlova, across the ditch, is still stirring people up. One ride isn’t operating because local residents say it’s too noisy. (That’s what you get when you move into apartments next to a funpark, guys! Doh!) Plans for another apartment block on the grounds are being opposed by the same local residents. Mega-bucks have been spent on restoration but the job still isn’t up to scratch.

Then last night, after the kids had spent the day at the zoo, we went for a quiet beer at my local. The Oxford in Drummoyne is a good rugby pub with a bit of a kiwi flavour, despite half-baked attempts to cash in on faux Irish pub fashion. Twenty per cent of the population around here are kiwis, according to the last census.

We were upstairs and Che was giving me a rematch on the pool table after beating me when I was last over in NZ. As we were playing a girl came up and asked if we’d come downstairs to fill up the public bar. They were filming a movie and needed some free extras.


So once I’d slaughtered Che we trooped down to appear in the opening scene of a new Aussie crime flick called “Three the Hard Way”. The scene involves a cop entering a bar. He’s followed in a long tracking shot up the bar to where he takes a seat. He talks to some guy there and then the camera tracks to the left where a couple of drunk dudes are talking. They get a bit loud and the cop moves across to throw them out. They get up, lurching arm-in-arm through the bar and out, again in a long tracking shot.

All of this had to be done in one take so they had to do it several times to get it right. As the “extras” were really just a bunch of piss-heads things got more and more unruly. Some got the giggles and couldn’t keep quiet. One old local, with a huge alcoholic’s nose, kept saying “Rhubarb” very loudly. This guy had obviously spent a lot of time in pubs, far too much to be healthy. The toll of years of self-abuse was engraved around the bright purple bulb of his nose for all to see in twinkling blue eyes and a permanent and immovable smile. Such are the wages of sin.

Every time a take was completed there’d be cheers and clapping and these got louder and longer as the evening wore on.

It was all really unbelievably cool. Whenever I see film crews in Auckland you get the impression they are pretty stuck up and self-important types - and if you look pretentious in Auckland you must be really pretentious! Anyway, this was all totally laid back and fun and the result was pretty damn good too. As the film is being shot on high definition video, we all gathered to get a preview before closing time.

As the cop comes in you can see me, Che and Girlie Major in the bar. Then while the characters are talking at the bar I walk past in the background twice and so does Che. As the drunks lurch out, wait for it, we get Girlie Major’s big moment: one of the drunks en passant takes the opportunity to give her a good ad-lib slap on the arse!

Anyway, the enemies of democracy and the rule of law are at it again, selling freedom down the river in the cause of freedom. Some of the questions the US Supreme Court has to answer over the next few months are possibly the most important it has ever deliberated over. It is a conservative court and anything could happen, but if some limitations are not upheld on the ability of the executive to detain people without trial, without access to lawyers, without charge, in isolation, with continual interrogation and maybe “mistreatment” than you would have to conclude that the worst fears of the founding fathers are about to be realized: that the US has become a corrupt republic and that the safeguards and checks and balances of their brilliant labours will be undermined.

But conservative is not a bad thing. I’m really beginning to like some of the so-called paleo-conservatives. In this day and age maybe there is nothing wrong with the old values…

I’m hopeful. These conservatives could prove themselves to be lovers of law and of process as well as of security. Fingers crossed.

Oh yeah, coming soonish: Being Gordon King