Last night marked what i hope will be Miss Tammys return to polite (cough) society, after a forced absence of two years due to a few health ‘Issews’.

I was welcomed back in the best possible way, a Fortieth anniversary celebration extravaganza for the Number 96 movie.

What a night it turned out to be!, i was so worked up and excited after it, I couldn’t get to sleep until 1.00am, and i don’t mind saying, there were a few tears before bedtime.

I arrived in a highly excited state (‘Fizzing at the bung’ to use quaint Wollongong parlance). Simply watching the movie would have been enough, but with the prospect of a ‘Number 96 immersion experience’ on the cards, i couldn’t help but be a bit frisky with anticipation.

We were met at the entrance by ‘Claire Houghton’, who checked our tickets and offered a very warm welcome, the frisson of Bri Nylon was in the air.

Princess Stephanie (She of the Pink Palace of Petersham) and i made our way in and found our seats. Casting my eyes across the table i was struck immobile with an instant searing in my nethers, i saw a note had been left there for none other than Maggie Cameron!, warning of an imminent bomb blast, if i’d worn my pearls i would have been clenching them!! (who could ever forget Bettina Welch’s amazing performance as Maggie when she stared into a mirror, attached to a wardrobe surely purchased from Joyce Mayne. So repulsed was she by her image, she threw a glass of vodka upon the mirror as we watched her reflected image weep, and cascade, tears of hooch).

I needed a drink to calm my nerves, there were pockets of ‘Beresk’ inside me that had laid dormant for forty years, my hands were beginning to involuntarily flutter and flap. Stepping up to Normas bar i was greeted by . . well, i guess it was Norma, tho never before have i ever felt sexual urges towards someone calling me ‘Duckie’, but hey, i’m almost fifty, life is teaching me not to question too much.

Once ‘He-Norma’ had adjusted his very Norma-esque wig, and most importantly stopped lifting his dress to fan, cool and aerate his no doubt super heated intimate area (nothing raises a sweat like dense polyester) i was served my sherry with a dash of GI cordial.

All the while playing in the background was music so fantastic, so wonderful, it is not even worthy of Spotify or Pandora, where else could you hear the lilting tunes of Johnny Lockwood, Norman Yemm and .. clutch your imaginary pearls time again . . ‘The Executives’!!, who, not many people know, originated from Helensburgh (along with in breeding, crimpolene and human waste fondue party’s).

If you look up on your bedroom walls to your ABBA posters, the photo we all have of them in their white suits with embroidered tigers and tin foil behind them, that photo was taken when they performed on Australia’s Bandstand (sickeningly hosted by Daryl Sommers). If you look to the left and right of ABBA, you should be able to see members of ‘The Executives’ who acted as ABBA’s backing band for the show.

ABOVE: ABBA with a glimpse of The Executives bass guitarist.

The venue, the back room at the Imperial hotel, was really comfortable and air conditioned nicely, so those of us wearing natural fibers were kept at a nice idling temperature.

Perhaps the one lament i have of the evening was, we had Norma’s bar, we had Duddles disco, but alas there was no re-creation of Les, Herb and Alf’s male only sauna. I guess space and licencing laws may have made this a prohibitive exercise, but i would like to offer my services for next time, I’ve been known to knock up a sauna with nothing more than four kitchen chairs, a blanket (close weave) and an asthmatic’s ventilator.

The evening started when we stood for the old national anthem and the Queen, which given the location, the irony was not lost on me, where I’ve only ever experienced people kneeling before queens.

The series of shorts preceding the feature had us all in stitches and gales of laughter, we all need reminding every now and then how fantastic commercial jingles were in the 1970’s, “You need uncle Sam, you need uncle Sam, lets get together for the stars and stripes man”. A Young Talent Time featurette was absolute gold, even if it did feature a cameo by Johnny Farnham.

I must make mention, in point of actual fact, that all the while this was going on, scurrying around the tables serving us, and bringing us treats, was none other than Arnold Feather, or, a pretty fantastic representation of Arnold. In my dreams, and heart of hearts, i want to believe it really was Arnold, but i have a feeling it was a ‘Faux Feather’, either way, thank you Arnie for supplying us with complimentary popcorn all night, along with lolly bags, and bests of all, a most welcome choc top ice cream.

I was internally freaking out to have two of the superstars from the movie sitting at the next table, Elisabeth Kirkby and Phillippa Baker, along with writer David Sale.

I hope it was sweat, but i think it was wee running down my leg. To be in the same room as these people, watching them watch themselves on screen was very special indeed.

The movie was every bit the camp classic i know, and remember it to be. I did take a moment to acknowledge some of the very brave (even to this day) social commentary scattered throughout the movie.

I watched the TV series Number 96 pretty much from the very beginning, from when i was about seven years old. It provided a perfect escape for me during a ‘very’ (or as Vera Collins would pronounce it ‘Veh’) difficult childhood. Watching the show as a child, I don’t believe for one second it did me any harm whatsoever, in fact, just the opposite, it gave me a broader view of the world.

Recently my friend Miss Marcia and i were chatting about the show, Marcia, like myself, was allowed to watch it as a child, we pondered what it was about the show that so drew us too it.

First up, i guess the high camp of the show struck a chord somewhere deep inside us, this would one day become a lot clearer and more apparent.

Secondly, and maybe just as important, we acknowledged the slapstick humour that littered most every episode, we realized most of the actors probably had their starts on stage, theater, panto, maybe even the Tivoli.

To kids like us, Les blowing up a sausage machine was every bit as important as seeing a tuft of unmanicured pubic hair, (unless it was Vince Martins . . NUH-thing could be more important than that). I feel that’s why the show, to this day, still holds up and bares repeated viewings, it’s still controversial, it’s still camp, and it’s still funny.

Special mention must go to Nikita Van Der Kamp who paid tribute to Abigail, what a fine homage to a legend. To see ‘Je t’aime’ performed in this way was an honor, and mixing in dialog from the show was sheer genius.

“Yooh, filthy!, dirty!, little! . . Queer-ah!!”

One final, personal little memory. My mum and dad would always go to Corrimal Leagues Club on a Saturday night, usually there would be a ‘club act’ performing, Lucky Grills, Jan Adelle etc.

One night Norman Yemm was there. At the end of the show, as Norman was walking through the crowd, dad reared up in front of him, bellowing ‘What did you do to Vera Collins you BASTARD!!!!!!!’, Norman had found his people, he spent the rest of the night drinking with mum and dad. When i awoke the next morning, dad gifted me with a still damp and stinky cardboard coaster, inscribed ‘To Greg, best wishes Norman Yemm’, what more could a little queen ask for.

A deep gusset straining curtsy of respect and gratitude to Andrew, and everyone who put on this great night, i’m looking forward to many more.

For more information on the Backdoor cinema experience click HERE for the Facebook group.

You can view two short clips below from last night:

Clip 1

Clip 2

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One Response to “NUMBER 96.”

  1. Andrew says:

    Yes, I can connect with everything you are talking about.

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