In the Mercury (28/July/16) there is a story stating ‘Man Charged over Vic pub brawl’. It is at 10:55 am in the ‘Just In’ section alongside the Main headline. Why would this be a story in Tasmania? Is it a lack of journalists, nothing happening in Tasmania, a parochial mistake or is it news?
Pubs, until the early nineties had always been dangerous and violent places, you took the risk and paid with teeth. Recently, along came the ‘cowards punch’ and pub lockouts. I have bounced in Hotels for 23 years and observed violence being a daily event in 1985 and when I left the scene in 2008 being less than a yearly event. Time has made the violence of a pub a rare event and possibly sensationalism has taken it to a new perspective.
The abhorrent ‘coward’s punch’ is I believe a product of many years of decrease in violence, fear campaigns, lack of statistical evidence and healthier lifestyles. On one side of this is the fact, that it is a coward’s reaction, smacking someone usually from behind, without provocation and without warning.
The first time I ever saw one was in 1985 when a Japanese tourist, well spoken, well dressed stopped in my bar and asked for a cigar and a whiskey and stood there smiling and happy to be in Tasmania.
Smoking away, as I gave him directions to the local tourist bureau, he said he was seeking a job interview as the Tokyo tourist representative of Tourism Tasmania. We were talking happily and in walks the Tasmanian Welterweight Champion, so he informed me in particular, loudly flexing his bulging upper arm muscles against his tightened flannel shirt. His manager followed meekly behind, small of head and slight of body. The manager’s job was to make the Tasmanian Welterweight Champion look good and he did it by default.
My new friend, the Japanese job seeker turned and smiled, drew on his cigar and fell to the floor. The Tasmanian Welterweight Champion, was smiled gleefully as the rest of the pub patrons collectively gasped.
“That’ll teach the Asian cunt” says the Tasmanian Welterweight Champion. Red headed curls, with a short back and sides, squat and with thick legs and arms and a look of accomplishment, our brave local champion took up the ‘ready for action’ pose of a boxer.
As I dashed from behind the Knopwoods bar, I told the kitchen staff to ring for an ambulance and the police. The Police arrived first and blow me down it was Constable Doppelganger of the Tasmanian Police force, a red-headed-could-be cousin of the Tasmanian Welterweight Champion.
“Where is this so called boxing Champion” says our mighty constable. Now the other cops had not yet exited their car as their red flourished workmate entered the pub, happening in a flash, the Tasmanian Welterweight Champion went down also, crumpled on the floor as our mighty Constable stood over him, wanting our champion to get up. Two king hits in a flash, two down, just as the other Police walked in followed by the Ambos, who only expected one casualty.
I visited my Japanese tourist friend in hospital, he had a very sore shoulder and head and a burn mark from the cigar but could not remember a thing that happened or even remember me. I left it at that and he left the state without a job and probably a large hospital bill.
Months later I appeared as a witness, in the old Magistrates Courts. Wooden floors and docks, a rambunctious crowd and comments from the bleachers were common. The Magistrate had a list of violent crimes to deal with, brutality, domestic cruelty and lots of brawls. In 1985 this was how Tasmania sorted itself, the Tasmanian Welterweight Champion spotted me just before I gave evidence, the Asian victim was long gone and unrepresented. I explained the nature of the crime, the effect on tourism, the innocence of the victim and the shock to my clients (in reality just myself).
All this was taken into account as well as the long list of prior violence by the Tasmanian Welterweight Champion.
Stern words were spoken by the Magistrate and retribution dealt out. The biggest threat made by the Magistrate (as he smiled at me benignly) was that should the Tasmanian Welterweight Champion return to Knopwoods then I was to call the Police immediately, if he did not remove himself quickly. The penalty was $40.00.
I started this story with comments about why a pub brawl in Victoria would make it into the Mercury on an average news day in Tasmania. The facts are that violent crime has decreased but no statistics are available or published in Tasmania. So anecdotes like mine are regarded as just that. The Tasmanian Police Force have hundreds more Police on duty and that maybe is a reason for the decline in violence. I prefer Rick Nevin’s et al work on the relationship between the removal of lead from petroleum and the 20-year lag in decrease of violent crime. All over the world, violent crime has decreased since the abolition of lead-based petroleum with a twenty-year lag as a new generation have grown up without absorbing lead via paint or pollution. The studies on lead and its effect on human behaviour are legendary now ... and forgotten.
In the following years I would call the Police less and less. At the beginning it was daily and the Police made certain that they were the ones to be called and that I should not engage in violent acts to subdue the unruly patrons, that was their job. Many of them took the violence seriously and used it to vent their feelings. Sergeant Cec, would sit with me outside on Salamanca late nights while he and I had a coffee after I closed. Sergeant Cec was the only car on duty on weeknights and he would wait for a radio call or for the underage drinkers to spill out of Stoppies (now Irish Murphies).
The underage drinkers almost invariably would split into tribal factions and brawl up and down the street at around 11pm. Sergeant Cec would wait until he spotted the unfair player, the kid who put the boot in while someone was down or the giant hammering an innocent or the idiot mugging a female. The siren would go on, the blue light flashed, the crowd would stop in paralysis, arms poised and heads turned and Sergeant Cec would wade into the crowd of brawlers and arrest his coward. The crowd rapidly evaporated as Sergeant Cec threw his mark into the back seat and subdued him (violently).
The next moment Cec was off driving up Salamanca Place telling all and sundry to go home and they did. Cec would then find out where the idiot in his back seat lived and drive off in the opposite direction, occasionally I would see the brake lights come on sharply. My guess, it was so that Cec could reach over the back seat and subdue this kid. If the kid lived in Margate he would be dropped off in darkest Goodwood, if from Goodwood then darkest Howrah.
Twenty years later, the calls to Police were rare, they no longer did the bouncing. At first trained thugs masquerading as responsible citizens stood at the door, often the perpetrators. That was when I was forced to introduce my ‘Grannies in sneakers’.
The Christmas eve of 1994, I had hired some South Sea Islanders to stand at the door, they took that as being in charge and being the decision makers. My regulars were assaulted and punished, while a whole new batch of their very aggressive drunken friends in bikie colours entered the pub that night. I was amazed when the very sober leader appeared, asking about work on New Year’s Eve. I had to make changes. The Grannies in sneakers worked a wonder and subdued the drunks with a finger wag, almost saying “I am going to tell your mother about this”.
The only time I was ever hit in a pub was 1986 and that was by another named, Greg, who was with two brothers who egged him on, they later became hotel competitors. I was walking away from this Greg and he smacked the back of my head, in reality I was pushed forward. I was shaken and retreated behind the bar, another punter, who had observed this attack, said to me ‘that’s what we do to Australians who come here and take over’.
*Greg James is a malcontent capitalist. He has employed (and fired) a lot of people and spawned many business opportunities for himself and others. Some have been wild successes and some abject failures. Greg refuses to accept that Tasmania is second rate, it is only the people who occupy it who are second rate. Greg is a self and state educated owner-operator. He has been Chairman and President of State and Federal organizations, has owned a gay bar, built a suburb and wasted his life hoping that others around him would see the light as he see it. His brain is addled, his motives suspect and age has caught up with a life well lived. He writes about himself in the third person.
• Wining Pom in Comments: Good article Greg. Interesting link between lack of lead and less violence and it makes sense …