Industry : Misc 2

Socio-Cultural Factors
Social Groups and Societies, Industry Culture etc.



The Chasers was a Sydney-based social group largely affiliated with the variety industry, but which also included actors, sporting identities, and other associates. The group came together on a weekly basis to socialise on Sydney Harbour. Although closely associated with Australian Variety from 1913 onwards, its origins date back to the mid-1880s. The word “Chaser” is said to have implied “Everything that spells a Fine Time and a Good Time, without abuse, indiscretion or anything of a kindred nature. Among the more prominent members were Martin C. Brennan, Harry Kitching, Harry Rickards, Vince Courtney, Ike Beck, Harry Clay, Fred Bluett, Emil Lazern, Les Warton, Irving Sayles, Jack ‘Porky’ Kearns, Jake Mack, Vaude and Verne, and Tom Dawson.”



Freemason symbolFreemasonry in Australia is as old as white settlement. While men from all walks of life have joined this ancient fraternity, the transitory nature of the variety industry meant that practitioners who were Masons could not always attend their Lodge regularly. Fellowship in these instances was often maintained by visiting other Freemasons around Australasia. Some of the best known variety practitioners to join the Freemasons were Roy Rene, Pat Hanna, Hugh Huxham, Les Warton, Edward de Tisne, Les Coney, John Dobbie, Arthur Hemsley, Lou Vernon, and Claude Holland. The extent to which Freemasonry influenced or impacted on Australian theatre is yet to be explored.



(1908-) Bert Bailey, George Dean and J. Staverdale co-founded Australia’s first Green Room Club as a means of supporting and advancing the local (and Australian) theatrical profession through social activities (there is no known association between this club and the Australian film and theatre journal, Green Room). Operating along similar lines to the Green Room Clubs in London and New York, its first rooms were located in Bourke Street (between Spring and Exhibition streets). Full membership was available for professional stage artists (whether “legitimate” or variety). Associate members typically comprised proprietors, directors and managers of Melbourne theatres “and certain prominent gentlemen who [were] not connected with the stage” (Sunday Times 11 Oct. 1908, 2). The Club’s longest-serving President was Robert McLeish (1921-53). He was succeeded by his son Robert Jnr.

1: Bailey was the first President (aka “Prompter”), with the Vice Presidents (“Stag-mags”) being James Craydon and J.B. Connolly. Other “official roles” included “Call Boy” (secretary), the “Ghost” (treasurer), and “Chair-warmers” (Committee-men). Some of the early members were Fred Bluett, S.A. Fitzgerald, E.J. Tait (J. & N. Tait), Julius Grant and George Cross.
2: The club’s second president, elected in October 1910, was Julius Grant. The vice-presidents were James Craydon and George Cross.
3: The club’s second home was the Theatre Royal, Bourke Street. After it was demolished the club moved to the five-story Edwards Building, 176-180 Collins Street (previously occupied by the Victorian Naval and Military Club). In 1954 it’s management purchased the building for £80,000. A Green Room Club was later situated at Queen’s Road, Albert Park.



aka Western Australian Society of Concert Artists

(1927-1929) A Green Room Club, modelled along the same lines at the Melbourne association, was founded in Perth on 16 February 1927 by the Western Australian Society of Concert Artists. The Society had itself been operating since 1917. Located at Viking House (later the National Insurance Building) in William Street, the club was opened by its patron Sir Edward Wittenoom. By 1928 the membership comprised 169 women and 135 men. Although its once-weekly cabarets met with much popularity the club ceased operating in late 1929. The W.A. Society of Concert Artists followed suit in 1930. The premises was then used by the Women’s Service Guild Hall until converted into Perth’s first night club in 1937.

1: The Club’s inability to survive may well have been due to the Perth Licensing Bench declining its license submission in 1928. In its final decision the Bench stated that “in view of the fact that a majority of the members were women it would not be in the best interests of the club that a certificate should be granted” (Westralian Worker 7 Sept. 1928, 16).
2: A failed attempt to revive the Green Room Club was made in late-1939/early-1940.



For an as yet undermined period of time during the late-nineteenth century, the Moore Park sandhills served as a practice and training ground for professional, amateur and “would-be” circus and vaudeville acrobats and jugglers. According to variety performer “Redhead” Wilson, numerous athletes, both young and older, gathered in the area most Sunday mornings to train with each other and learn from the more experienced practitioners. These sessions were conducted in mostly friendly environment, although the competitive nature of some of the athletes was never far below the surface. Many more onlookers were also in the habit of attending these sessions. The location is believed to have become popular because of its central location (near the high density suburbs of Waterloo and Redfern). The fact that the sand helped cushion any falls was perhaps of even greater importance.

1: To date the only known record relating to this aspect of Sydney’s entertainment history comes from an extensive article published in the 17 January 1917 edition of Australian Variety and Show World. Unfortunately the author, former vaudeville acrobat Redhead Wilson provides no details regarding the years other than it occurred “a few years ago.” However, he does mention his association with the sandhills as a youngster. Given that Wilson was likely born up sometime during the late-1870s, and began his professional variety career in 1902, his association with the Sunday sandhills sessions likely occurred sometime during the mid to late-1890s.
2: Among the biggest names to have been associated with the sandhills were Tom Queen, the Walhalla Brothers, Jack Kearns, Albert McKisson, the Bovis Brothers, Joe Morris, Ted Sutton (of Carlton and Sutton), Con Moreni Snr, the Faust Family, Frank Yorke, the Permans, Martin Brennan (later editor of Australian Variety), and Benny Israel Jack Heller, and the trios Lennon, Hyman and Lennon, and Delohery Craydon and Holland.
Image source: World Urban Parks.



Poverty Point 1 - Park Street early 1900s [NLA](1880s-1940s) “Poverty Point” refers to a location where managers and agents operated their businesses and hence where out-of-work actors and vaudevillians congregated. Sydney’s first Poverty Point (corner of Castlereagh and Kings streets), dates back to the 1880s. In the early 1900s it moved to the Criterion Theatre side of Pitt Street – between the Royal Arcade and the Park Street intersection (also known as Marshall’s corner and Dockem’s newspaper pitch). Leading managers included Harry Clay, Bert Howard and Percy Lodge, while Roy Rene, Arthur Tauchert, “Pipeclay” Wallace, John Cosgrove, Clyde Cook, Harry Shine and Bert Bailey were among the thousands of “poverty pointers.”

  • For further details see: Shirley Fitzgerald. “Poverty Point.” Dictionary of Sydney, State Library of NSW, 2008. [sighted 21/04/2020] • J.W. Bent. “Poverty Point.” Letter. Age 15 Feb. (1941), 11. [incl. a list of prominent artists linked to [poverty point]
Image: Marshall’s Corner (Park and Pitt streets) in the early 1900s (Marshall Bros Chemists was located at 256 Pitt Street). Source: National Library of Australia.



Established as a means of providing on-going support for returned service personnel, the R.S.L. (initially known as the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia) is an Australia-wide organization that began in 1916. Concerts and fund-raising events were commonly held by the various sub-branches, and Western Australia (W.A.) had a particularly strong tradition of organising these from the early 1920s onwards. While the W.A. concerts were often one-off events, by the mid-1920s several sub-branches had begun putting together their own semi-regular “digger” concert parties. Most were identified simply as the “R.S.L. Concert Party,” but some took on distinctive names – including the Whizz Bangs (South Perth branch) and the Pleasant Hour Concert Party (Perth).

The Western Australian R.S.L concerts parties are known to have continued performing well into the mid-1930s. In some instances particular troupes used one-off names to reinforce the theme of type of entertainment being presented. Retro-minstrel shows, for example, saw the Bunbury sub-branch concert party bill itself as “All Diggers as All Niggers” (1929), while the Nedlands R.S.L. troupe billed itself for one concert in 1934 as “The Digger Darkies.”


Image citation details for entries without expanded biographies are noted at the bottom of the overview. All other image details are provided in the expanded PDF biographies.
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Published on October 23, 2012 at 9:50 pm  Comments Off on Industry : Misc 2