The Melbourne Punk Pub Crawl was the scenes annual finger up to the brainless masses. It took place on the same day as the Aussie Rules Grand-final. Everybody in the scene went. The 1986 Crawl would be the fourth, and my second.
Dee cut my hair boot girl style – short all over except for fringe and tails. Then she bleached it and put black dye on the tips. All my clothes were black. Tight jeans, button up shirt, boots, exaggerated eyeliner and loads of silver jewelry. The only colour was my soft pink lips and the deep red veins road-mapping the whites of my blue eyes.
Around a hundred of us, mostly punks with a small contingent of skins, stood outside The Naughtons Hotel on Royal Parade at ten am. Moreen and Peter organized us into rows of standing or squatting for the photo session. We were a colourful bunch. Hair styles and shades varied from purple mohawks to multi-coloured spikes.
As soon as the pub doors opened everyone pushed inside. The trick to pub crawling with so many people was to get to the bar first. If you didn’t get served quick enough someone would shout, “Next Pub!” and then everyone left while you sculled your drink trying to avoid the distraught glares from shell-shocked bar staff.
Being first to the bar when you’re smaller than everyone else isn’t easy. So in-order to save money and being severely squashed and stomped on I’d stashed a wine bladder in my bag. All I had to do was find an empty pot glass and make sure the staff didn’t catch me pouring my BYO, which was unlikely because the poor bastards were inundated and had no time to watch anyone. I could drink quicker than they could get to me through the crowd anyway. Kicking me out would have been pointless, we only spent about twenty to thirty minutes in each pub.
Pre-piss-up excitement, raucous jeers and bad melodic singing filled the Naughtons front bar. I scanned the tables looking for an empty glass when someone grabbed me in a headlock.
I dug my nails into the hairy muscle wrapped around my neck and screamed ‘Fuck off!’
Tony Grimm let go then gently pushed me into Con, the last person I wanted physical contact with. Con was a creepy old guy who hung around to sell drugs, sleaze onto young girls and generally lower the tone. Not an easy task when the tone was already so low. He swung round ready to tell me off but seeing Tony he just smirked.
Grimm had recently been released from jail after a three-month stint for something no one talked about, which meant it was probably something violent. He grinned mischievously then hollered, ‘Next pub!’
We all filed out. Ska headed the procession with his tail held high and his fluffy, black and white ears bobbing up and down like wings on a slow flying magpie. Tony Grimm and Grifford were next. They filled the length of pavement like a pair of huge, menacing gargoyles come to life.
A tiny, old lady with white hair and an unrealistically confident lap dog, stopped dead when she saw us heading in her direction. The dog went crazy yapping and tugging on its lead. Ska strutted over to the hysterical pooch, sniffed it dismissively then sat and scratched himself as if to demonstrate his freedom.
The woman’s face whitened under the thick make-up plastered to her wrinkled face as Tony Grimm strolled past, not looking at her but shouting at Ska, ‘Shut the fuck up, Dickhead!’ She seemed close to fainting as Ska shook himself, stuck his tail back in the air then trotted ahead satisfied that he’d harassed the little ankle-biter enough. The dog yanking full force on its lead, literally chocking itself. The woman tried picking him up but accidentally let go of the lead, then watched in terror as her fluffy companion charged and barked its head off at the studded leather punk parade filing by. Lillian walked over and calmly petted the crazed fuzz ball. The dog liked her and let her pick him up and hand him back to the old lady.
The woman couldn’t believe it. ‘Thank you so much love,. That’s so, so sweet of you. There certainly is a lot of you… young people out today.’ Lillian laughed, pet the dog on the head then kept walking.
The inner-city streets were particularly empty. People were either at home, at the MCG or sitting in a bar waiting for the grand-final to start. The crawl became a living thing with a manic pulse. In a steady flow of painted t-shirts and jackets, mad hair, tattoos, piercings and big boots, we moved like a long Punk snake, slithering over the streets of Melbourne from pub to pub. A death adder looking for dingy, alcohol filled rat holes, untouchable and frightening to all by-standers. No-one shouted pathetic, unimaginative crap from speeding cars. No-one suggested we get a job, a haircut or that Punk was dead. It felt triumphant.
Our numbers had doubled by the time we got to the third pub. Any patrons there before our invasion, scrambled to evacuate. The staff looked either down right scared or highly apprehensive. The footy lead up had started on TV but none of us bothered watching. The feeling of power ran through us as we conquered and over threw the enemy.
I stood at a table listening to Dregs and Damage discuss hair. Dregs was telling Damage how he controlled his dreads by rubbing them with his homemade mix of soap and hair-gel. Damage listened patiently then explained how his dreads were so heavy they made his scalp hurt
‘I comb my tails, sometimes, when I can find my comb.’ I offered, concentrating on pouring myself a pot of wine from my bag. Suddenly a large, claw like hand dug into my shoulder.
‘Out!’ The bouncer signalled to another guy coming from the kitchen but I left before they could take my wine. Seconds later Damage was dragged out for complaining about there being no salt and vinegar chips, and therefore no vegan chips.
I was glad for the company. ‘Wot a wanker! I don’t see the problem. They’re gonna make a fortune in the next twenty minutes. What does one drink matter, fuckin tight-asses.’
‘Damage looked down the street and said, 'We should head for the next pub before everyone else shows up and makes ordering a nightmare.’
I didn’t like the idea of leaving the group but ordering a drink without worrying about being stabbed in the eye by a foot long spikey mohowk or having my feet mashed by size 12 army boots did seem appealing.
We walked in awkward silence. Damage was usually a fun guy. We’d never had any problems talking before. But now every time he looked at me it felt weird, and he looked at me a lot, especially when I wasn’t looking at him.
The Royal Artillery felt serine. The two guys playing pool stopped and stared as we walk in. They exchanged a dangerous glance. Damage insisted on buying me a drink then we sat in a booth. The two guys kept their menacing glares aimed at Damage. They were big islanders, making aggressive gestures. One swung the pool cue like a baseball bat aimed at us. The other blew smoke in our direction.
The Baseball Dude came over, still gripping the cue. ‘We don’t want scum like you in here. You stink.’ He turned and looked at his mate and they both laughed as if he’d said something funny.
Damage didn’t seem fazed, which was weird because if these guys were going to hit someone, and it seemed likely, it was going to be him. I smiled and said, ‘Look, we’re just waiting for some mates. We won’t be here for more than one drink.’
Baseball Dude strutted off shaking his head just as the door swung open and a multi-coloured mob burst in and surrounded the pool table, the bar and the rest of the pub, which was disappointing as then it was impossible to see Baseball's expression.
The dunnies were a joke, so crowded I could barely get the door open. Vlad helped me in by pulling me by my jumper. A girl I’d never seen before clung to his arm. She ignored me but tried holding his hand. He wasn’t into it. Her brand new, novelty shop punk clothes, complete with strategically place zips, were no doubt paid for with daddy’s money9.
Vlad swung his arm over my shoulder and leant all his weight on me. ‘Agroooo! Come in ere, we’ll make space for little Agro, com on.’ He pushed the girl out of the way. ‘You got a drink for me mate?’ Having my own booze made the day less expensive but also meant I became the target for others with little cash and drunken desires.
I fished the bladder from my bag and let him scull straight from the plastic tap. Wine dribbled from the side of his mouth then he stopped and squinted at me through one eye, ‘Agro, you come ome wif me…’ He gave the bladder back and wiped his face.
The girl clinging to him pulled on his arm. Vlad’s eyes circled to the back of his head and he staggered into a couple pashing near the sink.
Cat came out of a cubicle pulling her tights up. She threw her arms around me, hugged me tight and declared her never ending love for me. Cat’s fringe went over her eyes all the way to her chin. I wondered how she managed to see through it as she started a fight with the pashing couple. Apparently, her girlfriend wasn’t allowed to kiss boys.
The toilet had piss all over the seat and there was no toilet paper. The lock had broken and hung by one screw. I held onto to the walls to steady myself as my bum hovered over the bowl. Keeping balance and good aim at the same time wasn’t easy. I let myself drip dry for a second then the cubical door burst open and wacked me in the head.
Con came in, closing the door behind him. ‘Wot the fuck? You need to wait your turn.’ I yanked my jeans up and cringed at the sogginess of my undies. Next crawl I’d be sure to bring dunnie roll of my own. ‘I went to get past him but he didn’t budge. ‘Move! It stinks in here.’
He pushed me so I fell back to the toilet seat, this time actually sitting on it. Piss soaked into my jeans as shock soaked into my conscious.
Con grinned. ‘You’re a little toughie aren’t you, Agro? I like that. If you suck me off I’ll give you some speed.’ He yanked his zip down and shuffled forward.
The laugh escaped before I had time to think. ‘Wot? Wot is that?’ I had to look twice to make sure it wasn’t some plastic worm he’d bought at a joke shop.
Con moved fast, grabbing me around the neck with both hands. I yanked at his wrists. He had twice my strength. His fingers felt callous on my neck. He pushed my head back so it slammed onto the cistern. He put his unshaven chin on mine, grazing my skin and staring into my eyes. His breathe stank worse than the dunnie.
I went to scream but his chest hit my face as his head slammed forward into the wall. Vlad lay sprawled on top of the cubical door. Con lay flattened underneath it in a pool of piss and in obvious pain. I yanked my knees and feet from under him then gleefully stomped all my weight down on the door as I left.
The crawl continued. It stormed around corners. People in its way froze, unsure of how to react. Guys saw us coming and turned quickly to look through the windows of women’s clothing shops or dancing schools, like these things were so compelling they didn’t notice a hundred and fifty punks passing behind them. Asian storekeepers locked their doors and hid behind their counters. Italian restaurant owners pushed tables up against their entrances, standing in groups, glaring threateningly with their arms folded and their hands tucked under their upper arms trying to make it look like they had big mussels. It was funny.
Dregs got arrested for pissing on a car. The skinheads grouped together and sang out-of-tune, patriotic chants. It’s never a good sign when skinheads start singing. Down one of the back streets, between Swanston and Elizabeth, Borgie grabbed hold of the back of a passing taxi and zoomed by us on his skateboard shouting, ‘ANARCHY’.
Vlad found this so hilarious he fell over. Sik tried pulling him out the way of an approaching car but he couldn’t stand up. After a while he stopped laughing and just lay still passed out. The guy in the car locked his door and waited patiently. Grifford picked him up, lugged him over his shoulder and carried him to Elizabeth Street. Vlad’s “girl-friend” sobbed like he’d died but wouldn’t get into the cab with him even though Grifford gave her ten bucks to pay for it.
‘'I don’t want to miss out on the pub crawl.’ She gave Grifford a heartbroken look that made me want to puke. ‘Would you look after me?’ she sniffed, ‘He’ll be alright if you just give the driver the money and tell him where to go.’
Grifford’s hand swallowed her shoulder reassuringly then he gave the money and address to the cabbie. I watched, open mouthed. I used to have a crush on Grifford when we first met. But his dick having more authority over his brain made him unattractive.
Dee cornered me outside the Young and Jacksons. ‘There’s an after party at the St. Kilda Road squat so we’re going to need to find Con.’
‘No way! You can find him. I don’t want nothin to do with that wanker. He creeps me out and I hate him. He thinks he has some special drug dealing power that gives him the right to flash his tiny cock around at any girl he thinks might be stupid enough to go near it for a tiny dab of speed.'
Dee stared vacantly. ‘You’re ranting Agro. Just give me your money.’
We snorted a line in the dunnies then slipped past the boot-girls hanging around looking for a vulnerable target to bash. The speed didn’t do much more than straightened me out and notice how drunk everyone was. No-one made any sense. The finalists on this crawl had degenerated into a babbling mass.