English Paul and Elvis Gorilla
Cass over at Beatnik Casbah has been reminiscing about some of the great brawls at The Royal George; and truly, there were some spectacular ones. I described one such involving Brian Raven in a previous post. The one I want to talk about now might have become a brawl, but turned out to be a remarkable incident with an unexpected result.
It involved someone called English Paul, of whom I shall have much more to write in later tales. Paul said his name was Paul Adams, though it turned out his real name was William Paul Clarke. He was an extraordinary person. At the time I'm talking of now, 1964, I pretty much hero-worshipped English Paul. Among the Young Push at that time he was regarded more or less as being the "King" of The Royal George - for all sorts of reasons. Even after we stopped going down to The George, he continued as a leader, creating by his energy the entity known as "Frank's Cafe", a leather-working co-operative that ended up with a number of shops and stalls selling sandals, bags and hippy paraphernalia, and providing a living for many who would never have held down "normal" jobs. Frank's Cafe included a good number of Royal George refugees, including myself: I will tell its story later, but English Paul's part in it ended when he and others bought an old government double-decker bus, refitted it at Dural, and in 1971 drove it to Kuranda in North Queensland to form various settlements there. Ten years later Paul was dead, along with his lady Vyda. But that's for another story.
Back to a busy Saturday night at The George in 1964. The pub was packed and the beer was flowing; flushed patrons happily shouted bizarre conversations at each other. I was standing with Paul and a few others in the large passageway or vestibule which led from the Public bar through to the back room and further on to the Saloon bar. We were drinking away and chatting about something or other, enjoying, no doubt, being eyed-off by the incredulous passing parade of Alfs (or "straights" - ie non-long-haired bohemian types) who regularly trolled through the pub looking for weirdos to gape at and loose girls to try their luck on. The more docile of these Alfs were a reliable source of revenue - "bread" - or free drinks, or car rides to parties and so forth. But a goodly percentage of them came in with more aggressive activities in mind, and so it was with one group this night.
They were "Rockers" - Elvis hair styles, shirtsleeves rolled up way over their bulging biceps practically to their shoulders, cigarettes dangling from the corners of mouths. The apparent leader, who looked like a farm boy or a Westie, was huge, and particularly muscly. He tried out the old favourite insult of Alfs in such situations, directed this time at English Paul with his shock of long, frizzy, sandy-coloured hair: "What are ya? A boy or a girl?"
Normally the witty composers of this type of insult would scuttle off, well pleased with themselves at having impressed their gawking pals by such a talented display of dashing sarcasm. But not this one. He was cocky, and tough, and wanted blood, and an easy victory. His huge paw pushed Paul roughly against the shoulder, and he stood there smirking, waiting for Paul to burst into tears or flee or whatever it was that he expected.
Paul sighed. He handed me his schooner of beer. He dropped his half-smoked hand-rolled cigarette onto the floor and crushed it under his boot, then turned towards Elvis, who had stepped back a little and bunched his fist, ready to deliver a smashing blow. Paul looked pale, and very, very serious.
Look at the picture of English Paul, up top. He was tall enough - about 6 foot one, I guess; but very thin and slight-looking. He had a sort of ethereal quality that at that time reminded me of the poet Shelley. He certainly seemed no match for Elvis Gorilla in the muscle department. I thought, like most there, "Uh-oh! Paul's going to cop a hiding now. Looks like a general brawl's about to happen."
As I thought that, Paul sprang with amazing speed and accuracy straight at Gorilla-boy and instantly threw an arm around his neck, then twisted him, in one quick move, into a headlock. Elvis Gorilla struggled, gasped, turned red, turned purple, pushed with his legs this way, that way - but it was no use. Paul just kept on holding the bloke's head across his hip in an unbreakable headlock. Every so often Paul would give the bulging head a little wrench, to increase its discomfort.
The struggle went on for several minutes until at last Paul said, quite calmly, "You had enough?" Elvis gasped and nodded (as far as he could) to indicate that yes, he supposed he had indeed had enough. Paul released the headlock. Elvis had no fight left in him. He straightened up, staggered, then stumbled off looking as sheepish as you might imagine; his chums tripping along behind him with thoughtful looks on their faces.
Somewhere in the melee, I'd put Paul's drink down and it had spilled. I went to the bar, bought him and myself another schooner each, and we all carried on with Saturday night, chatting about where our next beer was coming from, which girls were particularly spunky, how New Zealand Chris or Newcastle John or Dmitri or The Ox had got himself into or out of some ridiculous situation, and what party we might go to later on - all as if nothing at all of any note had just happened.