The Day I Saw My First Nudie-Boobs
2nd Oct 2020
Breasts. Female breasts. What a great invention! Like all good things architectural, they have both form and function.
For some years, as a wee lad, I wasn’t particularly fussed with either function or form. I’d seen Mrs Marshall breast-feed her youngest lad, Neil. I’d seen air-brushed nude models in Man magazines that one of the lads had squirrelled away from his father’s stash, after his Dad had finished reading the articles of course… but none of them were a patch on the real thing!
Yes, the day I saw my first buxom girlie-boobs in the flesh can never be erased from my memory. It was at the Gundagai Show and ‘Bubbles’ was her name.
The annual show was huge for many reasons. It was a celebration of agriculture, livestock, art, craft, cooking and community. And the fun of the fair was always enhanced by fairy floss, rides, wood chopping and myriad attractions up sideshow alley.
Even the boring stuff was vaguely interesting… there was fresh produce like huge pumpkins and marrows… there were cows and bulls and rams and lambs and horses and poultry, all vying for ribbons and trophies… there were knitting competitions and cooking competitions – my mother and grandmother would enter every year, pitting their sponges and crocheted rugs against the best in the region.
Often, they came away with a certificate or prize. I even won a couple of awards in the art section, for a portrait of an old bushie and a seascape of Fowey village in Cornwall.
The CWA and the Presbyterian ladies had a fundraising tent that sold scones and tea… and the men gathered rowdy in the licensed shed to drink beer and discuss all manner of things rural.
Move on to the early 1970s, and the men and women gathered rowdy in the Member’s Bar at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show to discuss all manner of things rural and urban. Through boarding school, I got to know quite a few bushies. Blokes off the land whose fathers were farmers and graziers and members of the Royal Agricultural Society, and they were allowed to sign in guests, like me, as long as a jacket and tie was worn.
For a couple of years in the 1970s I worked at the Royal Easter Show, flipping burgers, serving up twice-cooked chips and whacking pastrami rolls in new-fangled machines called microwaves. They were long days, the queues were long, the work was hard but the pay was fabulous. Working those public holidays came with excellent penalty rates!
I enjoyed visiting the pavilions to see the art and the produce, but I think my favourite pavilion was the small Rothmans’ Pavilion. I didn’t go there for the cigarettes, but to be entertained upstairs. Billiards champion, Horace Lindrum, was the drawcard. He would perform tricks on a full-size snooker table, both with the cue and with his double-jointed finger-spinning. His patter and jokes were also finely crafted. A true showman.
And back in Gundagai in the early 1960s, for us wee kiddies, the destination was sideshow alley!
We were introduced to the glitter and glamour of carni-showbiz-land by our parents as knee-high types…
… We would feel big and tall being led around a ring on a Shetland pony…
… Dad would hoist us onto his shoulders to watch the Rotary fundraising fun of chucking balls to knock a well-known local into a large vat of water…
… Mum would hold our hands while we laughed at men swinging a huge mallet to send a metal bauble up a pole to hit a bell at the top and hear ‘ding’…
… Hearing ‘ding’ rarely happened. At the show or at home. As mentioned, microwaves were yet to be invented.
… And when we reached an age that no longer needed hand-holding we were set free with a pocketful of change and it was sideshow alley that beckoned and seduced.
I guess most kids would have started out with blowing some of that hard-earned parental change on attractions like the Laughing Clowns. They had those numbers rigged somehow and there was no skill needed whatsoever.
There was the Balloon Dart stall where failure was far easier to achieve than you thought. And the metal ducks Shooting Gallery where success was a damn sight harder than it should have been. The consensus was that the gun sights had been messed with. We didn’t want to win, we just wanted to compete. We had little need for a badly sewn fluffy blue bear…
Then we discovered the live act shows! Razzle-dazzle theatre at its finest, or so it seemed. Taking pride of place at the top of the alley was Jimmy Sharman’s Boxing Tent. Jimmy had a troupe of mostly Aboriginal boxers who were there to take on any local would-be middleweights. The thumping base drum would grab our attention and the spruiker would whip up the frenzy.
“Who’ll take a glove?! Who’ll take a glove to Lightning Williams?! Step into the ring gentlemen! A round or two for a pound or two!”
The local boys didn’t stand a chance unless one of the professionals took a fall to keep up audience interest. These were real boxers – they could duck and weave and punch to the body as well as the head. The amateurs were all bravado and flailing arms. But the tent was always packed at two shillings a head and Jimmy raked in a small fortune.
My mate, Dave Prior, recounts the time his father took him along to Jimmy Sharman’s Boxing Tent to see what his boy was made of. It turned out Dave was made of blood.
Then there was Sampson’s tent. Sampson the Strong Man. He was built like the proverbial brick outhouse with a mane of shiny black hair, a loincloth and an oiled torso. Tarzan on steroids. A beast!
Sampson was supposedly American but he wasn’t allowed to speak. Being ‘American’ made him exotic and mysterious and there was a fast-talking ringmaster to choreograph the action. Stunts included driving a vehicle up a plank that rested on Sampson’s abdomen.
“Don’t try this at home kiddies! Only Sampson has muscles strong enough to endure the weight and pressure on his stomach, intestines, pancreas, liver and gallbladder!”
Oh, come on… whack it across his ribcage and see how tough he is! Or his goolies! Or his head. Not much worth worrying about in there! Oh, but hang on! Of course, that head was needed for the eating razor blades stunt!
“Up close! Look in his mouth ladies-and-gentlemen-boys-and-girls! Watch him chew and swallow!”
Gosh, I’m thinking about the other end…
“And now ladies-and-gentlemen-boys-and-girls, the piece of resistance, the Bed of Nails!!!”
Yes, Sampson lowered himself onto a bed of sharp nails. Probably a couple of hundred of them. I would have liked to have seen him do it on one nail. And then they lifted a huge rock and placed it on his chest. Boofy blokes in the audience were invited to slam that rock with sledgehammers. Following this we were shown the indentations on his back with just a few pin-pricks of blood and then we knew for sure that Samson was tough.
Three times an hour. It was a living.
And, next door to Sampson’s tent was ‘Bubbles’.
Bubbles was busty and voluptuous but she wasn’t a stripper… oh no, not a stripper… she was a ‘burlesque artiste’! Now there was no shame for a young lad seen in Sharman’s tent, or watching Sampson’s death-defying antics, or paying to see the six-legged sheep, or indeed grabbing a nostalgic ride on the rather slow merry-go-round… but no boy wanted adult relatives seeing him queue to see Bubbles!
I think there may have been a 12-years-and-over age restriction. And that made it even more enticing. Luckily, we knew a boy who knew another young bloke who, for the payment of a penny, would lift part of the canvas base at the side of the tent to give just enough room to burrow on in. What an entrepreneur! These days he’d probably surreptitiously film the act on his phone and sell the ap.
Once inside I sat, cross-legged, on the grass, next to the rows and rows of folding chairs that were, curiously, occupied by men. Not a woman in sight. I quietly hoped that my father wasn’t occupying one of those chairs because if he caught me, I would be full of shame.
Then he would be full of shame.
Then we would both have to leave and neither of us would get to see Bubbles.
From where I sat, I had a pretty good view of the stage. On the left-hand end was a large screen of frosted glass and, to the right, a claw foot bath. The bath was filling with water and the swell of crackling music announced that it was nearly show time. Woo hoo!
The frosted glass was in place so we could observe the striptease, sorry, artistic dance, without being exposed to actual naked flesh. Out she came and slowly, seductively, removed her clothes, which were tossed across the top of the screen… skirt… stockings… blouse… bra… undies. She had a vague hourglass figure and I’m certain I saw the silhouette of boobies!
We hadn’t really noticed the bath fill but it had, and it was full of frothy, cloud-like suds. A dainty-ankled leg kicked from behind the screen in tantalizing slow-motion… then Bubbles appeared on the other end of it, with a towel wrapped around her girlie bits. Then she dropped the towel! Gasp! But in a split second she had one arm covering her chest and the other hand across that special little bit down below. Again, we thought we saw something…
Like a wading bird she stepped into the bath to slide and settle amongst the bubbles. Her hands glided across her body, leaving her upper arms and shoulders glistening wet. Tension mounted because, as a corollary to Newton’s Law of Gravity, ‘what goes in, must come out’… and come out she did! With froth and bubbles covering those bits above and below her waist. Amazing! She picked up her towel, bowed and tip-toed from the stage to thunderous applause.
We saw her navel and a little bum-crack but no front bottom. And while her breasts were impressively ample, not a nipple was spotted.
She was indeed a burlesque artiste!
Three times an hour. It was a living.
These days, of course, such forms of entertainment would not be possible…
… Sharman’s tent would be shut down for its attitude to the indigenous and being a potential forum for a ‘coward punch’…
… Sampson’s tent would be shut down because of the lack of dignity in treating a person like a freak…
As for poor old Bubbles, who no doubt was overcome with bathing-induced wrinkles come drinks o’clock time, well, her act would be deemed sexist, rather than sexy, and would have the PC campaigners screaming for gender equality. And let me tell you, there wouldn’t have been a bloke in Gundagai in 1962 game to part with money to watch Sampson take a bath.
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