An interview with John Powers

When I first approached John Powers for an interview, he hesitated. He wanted time to think it over. 'I've no work in the production stage,' he said. I returned to Deakin University some days later and he ushered me into the office he shares with fellow writer and teacher, Gerald Murnane. The telephone rang and he answered giving his full name instead of the expected, 'hello'. He put the phone down and sat before his Olympia typewriter, while a pen sat in his shirt pocket. He punched the keys. Left/right, left/right, left/right. Like a boxer. He removed the paper and placed the five word message on Murnane's spartan desk. His own desk was beneath neat stacks of files, clippings, books and notes. To the left of his desk is a bookshelf wall holding some of his books - hundreds of them.

While one can almost see a bar-bell in his hands, they are not the hands of an opal miner or other labourer like many of his characters. A big man, he could be mistaken for an ex League footballer, but he played only to Reserves standard for the country club Sale. He has a cultured, almost English upper class style of speech, and in the several meetings we had he swore just once. He doesn't use any of the colloquialisms for which Ron Barassi, and the characters 'Tarzan' and 'Pansy' are known.

At his home near the Yarra, he has converted the main bedroom into a study. A dining table, which serves as his desk, faces a bay window overlooking a treed patio. A Remington typewriter is at the front of the desk and behind it is a row of technical writing books which take up the length. To the right of the Remington are two packs of file cards, each about 5cm in thickness. They are held together by thick rubber bands. There is typing on each card. 'I use them to develop scenes,' he says. A small stand holds together newspaper clippings and other important papers.

To the left of the typewriter, sandwiched between books and files, is a lamp shade. On the ceiling are two spotlights: one focused on his desk, the other on the rear wall bookshelves. Under the desk, where his feet would rest, are five columns of box files. Some are four deep. On the floor, to the left is an expanding, if not bulging, file.

Behind his chair is a small table and on the floor in neat stacks, are more files. The walls are lined with bookshelves and hundred of books. Family photographs including those of his late wife, the actress Carmel Dunn, are on the various shelves. At their former home in Middle Park, one of his daughters lives with a further twenty boxes of his books.

He has a small CD and stereo unit in between the bookshelves with the speakers facing the desk. He likes to listen to Haydn or Mozart string quartets when writing, and a bust of Beethoven sits on a window shelf. Further along the shelf is a statuette of the Virgin Mary. In an alcove is a filing cabinet and more classical music, in boxes. In his lounge room another book shelf holds video tapes of films and plays and teaching aides. I looked along the shelves but couldn't see 'The Last of the Knucklemen,' for which he is most famous.

Born in 1935, the second of two children, John Powers went to St. Bedes (Mentone), then Xavier College (Kew) where he matriculated. He worked for a short time at his parent's Phoenix Hotel and became involved in amateur theatre, "Where a man with broad shoulders could meet a pretty girl." It was through the theatre that he met his wife who appeared in the original production of 'Summer Of The Seventeenth Doll'. He has been a book seller, and had his own small publishing company. He has worked in publishing for McMillan, Penguin and the Federal government. In 1974-75 he was awarded full-time Literary Board Fellowship grants. Since 1976 he has taught creative writing, and is currently at Deakin University as a teacher of script writing and factual writing. He has written for television series such as, 'Prisoner' and 'Possession'. A television documentary, 'First Tuesday in November', was seen in over thirty countries. A regular contributor to major Australian newspapers and magazines, John Powers wrote 'The Coach' during 1977. Considered as the Bible of Australian football, it is held in similar high regard by rugby lovers throughout New Zealand. To write 'The Coach' he spent a year with the North Melbourne football club attending every training session, practice match and game. Wherever the coach, Ron Barassi, and his players went - so did John Powers. It burnt him out and he has little interest left in the game.

In 1990, "a horror year", he fell ten metres from an extension ladder and broke his neck which required an operation and four months traction in hospital. Two months after this fall his wife died of cancer. For two years he was unable to write. In late 1993 he will go to the United States as a Research Fellow at the Yale School of Drama.

At his Toorak office he has black coffee with two sugars. He stirs the mug with a spoon then tosses it onto the floor near one of his files.



The coach - a season with Ron Barassi (1978)
The Last of the Knucklemen (1979)
Australian Sports Heroes (1982)
Winning! (1982)
Prose Writing for Australians (co-author) 1985


'Hot Centre Of The World' (1970)
'Loast Of The Knucklemen' (1973)
'Pub' (1974)
'Shindig' (1975)
'Reluctant Rebel' (1975)
'Second Story' (1990)



At what age did you start to write?

I guess around about the late teens I started to think that I wanted to write things. I bought myself a typewriter and just started to write ... I enjoyed writing and I wanted to get published and think up stories. I probably began serious writing, with the intention of really being a writer instead of just mucking about in my early twenties.


When did you start writing plays?

I got a few religious and other general articles published in magazines in the early '50s ... and then I thought I'd try some short stories. Meanjin published one. Then I began writing novels and I wrote two or three unpublished, probably unpublishable novels. And then in 1970 the direction changed when an advertisement asked writers to submit fifteen-minute little dramatic stories ... I wrote a little black comedy ... it was accepted as one of the four to be workshopped. Tim Burstall did the film version of it and Graeme Blundell did the stage version of it.


Was this 'The Hot Centre of the World'?

Yes, and this encouraged me ... I got all of a sudden interested in the idea of doing a full length play because the Australian theatre movement of the 1970s had really started - La Mama, and the Australian Performing Group....


'The Last of the Knucklemen' was your first full length play, and was set in a mining camp in the north-west of Australia. Had you worked or visited such an area?

No. My uncle, Harry McGuigan, he'd been in the north-west of Western Australia as an administrator. In the early '50s I spent a week with him in Perth and he was telling me about his experiences in the mining camps ... about the wildness and just the life in those small towns of having to cope with the caravans of the visiting whores and just the ruggedness of the people and the life and isolation of it all. I just thought and tucked it away as I found it quite interesting. Twenty years later what triggered 'The Last Of The Knucklemen' was Ronald Biggs .... he was thought to be still in Australia hiding out and someone suggested he may well have joined a mining camp. I thought if I could get what my uncle was talking about and put in quite a few of the roughish kind of characters that I've known at various points in time, rogues but amusing funny men, and put them all together without their realizing they've got Biggs there with them, then this is potentially interesting.


How long did it take you to write 'The Last Of The Knucklemen'?

It took me a year I suppose of writing the characters, the scenes, and just working it out. I was fairly desperate at that time because I realised I wasn't a natural novelist and I was unlikely to work in that area. The minor success that I'd had with the 'The Hot Centre Of The World' had indicated that I could do it ...


Who were the writers that influenced you?

I thought I would be a narrative writer, writing novels and short stories. I had read the sort of things young narrative writers all read to be able to write good prose, de Maupassant, Chekhov, V.S. Pritchett, Bates, Sean O'Faolain. I hadn't really spent a lot of time reading plays when I started writing them, but once I did ... I've always been interested in modern American theatre and I hugely admired Ray Lawler's 'Summer Of The Seventeenth Doll' ...


What did you admire about the 'Doll'?

The humour, and the warmth in the characters. They were very human. Lawler's use of the Australian vernacular was fascinating. Stoicism. It is the great Australian play.


Dow did the 'Doll' affect Australian writers at the time?

We saw the possibility of an Australian drama I guess because Lawler had written a play that went on to world wide acclaim. Yet it didn't occur to me that I could write plays, rather than continue on writing short stories and novels that were never to be published. But heavens, it was a writing apprenticeship. Edward Albee said he initially wanted to be a poet but then he found he couldn't write poetry. Then he wanted to be a novelist but then he found he couldn't write novels, and the only thing left for him was plays, and his first up play was I think, 'Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?' George Bernard Shaw did the same thing. He was over forty before he wrote his first play and subsequently he wrote another thirty.


How did the British and Americans relate to the ocker language in 'The Knucklemen' when it was staged overseas?

At the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland it wasn't a particularly good production of it because they played it absolutely straight there. The British had cast an obese, gay actor to play Pansy, the villain of the piece, who's also stridently butch. But the Brits thought it was perfect - a homosexual playing a character called Pansy. In fact, the actor was a nice man but hopelessly miscast.


They didn't see the humour in it?

David Williamson had already warned me that both England and America don't understand Australian humour in the sense of how we will call a short man Lofty, or we will call a red headed guy Bluey.... They were misunderstanding everything. I think Australian humour, particularly the humour the stage writers use, is often the result of characters saying one thing but meaning another.... There's such a lot of throw away humour in Australian writing ... and only Australian audiences pick up those Australian nuances I think.


Did the Americans ask you to change any of the dialogue?

No, but they put glossaries in the programme. Things like bludger, they didn't know what it was. I felt delighted that there were say thirty words that had to be put in a list for the Americans to understand what the hell we were talking about. I don't think the Brits did that ...


How did the Americans react?

It had a New York season ... In America the reviews did suggest a bit of the humour came across, but the producers wanted to play it for its violence. They really stressed the violent elements in it. They raced through everything else to get to the violence.


A lot of your plays, in your whole work, there seems to be a toughness in the characters, in the language. Even the titles have a toughness in them. How does someone with your background in publishing and teaching write like that?

I guess the easy answer to that is I've always felt that the tough Australian man, in particular the working class man, that his language has always been so colourful. Dramatic and dynamic. At that particular time I was fascinated by the bigour and vitality of the language that working Australian people used, I mean, even our swearing was colourful.


Did you mix with those types of people?

Yes. I've been going to gymnasiums all my life and there you get a lot of colour and you get a lot of people who aren't highly educated but who are filling in times by being funny and they'll talk about something or other with a lot of colour. I found that interesting....


Your own pattern of speech is different, you don't have an ocker accent....

I might have had an ocker accent as a boy but my mother had intentions of me taking over the hotel ... she sent me along to an old ham actor and he taught me how to speak better I suppose. Subsequent to that the people that I mainly met were all educated Australians, and then the time in England and getting into the theatre. I spent a lot of time with theatre people. Also I married an actress, so I guess it all just got rid of the ocker edge from my speaking voice.


How do you think the men from 'Shindig' and 'The Last Of The Knucklemen' would blend with the preferred man of today, who is described as a sensitive new age guy?

I don't think they would ... not that I would want to spend my life with the 'Knucklemen' cast either. I just think they're fun for a few hours. I was happy enough working and writing the play, but I knew it was only going to be a play that would last two hours. There are a lot of plays and films that I see and I'm delighted to spend two hours with ... I'm delighted to spend two hours with Ken Kesey's McMurphy ('One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest'), but I would hate in my real life to spend a weekend away with McMurphy. That would be a horror.


Were you satisfied with the film version of 'The Last Of The Knucklemen'?

I thought it was quite an interesting film. No playwright is ever going to be satisfied with a film because he works in the restrictions of the stage and is conscious of the restrictions of the stage. The film maker has to take it outside to expand it because the camera can't remain stationary for long periods of time.


After the huge success of 'The Last Of The Knucklemen' you staged 'Shindig' which while a commercial success, received a mauling from the critics.

'Shindig' had played to 98% capacity and word of mouth was good but the critics were almost unanimous in saying it was a flawed play, which it was looking back on it. The main flaw being there was action taking place off stage which was more interesting than what was going on on stage and people's attention was divided. It was a silly mistake.


One of the larger newspapers carried a front page line about the play saying their critic was unhappy about 'Shindig'. How did that type of adverse publicity affect you?

It was hurtful and I guess it made me somewhat les interested in writing again immediately for the theatre.


It knocked your confidence ...

I suppose reading bad reviews ... reading tough reviews where critics say it shouldn't have been put on, you kind of recoil a bit. A sense of embarrassment. During rehearsals the cast and director lost confidence in the play so that set me out frantically re-writing. I think we should have stuck with the play as it was rather than tinker with it.


Were the changes voluntary on your part?

A writer writing for the theatre, or any of the performing arts, has of necessity to realise that actors and directors are creative people themselves and they want input. You do have to work around this thing and a lot of improvements suggested are really quite helpful ... some writers will not change a word, and they would be very much better to be short story writers and novelists than playwrights.


In most of your plays the setting has been in the outback, the bush, as opposed to the urban landscape. Are our real values found in the outback?

No. I don't think the real values of Australians are found there. I think they are probably in the houses of Doncaster, Forest Hills and the city suburbs. I think the real values are in our family lives. But as a playwright I'm not necessarily interested in a Glen Waverley dentist.... he wouldn't be suitable for my purposes as a dramatic character.... Nice people being nice to other nice people is not dramatic and a dramatist has nowhere to go with material like that ... it is much easier to work with rough hewn people who are instinctive and also create a story. I loved the vernacular which I suppose was why those plays were such a joy to write..


What inspired you to write 'Shindig'?

I went to Lightning Ridge and I was fascinated by the energy and vigour of the miners, particularly the young who seemed to be such wonderful looking people with their young wives and girlfriends. Such vigour and colour in them ... I just thought it was what Australia was all about. I was given the seed of the story by the guy who was actually driving the bus ... there is just a huge enjoyment of life up there and adventure, they're not worried about getting into a job that's got a superannuation scheme. They're just out there chancing their lives on digging into the earth for opal and making a living out of that. It's something I wouldn't have the guts to do and I found it admirable.

Would that be because most of your working life has been spent in relatively secure employment? Have you wanted to live a different life to what you actually had?

It would require me to be a different human being to what I actually am. Writers do I guess lead an imaginary fantasy life. I don't think I was denied that sort of an adventure. I don't think I would have been necessarily wanting to do it. But imaginatively I think it's fascinating and imaginatively I can live for a time with people who do live differently than I do. I love my family, friends, and the students I teach, but I wouldn't be telling the truth if I said I find them absolutely pole-axing in their vitality and individuality. The problem you get as a teacher is that there is a kind of sameness about the new year intake of students. They all don't leap out. It's why I was so interested in Ron Barassi. What makes this charismatic man work? What is there about him, the things he said. For many years Barassi epitomised the rugged Australianness that people admired when I was young.


Is Barassi the 'Last Of The Knucklemen'?

In the season I was with him he certainly felt something like the pressure to survive that probably Tarzan felt. They were both fighting for survival. Barassi wouldn't necessarily have been fired if he didn't win the Grand Final that year but the pressure on him to succeed ... I suppose there were similarities between he and Tarzan, yeah.


You have a pre-occupation with success, to win, what drives people. One of your books ('Winning!') consisted entirely of quotations designed to motivate and inspire. What's behind that pre-occupation?

I suppose because I probably needed a lot of help to inspire myself in years when I felt insecure with myself in endeavouring to be a writer ... to write a play, to write a book, a factual book, it needs a lot of confidence that you have the ability to do it, that you can create something of your imagination that deserves people's money ... I have to stoke a sense of self belief in the importance of keeping going and perseverance. Therefore I admire the sources, those who have overcome the odds.


Who are those sources for you?

Herb Elliott, and almost all writers. I admire hugely all writers who have achieved something or attempted to achieve something. It is always against the odds. Sportsmen, human beings who perform some task or skill perfectly well. I wish I had been a champion sportsman but obviously I couldn't ... I was slow, I couldn't run fast. I admire writers, great composers, just the sheer creative genius of Mozart and Schubert is quite stunning.


One of the themes that seems to run through your work is that of being tested, the physical, in order to be someone or prove something you have to test yourself, to compete.

I don't think writers set out to prove a theme. I think they set out to write a story ... I've always set out to write stories because I've been interested in the characters of the situation has interested me. In 'The Coach' it set out to be about Barassi and his team trying to be the season's champions but fundamentally it was about human endeavour rather than competition ... you find out by being there as often as you can to see how he works under pressure be it with conflicts with the administration, the players. Hew did he react? How did he behave? As a writer you have the pressure of wondering whether what you write will be acceptable. A Japanese writer several years ago committed suicide. He left a note saying he could no longer face the blank page everyday. There is this continual testing for a writer. Do you have anything interesting to say? You are under pressure all the time as a writer to say interesting things.


Barassi claims not to have been a naturally gifted footballer. He claims it was determination that got him there.

That may well be the case. I think Barassi did by his utmost endeavour reach a high standard. I see it in young writers that I teach. You can have talent but not the drive. You have to apply yourself.


Do you write every day?

When I am writing a major project I write every day. Beginning a project is hard for everybody I think. I at least give myself 4-5 hours something like that. Just sit there and go at it. I think a writer who wants to get a fair amount of work done should write every day.


How do you go about the writing process.

I've always tried to have a separate room, although in the early years I shared a study in the bedroom. My wife was very considerate, she'd come in very quietly to bed with a book and read and not interrupt. But subsequent to that I've always had a special room where I've had an old manual ... I don't want to go on to word processors. If I am going well I like to thump the keys quite hard. It's a physical thing and tippety-tap on the word procesor, it doesn't suit me.


Your wife obviously supported you...

She was very supportive ... she always looked at my work and gave me her opinion. I tried not to give her anything until it was as finished as I could get it. She was very honest and very concrete in what she said, which could be discouraging. I think writers have to be very careful not to show people things at a stage when they are vulnerble ... a negative response tends to make you negative and you abandon it. Then later you realise you should not have done that, but gone ahead with it. That is very agonising when you realise you should have backed your instinct and then someone else comes through with something very similar which is successful.


'The Second Story' is your most recent play which won the 1990 Wal Cherry award. You moved away from Australia and ocker language into the land of classical myths and universal themes....

It was mainly that I saw a hell of a good story about Homer, in a crisis situation. To me it is a play about human resilience rather than about classical literature.


There is that human resilience theme again...

I suppose I do fundamentally believe that a lot of the revealing stuff about human beings comes from operating under pressure. If you put human beings under pressure you will find out a great deal more about them than you will if they're relaxed. In a presure cooker situation, survival situation, you behave instinctively and behave probably honestly. If you're a bastard then you'll come out a bastard. If you're worthwhile or noble, that nobility will come through when you handle the pressure cooker. I think that is what drama is largely about.


Could 'The Second Story' have been set in contemporary Australia and not during the time of the Odyssey?

I don't know. It didn't occur to me to do it that way. I thought here was someone in a presure situation and I just read up on Homer who I thought was fascinating, an interesting character. On the other hand it has not appealed to professional commercial management. Writers I think say "this fascinates me" and they do it. If you think entirely of the dollars ... it was not a conscious and deliberate attempt by me to get back to classical literature.


Was this an attempt to escape some of the critics who have looked at you as an ocker writer?

No, no. That wasn't a consideration.


You are seen as an anti-naturalist writer. Your writing is not based on your own life, you don't see writing from your own experience as being worthwhile.

I prefer creating imginary worlds with people who combine some elements of myself and express thoughts I might have. Or family and friends and so forth. I think there would be quite a bit of myself in everthing I have written but it would not be identifiable with myself as for instance David Williamson is sometimes identifiable as a central character in a David Williamson play ... I have no inclination to write that form of literature. A lot of novelists, for instance, never get outside of their own heads. They are always in a world that they are perceiving. I don't have anything against it ... it's not the way my imagination works. It may be that I don't see myself as a very interesting human being. I see other people as much more interesting. It probably explains why I write a lot of factual material rather than plays.


What do you see as imaginative?

Creating worlds that haven't really existed. Gerald Murnane uses the expression, I don't quite understand it, of true fiction ... but a lot of writers are esentially writing autobiography all the time. They're just slightly modifying their experiences of sex, drugs and travel. And that can be legitimate literature. I guess when I do see the autobiographical writers, unless they use great humour like Williamson, I find it fairly boring. This is not magical. If it's just straight autobiographical narrative or stage or film fiction, I feel it often lacks the magic of the quality of the imagination.


What do you feel about 'Waiting for Godot'?

I admire it as writing, but I don't find it great theatre. I've never seen it in the theatre without feeling it was tedious. It is not story telling which I am fundamentally excited about. I am impressed by it but I don't like it very much.


Why do you use the old Aristotelian plot as the model for your plays?

Because I think that is the way human beings tell stories most effectively. They set up a conflict that has to be resolved in the first Act, the second Act is where everthing gets more intense and in the final or third Act everything is resolved for better or worse.... That's a pattern of storytelling that human beings have responded to for thousands of years. If you have a beginning, middle and an end it will work ... it satisfies a desire for order. It is like the Aristotelian theme of life. We are born, we reach our peak and then we decline and die. We don't go to the theatre to be made more confused.


You seem to prefer the happy ending.

In my stories there is always survival rather than goodness. I have not worked with stories that necessarily have to have tragic endings. The sort of plays, films, novels, stories I most enjoy probably do have an affirmation that life is worth living. That effort is worthwhile. That effort can ... in many respects be rewarded.


Turning fifty was a big moment in your life.

I was very unhappy at turning fifty. My elder daughter very kindly sat with me and we really hit the booze. I didn't like the omens of it at all. I thought maybe the best I could do was behind me. It may be so.


What were the omens you didn't like?

When I went to England in the mid 1960s Sir Allen Lane who was the founder and managing director of Penguin, told me that he believed that between the ages of thirty and fifty people operated at their maximum. I was thirty-one at the time and on that basis he brought me and my family over to England as he believed he would get twenty good years out of me. I thought about it all the time ... most people don't know enough in their twenties to really write full scale works of literature or writing ... from thirty to fifty I think is when you're really firing and that's when if you've got something of interest to say you'll be able to say it.


Eight years later, have you been thwarted in your writing because of what Sir Allen Lane told you?

No, I wrote 'The Second Story' when I was solidly in my fifties and I think it's a bloody good play ... Ibsen didn't write any of his great plays until he was in his sixties; on the other hand Shakespeare died at fifty-two, Mozart died at thirty-five. Schubert was dead at thirty-one. I think after fifty anything you do creatively of merit - you're bloody lucky. Thirty to fifty is when you do your best stuff.


You've mentioned David Williamson a lot during this interview. What do you think of him, and who are the playwrights you admire?

I hugely admire Williamson. He always delivers and gives you a very good night at the theatre. I like Michael Gurr's 'Sex Diary of an Infidel'. But I think the most talented playwright working at the moment is an American, David Mamet, who concentrates on an under class of American people....


Are writing courses a good thing for writers?

Yes. At these courses you have a community of writers, a lot of people who feel the same way about the value of writing. And that can be very nourishing, very helpful for those who would otherwise feel isolated, particularly the creative writer. What does a non-writer know? You go into a back room and type and are not taken seriously. Whereas here at Toorak you are taken seriously and you have the confidence to sit around and talk with other writers, and hopefully getting good instruction from writers who have been there and done that in television, the stage, in novels ... that can be helpful for young writers finding their way.


How do you rate yourself as a writer?

I think I've done a few things that have been worthwhile and satisfying. I think I succeeded a few times in doing what I set out to do. And now I hope to still do more. I rather wish that I had been more productive as a writer. One of my worries is that I haven't finally produced a body of work. I've written plays and books but not enough of either of them. Still, I'm proud of a few of the things that I've done, but I don't think I've done enough as yet to be an icon of any sort.


Do you have any thoughts on the Australian language or dialect of 1993, as compared to twenty years ago when you were writing 'The Last Of The Knucklemen'?

When I listen now to newsreels of the thirties through to the fifties and I hear these Australian voices and the twang of the Australian accent, the colloquailisms, the little Australianisms in the speech - I think that has now largely vanished. The similes and the colour that I think was there has gradually been eroded by American television and constant exposure to American and British film and so forth ... we're multi-cultural now and if you read richly Australian writing such as 'Summer Of The Seventeenth Doll', 'The One Day Of The Year' and I guess 'The Last Of The Knucklemen' ....

I think you would say that there is a risk now that the Australian language is becoming flattened out and pallid and our conversations lack a distinctiveness ... I just worry that we will wind up as a nation being without singularity in our articulation of our thoughts and particularly in our humour. So much of the greatness of the Australian language of the forties and fifties was the wonderful colour in vernacular. We talked in a coded language. We were as distinctive as the Irish are.


I think a similar thing has happened with our clothing, particularly with our youth wearing American football T shirts and baseball caps. We seem to be losing our identity.

That's right. Culturally, that is one of the major tasks of the new generation of Australian writers, to get something of that back. To define what is uniquely us and to sort of bring it up again. Perhaps the whole escalation of multi-culturalism, and the shrinking world in which everybody goes abroad and we get so many visitors, means that we've lost some of that parochialism that made us unique. Nobody wants us to get back to the Chips Rafferty Australia, but we don't want to be blotting paper either.

Foreigners didn't understand Australian language in the forties, and I think we are now in danger of being polite, articulate non-entities lacking any distinctiveness that would separate us from polite, educated, well-meaning sort of people from anywhere else in the world. Just look at the film 'Riff Raff' - their talk, it's funny talk, it's vulgar a lot of it but it has got a lot of energy. When I hear young Australians talking and one says, "Oh, man ..." I wonder what that expression has got to do with us? We've lost our language. The children of today use American television language, not the literary language, and a lot of it is doubly insidious because it is black American. The black American language is excellent for black Americans, but "Oh, man" sounds absurd coming from an Australian, because it's not only from a different nation but from a sub-culture within that nation. So I think that's sad. What's happened to Australianisms? Have we lost our language?

(Interview first appeared in Famous Reporter 11, April 1993).