Serge’s Column

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Hello again, dear SKN groovers!

St Kilda News’ 1st birthday celebration at the Memorial Hall was a truly wonderful night. It was a very enjoyable evening, made more so by the fact that it was a celebration of a community paper with a sense of purpose, which gave the party a special atmosphere. As I said on the night, I was extremely pleased to be there because I think that St Kilda News has become such an important part of our village. And the large number of people who attended the party shows that I am not the only one that thinks so.

SKN is a community paper. It’s owned, written and designed by and for the community. St Kilda residents seem to love it and it is wonderful to see each issue fly off the stands! Perhaps part of its popularity can be attributed to the fact that readers of this paper feel that they can make an active contribution to it; that they are not just passive consumers of it. I think this is important. Contributing to a local newspaper adds to the feeling of community involvement and to a feeling of pride in the place in which one lives. I hope this publication will become a St Kilda icon and I am very happy to be part of the project. I hope for many more birthdays!
This month I want to pay tribute to another St Kilda icon; one that, sadly, passed away recently: the legendary Renée Scott – glamourous cross-dressing artist, knockout Prince of Wales barmaid and all-round St Kilda character.

Renée, as title of The Age obituary, written by Simon Hughes and Michael Carman, claims: “…was the show that St Kilda loved.” As the obituary goes on to say:

‘Scott, who has died of a heart attack at her apartment in St Kilda, was born Raymond Kenneth Brown…[He] began his working life as a carpenter, wielding a hammer on building sites. The moment of revelation came when he was exposed to the Les Girls Revue, the cross-dressing extravaganza at the Ritz Hotel in Fitzroy Street. “This is The Show”, screamed the neon light, with capital letters spelling out the featured attraction. In true Lou Reed style, Ray shaved his legs, and then he was a she – with some medical adjustments. But she always maintained: “I’ve got my mother’s features and my father’s fixtures.’

I only met Renée a couple of years ago, when I was doing research for a photographic exhibition that I called “St Kilda Living Legends.” I was looking for “lesser known” legends, and a friend of mine introduced me to her at the Prince of Wales bar. I asked her whether she would like to be photographed for the exhibition, and she agreed.

She seemed a very shy person with a very gentle demeanour. She appeared awkward when I photographed her, as though she wasn’t comfortable with the idea of having her picture taken. I made it a very quick shoot because I felt that she wasn’t enjoying it. Her shyness and reticence surprised me, seeing that she had spent so much of her professional life on a stage, being looked at by the public.

She intrigued me. During our photo sessions, I wanted to ask her more about herself and her life, but my own shyness prevented me from doing so. It’s probably just as well. I get the feeling she may not have wanted to reveal too much about her past.

The most important thing to come out of the photo shoot was that she liked the pictures – and I was happy with that, especially as they were the last photos taken of her.

Oh, and she loved dogs. French Poodles in particular – hers and everyone else’s.

Renée received three standing ovations at her funeral. That’s a testament to her popularity. Though I am sorry to say that not everyone shared that view. A couple of weeks after her death, someone set fire to her apartment, which destroyed all of her belongings. Luckily, a friend of Renée’s had some photographs of her that were able to be used as a visual tribute to her at the funeral.

I have already been told that we need to find another lane to name after her. We will run out of them soon!

I’ll finish with a couple of commercial breaks:

The City of Port Phillip will be taking part in the 2012 Garage Sale Trail, which will take place on Saturday, May 5th. If you haven’t heard of The Garage Sale Trail, it is a project undertaken by a number of councils around Australia to encourage their residents to hold garage sales in their houses, community halls and churches, on the same day, in order to raise money for charitable causes. If you’re interested, you’ll need to register. You can check out the details on www.garagesaletrail.com.au. or the City of Port Phillip website.

So, why not get involved? Hold a garage sale. It will give you an opportunity to pass on some of your goods to a better home and to de-clutter your house. And even if you don’t hold a garage sale of your own, why not check out the sales in your area? You might find a rare item or a bargain, you’ll be contributing to a worthy cause and you will stay in touch with your neighbours. You might even meet some new ones.

And, just around the corner, is the St Kilda film Festival. It runs from the 22nd to the 27th of May. There will be 100 short films screened at the Palais and Astor theatres, as well as seminars and conferences about the film industry. Don’t miss it.

Until next month, good citizens, when I intend to write about one of my favorite topics: the St Kilda Triangle. Keep in touch, and keep the feedback and suggestions coming.

À bientôt

By Serge Thomann

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