The Ballroom

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“A book written about St Kilda’s seedy past by Dolores San Miguel; Seaview Ballroom’s first entrepreneur – a review”

Reviewed by Louise Avery

St Kilda Writer, yoga teacher, digital marketer and dog whisperer

 

Dolores San Miguel was St Kilda’s it-girl and rock entrepreneur before entrepreneurialism was even a hipster thing.

Her book The Ballroom documents her life through every scene that mattered in Melbourne; from screaming her head off at a Beatles gig, to the heady heyday of the glorious grand dame of St Kilda live venues the Seaview Ballroom; where she booked bands and promoted events from 1978 onwards.

The identity of this iconic venue evolved when she spotted an opportunity to run gigs, booking everyone including her friends, crushes and then husband. If you weren’t booked then you must not have been there for the late 70’s to the 80’s when she was, almost exclusively, running the show at the Ballroom.

We discover, through Dolores’ detailed account, a rich hive of bands, music and mayhem through which she delivered many debutante bands. From Nick Cave laconically hanging off the Ballroom’s grandiose staircase, holding court with a trail of adoring women to Paul Kelly, or Hunters and Collectors in their art school period, and many more who are now part of our music lexicon.

She documents the seedy and the inspired. If you have seen the film Dogs in Space that pretty much sums up her world during that period and was actually based on a real life story.

I found the name listing (dropping) a little confusing. Sort of like Games of Thrones if you only discovered it in the second series. Particularly where she lists all the band members, how everyone knew each other and, depressingly, the disproportionate number who have since died as opposed to moving on to bigger things. But her memory and her attention to detail are admirably thorough; I have trouble remembering who I went out with last week for coffee.

I myself missed out on the Ballroom days as I arrived in Melbourne just as that particular party was kicking out.

I was more a 90’s St Kilda player. When there were still many people hanging around the pubs fondly reminiscing about the days of the Ballroom, but far enough away from its 70’s and 80’s heyday to realise I had missed out on a musical epoch that may never be seen again.

Dolores work records the mechanics, the creativity, the sadness and humour, as well as the  incestuousness of a scene that brought musicians, poets, punks, writers and artists together to create a truly original Australian version of punk and other independent music of the era, which flourished in St Kilda at the time.

Her book showed that, at the very least, she is a gutsy female protagonist in what was a very blokey world (but could have done with a little more proofreading).

If you are looking for a read that quite literally catalogues the stories of St Kilda’s rich rock underbelly, then this is for you.

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