Some of Adelaide’s most prolific party-goers reminisce about the nights they’ll never forget – and the ones they wish they could. From camels, to cream pies, to Kylie, these shows went down in history.
Oh, what a night! Adelaide’s legendary parties
Former co-director of high-profile advertising agency KWP!
“The most legendary party was an advertising industry bash called ‘All White on the Night’ in 1981. It was held at the Old Lion and was put on by the Adelaide Art Directors Club, but famous event organiser Phyllis Southgate was instrumental in putting it together.
“By today’s standards, it was the first of its kind. There had been advertising industry awards nights before but this was a real party. Well-known Adelaide photographer Bernie Van Elsen rode in on a camel, dressed in white robes. And that was just the beginning.
“Some of the guests included Idris Jones, who ran Grapevine Studios, actor Brenton Whittle and newsreader Roger Cardwell. Idris and I did a floorshow, a ‘Revival Meeting’. Amongst the songs, there was the outing of ‘sinners’ in the industry, lots of loud amens, shaking of tambourines and plenty of one-liners. One of my one-liners to a person who will remain nameless caused him to not talk to me for years. I managed to insult quite a few.
“This party really set a benchmark in a way; everyone talked about it for years.”
Bernie Van Elsen
Photographer and “the man on the camel”.
“We had just done a shoot for Mitsubishi. There was no budget to do it in the desert so we got a few palm trees and some camels and shot it on the South Coast. I said to the camel guy, ‘We’ve got this party coming up, it would be great to be a guy sitting on a camel riding into the party’, and he said, ‘I can arrange that’.
“So, he brought the camel down and I remember asking, ‘It’s not going to make a mess all over the place is it?’. Anyway, the camel was kneeling down, we were in the bottle shop section of the pub. I got on and it stood up but the beams of the bottle shop were rather low so I banged my head.
“Then we had to work out how to get it through the door. So, we got it to kneel down again and pushed it through the door, then I mounted it again and the crowd was roaring. The camel stole the show.
“Next thing I know, it made a mess all over the floor. So, I got off and it flicked me with its tail, which was covered in crap. I had an imprint from neck to knee of camel poo. [Model agent] Tanya Powell came running up and gave me a hug – I was covered in crap. She said ‘This is a $250 dress!’, and I said, ‘Not anymore’.
“Bobby Francis was the emcee and I won a prize for something; a pig from the butcher over the road. I saw it once but I never saw it again. It was just a good time in the advertising industry; the whole thing was a hoot.”
Celebrated event organiser in Adelaide for more than 30 years.
“The Lion was the only venue in town that could accommodate large crowds, so that’s where all the parties were held. ‘All White on the Night’ was in the Cabaret Room with about 400 people attending. Because they were all the advertising and media people of the day, they lived on the edge a bit, and partied the same way!
“The whole night was produced around a fake wedding reception, so as guests arrived the bride, groom and full wedding party – who were local drag performers – formed a welcome line to greet guests and then were seated on the stage.
“For the final floor show, all the modelling agencies put on a dance number. The finale was a guy dressed as Frank N Furter from The Rocky Horror Show who emerged from a giant wedding cake and he and all the models did ‘The Time Warp’.
“All the top celebrities from radio and television and advertising were there, and performed skits during the night. I don’t ever remember another time when they were all together like that. They used to be called ‘the RATS’ – Radio and Television identities.
“I also remember a party I organised at the Lion with Ron Tremaine for legendary producer Robert Stigwood, whose parents lived in Adelaide. Robert was the man behind big names such as The Bee Gees and musicals such as Grease, Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar. He was in town and wanted to throw a party for all the kids who worked in the record stores and sold the records of his artists and shows.
“So, I took all of his shows and I themed each room of the Lion, we had an Evita room, a Rydell High room for Grease, and downstairs was a Saturday Night Fever room and in the tunnels under the Lion was the Jesus Christ Superstar room, which was very chilled out and had the smell of the ’70s wafting through.
“This was one of the first events I had put together. I was a very lucky girl in many ways. I was mad enough to do these things without any risk assessment in those days, which you wouldn’t attempt now.”
As the public relations “It” girl for many years, Karyn Foster organised hundreds of Adelaide launches, parties and VIP events.
“I remember the Charlesworth Nuts Media Joke Off in the 1990s was always a great party. Jane Reilly, Ian Doyle, Grant Cameron, Keith Conlon, Paul Makin and many more were there. It was a sit-down lunch at the Parkroyal Hotel. Each media group had to have its own ‘jokester’ who would tell a joke to the crowd and then get clapped or booed. It was sponsored by the bigger-than-Ben-Hur wine personality Peter Lehmann and there was always plenty of great wine flowing.
“I remember holding another event, I think it was the launch of a new Orlando wine at The Grange restaurant. For a bit of fun, we finished things off with a cream pie fight on the Hilton’s tennis court … we totally ruined the court. I think it was about $100,000 worth of damage. Thank God for insurance!
“Fashion shows with George Gross and Harry Who (Watt) were always great turnouts. I remember one year in particular when Carla Zampatti and Prue Acton were involved and we were all at The Hilton where we kicked on.
“I also organised the opening night of The Rocky Horror Show in about 1992 at Sally and Tony Adey’s newly opened Café 48. I borrowed candelabras from Wirra Wirra winery, which dripped red wax all over their sumptuous, custom-designed carpet – which had to be replaced. Another insurance job! That closed the restaurant for several days. Guests included famous faces such as Red Symons, Frankie J Holden, Marcus Graham and producer Paul Dainty.
“At Ayers House we would hold the yearly welcome to the international media who were covering the Grand Prix (’85, ’86, ’87, ’88). Drivers included Nigel Mansell, Keke Rosberg, Alain Prost, plus Carla Zampatti (then Spender), Dean Lukin (freshly minted Olympian), Alan Jones and more. Adelaide celebrity chef at the time, Red Ochre bush tucker man Andrew Fielke, served kangaroo – which was rare in those days – and even witchety grubs that he sourced from his indigenous contacts. We also had ’roos, a koala and snakes in a mini petting zoo and the incomparable axeman David Foster created mini pieces of furniture with a chainsaw in a very dynamic live display. The international media loved this annual event.
“The Bolli Stoli Balls in the early 2000s were also fantastic fun. The first one was themed on the TV show Absolutely Fabulous and in subsequent years they took on wild and crazy themes. There were wheelbarrows of vodka, champagne and oysters, and amazing costumes.
“Back in the day, a party wasn’t a party without the VIP media – newspaper columnists plus celebs such as Jaye Walton, Jeremy Cordeaux and whoever was reading the news and presenting the weather at the time. The social crowd included The Michaels (Angelakis and Keelan), Jan Beasley, Tanya Powell, Martine Blass and their partners, Lyneece and Anthony Schmidt, Anthony and Sylvia Toop, a swathe of Coopers and Haighs, plus politicians who liked to party (not many actually), the Lord Mayor of the time and, if it was someone else’s party, me and whatever husband/date I had.
“They were definitely fun days!”
Paul “PK” Kitching worked at Rip It Up magazine when partying was part of the job description. He’s now with Fuller Brand Communication and still on the social circuit around town.
“I was in my mid-20s in the late 1980s and remember it was all about the ‘It’s The Pitts’ parties for the Grand Prix.
“Kym Scutter was the go-to man and whoever was in town for the Grand Prix was there. It was the who’s-who of events. We’d get dressed up in overalls and pretend we were mechanics and party on with celebrities and actors and more. People such as Peter O’Brien, Andrew Clarke and other famous Australian actors were there.
“The ’80s were also about the infamous toga parties that Kym organised. The first one was at Holdfast Shores, and the second was at the Brickworks Markets. I can remember lots of toga parties in the ’80s actually, and some of the best were at The General Havelock Hotel where, for some unknown reason, the whole pub was filled with sand and everyone wore bed sheets as togas.
“Parties in the early ’90s were all about the big events put on by various nightclubs and promoters, such as Warehouse 1 and 2 that were held in the old East End Produce Markets. This was soon after they were no longer used as fruit and veg markets and before that whole area became apartments. Imagine a massive warehouse behind Rundle Street full of nightclubbers, rave music, live bands and the top DJs flown in from interstate, plus rides, party games and more. These were the first warehouse parties of their kind in Adelaide and run by the popular MC Scotty T (Scott Thompson) and others.
“Then there were the department store fashion parades and the after-parties. I remember kicking on with Poh Ling Yeow, back when she was doing make up for the David Jones parades, way before MasterChef fame. Megan Gale was there as DJs ambassador and it was when she was dating Andy Lee, so Hamish Blake was there too and we all ended up at a crazy after-party upstairs at Distill Bar on Rundle Street. Another memorable one was when Jennifer Hawkins was the Myer ambassador; everyone wanted to be at that party.
“Later, parties were less about going out to big events and more about house parties. One of the biggest and best was at the home of Charlie Hill-Smith. Well-known for creating the popular Rhino Room comedy come nightclub, Charlie held even bigger nights at his house, the Silvermine, in Glen Osmond. These days Charlie is a multi-award-winning film maker, but back in the ’90s, he transformed what was the old Woodley’s Winery, set into the foothills in Glen Osmond, into the ultimate party house, complete with the old tunnels that were originally used as cellars.
“There was one in particular that was the stuff of legends. It was 1999 and Charlie was working on the Australian film Sample People starring Kylie Minogue, Joel Edgerton and Ben Mendelsohn. Word got out that Charlie was hosting the Sample People wrap party at the Silvermine. Sure enough, when he got home at 9pm there were approximately 1000 people in the house and I was one of them, and Kylie was another. Charlie had to call the Rhino Room to get three security guards to come to his house. The place was so packed that I ended up drinking out of a gravy boat as that’s all I could find in the kitchen. Even to this day when I mention the Silvermine, people from back then will say, ‘Ah yes, that Kylie party’.”
The party planning guru, operating under the name Beaver Promotions, organised legendary bashes of the ’80s and ’90s. However, behind all the fun, there was a benevolent motive.
“I did the first toga party in about 1985 at Holdfast Shores Sailing Club on New Year’s Eve and we pre-sold 700 tickets. It started out as just an extended group of friends and built up from there. I think we did 10 ‘It’s The Pitts’ parties from 1985-1995 and in between we held lots of toga parties as well. For one of these we hired the Ashton Circus tent and we had the tigons (lion/tiger cross) in cages; it was wild. We had to get them taken away at 10pm before the party got too crazy.
“In 1986 we also did the ‘Spot the Comet’ party. We hired The Showboat and launched from Port Adelaide in search of Halley’s Comet. It was bad weather and people were really dressed up but the boat was rocking all over the place. Tracy Bell from Channel Seven did a story on it for some current affairs show at the time. We got off the boat at 3am.
“The parties were a big success, but I mainly started the whole venture because my mother had MS. It was all about having fun as well as raising money for research. People loved to party back then; it was a fun time in life.”
This article first appeared in the November 2021 issue of SALIFE magazine.
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