The funeral was a small thing. But I was really glad we went.
Mike picked me up outside the White Cockatoo and we drove up Parramatta Road. He told me his story – he had helped Richard set up his e-bay business, after a long and involved discussion in the shop one day (Mike is an e-bay powerseller). In return, Richard gave him a vintage childrens’ book. Mike made the mistake of mentioning he might try to sell it on e-bay. Richard hated that – I guess he figured Mike should have cherished that book instead of seeing its potential fiscal value. Mike said he eventually did try to sell that book, and no-one bid on it anyway. He’ll keep it now, I guess.
And I told him my story. I went in to meet Richard during April. I had been tipped off by my friend Keg, and I thought he would be an indispensible link in my Petersham tales.
However, after a few hours talking with him in the shop, I didn’t see how I could possibly work him in – it was all too personal, too confronting. I think I’ll tell that story now.
Richard was passionate about his plan to transform the Rollerskating Rink down the road into a Toy Museum. He dreamed that schools would bus in children from all around to visit his grand museum. And listening to Richard talk, you know, I thought, damn, that WOULD be cool. Kooky, for sure, and dubious on the financials, definitely, but with a bit of council backing, it could be a local curiosity that put Petersham on the map.
But it was the council where Richard got hung up – he had all sorts of conspiracy theories about why they didn’t support his schemes, said he’d been to council meetings and had reason to believe they were going to fund it, but it all fell through in the end. And he also had some nasty things to say about the “Greek Mafia” and so on.
It was after listening to these bits that I felt a bit at a loss as to how to write Richard’s story up on the blog. I got the feeling that Richard harboured some (how to put it?) paranoid delusions… those of you who knew him better, would you agree with this? I hope it’s not disrespectful for me to write that…It’s with a view to understanding him a little better.
I suppose one of the things I felt from the funeral was that none of us had really gotten super close to Richard in the end. And that was sad. An official funeral director presided over the whole thing, and to his credit, it was low key and non-religious. He used poems instead of religious verses to talk about the idea of life after death (the dead live on in our positive thoughts and memories) and these were well meaning, if a little bland. From what I could see, there weren’t any of Richard’s family members present.
Anyway, to finish my story…one of the reasons I had been to visit Richard was at the request of the Petersham Bowling Club – they were planning a broadcast with the ABC, and were looking for local talent. And Richard, apparently, was a Michael Jackson impersonator. Yep, he would have been pretty good for the show – a vintage toy-store-owning Michael Jackson impersonator right here in Petersham. I raised this proposition with him, but he was suss on it – especially the idea that the broadcast could benefit the local council. I didn’t press the issue, I just mentioned that I’d leave it with him and come back with someone from the club to talk more on it later.
A few weeks later, I returned to the store with Georgia from the Bowlo. The shop was shut tight. We tried to knock, we phoned the number on the sign, nothing. I slipped a note under the door. We never heard back from him. Then, at the end of July (over TWO MONTHS LATER!) this article appeared in the Herald.
It’s possible he had been lying there inside his shop, while Georgia and I fussed about on the pavement outside, wondering how we could get in touch with him.
At the funeral, we met a few friends, including Maya, who spoke beautifully about Richard. She said he had told her: “You’ll never meet anyone in your life as interesting as me!” and she thought that was indeed true. In the eighteen months up until he died, Maya had been shooting a doco about him. She’s now looking for folks to come forward and tell their stories. She left a comment here with her contact details.