‘My friend and I travelled more than 900km to see a penis’

Jul 19, 2019
Robyn and her friend travelled from Brisbane to Sydney to see the musical 'Hair' in 1969. Source: Getty Images

As a 17-year-old in 1969, ‘Give Me A Head With Hair’ meant nudity, bad language, drug references, free love and an anti-Vietnam war stance. Now, as a follicly challenged, hair-thinning 67-year-old, the lyrics have an added meaning; that of a caring and loving dad; my dad.

It is 50 years since the late Harry M. Miller’s production of Hair opened in Sydney, Australia. It was irreverent, disrespectful, blasphemous, mocking, and it had a nude scene, a full frontal nude scene!

For two respectable Queensland Catholic penis-ignorant girls, my BFF and I decided, at 17 and 18 years respectively, we needed more than just a fleeting glance of one at the movies, we needed to see a real-live penis; see what all the fuss was about. The fact the music had been banned in Queensland made it all so much more appealing. We worked at a Brisbane radio station, so black-market vinyl was no problem. The penis thing was just a happy happenstance, truly.

My friend had just bought her first car, a two-door Honda Scamp; a sewing machine on wheels. Sydney was approximately 915 kilometres away. With a teeny-tiny new car, hardly any driving experience and being short on cash, we, very maturely and with much deep thought, decided … Road trip! As they say in the classics, what could possibly go wrong?!

Both of us still lived at home, both sets of parents were horrified, but one look in our determined eyes revealed a ‘we’re-working-now’, no-compromise attitude.

My dad had obviously decided on a pragmatic approach as he gave us road statistics, the two-hour rest rule, the speed limit is there for a reason talk, noticed and replaced the missing spare tyre, loaded us down with all manner of maps (even inner Sydney guides, pfft!), sandwiches, fruit cake and, embarrassingly, a thermos of tea. On’ya Dad.

The Pacific Highway in 1969 was curiously and surprisingly not car friendly. There were twists and turns, surprise hills and valleys, very few passing lanes and lots of trucks and road trains. Dad impressed on us, this was a tiring two-day journey; best stop at Coffs Harbour, New South Wales. (We were sure we could make Sydney in one day!)

Departure day dawned. We had packed the car the night before and excitedly took off from Brisbane by 6:30am, music blaring and the car seat dancing began; ‘Good Morning Starshine’.

The highway single lanes meant we experienced frustrating traffic jams, an over-heating breakdown and endless road works (‘What a Piece of Work is Man’). We were exhausted by 7:45am and not a petrol station in sight. Breaking out the sambos and tea on a picnic table on the banks of a no-name river felt like a soul-sister betrayal of the ‘Frank Wright’ struggle and not at all like the dawning of the ‘Age of Aquarius’, but, as needs must. Thanks Dad.

We limped into Coffs at about 7pm, quietly slipped into a caravan park (didn’t pay), reclined both seats and were asleep within a few minutes.

What the heck? Who’s blowing that horn in the middle of the night? It’s me, I’m blowing that horn; my foot is stuck between the outer and inner rim of the steering wheel. Quick exit. Sleeping in the car in that truckies lay away didn’t worry us one bit.

Entering Sydney traffic scared the s**t out of us though (“Where go I go?!). We found our way to my friend’s aunt’s place in the northern beaches (Dad’s maps), she fed us and we fell into bed, exhausted. Next day (July 12, 1969) all we had to do was find the Metro Theatre at Kings Cross and parking. I’ll not diminish your intelligence by detailing the utter stupidity and casualness with which we approached the logistical nightmare that was and is Sydney traffic/parking. Just know we made it to the theatre in one piece (Dad’s maps) and sat breathlessly anticipating adding another piece to our womanly jigsaw puzzle that was the male body.

Ho-bloody-hum. That was it? That’s what all the fuss was about? No, I’m not penis bashing, I’m talking about the full frontal nude scene that lasted for about 2 minutes and was back-lit. Back-lit! We couldn’t see a damn thing, just blurry, shadowy, indistinct shapes that added nothing to our book of knowledge.

My friend and I matured on that wonderful trip, but not in the way we planned.

‘Preparing’ for our trip back to Brisbane saw us filling our thermos and packing sandwiches. Although we didn’t foresee the flat tyre half way home, we knew we were prepared with a spare in the back. Somehow that now seemed more important than penis-knowledge. Thanks Dad.

Did you take a road trip growing up? What did you go to see? Have you seen the musical, Hair?

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