Gough Whitlam took my breath away...literally
THEO GIANTSOS looks back on his ‘wonder years’ and how the presence of Whitlam at the launch of a Greek Orthodox church floored him.
It was probably the summer of 1973 or 1974. Excitement was in the air. I had discovered nudity and the opposite sex, in the guise of Belinda Giblin, courtesy of television’s The Box.
All these gorgeous women were taking their clothes off, left, right and centre, whether it was on Alvin Purple, Number 96 or The Box.
The only person not taking his clothes off was Brian Cadd the singer-songwriter whose under-rated melodies were everywhere like, Ginger Man or Let Go.
They were high times for the Greek Orthodox Church and the Greek community. After 25 years of migration the Greeks were building churches, halls and most importantly they had a new patron saint, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.
One day my folks threw me and my baby sister in the backseat of dad’s 1970 Ford Falcon station wagon, (I’m still in therapy over the fact that the old man sold that car), and we headed off to Dandenong, for the dedication and opening of a new church.
Dad got the manual column-shift happening, stuck a Benson and Hedges in his mouth and off we headed for the big ceremony in the sweltering heat.
None other than the Great Man, St. Gough Whitlam, was going to anoint the new church.
The big black limo rolled up to the Church and approximately 2,500 Greeks expected to witness three loaves of bread turn into 10,000 loaves of bread.
St. Gough got out of the limo and made his way into the packed, heat-stifling church while about a dozen nine or ten year old kids, including yours truly, were given the dubious honour of each holding a brightly flamed, over-sized white candle.
I’ve disgraced my family so many times as the designated black sheep, but as soon as St. Gough had done his thing in the church and began walking back out towards his car, 10-year-old Theo Giantsos blacked-out and fell over as if he’d been king hit by a Phil Carman coat-hanger.
Thank God for my beautiful, blonde godmother, Noula, a truly decent and attractive woman originating from Thessaloniki.
I will be forever grateful for how she, revived me with something akin to loukoumia, (Turkish delights), while in the barely audible distance, my mother could be heard thanking God I was alive.
I don’t think we Greeks have a Day of Atonement - if we do, can someone please tell me because I’ve let down a lot of people over the years and one of the people who deeply cared for me, as a kid, was Noula.
The coda to this story is that about 20 or so years later I drove to Dad’s house, picked him up, went to dinner and we both then went to personally meet and greet Gough at a book signing and lecture at the Athenaeum Theatre.
It never occurred to me to take my godmother along, too….
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