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'Vomit, violence, tabloid architecture…'

Author: • Mar 11th, 2008 •

Category: architecture, Australia, Ballardosphere, celebrity culture, fascism, media landscape, micronations, psychology, sport, television, urban revolt

Ballardian: Sam Newman

The house that Sam built … from Pam.

MelbPsy gets all Atrocity Exhibition on Sam Newman’s ass house:

“As he stood beneath the fractured, glacial stare of Pamela Anderson, her linear geometry echoed a television howl. Vomit, violence, tabloid architecture. Was this, he wondered, the denouement of the French Revolution?”

For those outside of Australia, Newman is a local type, an ex-footballer who built a new career out of being an all-purpose media boor. So the script goes, nothing is beyond him, whether it’s allegedly monstering pregnant women in supermarkets or, yes, erecting a larger-than-life facade of Pamela Anderson (“we’re just good friends,” says Sam) to breast his inner-city property.

MelbPsy’s ironic appropriation of the Atrocity aesthetic is completely appropriate, then, given that book’s concern with irradiated images of celebrity culture beamed aloft on 400ft-high billboards:

“He recognized the woman from the billboards he had seen near the hospital — the screen actress, Elizabeth Taylor Pammy Anderson. Yet these designs were more than enormous replicas. They were equations that embodied the relationship between the identity of the film actress and the audiences who were distant reflections of her. The planes of their lives interlocked at oblique angles, fragments of personal myths fusing with the commercial cosmologies. The presiding deity of their lives, the film actress provided a set of operating formulae for their passage through consciousness.”

JGB, Atrocity, 1970.

Ballardian: Sam Newman

Sam Newman: “Most people are wankers…”

In Atrocity, when the main character erects mindscapes and celebrity billboards, he’s using the radiation of the media landscape against itself in order to clear autonomous zones — “neural intervals” — ready for inscription by brand-new auratic powers…

…while Newman has been run over by his girlfriend in her car (giving him a broken leg and ankle) and has been beaten up by an ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend (giving him a broken nose). Yet Sam has used these highly publicised sexual pecadilloes to create his own independent nation, the United State of Sam, seceding from Australia on the back of its strident Constitution, customised and retooled from all that negative publicity and now reoccupying and re-broadcasting across all media:

“Most people you meet are wankers, pure and simple. Women are schemers, men are liars. That is all you have to remember … I’m just about the only heterosexual left in my street. I’m thinking of leaving the country before being gay becomes compulsory. I like women. Just remember they are schemers.”

Sammy, 2003.

He has been punched out not once but twice by separate footballers live on air, and is renowned for his trademark phrase, “You idiot,” hurled indiscriminately at the public — at mental defectives, immigrants, grannies, junkies, any old trash — while doing his roving “Street Talk” segments for The Footy Show, the sport-hooligan fest that made his TV name and on which he appeared in blackface after Aboriginal footballer Nicky Winmar failed to make his scheduled slot. He has more enemies than Max Gogarty, yet remains a wildly popular and highly paid celebrity.

According to this puffpiece, he serves an all-purpose role, functioning equally as virtual gigolo and cathartic release for the pent-up violence of ordinary lives:

“No small part of Newman’s attractiveness to women (and make no mistake about it, Sam Newman has a good deal to do with “The Footy Show”‘s enormous popularity with women, who watch it in greater numbers than do men), is the impression he conveys of being a man who does not lose his temper. This is a man you can thump in the chest, reprimand, tease — without risking being hit. And this is a man you can flirt with, show your legs to (as did one elderly woman in a notable “Street Talk” segment), without fear that he will “lose control.”

Sam does not “control” himself. Sam calls idiots idiots. It does not really matter (to most of the audience) whether or not they are idiots, whether or not Sam has quoted them or represented them fairly. It matters that someone says what he bloody well reckons. Those without Sam’s license (women, for instance) can enjoy this vicariously.”

If you’ve read Kingdom Come, which of course charts The Rise and Fall of TV hack David Cruise and his Minders from Staines, Sam might be sounding familiar by now:

“It was tuned to the Metro-Centre cable channel, and showed an afternoon discussion programme transmitted from the mezzanine studio. The suntanned face of David Cruise dominated everything, and covered the proceedings like a cheap but over-bright lacquer. He was smiling and affable, but faintly hostile, like a bullying valet. Perhaps people in the motorway towns liked to be shouted at.”

“‘So David Cruise is the führer? He’s fairly benign.’

‘He’s a nothing. He’s a “virtual” man without a real thought in his head. Consumer fascism provides its own ideology, no one needs to sit down and dictate Mein Kampf. Evil and psychopathy have been reconfigured into lifestyle statements. It’s a fearful prospect, but consumer fascism may be the only way to hold a society together. To control all that aggression, and channel all those fears and hates.'”

“Cruise’s obsessions and sexual hang-ups were the compass-dance of a demented king bee, guiding the hive to a destination it had already chosen. His chat-show act, based on scripts I tailored around him, might be a performance, but it validated the hunger and restlessness of his audience. The housewives mailing their photographs to him were performing rituals of assent, expressing their longing for a faith beyond politics.”

“David Cruise casually referred to the ‘enemy’, a term kept deliberately vague that embraced Asians and east Europeans, blacks, Turks, non-consumers and anyone not interested in sport.”

“‘One thing David Cruise had was an unlimited supply of enemies. That was part of his strategy. You know that, Richard. You planned it that way.'”

All quotes, Ballard, Kingdom Come, 2006.

Oh yes. Now I remember how Kingdom Come ends…

Ballardian; Sam Newman

Our man David Cruise in his latest campaign… Photo courtesy Metro-Centre.

..:: Previously on Ballardian:
+ Melborea Moronica: New ‘Depraved Species of Electric Flora’ Found Growing in Melbourne, Australia
+ The Rats that Ate Mill Park
+ The Drought: Water Vigilantes
+ John Howard: The Conspiracy of Grey Men

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One Response »

  1. Sam Newman’s open-phone all-answering trope reminds me of the excellent phone answering greeting the great (and bitter, pessimistic, misanthropic, alcoholic, opposite-sex-distrusting) American writer Dorothy Parker. Whenever her phone rang, she would pick it up and say: ” What fresh Hell is THIS?” I’m thinking of adopting this myself.

    For a time, I would always answer my phone with something calculated to throw the caller back on their heels – I would pick up and immediately say in a sepulchral voice “House of Wax”…. or sometimes just a snappy, self-confident: “Hall of Science!” I thought that was suitably Ballardian & surreal…(This got me in trouble with one of my employers once…but he was a bastard anyway.) But every time my phone rings I still think “What fresh Hell is THIS?”

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