CeCe live in Gordon St and Ripponlea
Cecilia had been invited to try out for spot on one of ABC 3’s shows. After applying, she was successful in securing an audition at the famous ABC Gordon St Studios. The studios are right next door to the equally famous Ripponlea Estate which for years had been on my list of places to visit.
As we dropped CeCe (Nom de Plume) off and sat in the ABC’s reception, I reflected on my one paid appearance at the same studios. While at university I worked for Wormalds Security and secured a gig as security for one of the countdown shows. I was rapt that I was going to be paid to watch an episode of Countdown live. Rather than my formal blue Wormalds uniform, I was given a black t-shirt to wear. With artists like Mark Holden and Skyhooks performing along with the evergreen Mollie Meldrum, it was a great night with my role simply to stand with crossed arms very still while the bands played and the fans screamed.
Although not a career I pursued, my time as a security guard while studying lead me to many places I would not normally visit. I actually think I have more interesting stories about my guarding experiences than some of my other jobs I have undertaken.
After the show’s production folk came out and gathered up the hopeful stars in waiting, we walked around to the front gates of Ripponlea and as we were buying our tickets we discovered that the lady working in the gatehouse where the café and ticketing was for the estate had lived in Darwin just before Cyclone Tracy in 1972. There was one part of her story that took me back to that time. She mentioned that while awaiting permanent accommodation, she stayed near the theatre in Parap and reflected on the fact that she heard the soundtrack from the movie “Paint Your Wagon” every night during that time.
I can remember sitting in the Parap Theatre watching Paint Your Wagon and being enthralled with the colour, the songs, the screen size and the story. Along with Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang which we watched in the Star Theatre in Darwin’s CBD and Zorba the Greek which we watched at the Paspalis Drive In in Nightcliff, where my Mother worked for a period, these were memorable movies for a pre-teen boy during the time.
Visiting Ripponlea was also a step back in time. Visiting a physical, 3D living breathing snapshot in time that includes a mansion, gardens and a provenance most interesting is something we do all over the world. Como House, Captain Cook’s Cottage, Melbourne Goal and a number of other locations in Melbourne alone allows one to be a time traveller not unlike Dr Who where at least when presented with a place like Ripponlea, you can overlay your own story or script onto the physicality of such a place, knowing that many have been there before you and maybe you absorb and contribute to some of the energy that preserves these places.
Helen and I were married at another elegant building, Quat Quatta which is a stone’s throw from Ripponlea and holds its own very personal and wonderful memories for us.
This small triangle has been a crucible for our family and by visiting Ripponlea I felt a sense of completion.
We wandered the grounds and I will let a set of pictures do more just than words, but would like to pay respect to the wonderful volunteer tour guides and gardeners who heighten an already strong level of appreciation I have for them with their knowledge and passion.
Their ability to recount the historical facts and intertwine them with stories about the contemporary use of the property for filming of series like “Miss Fischer’s murder mysteries” was added value for all of us.
Not unlike the mansion in Florida, Viscaya, which we visited in 2013 – no structure and grounds like these are without challenges associated with their upkeep. I wonder when film makers tire of using physical locations and opt for 100% virtual sets to make their movies whether these buildings will only exist as replicas in theme parks.
During the time in the grounds, I had made my way back to the ABC studios, collected CeCe and we had participated in the above mentioned adventure.
If you have your own adventure at Ripponlea… ask about the secret area where jewels were stored, the ivory mermaid, what the ceiling tiles are made of and what the third tap in the shower was for.
Old mansions like this are like fine wine, cheese or caviar – to really appreciate the entire experience, savour it slowly in the first person, consume the history visually and aurally before attaching your own metaphor to the past, present and future of the place you are visiting.
A Great day out.