Brian Goldsmith: charismatic, energetic ringmaster


Goldsmith left his inimitable mark on each of his places. When he opened Peanuts Cellar and Peanuts Gallery in the city in the early 1970s, he set the tone. “He would give people bowls of peanuts and they were encouraged to throw the shells on the floor – almost ordered to,” one-time Goldsmith business partner George Frew told me in 2004 for a profile I wrote about Goldsmith in The Sunday Age. “The message was ‘You were never allowed to do this stuff at home, make sure you do it here’.”

In 1977, Goldsmith converted a warehouse in King Street, city, being used for storage into a railway themed nightclub. The Underground immediately became the place to be. Goldsmith wanted everyone to have fun, but the sign at the front of The Underground – “No tattoos, no tiaras” – flagged that while he ran Melbourne’s hottest and hippest establishment he also demanded from staff and patrons “old-fashioned” values such as courtesy, manners and respect.

Brian Goldsmith alongside his portrait by Wes Walters painted in 1980.

David Bowie found this out one evening at The Underground. Bowie was among many celebrities who gathered there, including Bob Hope, Liv Ullman, Boz Scaggs, John Travolta and Shirley Maclaine. Bowie had earnt Goldsmith’s scorn with the behaviour of his party. Approaching the singer’s table to upbraid him, Goldsmith demanded: “OK, which one of you three is Bowie?”

Goldsmith was a practical man of solutions, as The Underground manager Jan Kain remembers. “A waitress in the restaurant was serving a tray of port to a table and accidently poured the entire tray over a man wearing a cream suit. Brian ran up to the man with a bottle of port and suggested he dye his suit with it.”

Goldsmith sold The Underground in 1986 saying “I probably felt I was tired”. He opened The Redhead nightclub in Albert Park in 1993, which was another hit.

His one-time sister-in-law Olivia Newton-John was 14 when Goldsmith took her to her first singing lesson. “He was always there for me, and encouraging me to move on with my career,” Newton-John says. “He was very kind – and often to my sister’s chagrin – bringing home strangers who had nowhere to go.”

In 2004, I wrote in The Sunday Age: “The family operated with the credo that kindness was paramount. On a tram once a Fijian man who spoke little English told the conductor he was lost. Asked for help, Goldsmith took the man home where he stayed for a year. Dip Singh came to refer to Tot [daughter Tottie] by her real name; ‘dear sister Caroline’. “We went to visit him in Fiji,” remembers Tot, “and he had organised bourbon and Coke for Dad, his drink. In Fiji, that was like finding gold.”

Broadcaster Derryn Hinch dined at The Underground every week for years. “Brian was the king of nightclubs,” says Hinch. “Almost the inventor of that style of nightlife in Melbourne. I first met him on a visit from Sydney 40 years ago when Peter Janson sent me, with a necessary introduction, to The Underground. I think that was the first time I heard the expression ‘door bitch’. For some reason, Brian had a train carriage inside The Underground. As you do. I held a ‘rat pack’ lunch there every Friday for years when I was on 3AW. It was a microcosm of Goldsmith’s life. You never knew who would turn up. Hollywood stars, a Premier … Brian made the most of a wonderful, generous, life.”

“He showed how nightlife could be promoted through elegance and style without the violence that occurred in King Street immediately after he left,” journalist Ian Gillespie told me in 2004.

He never took himself too seriously and the absurd side of life was appreciated with an infectious laugh. Goldsmith will be remembered as a charismatic, energetic ringmaster with a thousand ideas and a big heart, a born host who knew everyone but more importantly knew just about everyone. He was deeply attentive to the safety and wellbeing of the many young people who came to work in his nightclubs.

Brian Goldsmith in his Punt Road spa in 1980.

Brian Goldsmith in his Punt Road spa in 1980.

One of Goldsmith’s great skills, and which will be for a generation of Melburnians one of his legacies, was a talent for understanding, relating to and appreciating the company of young people. “Brian was one of those larger-than-life true Melbourne characters who transcended age,” says singer and actor Jason Donovan. “That gap between a parent and their kids was never evident in this family. Everyone equal, everyone honest, respected and loved.”

To Goldsmith loyalty was crucial. “Once you were accepted into his circle you were part of the tribe forever,” Donovan says.

“Brian was like everyone’s favourite uncle,” says actor Deborra-Lee Furness. “If Brian’s name was attached to a venue, then everyone knew that was the cool place to be. It was almost a rite of passage as a young girl growing up in Melbourne to at least once have a job at one of Brian’s establishments. If you weren’t on the dance floor you were behind the bar. I was actually the ‘door bitch’ as they called it at The Underground, though I wasn’t very good at the job because I just let everybody in.”

Olivia Newton-John remembers his flair for business. “He was creative and entrepreneurial, always had a brilliant new idea that he was working on.

“Brian always saw things that others missed and was full of ideas for businesses from our trips,” says his partner of 17 years Lorraine Dennerstein, a professor of psychiatry. “He was willing to speak to everyone as an equal and always presented humbly.”

“He had a child-like joie de vivre no matter what age he was and a huge heart that embraced not only his own large brood but all of the community,” says Furness. “He leaves a great legacy of how to enjoy life.”

That life was nearly taken from him after years of smoking. He survived a diagnosis of cancer of the tongue in 2003, having given up smoking 20 years earlier. Goldsmith was proud of his fitness and in 2012 on his 80th birthday – to acknowledge their mutual birthdays – climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Goldsmith was married and divorced four times. He is survived by eight children – Fiona, Brett, Tottie, Jason, Sasha, Briony, Charlie and Elizabeth – and seven grandchildren – Layla, Tasha, Kira, Tajan, Gretchen, Katya and Rocky.

“To say there was never a dull moment growing up is a gross understatement,” says Tottie Goldsmith. “The cute thing with dad is that he didn’t think he was eccentric … right there is a true eccentric. Dad was ignited by helping people, solving problems and coming up with new ideas. He was a true right-brainer but left-handed. Months before he died he was bending spoons and forks believing that he was creating the first ever left-handed cutlery.”

Tottie says boredom wasn’t something he experienced “because he filled every moment with either trying to solve his puzzles or someone else’s”. “He was curious, and he taught me to be curious. Although he wasn’t scholastic, he was smart. ‘Smart as a whip’, as he would say. He didn’t understand backing away from things. He moved into everything no matter how risky or absurd. But above all he was kind. He cared deeply and that came back to him in bucketloads.”

“I was lucky enough to have 25 years with my papa,” remembers his grand-daughter Tasha Edelstein. “Papa to me was immortal, in my whole life he has and always will have been the most constant presence.

“Sleepovers at papa’s were the best. The man couldn’t cook but boy could he heat up a few packets of two-minute noodles. He would heat up the noodles, stick in four forks, and put a giant bowl in front of the four of us (my sister Kira, cousin Layla, and his youngest daughter/our aunty Elizabeth) and dinner was served, much to the horror of our parents.”

In recent years, Goldsmith lived with Parkinson’s. Lorraine Dennerstein remembers a moment in London window-shopping in New Bond Street. “He was accosted by a man who said ‘Didn’t you used to be Brian Goldsmith?’ He said ‘I still am’. Sadly, the man we knew did change in his last years with the illnesses he had to suffer. We can be glad he is at peace now.”

Says Tasha Edelstein: “How lucky are we to have had this eccentric, larger-than-life man for as long as we did and what a huge legacy he leaves behind.”

A funeral service for Goldsmith will be held on January 9.

Most Viewed in National

Loading

Thanks for stopping by and reading this story about QLD news published as “Brian Goldsmith: charismatic, energetic ringmaster”. This news article was brought to you by My Local Pages Australia as part of our local news services.

#Brian #Goldsmith #charismatic #energetic #ringmaster



Source link

From COVID-19 on cruise ships to energetic elections, test your memory with our ultimate 2020 news quiz



Well, 2020’s been quite a ride.

It’s been an extreme year on the news front — with the coronavirus pandemic, elections, lockdowns, breakthroughs and more.

To mark the end of this unique last 12 months, test your memory with this quiz of some of the biggest stories of the year.

Share the link to challenge your friends and compare your scores!



Source link