Saturday, January 24, 2009

Rolf Harris (Thanks, Fe)

This will be my last biographical post for several weeks. We'll all get a nice break.

Today, we have Rolf Harris.

The first time I heard of him was from the Wiggles. They did a version of Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport.

I don't really know much about the man. I guess I shall find out.

Wow. He's older than I thought. I pictured him being in his 50's or 60's. He's 78!

Rolf Harris was born in Perth. His birthday is March 30, 1930.

Even without the birthday website, I see something interesting. There's a lot of 3's in his birthdate. Two 30's. And then March is the third month. Interesting.

Besides that, he's a Aries, and a 1 in numerology. 1 is about independence and leadership. What is an Aries? I forgot. Let me go check. Oh no. Wait. I remember. It's the one that's a bit wild and daring....but also generous. It sounds a lot like my brother-in-law. And he's an Aries. See? Sometimes these things do fit.

Baby Rolf was named after the pen name of his mommy's favorite writer. Rolf Boldrewood. He (Harris not Boldrewood) was born in a suburb called Bassendean. It's about twenty minutes north of the Perth airport. I wonder if he heard planes flying overhead.

His parents emigrated from Wales. His aunt was a writer and illustrator of children's books. Pixie O'Harris. Did she add the O to give herself a new pen name, or by coincidence did she marry a guy with a last name similar to her maiden one? This woman has a lot of books to her name. I'll have to look out for some of her stuff. Are any of you fans? Is she well known and well loved?

Like Margaret Whitlam, Rolf Harris was into the whole swimming thing. I don't think he competed in the Commonwealth Games though.

Harris attended Perth Modern School. Lord Wiki says by 2011 this school will be for gifted children only.

Bob Hawke went to the school too. He's only one year older than Harris. Maybe they knew each other.

Harris studied art at the University of Western Australia. Here he met his wife who was also an art student. He got married at the age of 28. They have a daughter named Bindi.

Another Bindi. Is that a popular name in Australia?

Before the marriage thing, Harris spent time in England. I'm not sure if his future wife was there with him or not.

In England, he illustrated a book about paper folding written by a magician named Robert Hardin. And he did some acting. He was in a show called The Vise. This show was on from 1954-1955. I'm not seeing him listed on IMDB though. Maybe he used a different name? I'm confused.

Oh never mind. I found him. He was in some movies too: You Lucky People, Crash Drive, and Web of Suspicion (with Ian Fleming!).

Harris returned to Perth and involved himself with children's shows. Then he returned to the UK again. Is he still there, or in Australia?

He invented an instrument! That's cool. I never knew that. The Wobble Board. I heard of that instrument in association with Harris; because the Wiggles mentioned it. But I didn't realize  Harris invented it.

In 1959, it seems Harris was back in Perth because Lord Wiki says he worked at a television station there. TLW. Lord Wiki says it was the first television station in Western Australia. It started in 1959 so maybe this means Harris was one of its first employees.

It was here at TLW that Harris recorded "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport". He then recorded it as a record. Here's something funny. He offered the backup musicians 10% royalties, but they opted for a 28 pound recording fee. Why? They thought the record would be a flop.

The original name of the song was "Kangalypso".

And here's some controversy. In the original song, there are some offensive lyrics. Let me abos go loose, Lew/ Let me abos go loose/ They're of no further use, Lew/ So let me abos go loose. I'm not sure which is worse. The use of the term abos, or the part about them being of no use. Although I guess it's nice that he wants to give them some freedom. I mean I guess I should TRY to look at the bright side.

In later versions of the song, the offensive part has been taken out. And Harris expressed regret about it in 2006. Was this a one time offense?

In 1963, Harris sang a version of the song with the Beatles. The lyrics were changed to refer to them.

Also in the 1960's, Harris did a song about a man with three legs. Jake the Peg.

That was a funny song. But he also did a serious/poignant song. Two Little Boys. It sounds upbeat, but it's about war. It's kind of eerie. It sounds cheerful if you're not listening to the lyrics.

This made me chuckle. He was on a BBC show called Desert Island Discs. On that show, people choose which eight pieces of music would they take on an island with them. Harris chose all of his own music. Wow. Lord Wiki says it was the longest running music show in the history of radio. I feel a bit pathetic because I had never even heard of it before. Oh! The show is still on.

I feel so in the dark. It's my fault. I never listen to the radio. Besides, I don't know if they play BBC stuff on our radio.

For the 1982 Commonwealth Games, Harris performed in a version of "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport". The show included a kangaroo who came on stage and then children popped out of her pouch. I'm guessing it was a fake kangaroo.

In the year 2000, Harris did a song called Fine Day. It went to the top of the charts in the UK. I'm not trying to succumb to ageism here....although Jack has accused me of that recently. But Harris was seventy-years-old. That's pretty impressive.

I'm listening to the song now. It sounds really fun. I like it. You know, the video on YouTube shows photos of Harris. He looks a bit like Colonel Sanders.

Oh! This song is really awesome. It's fun!

Harris is one of those awful people who have the nerve to be talented in multiple disciplines. He acts. He sings! He plays the didgeridoo (that in itself is quite an accomplishment). And he still does fine art stuff.

Does he do brain surgery on the side? Huh?

He was commissioned to paint a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II for her 80th birthday. You know what that reminded me of? The episode of The Simpsons where Marge has to do the portrait of Mr. Burns.

Some people thought the painting was offensive, but the queen liked it. See? I think that's what happened on The Simpsons. Isn't it? I'm not sure how I feel about the painting. I don't think it really looks like Queen Elizabeth II; or at least what I've seen of her. Lord Wiki says Harris said that it was supposed to be more of an Impressionistic painting than a photographic one. I have a feeling that's his way of saying it didn't turn out quite the way he had hoped. No, I'm joking. But that would be kind of funny.

Harris used a variety of interesting instruments including the didgeridoo. He played the didgeridoo in a Kate Bush song called The Dreaming. It's quite a weird video. The only thing I've heard from Kate Bush is This Women's Work from She's Having a Baby. This is quite different from that.

For Andrew Denton's show, Harris performed a version of I Touch Myself. I'm not sure what to think about it.

He did Six White Boomers. I love that song.  A while back I downloaded it from I-Tunes.   But it's not the Rolf Harris version.

Lord Wiki is driving me nuts. He keeps going totally out of order.

Now we're back to his television career.

From 1989-1993, he did a show called Rolf's Cartoon Club. I think the show had various cartoons and then he'd also give drawing tips to the kids.

After that show, he was the host of a reality TV program called Animal Hospital. Wow. The show lasted for ten years. During his time on the show, Harris adopted a Border Collie that had been abandoned. Cool!

Harris did a series about art. Rolf on Art. This was also for the BBC. He sure does a lot for the BBC.

I'm done with Lord Wiki now. Bye bye, Lord Wiki. It will be a long time before we have a playdate again. I wish you well.

I'm going to look at the official Rolf Harris site now. I think I'll start with his biography. I feel like Lord Wiki held out on me about that stuff. He gave me a lot of career information, but not a lot of personal stuff. He didn't even give me much personal stuff regarding his career. How did Harris get to be on television? That doesn't just happen. Does it?

Well, the website doesn't give me much information either. Maybe I need to buy his autobiography.

Okay. Here's some FAQ's. This might tell me something.

His dad and his uncle came over to Australia in 1911. Shortly after they arrived, the war happened. If I'm reading this right, Crom (the dad) lied about his age so his younger brother Carl would seem old enough to fight. Isn't it interesting how times change? These days it seems people are more likely to lie to keep away from the fighting. In those days, I bet more people lied so they could be IN the fight.

On one of their leaves, Carl and Cron went to visit their family back in the UK. It was here that Rolf's daddy met Rolf's mommy. Rolf's grandma was horrified to learn that her younger son was a soldier. She reported him and he had to stop fighting. But once he was old enough, he started again. Both young men were injured. Carl died. Lord Wiki had said that the song "Two Little Boys" had special meaning for the family in light of what happened...two brothers fighting in a war. From what Lord Wiki says though, Harris wasn't aware of the story until way after he recorded it.

Daddy Harris convinced the rest of the family to move to Australia. They did that, but weren't too fond of Perth. They went to Sydney. Crom stayed in Perth and sent for the woman he had met in the UK.

Harris has an older brother. Bruce.

Here are some dates regarding his moves back and forth from the UK to Perth. He went to the UK in 1952. He returned to Perth in 1959.

Oh! At one time he lived in Canada.

In 1962, he returned to the UK.

They had a black standard poodle. That was one of our family dogs....Toby. She was very sweet, but neurotic. She would chase the pool vacuum , barking at it like it was some kind of monster.

I guess the FAQ was written before Harris adopted the Border Collie because that's not mentioned.

His favorite food is curry. I haven't had that in a long time. I kind of have a taste for it now.

His favorite book as a child was The Magic Pudding. I really need to read that.

Harris can NOT paint your grandma, your aunt, your dog, or your new baby. He's a bit too busy for that!

This art news blog talks about the portrait of the queen. The post I'm reading was done in 2005, and it says Harris lives in the UK. It seems like he spends more time there than Australia. The blogger says this about the painting, the big toothy smile doesn't look quite right. It's no Mona Lisa smile but is probably better than most British critics are saying about it. The smile is kind of funny looking.

Here's an article about his racist lyrics. He apologized. And then he said, get up off your arse and clean up the streets your bloody self. Yeah. Well, I'm not sure about that one. Noel Pearson might agree. My grief with this is the guy sang something racist. Yeah yeah. I of his times and all that. But it took him until 2008 (or 2006 as Lord Wiki said) to apologize? Maybe he apologized in 2006 AND 2008? Maybe his first apology was nicer? This one was a bit rude.

He blames the Aborigines original lifestyle on their awful condition now. He said, The attitude is that, in their original way of life, they would really wreck the surrounding countryside that they lived in and they would leave all the garbage and they would go walkabout to the next place. Wow. Harris is so know because white people never leave their trash anywhere. We never waste anything or cause destruction.

Okay, this article from 2006 says Harris DID apologize back then. Here's something interesting. The song was a hit in Australia and the UK. But it was banned in Singapore because of the term Abos. Harris says since 1960, he hasn't sung that verse.

So, what happened in 2008? Maybe that article isn't even true? I need something to back it up. Here we go. He apologized later for his remarks. He said, You think you're talking quietly off the record about things that you feel, and then you see it printed up and you think, God, did I say that? Did I mean that?' I didn't mean that. I would just like to apologize for any offense that I've caused and put it behind me.

Maybe he was drunk at the time?

This is off the subject, but I've been noticing something. Almost every time I quote something from another website, my spell checker finds a mistake. For example, in the above, the word apologize was spelled a-p-o-l-o-g-i-s-e. I kind of just thought that Australian editors weren't putting their spell check to good use. But now I'm thinking maybe it's a cultural difference. I knew of differences such as labor/labour and harbor/harbour. I guess there are other differences too. I feel incredibly stupid and ethnocentric right now. But unlike Harris, I shall apologize immediately. I'm sorry.

Now I'm going to read the Enough Rope interview.

I guess on his art show, Harris does paintings in the style of various famous artists. Well, maybe he recreates their paintings. So, he's like a mimic. But instead of imitating someone's voice, he imitates their art.

One of his paintings sold for 100,000 pounds. Wow.

His dad sounds cool. He encouraged Harris to be different. When Harris came home from school he told his dad he had been made prefect. The condition was Harris would have go get a haircut and wear tidier clothes. Daddy Harris was mad about this. I don't know. Maybe he's not so cool. I like the idea of parents allowing their children to be different. I'm not sure if I like the idea of them forcing it. And it seems from the story, Harris didn't mind getting a haircut and new clothes. It seems the father put expectations on him. Or maybe I'm reading too much into this.

Well, okay. Harris says his dad was wonderful. Maybe I did read the story wrong. Maybe Daddy Harris knew his son liked to have long hair. Maybe he was saying that Harris should stick up for his rights. That would be a very good dad.

He was weird and arty in high school; didn't have many friends.

He really loved his dad. That's very sweet.

The interview has a few tear-jerker moments. He tells one story of a fan coming up and asking for a hug. They hugged. That doesn't pull on my heart-strings much, but then Denton says Harris cried while telling the story. That's pretty touching. The next story says that Harris went to visit his very sick mother. He tried to cheer her up by doing jokes and all that. Harris's friend pushed him to stop and tell her he loved her. Harris did. And he then realized he had never told his mother that. Really? I have a hard time imagining that. What about when he was a young child? I guess maybe they had one of those families that never expresses their love. My family is all about expressing the love. We express that love even when we're pissed off at each other. Our fights are along the lines of You are such a selfish bitch! You're completely impossible. Oh, but I still love you. I'll always love you.

Oh no. This is TOO sad for me. He talks about his childhood relationship to his mom. She'd be all excited to see him when he got home from school. She'd ask all these questions and he'd politely brush her off. Then he'd run and go to tell his father about his day. He made it obvious that he liked one parent over another.

I really hope I don't treat anyone that way. I mean I'm sure I treat people that way sometimes. We all do. But I hope I don't do it to any particular person on a regular basis. Jack and I do it to each other. I'm too busy researching at times and only half listen to his numerous interruptions. The other day he was too busy playing to listen to my extremely important safety lecture. So yeah. We ignore each other at times. But we have enough other times during the day where we give each other love and attention.

Harris says he was away a lot during his own daughter's life. That's the thing about having an important and busy life. You don't have much time for your family. You do great things for the world. But where does that leave your children? Obama might end up being a great president. But what kind of husband will he be during the next four years? What kind of father will he be?

I don't know. Maybe it can be done. Maybe it's just about priorities. If you have a really busy job, then you cut back on other stuff so you have time for family. My dad had a very busy work schedule. He was gone a lot. He worked late. But I don't remember thinking of him as absent. He made us a priority. We still had dinners together. Sunday was family night. And we took vacations together. He used to say (when asked) that his hobby was his family. I think if you work a lot of hours, this is how it needs to be. I think in the ideal situation, you have both quality and quantity time to give your children. But if you can't have both, than make the best of the short amount of time, away from work, you have.

Oh this gets more and more sad. While Harris was enjoying 1960 and the "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport" song, his wife was at home thinking about suicide. He never knew she was that sad until five years later when he saw her diary. Why was he reading her diary? And why didn't he notice she was sad? How does that work? Was he too preoccupied with his own life? Was she a good actress? Did she keep things well hidden? Did he not know her well enough? I think this is hard for me to relate to because I notice things. I can pick up people's moods. I notice if someone is unusually quiet. I notice if someone is annoyed. I notice when someone's in a bad mood. I notice when someone is feeling snarky. I notice when someone feels uncomfortable. But who knows? I could be completely wrong. Maybe there's someone in my life now who is thinking about suicide and I have no idea.

Harris says he has trouble saying no to people. I can see how this can totally cause problems in a marriage. If you're constantly saying yes to people, when will you have time for your wife and child?

Harris says he was self-centered but is trying to change.

He also seeks attention and craves approval. I think this can be very hard on a family as well. If someone seeks attention and approval, they're likely to give more time to people outside the family. Families have a tendency to take each other for granted. After you're married to someone for five years, your jokes become old to them. They've heard all your stories multiple times. They're less impressed with all your various talents. So, there's that desire to seek attention elsewhere. And it is often too hard to compete. How does a wife of fifteen years compete with women who are new, exciting, and completely entranced by her husband? And should she have to compete?

Who is to blame? Is it the spouse and children who can't manage to laugh after hearing the same joke for the fiftieth time? Or is it the person who constantly seeks out the thrill of new and outside attention?

I've been on both ends of the stick. I've probably given out less attention/praise than I should. I really do TRY though. I try to notice what my family is doing, and I try to give them attention for it. Mostly because I know how it feels when you don't get that attention. I do feel hurt that some people in my family don't read my blog. I mean I don't expect ANYONE to read it everyday. But it would be nice if they looked at it every so often....and then told me they did. That would mean a lot to me. Because they don't, I feel at times that I have more of a connection to some people halfway across the world. I feel they appreciate me more than certain people in my family appreciate me.

I guess in a way it's the fault of both people. Or maybe not. I really don't know. I guess the problem is if someone is very famous, their expectations for attention might be too high. They're worshiped by the public so they might expect to be worshiped at home. If they're not worshiped they feel unappreciated and they seek attention elsewhere. I'm actually not famous. I know because my StatCounter tells me so. Therefore, my expectations are fairly low. I don't want much. I don't need to be worshiped. All I would want is for an email every few weeks (even months?). Hey, your blog. Saw what you wrote about breast cancer. What do you think of.....

Maybe Mrs. Harris didn't give Mr. Harris enough attention. Maybe she stopped grinning when he sang "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport". But did he give HER attention? Did he see her as a separate individual, or just his little supportive pet? Did he ask her how her day was? Did he know who her friends were? Did he know what was going on in her life? Was he aware of her hobbies?

Although that doesn't always work. I know a lot of people give the advice, that to improve a relationship, you need to work on improving yourself. If you want to have a better grandma, be a better granddaughter. If you want to have a better husband, be a better wife. If you want to have a better sister, be a better brother. But that doesn't work sometimes.

Sometimes you give and give, waiting to be reciprocated and it doesn't happen. I know that from experience. I hope no one knows that from experience on account of me.

This whole Rolf Harris thing has made me worried that I'm neglecting people who need me. If I am, I'm sorry! I'm especially sorry if you're reading this. Because if you're reading this, you're really putting an effort out there for me. And so if you feel I'm not giving you attention, then that's really awful of me. I sincerely apologize.

And speaking of ignoring people, I need to go give some attention to my child!



  1. Wow.

    I am constantly amazed by the information you can find. Also interesting to me is the number of Aussies that visit your site!

  2. Tiff,

    Thanks. I don't think that many people visit my site. But more Australians do than's about 60-70% Australians.

  3. My father in law used to swim with Rolf Harris (I don't know if you mentioned that Rolf was Australian junior backstroke swimming champion.)

    FIL always spoke well of Rolf Harris.

  4. The "Let me abos go loose, Bruce" line has been sung post 1960s.

    Although, I find just as disgraceful, the thought of tying a kangaroo down.

    Bleh, getting away from what woeful song, Rolf Harris' portrait of the Queen is quite amazing. She looks almost 'human' and not as pious as she normally looks. He's quite an amazing artist.

  5. We spell using the queens english Dina, not your americanised version full of z's but no u's. lol

    And I've only ever heard of two Bindi's - it's not a popular name, it's a damn prickly weed! ;)

  6. Marita: Cool! I think I mentioned that he was good at swimming, but I wasn't specific.

    Anja: I didn't even consider the poor kangaroo. I happily sing the song not even realizing an animal is being abused. That's sad.

    Mistress B: It's so funny because I never really noticed the difference. I mean I didn't notice when I was reading any of your blogs. I just noticed my spell checker kept picking up the "mistakes". I'm very dense sometimes!

  7. I have a Rolf Harris CD with someof those songs on them. The kids love them.

  8. Widdle Shamrock,

    They really are great songs...although Anja has made me look a the Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport in a whole different way.

  9. My kids love The Court of King Caractacus. I play them the YouTube version sometimes.

  10. If he left out the nasty lyrics back in 1960 perhaps he saw the error of his ways. But he was wrong to blame their hardships on their lifestyle. Sounds like he may have issue with the Aborigines. Otherwise he seems to be a very colorful character.

  11. Michael: Hello my favorite politically centered person. I haven't heard that song yet. I shall go listen now.

    Ricardo: A lot of great artists have some racist skeletons in their closet. I heard from a Native American man that the guy who wrote Wizard of Oz was very racist against Native Americans. I think we can like their art and disagree with their viewpoints.

  12. I really like your exploration of emotional issues. The things you wrote about at the end of this article were really moving.