Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lillian Roxon

Lillian Roxon is related to Nicola Roxon. I forget how though. Mom? Aunt? I think it's one of those.

Lord Wiki says she's Nicola's aunt. I had been thinking she was in politics like her niece, but she wasn't. Lillian Roxon was a journalist.

She was born in Italy on 8 February 1932. Her Jewish family had originally been from the Ukraine (like my ancestors!). They moved to Poland, and then to Italy. I guess they were trying to find a place to fit in. Maybe it's because Jewish people aren't always made to feel welcome.

Plus, if you look at the date of Roxon's birth....well, that wasn't exactly a great time to be Jewish in Europe.

In 1937, the family responded to the rise of fascism by migrating to Australia. They settled in Brisbane. I'm reading a book about the Brisbane area right now. A Cross of Stars by Patricia Shaw. It deals with stolen children, and is really sad.

Before the Roxon family came to Australia, they were the Ropschitz family. They changed their name, like my grandfather changed his last name. Well, if their name was pronounced the way I imagine, it's probably good they anglicized it.

Lord Wiki says it was Lillian who suggested the name Roxon. That's cute. She was only about five-years-old. It's sweet that her parents took her suggestion seriously.

There's not much said here about Roxon's childhood and schooling.

We jump to her attending the University of Queensland. Then she moved on over to the University of Sydney where she became involved with that Sydney Push thing. I know I've read about that group at least twice, but I keep forgetting what it is. Wasn't Robert Hughes part of it?

Lord Wiki says it was a left-wing group active from the 1940's-1970's

Robert Hughes was part of it, and also Germaine Greer. I was reading an AWESOME online novel yesterday, and Germaine Greer was mentioned. I was all proud of myself for understanding the reference.

Roxon's involvement with the Push folks attracted the attention of the ASIO. They saw Roxon as a Communist sympathizer. Uh oh! I don't think anything happened from that though.

Around this time, or a little after perhaps....Roxon worked for a magazine called Weekend. It was owned by Frank Packer, and edited by Donald Horne.

In 1959, Roxon moved to New York. She would have been about twenty-seven then.

Lord Wiki says she was the first Australian female overseas news correspondent. I'm not sure who she worked for at first; but in 1962 she started working for The Sydney Morning Herald.

I'm wondering why she came to America. Did she just make a leap, and hope to find work? Or maybe she had an earlier job? Maybe she was sent over by the Weekend?

In the 1960's, pop music became Roxon's thing. She did a lot of writing about that.

Lord Wiki says critics have high regards for her writing, and some even see her as the "mother of rock". She didn't do music herself, but I guess her articles about it helped further the movement.

She didn't smoke or do recreational drugs...besides a little bit of alcohol. So although she wrote about the scene, she didn't necessarily get mixed up in the scene.

Here's some celebrity gossip type stuff. Roxon had been close friends with Linda Eastman. Then Linda Eastman moved to London, got married, and became Linda McCartney. For some reason, McCartney cut ties with all her friends. Roxon was very hurt by this. Was there a reason McCartney did this? Or was it just the typical thing where someone forgets their friends when they fall in love? Plus, she was all the way in London. It was hard to keep in touch back before email.

In 1973, Roxon sought revenge for the situation. She did a very harsh review of a McCartney TV special. Yikes. That's pretty immature.

I know it can be hard when friends drop you. It's especially annoying when they don't tell you why, and seem to think it's perfectly okay letting you believe that they've died or dropped off the face of the earth. But if someone is like that, they're probably worth neither your friendship or your energy.

In the late 1960's, Roxon wrote the world's first rock encyclopedia. Cool. Lord Wiki says the work was successful, and the book is often quoted.

The problem was it was a lot of work, and Roxon had other work to do in the meantime. She was stressed, and developed asthma.

Now we get to the 1970's.

Roxon wrote about sex, sexuality, and feminism. That's all more interesting to me than music.

She became friends with David Bowie, and helped him break into the American music scene.

Her health got worse and worse. Then she died in 1973 of an asthma attack. She was only forty-one. That's very sad.

The Green Left website has a review on a biography of Roxon. They highly recommend the book, and seem to be quite fond of Roxon. They say, Roxon was deeply immersed in the swirling cultural changes of the era and passionate about advancing the most libertarian aspects of it.

The Australian Dictionary of Biography has an entry about her. I'll read that.

Roxon was the middle child like me. Her dad was a doctor. The reason they had left Poland is because it had been illegal for Jews to study medicine. I guess Italy was better in that regards.

Roxon's parents moved to Italy in 1926. Daddy Roxon built up a medical practice.

The information here differs a bit from Lord Wiki. It says the Roxon family left Italy in 1938 rather than 1937. They went to Britain, then to Melbourne, and finally settled in Brisbane.

Roxon did boarding school at St. Hilda's. The school is about an hour south of Brisbane, so it makes sense that she did the boarding thing. She did that for three years, and then went to Brisbane State High School. I guess she would have moved back home then.

From an early age, Roxon wanted to be a journalist. She sold her first piece of writing to a woman's magazine when she was only fourteen. That's pretty impressive.

She graduated from the University of Sydney in 1955. Then she worked as a publicist for a Sydney department store called Anthony Horden and Sons. In 1957, she was hired by Donald Horne to do writing for the Weekend.

At some point she visited NYC, and loved it. She decided to move there. This website answers my question about what she did when she first lived there. It says she did freelance for Weekend. Then later she got the Sydney Morning Herald job.

She built up a writing career and a collection of famous friends.

Germaine Greer dedicated The Female Eunuch to Roxon. That's interesting.

This website has some parts of a Linda McCartney biography, and contains some information about her friendship and enemyship with Roxon.

They were friends from about 1966-1968. The website says that Roxon was good at dispersing cruel insults. However, she mostly kept it out of her professional writing, and did it privately instead. She'd say it behind the person's back when talking to a friend; or she'd say it directly to the person.

When McCartney was married, Roxon wrote a very positive article about the wedding for Woman's Day. She didn't just act as a friend to McCartney. She was her defender. Apparently, McCartney wasn't very popular with women, and Roxon helped change that.

Okay, well now I can be a little more sympathetic to Roxon writing so negatively about McCartney. It's bad enough to drop a friend. It's even worse when that friend has done a lot to help you.

It's like our rude Thanksgiving friends. It's bad enough that they neglected us (their hosts), walked out without saying good-bye, and never thanked us for our hospitality. What makes it worse though is we had done so much to help them in the past. We let Mr. Rude Thanksgiving Guest live with us for several weeks, and we had let him stay at our house several times after that. And there was other stuff we did besides that.

I still have a lot of anger over the whole thing. I haven't done anything like Lillian Roxon. I'm not going to publicly ridicule least not by naming and shaming. But I dream about them often. I dream they come back. I express my anger, and usually, in the dreams, they continue to be rude.

I think the anger in these situations come from feeling used. We do things for friends because we like them. We want to bring joy into their life, or we want to make life easier for them. Then if they easily walk out of your life, there's the suspicion that they had never really seen you as a friend. They saw you as a provider.

It's not that once someone does you a favor, you're required to stay friends for life. Sometimes people drift apart. That's life. And I'd hate for someone to say, Well, she did this for me that one time, so I'm obligated to be her friend. But there's polite ways of ending a friendship. You can:

a) write a gentle and truthful letter about why the friendship is best not continued
b) just subtly move from friendship to acquaintanceship. Keep things distant, but friendly.

I don't desire continuing our friendship with the Thanksgiving people. I DO desire a letter or email that says Thank you for letting us stay at your home over Thanksgiving. We deeply apologize for rudely walking out without saying good-bye and thanking you.

Now in defense of Roxon, I'm thinking maybe she was ASKED to write the review of McCartney's television special. If someone asked me to write something about someone I was angry at, I'm not sure I could refrain from doing the same thing.

There's some excerpts here from the review. Roxon said, I can tell you right now, she didn't marry a millionaire Beatle to end up in a Liverpool saloon singing 'Pack up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag' with middle-aged women called Mildred. TV special or not, she didn't crack a smile once in that scene except for a little novocained grimace after, I suspect, Paul had given her a good hard shove in the ribs.

Yeah. That's pretty harsh.

YouTube has a video of Roxon being interviewed. I can see some resemblance to her niece. The interview was done in 1973, the year that she died. You can see that her face is swollen from being on cortisone. No, I didn't figure that out just by seeing her. But I saw it mentioned on Lord Wiki and/or the Australian biography site.

Roxon mentioned Bette Midler in the interview. She had high hopes for her career.

The interviewer asks Roxon what she thinks Australian hopefuls need if they want to make it in the American music business. Roxon says it helps to be nice, not pushy and not self-centered. I think that's simple and true. Although mean people do go far sometimes...unfortunately. I guess it depends on the industry.

I've joined a writing website, and from what I can see it's not the good novels that get ahead, but the ones who have pushy self-centered writers. They ARE nice, but in a dishonest way. The novel I mentioned much earlier in this post is excellent (in my opinion) but low on the charts. Why? I think it's because the writer is very sweet, and not a pushy person.

To me, that's a shame. And I mostly blame the people who control the website. They reward the wrong behaviors. Of course, marketing is always important. But even if you are willing to promote your work; if other people's marketing ploys lack integrity, it's very difficult to compete.

Roxon says you also need good management, and good American advice. What is good American advice?

Oh, this is sad. I think this interview was done in Australia actually. From what I read on the other websites, she had one last visit before she died. Roxon mentions that she'd like to come back more often.

I love what she says towards the interview. She's asked if she feels qualified to give an opinion on rock music in general. It's kind of a loaded question. But Roxon has a good response. She says since rock is not a science, no one's really more qualified than another. A fourteen year-old kid is no more or less qualified than her.

I like that.

In art, can one opinion be more valid than another? I don't know really. Well, I think all opinions are valid. If you like or dislike a book, song, painting, can't be wrong. But maybe there are opinions that are more experienced and educated. That could make a difference.

Back to the online novel I read yesterday....I looked at some reviews that the writer got, and some of them were quite negative. It really drove home the point that we all don't look at things the same way. My feeling is though that the critical people simply don't like that style of writing. Their opinion isn't wrong, but I'm not sure it means that much in the scheme of things. I think my opinion matters more because I AM a fan of that type of book. It's a literary chick-lit kind of thing. So I could tell the writer what worked for me, and what didn't work for me. If a fan of paranormal chick-lit romance novels reads my book and gives me constructive criticism, that's helpful and meaningful to me. If someone comes along and says they hate paranormal storylines, I don't think I'll gain much insight from their opinion.

My problem is my novel is cross-genre, so I have some people who dislike one thing, and then others who dislike something else. My sister read the first two chapters and liked it. Then I got into the paranormal stuff, and totally lost her interest. At another point, I went to a writing group. This guy who writes fantasy novels read the first few chapters. He complained that I took too long to get to the fantasy bit. I don't think he liked all that chick-lit stuff. Then three people who read and reviewed it on American Zoetrope didn't like the dream sequences. The whole book is ABOUT dreams. Although it could be that they're okay with dream sequences, and they simply felt that my dream sequences totally sucked.

Enough about me and my damn book. Back to Roxon. At the end of the interview, she talks about wanting to take some time off to get rest and get healthy again. It's sad that she never got the chance.

It's scary how death can just pop out of nowhere and surprise you.


  1. Interesting article..i had never heard of this woman,but i was a child when she was out and about.
    You write like I think LOl...I thoroughly enjoyed your aside on friendships and dropping off the face of the earth..revenge etc...


    Yeah. She was before my time too. I also wonder if maybe she was better known in America...since it seems she did more of her work there.

    Glad you enjoyed my friendship thing : )