Person - Bill Brown

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WILTON JOHN BROWN (1917 - 1992)

Bill Brown started off at NT as a volunteer electrician before trying his hand at acting. He played Lieutenant Grube in 1942 in According To Plan, a NT collaboration with the Army Education Service, tolerated by Security as more anti-fascist than pro-communist. A keen Bondi surfer and known as Billy, he was nicknamed "the golden boy" by the chorus girls in the 1942 revue Marx of Time in which he played wandering minstrel Nanki Poo.

Brown later concentrated on writing, mostly propagandist pieces. In his one-act Action Speaks Louder (modelled on Waiting For Lefty ) factory hands at a stop-work meeting wait for provosts to arrive and conscript them for National Service, pro and anti American views are debated, a black/white boxers match is discussed, and a family is evicted. It was directed by Graeme Stewart as a Workshop in 1952, its cast Nadoo Ballantyne-Scott (Grivas), Walter Brown, Dennis Batterham, Harry Ciddor, Tom Salisbury and Cec Grivas.

Bill Brown's 32 Years of a Fighting Newspaper, written for a Tribune Festival in 1952, covered historical incidents such as the 1938 Dalfram dispute, the 1940 banning of the CPA, and the 1941 attack on the USSR by Germany. He contributed scripts to the 1952 revue Follies Bourgeois and wrote a Contact street theatre sketch on 1960 amendments to the Crimes Act. In 1962 NT performed his The Day Tribune Topped 100 000 at a CPA conference: .

Setting the editor’s room of a big city newspaper The Daily Sin and Smearer. Editor at desk, two male reporters enter.

Reporter 1: Randy Moan of the deadbeat – I mean of the night beat – at your service, Chief.

Reporter 2: Larry Scent king of the crime dens reporting for duty, boss.

Editor: Right boys, we’ve got a busy day ahead of us. Three rapes, two murders, a suicide and a juicy robbery with the nightwatchman still hovering near death with his brain laid bare to the bone, all in one night.

Reporter 1: Sensational, boss.

Reporter 2: Yeah terrific. That’s real news, boss. All front page stuff eh?

Miss Heartright (entering): Here’s a startling cable from our man in Moscow. It says that Soviet doctors can now put patches on the human heart, replace broken knee, shoulder and hip joints with artificial ones that work perfectly, and new steel wire nerves –

Editor: Yes yes Miss Heartright, tell them to cut it down to a one inch single column story to help fill page 47.

Bill Brown was born in Chippendale; his father died when he was young and he was reared by his mother. Billy hung around with Chippendale gangs, was into modern music, belonged to a Newtown jazz band, joined ALLY (Australian Labor League of Youth), and at age 14 became an apprentice electrician. He joined the CPA in 1940 when it was illegal.

In 1943 he married Freda Lewis who shared his love of jitterbugging at the Trocadero. He served in the Second World War in Indonesia – an army colleague was Jim Cairns. In 1945 he was involved in a demonstration at Morotai to get boats to pick up servicemen stranded there at war's end. (As "Demos Cracy" he wrote an agit-prop song "Boys in the Rear" about the army’s double standards.) Demobilised, he returned to Garden Island as an electrician, then taught himself shorthand and typing and got a job as a journalist with the Daily Mirror. In 1948 he resigned to work on Tribune, becoming its editor in 1954. He was an effective Domain speaker. After being expelled from the CPA in 1971 he and Freda joined the Socialist Party.

Bill Brown and Jack Mundey were arrested in the first sit-down in opposition to the Vietnam War.

Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years before he died, in its early stages Bill Brown spoke openly about the disease. He was survived by his widow and their daughter Greens politician Lee Rhiannon.

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