Paul Zanetti is a Walkley award winning syndicated cartoonist with over 30 years in the media. He blogs at www.zanettisview.com
Larry Pickering was laid to rest yesterday.
Family and friends gathered on the Gold Coast to hear, and tell, yarns of the larrikin we all knew and loved.
Lifelong mate, John Singleton, delivered the eulogy by video (he flew up from Sydney to see Larry days before he checked out). Singo’s memories will be shared on this site in the next couple of days.
Larry Olsen, who goes way back to Larry’s horse training days, and spent a gazillion hours playing golf with Larry, got lost in time keeping the service amused with tales of his great friend.
Two of Larry’s sons, (Little) Larry and Ben spoke of their dad. There wasn’t a dry eye in the joint.
Larry’s family also asked me to say a few words (posted below). We were limited by time constraints, so I kept my memories to my first meeting with Larry. I could fill a book.
The service was filled laughter and tears.
And song, with a brilliant tribute, Ode To Larry Pickering, by Steve Mannix (coming soon).
Following these memories is a short video by Larry’s daughter, Steph, who picked a few public and private photos of Larry taken over his incredible life.
by Paul Zanetti
I remember clearly when I first discovered Larry Pickering.
It was 1975.
Gough Whitlam was Prime Minister, making one hell of a mess of the country with his Ministry of Misfits.
And there - in the Sydney Morning Herald – jumping from the pages were these hilariously outrageous, beautifully drawn cartoons making sense of the lunacy that was the political theatre of the day.
Larry didn’t like socialism.
So he was the perfect antidote to Whitlam.
Larry was brilliantly funny and clever - drawing Whitlam as a chook.
The infamous Pickering 'Outhouse Series' which ran in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1975
Whitlam hated the Pickering cartoons - which pricked Gough’s giant pompous ego - but Gough’s wife, Meg, loved the Pickering cartoons.
Meg would go around the Lodge pinning the cartoons up on the walls - and Gough would run around the Lodge tearing them down.
Poor old Gough became so beaten up by his own policies that Larry drew Whitlam with band aids on his face.
Naturally enough when Larry drew his calendars, the band aids were strategically positioned – including on his….donger, as Larry would eloquently explain.
Gough in Pickering's Playmates calendar
Whitlam was furious and sued Larry for implying that by portraying Gough with a band aid on his donger, Gough had a sexually transmitted disease.
Larry couldn’t believe his luck.
In his defence, Larry said that Gough would need to drop his dacks in the court room to prove that he didn’t have a band aid on his donger.
Gough didn’t drop his dacks but he did drop the law suit.
The publicity sold another estimated 100,000 calendars.
Whether he realised it or not, Pickering was a pioneer, blazing a trail for a new generation of cartoonists.
I cut out his cartoons from the Herald and The Australian and glued them in a scrapbook. My late mate Bill Leak told me he stuck Larry’s cartoons on his bedroom walls.
My own connection to Larry goes back to my 16th birthday. It was 1977 and Larry was in his prime as a cartoonist.
I’m from a large Italian family of six boys. We lived in Wollongong, an hour south of Sydney.
For my birthday, my mum planned a trip to Sydney.
I got to choose where we would spend the day – The Zoo….or Bondi Beach…or Luna Park…my choice.
But I had other ideas.
“I want to meet Larry Pickering,” the 16 year-old me blurted out without hesitation.
So off we rode in the family wagon on our quest to find Larry.
When we arrived at the News Ltd Surry Hills building around 10:30am, we just assumed that:
·1) Larry Pickering would be there
· 2) He would allow a big Italian family to just march into his office without an appointment.
And yes, he was there.
And he did say ’Yes’.
The Brady Bunch-sized Zanetti family crammed into Larry’s office while I fired off a million questions.
At the time Larry Pickering was a household name, appearing in TV ads for Dulux Paints – and a regularly on talk shows and Blankety Blanks. He was a cartooning superstar.
Larry filling in for Singo's Mumbleback Radio on Sydney's 2KY
He patiently answered all my questions – and gave me the best present I ever had, a personally signed caricature.
“Who’s your favourite character, chief?” he asked me.
“I love your John Gorton.” I replied.
And quick-as-a-flash, he picked up a box cutter and sliced off a sheet of light drawing cardboard, grabbed a pen, while I watched enthralled as he magically waved his hand around the paper.
He finished off Gorton’s caricature with the ubiquitous flies that dotted his crumpled face- then signed it, ‘Happy Birthday, Paul. Larry Pickering’.
I had it framed and it hung above my bedhead until I left home at 18.
Larry asked me to send him some of my work.
He wrote back a two line letter that changed the course of my life.
“Your work shows tremendous promise. It’s up to you how long you stick to it.”
That was all the fuel an aspiring kid needed.
Two years later Larry retired to grow tomatoes and train race horses, to follow his childhood dream of winning the Melbourne Cup.
The famous Pickering Tomatoes
If there wasn’t a real Larry Pickering, then Banjo Patterson, Norman Lindsay or Henry Lawson would have had to invent him…the quintessential Australian character that embodied everything that is the Aussie larrikin.
Larry Pickering lived life to the full.
Larry Pickering lived multiple lives, each to their fullest.
He was a dad, a grandad, a husband, a mate, musician, punter, poker player, taxi driver, footy coach, mud crab catcher, fisherman, golfer, truck driver, proof reader, story teller, political candidate, TV celebrity, plane and helicopter pilot, philosopher, tomato farmer, race horse trainer, magazine centrefold, magazine publisher, inventor, racing car driver, blogger…too many lives to list….and somehow managed to squeeze in a career as Australia’s greatest cartoonist – a multiple Walkley Award Winner.
Above all, Larry Pickering loved this country – the best country in the world.
He was a patriot who, through his work, fought to preserve its freedoms and values.
'Larry Did It His Way'
Video courtesy of Stephanie, Larry's daughter