February 2006

Encounters

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Errol Flynn & Fidel Castro

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Oh Errol, sang Australian Crawl in their hymn to Tasmania’s gift to swashbuckling, I would give everything just to be like him. Such was the strength of the Flynn legend that the band named its second album Sirocco, after the schooner the adventure-seeking 20-year-old sailed from Sydney to New Guinea in 1929. Presumably it wasn’t Errol the tobacco planter and slave trader that inspired the would-be bad-boys but Errol the dashing babe-magnet star of Captain Blood, Mutiny on the Bounty and The Sea Hawk.

Yet thirty years of booze, broads, green tights and frigging in the rigging are bound to take their toll, even for a leading man of Flynn’s prodigious athleticism. By 1958, Hollywood’s most notorious philanderer was washed up. An endless parade of box-office flops, lawsuits, unproven rape charges, drunken brawls, alimony disputes and prying tabloids sent him hunting for somewhere to “drown the pains of the world in a few daiquiris”. He found it, temporarily, in Cuba.

He arrived in Havana just as Fidel Castro’s rebel forces were sweeping down from the Sierra Maestra to topple the corrupt Batista dictatorship. After sampling the fleshpots, he set out to report the revolution for the Hearst press. Soon in the thick of things, he was nicked in the leg during fighting at a sugar mill, either by a bullet or a chunk of plaster – he wasn’t sure which.

Two years earlier Castro had returned from exile on the yacht Granma to strike the spark of insurrection. Of the eighty-odd rebels who sailed with him, only 12 survived. They fled to the mountains where, aided by the combat squad of Celia Sanchez, the small band swelled to hundreds, then thousands.

Now poised to take power, the 32-year-old, media-savvy Castro invited Flynn to his headquarters. “He was in the fighting zone as a kind of war correspondent,” Fidel told the LA Times. Flynn was presented with a black kerchief and introduced to Che Guevara. Che had seen some of Flynn’s films but failed to recognise Robin Hood in the bloated roué across the table. In his subsequent report Flynn described Castro’s fellow revolutionary Celia Sánchez simply as “36-24-35”.

Flynn thought Castro “a real man” but he preferred his revolutions at a distance and his guerilla women on celluloid. Back in the US, he made Attack of the Cuban Rebel Girls, co-starring his 17-year-old girlfriend and cut around documentary footage. Too ludicrous to be called tragic, it was his last film. He died a few months later, of everything.

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Shane Maloney is a writer and the author of the award-winning Murray Whelan series of crime novels. His 'Encounters', illustrated by Chris Grosz, have been published in a collection, Australian Encounters.

Chris Grosz is a book illustrator, painter and political cartoonist. He has illustrated newspapers and magazines such as the Age, the Bulletin and Time.

Cover: February 2006

February 2006

From the front page

Image of chair of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission and former Fortescue Metals chief executive Neville Power

Building back better?

The government’s pandemic response is taking a familiar shape

Photograph of Malcolm Turnbull

Surrounded by pygmies: Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘A Bigger Picture’

The former PM’s memoir fails to reckon with his fatal belief that all Australians shared his vision

An unavoidable recession

The pandemic got us in, the treasurer must get us out

Child's illustration

The screens that ate school

What do we really know about the growing presence of Google, Apple, Microsoft and more in the education system?


In This Issue

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Global warming

‘The Old Country: Australian Landscapes, Plants and People’ by George Seddon

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

A twitch in time

‘Family Wanted: Adoption Stories’ edited by Sara Holloway


More in The Nation Reviewed

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Tour de forced cancellations

How Port Douglas, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree, has been quieted by lockdown

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Wage deals on wheels

Uber Eats first case at the Fair Work Commission exposed a gap in the gig economy’s protection of workers

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Call for submissions

Hands-off operations for sex-work dungeons in the time of COVID

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Another month of plague

Voices from the coronavirus outbreak


More in Encounters

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Rupert Murdoch & Kamahl

Mark Oliphant & J Robert Oppenheimer

John Monash & King George V

John Howard & Uri Geller


Read on

Image of Australians queuing at Centrelink in Brisbane.

Moral bankruptcy

Robodebt stemmed from the false ideological division between the deserving and undeserving poor, but the government still clings to moralistic language

Image of Gough Whitlam in October 1975

It’s about time

The High Court’s landmark ruling on the ‘Palace Papers’ is a win for Australian social democracy

Image of Robyn Davidson

Something mythic

For Robyn Davidson, her acclaimed memoir ‘Tracks’ was an act of freedom whose reception hemmed her in

COVID-19 versus human rights

The virus is the latest excuse for governments to slash and burn the individual rights of prisoners


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