It’s tax time! C’mon everybody, gather up your receipts and make an appointment to see your local tax agent. People still do that, don’t they? Uh, anyway, come with me as I do just that, with dollar signs in my eyes and-
Oh. Guess I’ll be doing my own tax, then…
It’s no exaggeration to say that ITP Beverly Hills was here since Federation, so its departure is a severe blow to the intricate bio-habitat that surrounded it. D2D Cafe and the Rhinedorf relied on these guys to tick all the boxes each July. Did you stop and think of them when you packed up and left, ITP?
A few traces of the former tax
haven office remain, this canary yellow window being one. I wonder how ITP came to decide on bright yellow as their trademark colour? There’s only so much grey one can take, I suppose.
No messing around! These dudes left NOTHING behind – almost as if they’re accustomed to paying attention to nitty-gritty details by nature. It’s small comfort to know that wherever they are now, they’re nice and cool.
They also took their awning sign, and in the process exposed a clue as to who the former occupants were. “AS 43 SUNTRONIC GLOBAL SYSTEM 37” may sound like total gibberish, but in the skincare world, it’s godlike.
The way I understand it, AS 43 is a form of electrocosmetology therapy that tightens skin. Apparently, it was discovered “by accident”, and believe it or not, it’s still around today – it just couldn’t last in Beverly Hills.
So who were the long-ago purveyors of this skincare breakthrough miracle cure? Look up and we can see the lush typeface of Beverly Hills Skin Care, a company that according to the government still has an active ABN.
As an aside, and don’t take this as a sign I’ve run out of things to say about an ancient skincare clinic, but have you ever had a look at that ABN search site? It’s fascinating to see which old business names are still making a go of it.
Check it out! “Beverly Hills Video” is still active, while Beverly Hills Cinema appears to have replaced “Beverly Hills Twin”. I’m just disappointed nobody’s ever set up “Beverly Hills Corp”.
Lots to see in this bold shot from 1981 – check out the Mobil on the corner; Granny crossing the street on the right (on her way back from shopping, by the look of it. Remember when you could do that?); the No Right Turn onto Stoney Creek Road (heaven forbid!); the wide, spacious King Georges Road trailing off into the M5-less distance; the boxy pedestrian buttons; that eerie church just above Granny. But does it really look all that different today?
These days, we can turn right from one busy road onto another; the ancient (although obviously post-1981) Chinese restaurant blocks the view of the eerie church; the Mobil has been replaced by Pancakes on the Rocks; the roads seem narrower and there are a hell of a lot more cars, and yet the air is allegedly cleaner. Must be all those extra trees. Oh, and NO PIZZA HUT.
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“Tell me this,” Tony says, as he reclines in his chair. It’s more like a throne, and he’s surrounded by his plastic subjects that dedicate each of their five points of articulation to their king’s whims. Tony is the proprietor of the Old Book & Comic Emporium in Beverly Hills, which specialises in books, toys…and comics.
“In the first one, you had Lex Luthor with a real estate scheme. In this new one, you’ve got Lex Luthor with a real estate scheme. You’re telling me that there wasn’t another plot they could have used from the nearly 70 years’ worth of stories? For that reason alone,” he says, as he turns the page of the newspaper he’s absently reading, as if to dismiss the matter entirely, “I’m not going to bother.”
He is, of course, completely right, and he should know; he must have well over a third of those stories in his collection.
Faces from throughout decades of pop culture stare back at you as you stand at the counter. There’s Freddy on the far wall, daring you to go to sleep. Behind Tony’s desk is the rictus grin of the Joker, and perched atop his cash register (no EFTPOS) is the withered visage of Emperor Palpatine. They feel as much a part of the place as gruff old Tony. He’s made this shop his own.
I first became aware of Tony’s Old Book & Comic Emporium in about 1999, when I was on a serious nostalgia trip. It’s a familiar story: disposable income, an age that’s both responsible and irresponsible at once, a firm grip on the past and a tenuous one on the present. In the shop window was a factory sealed box of Topps trading cards (with gum) from the 1989 Batman film, a movie I’d originally seen just down the road. I’d never gotten the whole set as a kid, so I had to have them.
But the cards were the gateway drug. Once inside, I marvelled at just how many blasts from my past the owner had accrued. Monsters in My Pocket. Fangoria. The Inspector Gadget doll with the telescoping Go-Go-Gadget neck. Interspersed among these were blasts from others’ pasts: Hardy Boys books. Monkees lunchboxes. Old Playboys below a sign marked ‘Adults ONLY’. Nice try, Tony.
I lived in the area for a few years, and in that time I became a regular. I’d hang out in the shop on a Saturday afternoon shooting the shit with Tony about the latest movies, stuff around the shop, and the past. Never the future. Tony liked my writing style, and one afternoon wrote down the contact details of the editor of a pulp sci-fi magazine called Andromeda Spaceways for which he thought my work would be a perfect fit. I didn’t see it myself, so I never followed it up.
Thinking back now, it’s gobsmacking to imagine a two-storey modern-age antiques shop in a suburb like Beverly Hills.
Fate must have noticed the oversight, because one day long after I’d moved away, I swung by only to find the shop empty. All that remained was the sign on the side of the awning, and the piece of paper with the Andromeda Spaceways details still sitting in my wallet.
If you’re reading this, Tony, I hope your bold and much appreciated experiment didn’t meet too painful an end. You added a bit of colour to an otherwise boring area, and no-one’s ever going to fill your shoes. I mean, I’m sure the world needed another family law centre (especially the long-awaited first choice), but I’m sorry: you ain’t no Tony.
Nestled in amongst the melting pot of businesses at Beverly Hills, the Leisuredome Gym has become a local institution since it opened in 1985.
The Leisuredome prides itself on being “one of the very few real gyms Sydney has to offer”, and I’d believe it. The exterior is unpretentious, lacking all the condescending trappings of the modern influx of gyms. What’s interesting is that the gym’s opening times – 6am-9:30pm Mon-Thur, 6am-9pm Fri, 9am-2pm Sat and 4pm-7pm Sun – seem to be frowned upon by a world of gym junkies spoiled by the new 24 hour centres. I can’t help but wonder if the more specific hours would translate into a more focused workout? But I digress…
The Pleasure Dome also prides itself on being able to “transform” bodies (presumably only for those who found enough keys), but it’s not just the beefcakes who underwent a transformation here…
If you go around the back (and why would you?) you’ll find a dirty little secret beyond Thunderdome:
That’s right, sometime before 1985, Beverly Hills’ squash courts felt the burn and pumped iron, turning from zero to hero in just six weeks or its money back. Meanwhile, anyone in need of a game of squash (I’m…almost certain they’re still out there) had to rack off to Roselands.
Can I just say, is there a more 70s sport than squash? It’s hard to know exactly when this squash court was built (but if you do, get in touch), but it’s safe to say it was around for the 1970s, an age when fashion at times took lessons from the squash scene, and squash itself was a fitness fad not unlike planking or zumba. Would this particular court have been a major player on the Sydney circuit? Were tournaments held here? Did hoop dreams live and die at this very location? It’s easy to imagine any number of marriages driven to the brink over a spirited game of doubles squash. Perhaps there are still bitter exes in the neighbourhood who still seethe when they spot the Leisuredome logo that disguised the secret location of their heartbreak…until now.
When the large, mysterious building next door was built, the sign was hidden from the world, and wasted away into its deplorable current state. To have a sign here at all suggests that once upon a time, this wall faced the world and attracted squash fans passing via either King Georges Road or the East Hills train line.
The ‘dome may have been flexing here for 30 years, but it may soon have some competition. Someone’s finally decided to put Large Mysterious Building to use, and I don’t think the location is a coincidence…
Time to try something new: think of this as a game of spot-the-difference writ large across decades. I’ll occasionally throw a few of these up just to spice things up a bit. To kick things off, let’s take a look at the Beverly Hills Hotel as it was back in 1981…
This photo, taken from what is now a car park across the road, shows that the Beverly Hills Hotel was once called the Hotel Bennelong, that there was some kind of Coke-sponsored diner next door to it, and oh, what’s that tall sign on the far left? I can’t quite read it. And if you think the BHH is rough these days, imagine how it must have been back then. There’s a reason those guys are wearing hard hats.
Of greater interest is what’s happening in the foreground: the council is hard at work putting in the stormwater canal that now runs parallel to the East Hills train line all the way from here to Wolli Creek. On the far right, caught in the midst of all this progress is some dude’s house. As he makes his way to and from work, then to and from the pub each day, little does he know that in a matter of years his home will become the local baby health centre…but that’s a story for another day. To the future!
In this context, 2014 sounds much more futuristic than it does as say, the expiry date of your driver’s licence, doesn’t it? The most striking aspect of the futurescape is the abundance of palm trees, installed to help lend Beverly Hills a Californian vibe. Counteracting this vibe is everything else pictured, especially the intrusive presence of the cameras. I know they’re there for our safety, but still – very Orwellian. It’s interesting to note that the hotel and Hepburn Court beside it remain largely the same as they were 33 years ago, and at this point I’d like to repeat that for any readers born in 1981 – 33 years ago.