Snap Shot #69 – Adventures With Reg


My wife and I are at the opening of Reg Mombassa’s latest art exhibition. She’s already been proactive in purchasing a small painting prior to the event. It’s exciting seeing the little red dot next to it as an assortment of oddball art lovers and musos mill about the gallery. I spot Greedy Smith and Martin Plaza from ‘Mental as Anything’. They turn to pose for a photo, standing either side of what from behind looks like a little old lady. Photo taken, they start chatting to the old dear. But I soon realise it’s actually the artist himself, catching up with his former bandmates. They all look so much older. I remember discovering ‘The Mentals’ shortly after arriving in this country as a clueless teenager. ‘The Nips Are Getting Bigger’ was the first of many catchy, cheeky hits that eventually established them as my favourite Aussie band. I became especially fascinated with their skinny rat-like guitarist. Reg defied any of the usual ‘Guitar God’ clichés. He seemed like an especially out-there character, which appealed to my own sense of self proclaimed weirdness. So when the opportunity came to produce three of their music clips in the late 8o’s, I couldn’t have been more excited. Although I found his witty bass playing brother Peter easier to relate to, it was a buzz just being around Reg. Holding an umbrella above his head in between takes, having some of his fried garlic cloves at lunch and watching him attack his guitar like a madman all remain magical memories. Shortly after shooting the clips, I was attempting to start my own media empire via a video magazine project called ‘Video Manic’. The main presenter was another celebrity weirdo, Maynard F# Crabbes and much of the focus was on the emerging dance party culture. But when the opportunity came up to record an interview with 60’s LSD legend Timothy Leary, I knew that this was a job for Reg Mombassa. He was both thrilled and a little nervous to meet one of his idols. He brought along a couple of his fluorescent Mambo T- shirts to give to the old acid head. Leary loved them, declaring them as very ‘cyber-delic’ – his new catch phrase for the mind expanding possibilities of the emerging digital age. After the interview Reg and I went to the Hopetoun Hotel in Surry Hills for a beer. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’m having a beer with one of my all time favourite people.” A few months later Reg’s wife invited me to his fortieth. I felt out of my depth, surrounded by some of Sydney’s most talented eccentrics. As the years flew past, I would see him from time to time, at an exhibition or a gig. Gradually my specific significance to his life faded to the point of being a vaguely familiar face no longer attached to a name. But I can live with that. For a brief window in my life, I had a few adventures with one of the most talented weirdos to have ever crossed the ditch.