“Santa was about to present me with Tommy tumor, a colostomy bag, and a possible text message saying tidy up your affairs” Mick Malloy
Mick Malloy is joining the team of Very Byron this week as a regular contributor. We have high expectations of Mick since he recently won The Echo‘s ‘Best Letters to the Editor’ award. However, before you become familiar with his quick draw pen and humorous anecdotes on life in Byron, we thought we would introduce his darker side ie moonlights as the Managing Director of Screws ‘n Bolts Handyman Services. We dropped in on him this week for a ‘look-see’ and found an on-the-job stand up comedian. We hope you enjoy the laugh as much as we did. Of course the interview is much more serious!!!
We had to double-check which Michael Malloy we were interviewing because there are two of you in the Byron area. You must have had a laugh over that?
Yeah, I’d say I’m the only dude who can claim to have found himself within a week of arriving in Byron. When we arrived we rocked up to the Writers Festival where we ran into a volunteer with my name pinned to his shirt. In terms of surnames, the spelling of mine is unusual (Malloy) … so I’m lookin at this bloke actually wondering if he was like me. Can you believe that? He sure as hell didn’t look like me and as it turned out, he was very high profile. A few years later he started copping flak over some of the politically charged letters I was writing to The Echo, so much so, he had to write in to say he wasn’t me. To help him out I started calling myself Mick Malloy, but then people confused me with the Melbourne comedian, Mick Molloy, a dude who is half my height, twice my weight and ten times funnier.
So, Michael – sorry Mick, how did you come to be in Byron Bay?
Why wouldn’t you be in Byron Bay? I grew up in the bush, in the highly forgettable farming town of Bass, 100 kms south of Melbourne, where the only thing to ever grow was the hole in the ozone layer. After my twenties and thirties disappeared into the Melbourne greyness, and all our friends started procreating, I took off with my beloved de facto, Prue… we wanted to change something and it sure as hell wasn’t dirty nappies. As far as cities go, Melbourne’s OK, but there’s so little sun, people have to moonbake. We worked our way up the east coast and landed in Byron in ’97. We camped at Clarkes Beach for six days and it rained for seven, but we loved every drop of it. We relocated to Byron in 2002.
Prue & Michael never married but shortly after arriving in Byron they threw a ‘wow’ party where they exchanged ‘wows’ and instead of rings, exchanged pieces of art. Prue commissioned The Flying Goolie to create a ‘wow’ piece to give to Michael and Michael commissioned Jan Rae to replicate a favourite picture to give to Prue.
What work were you doing before you left Melbourne?
Good question. Let’s just say I was in career transition … for about ten years. For a lot of years I was a service technician in Industrial Water Treatment. It was a fantastic gig until Legionnaires Disease started to wipe a few dudes off the map … then everyone associated with the industry was hell-bent on covering their arse. The nail in the coffin was when I slugged toxic corrosion inhibitor into the drinking water system of a cop shop … I couldn’t believe it, I’d been doing that job every month for about ten years. I figured that was The Universe telling me to hang up my bucket and beaker. So I studied Naturopathy for three years, anticipating a lucrative trade in chronically sick cops, but it wasn’t to be … eventually I tossed it in for the glamour of handyman work. So in terms of lofty career heights, I’m still scaling the basement steps. In Byron, with that sort of background, I could be Mayor!
Would you consider yourself successful?
Absolutely … I’ve gone from a human doing to a human being. Very profound, I know … but it’s true. Since I left the cradle I’ve been incapable of distinguishing between identity and work … the money /security thing. Can you believe it … my greatest fear was to be out of work … and check out where I’m living now – Byron Bay, where no one gives a shit whether you’re Bill Gates or Bob the Builder.
When you returned to Byron in 2002 what work did you do?
Well work and Byron aren’t exactly synonymous, are they? I started a range of corny greeting cards under the banner of ‘Feeling Corny’, but when neither of us (Prue or myself) wanted to actually sell them, I picked up the tools again. I scored a great maintenance gig at The Arts Factory Backpackers … that was like running around a petroleum refinery, taking matches off four year olds.
Fun hey… have you got any good stories to share?
One of my very first jobs was repairing a locker in a dorm full of young Swiss females. The girls happened to come back from the pool while I was in the middle of the job … but that wasn’t a problem for them as they went from wet bikinis to dresses to all things in between … that was the longest locker job in the history of the hostel. Another time a bunch of German lads decided to celebrate Oktoberfest with a bonfire on a timber decked walkway. Their idea of reporting the ‘accident’ was to drag a big bin across the burnt hole before shooting through.
What did you do after your time at the Arts Factory?
Well my time at the Arts Factory came to an abrupt end due to a cancer encounter. Eighteen months earlier, a friend of ours, who was seriously psychic, told us I was headed for liver cancer if I didn’t pursue an ‘apparent’ impending health condition. That was pretty heavy stuff considering we knew how on the ball she was. So I saw a couple of psychic healers and had Vega testing to find out what was goin down, but it all drew a blank. Because we didn’t know how to bridge the gap between the psychic stuff and traditional medicine we tended to relax. That nearly cost me big time, because 18 months later, as she predicted, we learnt about Tommy tumor loitering in my back passage. Prue named it Tommy because the label ‘cancer’ is so yesterday. Fortunately the thing was a slow grower and not very aggro. So I scored a good look at the internal workings of Lismore Base Hospital and it got a bloody good look at mine.
this was the 2006 christmas card Prue & Mick sent to their friends! Given they kept the news of Tommy Tumor quiet, it could have been quite a shock receiving this in the mail.
Wow. Can you shed some light on that journey?
Yeah, that was one weird trip. It’s not every day you listen to some dude describe how he’s gonna hack his way through your guts. The fact that I might not poo again, let alone be around as a result, never really registered. So, four days before Christmas the hospital was decked out in tinsel and stuff, and here I was being wheeled to theatre where Santa was about to present me with Tommy, a colostomy bag, and a possible text message saying tidy up your affairs.
When I arrived in theatre and they asked me my name for about the sixth time – I thought about giving them a different one just for a laugh, but they didn’t seem that happy to be there … understandable I guess, when you consider they were working in Lismore. Anyway, in all the excitement I forgot to mention I was a bit of a feinter. I must have heard the epidural needle being unwrapped and sure enough I hit the deck. When I snapped out of it, I asked how the op went, only to be told it hadn’t started.
Anyway, I escaped the hospital on Christmas day, minus the promised bag, a rectum and it seemed, the dreaded text message … a bloke had to be happy with that. It’s nearly five years down the track now, and things are great … there’s no foreseeable sign of me borrowing Spike Milligan’s epitaph ‘I told you I was crook’.
Gosh, it must have messed with your mind?
Well, not when you have the support of a ‘loving’ de facto of twenty years who comforted me with caring words like “You always were the runt of the litter”. I would have preferred the canary in the mineshaft analogy. Initially we freaked out a bit, but you soon realise that’s useless. We decided to be pragmatic, plus keep the whole thing quiet. What you don’t need is to be surrounded by worry and negativity, which automatically excluded my mum from knowing. I think we told her I’d gone fishing. The whole trip was much tougher on Prue. Especially on Christmas morning when my mum phoned to wish us much merriment. I was still at Lismore Base attached to a drip and Prue, full of angst from the whole ordeal, had to mask it somehow and fob her off, promising one of us would call her back. I don’t think she took the bait that I’d gone fishing. It was then I realised it wasn’t about me at all. As it turned out, if you were going to get a Tommy, this was the one to get … no chemo, no radiation, just a big dose of scalpel.
Wow, that doesn’t sound like fun…so what happened from there? What healing modalities did you explore?
Oh, you know … just the bog standard … harmonic craniosacral, hypnotic regression, erotic trance therapy and a bit of intuitive gardening.
Always the joker hey Mick. Seriously now, have you come through it with a new direction in your life?
Yeah, it was a good wake up call. I had always envied dudes whose work was their passion. Shirley Maclean once said in relation to work, she didn’t do anything she didn’t want to do. I like that. Life’s too short not to. I want to write, I must write – a book, articles, blog, letters to local papers, anything. I’ve been copy writing for Prue’s business and I’ve just written my mum’s eulogy. She’s not dead yet but she was worried about what I might say and needed to proof read it!
Mick Malloy trying not to send his audience to sleep with his stand up comedy routine at the Bruns Pub
With the writing , we understand you won an award from The Echo (local paper) … what was that for?
Yeah, at their 25th birthday gig, they kindly gave me an award for ‘best letters to the editor’. On the night Hans Lovejoy, the editor, assumed I was retired … I guess because of the volume of stuff I had submitted. I thought shit I’m spending all my time writing letters to those guys and not much else. So now I’m trying to diversify the writing and will hopefully reach a high enough standard to contribute to Very Byron … a monumental challenge, of course!
You are combining the editing/writing with your maintenance business which you’ve called ‘Screws ‘n Bolts’. Tell us about Screws ‘n Bolts.
Yeah …the name … it doesn’t exactly scream repeat service, does it? I thought if I’m going to do handymanning I’m going to have a laugh with the name before I become Jim’s Bunnings. I remember a plumber calling himself ‘Danny Boy’ and he had the tag line … the pipes, the pipes are calling. You’ve gotta love it. ‘Screws’ is also a reminder to me that repairing someone’s flyscreen is not the same as performing brain surgery.
What is it that you love about living here?
I just love the sub-tropical warmth and those big rolling clouds to the west … it’s like Darwin Lite. I’ve never looked at the sky as much as I do here. I think the further north you go and the harsher the elements become, the more earthing it is. I love the fact that if I collapsed on the roadway here the first motorist to see me would leap out of his Kombi and help. If the same thing happened in Sydney, a dozen Porsches would run over me before one would stop, and only then because he could see a market for flat-packed body parts. I love The Echo …it provides a fantastic voice for people … its Darwin counterpart, The NT News, devotes its first five pages to croc attacks and rapes, and a regular sixth to crocs being raped … nice! The array of healers in this area is extraordinary … in Bass you were lucky to see a vet. The passion and creativity here is inspiring … and of course, we have the Byron women … my God, they are stunning … inside and out. Byron defines natural beauty.
What are the challenges of living here?
Service in the shops is always happy-cheery but not always that bright. I once asked a young bloke serving in the deli at Woollies where the prawns were from, only to be told “from the freezer out the back”. I couldn’t help but ask, “Are they breeding out there?” I could tell he was a local … it was 10am and he still had saltwater running from his nose.
Byron has an oversupply of crazies, but that’s a plus when you’re looking for local councillors (you’d have to be crazy to do that job).
There’s a lack of local vision. There are influential dudes who want to build a second road, or a by-pass into the CBD to overcome congestion on the main drag in … that’s like implanting a second oesophagus to cure constipation.
In a way, Byron is a victim of democracy. On the one hand the people march naked against something like Iraq, yet on the other they can’t agree on what colour to paint the bins.
If you are unfortunate enough to live beside a holiday let, the challenge is to refrain from burning it to the ground.
What are your fears?
When I was at the Arts Factory, Byron Tik (local artist) painted my portrait and captured my intensity. That scared the hell out of me. My fear is that he kept the painting.
Byron is a great place for Mick’s work…it takes him to some beautiful properties and the beach is always a stones throw away for lunch breaks.
And what we say is…
Hanging out with Mick is not good for the wrinkles… laugh lines engraved to the max. His humour is quick and often corny but always beats sitting around processing the ‘deeper meaning of life’… which we all know can become a bit ‘very byron.’ So we look forward to Mick’s posts to encourage us not to take ourselves tooooooooo seriously whilst living in paradise. The first one is coming this Friday. Stay tuned!
And now for the BYRON QUESTIONS…Is there any one Byron person who has inspired you?
Mandy Nolan … a chick who’s got legs longer than the Melbourne Cup and energy to match … she should be declared a national treasure. I don’t know how many kids she’s got now, nor does she, but her energy and commitment to comedy and creativity in this region is extraordinary. She singlehandedly runs one of the most appropriate industries for Byron Bay – the industry of taking the piss out of everything. She’s had everyone from nine months to ninety years doing stand-up. How empowering is that?
What’s your fave shop in Byron?
Krystal Adult World … I like to hang out there and people watch (perhaps I should rephrase that).
What would we find you doing on a typical Saturday morning?
Having brunch while reading the Sydney Morning Herald. I use to read The Weekend Australian but it was causing me to projectile vomit.
What’s your favourite blog or website?
Krystal Adult World.com.au … for people watching. But seriously, I guess it has to be the obvious…Very Byron!
What’s your favourite time of the year in Byron?
It’s actually every third year … when Council fills the potholes
What’s your local’s tip for visitors?
Bring a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power of Now’ with them for the last kilometre of the drive into Byron. By the time they reach town they will have finished the book and be totally empowered.