Growing up as a young, gay TV aficionado, I was starry eyed by the glamorous independence of Mary Tyler Moore, Laverne & Shirley, Marlo Thomas in That Girl. They had it all – sass, style, and sing-a-long theme songs.
Give us any chance, we'll take it
Give us any rule, we'll break it
We're gonna make our dreams come true
Doin' it our way!
But most of all, they had funky houses and apartments, in that special place – the TV universe. In fact, almost all apartments seen on that ideal – the US sitcom – were, for me, the epitome of Making It. At such a young age, I didn’t even have a firm grasp of what making it was. I had no inklings yet of life plans, or career goals or anything as concrete as that (On an exercise at primary school on “What I Want To Be When I Grow Up”, I’d listed “tennis player”. I’d never played a game, or even set foot on a court. Still haven’t.)
However, what I did know, what late-70s/early-80s television had taught me, was that if you have a cool abode, somewhere full of character, great furniture and chunky American telephones, you were set. You could take on the world, wisecracking all the way. And men, those sweet fools, would swoon, but you’d always, always, get the last laugh.
Diamonds, Daisies, Snowflakes,
Chestnuts, Rainbows, Springtime...
Is That Girl
She's tinsel on a tree...
She's everything that every girl should be!
And lo and behold it was from the back seat of the family car that I spotted such a place where such things could happen. A row of slightly worn, but undeniably groovy, two-story narrow houses near the junction of Punt Road and Swan St. They looked worn and well lived in, something straight from the TV universe. Originally possibly one building, or even two, they were subdivided into four homes. Set back from the street, up some stairs (you want a stoop). Arched windows. Decorative plasterwork on the top of the facade, and even a foundation stone in the centre. Live here! they seemed to cry. You’ll have zany adventures which will all be resolved in 30 minutes!
At the time they were painted a pale green, and a little in disrepair. These were the places you’d step out of with purpose, looking confident and ready to take on the day, along with your hilarious co-stars (I mean, pals) and a dependable laugh track. I had also imagined that when “grown up” I’d have a chic convertible like Nancy Drew, so that would be parked out the front somewhere, ready to take me out. To some social gathering celebrating my tennis prowess, perhaps. The Hoddle Street/Punt Road thoroughfare, with its constant horn hooting, and traffic, added to this frenetic city-living vibe.
Whenever we pulled up at the lights near that intersection, I’d look out for them. It was comforting to see them time and time again. I just knew I’d be there someday. I had already moved in.
Love is all around, no need to waste it.
You can have a town, why don't you take it?
You're gonna make it after all!
Well, the dream never quite eventuated, although I have lived in some very lovely shabby-chic abodes, just not these particular ones. And I’ve had enough larks to make a suitably cute opening credit montage that would make Mary Tyler Moore proud. (Please universe, MAKE THIS HAPPEN). The Nancy Drew convertible, alas, has never eventuated.
That row of houses? Well, I can imagine that when I was gazing longingly at them, they were not in an estimable location, and were probably quite rundown which was part of their character that I loved. Now, however, they are prime inner-city real estate. Painted cream, and no doubt renovated within an inch of their lives. Still gorgeous but, alas, a bit indiscernible. Homogenised.
While I no longer live in Melbourne, if I’m in town and heading into the big, bright, still-exciting city along that famous road, I try to remember to look out for them. And they make me smile. Because they bring to mind a young boy from the ’burbs in the back of a family car who thought there was nothing better than to be an independent woman with Punt Road leading her wherever she wanted to go.