I first met John Darling in 1976 at a posh all-men’s tennis afternoon in Killara, a fashionable garden suburb of
Our mutual friend Ace Bourke had orchestrated the meeting and, despite the
friction that often existed between fellow redheads and homosexualists in Sydney
in those days (eyeing each other off across playgrounds and such), we became
instant doubles partners. He was a terrible cheat and a poor loser but he had an
immaculate backhand. In fact, in the decades of close friendship that followed, Johnny was always describing elegant cricket strokes
in the air whenever he felt particularly chuffed — such as after he’d over-tipped
the Captigon delivery man, or while he was
getting dressed for a date with a rich Hippy girl with big tits. Australia
Rio and Diana have said about him is correct but they
omitted, out of courtesy I imagine, to mention what a narcissist Johnny was —
but in nice not a nasty way.
Under all that aesthete and ascetic lurked a giant ego, and a fairly healthy disregard for other people’s time and whiskey. He was a natty dresser too — favouring the grey shoes of his academic up-bringing teamed with a plaited belt to exaggerated his snake hips. I don’t think I ever saw him in a short-sleeved shirt.
In 1985 Australian actress Arna-Maria Winchester made him the first Sawu-blanket jacket with coconut shell button which I bet he wore in hospital on his death bed whilst listening to the gamelan music he loved so much.
In the early 1980s I visited Johnny’s exquisitely Middle Earth ‘pondok plus’ every Sunday morning: he was the only person I knew with bread, Blue Brand and Vegemite. He would wile the day away gardening and listening to the cricket on his transistor radio while I would lie, seductively, on some hessian pillows, waiting for
Rio to turn up.
You know now, almost 35 years later, there are still women at the Yoga Barn doing the same thing!
In the mid 1980s Johnny and Ian Van Wieringen and I became “The Three Bli(s)” dedicating our lives to late nights in Legian and Legong. A famous leg shot (attached) is a survivor from this era. We were like culture-conscious cat-burglars: Van got all the girls, Johnny all the grants and I caught the crabs.
Johnny was brilliant at getting grants: he deserved a leg-up as his business sense was poor and his understanding of the real
Bali and his poetic vision were
He was a great mentor to me in all my encore careers —since failure to become Wimbledon tennis champion at age 16 — even in my latest incarnation as a barefoot documentary film-maker doing just the sort of films Johnny used to make, but in 24 hours and in lower definition. “It took me 20 years to learn to do that, “he said“, and you’ve done 100 films in 3 months.”
He was like my Dad in this way, always supportive and kind
I think I was best man at both his weddings.
We still call Diana ‘Lady Di’ because she thought she was getting a title with her slice of pavlova.
At his second wedding reception I thanked the people at Pfizer, Roche, Kalbe Farma and Merck and Co, and his beloved Sara, for keeping him alive.