Jack Mannix Zine Launch

Kids in the kitchen: Jack Mannix’s Cocksucker Bruise Zine Launch, by Marta Jary

Jack Mannix is standing in Jim Shirlaw’s longue room with a camera around his neck and telling semi-harrowing stories in the deceiving, deadpan drawl of a comedy routine.

“My first professional threesome was with a drag queen called Gypsy, and we had this game where we would see who could do the least work on a john. Except the first time we do it, Gypsy doesn’t let me in on the game. And I am not kidding, she just stands there, and I am working so hard my entire face of make up sweated off into this guy’s crotch, just like when you wake up in the morning with your whole face on the pillow – except it was on his stomach”.

His delivery is killer. Is it okay to laugh at this? Jack’s self-aware sideways smile says it is.

“Meanwhile Gypsy is standing in the corner posing like this – (he throws his arms above his head) and this – (he throws his arms on his hips), and she’s laughing her ass off. When we’re done she looks at my wet hair and wet face and throws up her hands and says, ‘Honey you’re a mess’”.

The shiny-eyed audience spilled in sunken lounges snorts and guffaws. Jack’s quick grin is a like a curtsey.

Story told, he slots himself in a gap next to me and pours a small increment of Jack Daniels from a little flask. It’s nice to see him drinking, honestly. It’s nice to see him ruddy with the same pedestrian intoxicants as everyone else who’s turned up to see him play tonight, to buy copies of his zine.

A couple hours earlier I saw Jack for the first time in a year. I’m in a bottle shop ruminating over what beer to buy, when suddenly there is an arm around my waist.

“Hey can you lend me five bucks?”

“Jack!”

We hug. He complains he’s gotten fat. So do I. He hasn’t. I have. He poses for a photo. He looks well. Round and pink in the cheeks, emptied of sallow finally. “It’s good not to have to assure people I’m better,” he says. “I just look it”.

He does need that five bucks though, for whiskey.

A few months ago I wrote this piece about Jack, and he gave a very candid interview. We got a little vitriol for it. We walk to his gig together and I tell him I’m sorry. “I’m used to it,” he says, rolling a cigarette, a little white filter sitting on his lip. “Besides,” he says, “I’ve had people tell me they didn’t know me before they read that interview. I told the truth. It’s impossible to feel bad about that”.

That night Jack is back in Sydney after a long and bitter absence, launching his zine of autobiographical stories, fragments and photos, Cocksucker Bruise. The show was aptly set in the 70’s time warp that is the home of performance artist and musician Jim Shirlaw; a casual genius who has been hosting his Sex Tape concerts out of his bedroom, and who held a 24-hour, one-man musical in the car park at Alaska Projects gallery in August.

As it happens the crowd is too hefty for the bedroom so they set up in the kitchen, among the peeling retro décor and dirty dishes, and Jack plays a set of new originals, Circle Pit tracks and covers, with Jim on the Moog and De’von Sue on bass and a desk lamp substituting for a spotlight.

This is Jack relaxed: he languidly throws out songs like he’s alone. Cameras flash, people cross through the kitchen past his strumming arm for beer. Bodies lay over the stairs and applaud from above.

When it comes to art and music, Sydney can feel like a small town sometimes, and tonight, Jack is the homecoming hero – except it feels a bit like he just got back from Vietnam. The applause is genuine, the respect is genuine. We walk to the bottle store for re-supply, humming ear-worms.

The set is done. Lids are popped off longnecks. Lighters substitute for bottle openers. Joints make the rounds. Bit by bit, things get messy.

Later: Jack is talking about appearing in an exhibition of penis photos. Someone yelps, “My naked ass is in that film Sleeping Beauty starring Emily Blunt, I was an ass extra!” A girl in creepers reads a passage from Cocksucker Bruise and says, “Sometimes I wish he was making it all up.” Jesse Willesee leans over drunk as a schoolie and asks me, “Do you ever think about your legacy?” I say, “All the time.” On the roof a pair of kids dressed as runway Mormons declare with alcohol-heightened voices that it’s Rumspringa and cheer. In the hall Jim Shirlaw is laughing at the tail-end of a joke I missed and he asks me, “Do you want to die here?” The bathroom’s lock is actually a pair of pliers stuffed in a hole and they promptly fall out once I shut the door. Outside, Tell Him by the Exciters is booming through dust-caked speakers. Jack dances up to me doing the shimmy and rasping the lyrics in a muted helium-squeal. He says, “All my idols are sweaty.”

All night, Jack takes pictures of everybody. He shoots on film and the lack of instant gratification ends with a lot of let-down sighs. Jack promises he’ll bring the developed photos with him when he returns. “I’m coming back to Sydney soon,” he says. “I miss this”.

 

Words by Marta Jary. Pictures by Jesse Willesee. You can see more photos from the night at Jesse Willesee Stole My Camera. You can buy Cocksucker Bruise here.