Gumboot Guru, Alan Knight, AKA ‘Perfect Bastard’, dead

(Alan Knight, 1949-2017)

Alan Knight, aka the Perfect Bastard, one-time guru of the Aquarius Festival’s Gumboot Cult, infamous student cynic, ABC journalist and academic, died in West Concord hospital of cancer in February 2017.

Jim Beatson recalls his fellow 4ZZZ elder when they were young students, plotting an alternative radio station in Brisbane in 1973.

”Alan had a big impact on my life; we shared a house together for a while with other troublemakers at the back of Toowong. Most of the early plotting and scheming about trying to create a radio station took place in his Semper office, under the innocuous Union Media Committee title. Alan had a wicked sense of humour and as Semper editor, I remember him printing an article with a photograph of a Volvo, which Brian Laver had just purchased, labelled “Join the Revolvolution”.

[Brian Laver was a radical student activist, the inspiring voice of Brisbane’s remarkable, pioneering radical movement.]

“Not many people knew that Alan was quite a cartoonist as well. He once produced a poster, showing a very po-faced Brian Laver, in his best Che Guevara boots, addressing the masses at the University, reading from a very long sheet of paper which rolled off into the distance, with the heading “List of Unattainable Demands.”

“Alan was particularly good at giving all of his friends a serve in Semper. I fondly remember him calling me in an article, “a squinty-eyed near hunchback.”

In the year when he was Semper editor and plotting 4ZZZ with Jim Beatson, Alan Knight founded the cult of the Cosmic Gumboot to counter the considerable amount of cosmic bulldust being sprinkled on the fields of Nimbin during the Aquarius Festival.

Any brand of salvation you wanted could be found at the Aquarius Festival in a section of the main camping ground that became known as the Soul Supermarket: there you would find the Yoga Centre, the Krishnas, the Children of God, and the Divine Lighters, the Divine Light Mission, who worshipped the fourteen-year-old Perfect Master, whom they showered with limousines.
The ecstatic moment that triggered the Gumboot Cult was the morning when Paul Joseph and the Magic Circle wandered through the misty fields of young hippies, singing ‘May the long time sun shine upon you’.
In response, Alan and other Brisbane students conferred with the Dingo Pack, a Melbourne street theatre group, and together they plotted the Revenge of the Gumboot.
That night the Gumboot was carried aloft on a pole like a sacred standard while Alan hopped behind, carrying his other gumboot, dodging the cow turds as he channelled the bullshit.
Unlike the Magic Circle, who had copied The Incredible String Band song, they had written their own. It was based on the Hare Krsna chant, beginning, Hare Gumboot! Hare Gumboot! Gumboot! Gumboot! Hare! Hare!, then cycling progressively through Hare Nimbin!, Hare brown rice!, Hare meat pies!, and on and on and on, while the Dingo Pack sang and pranced and danced like the Magic Circle, only more energetically and absurd.
The great thing about the Aquarius Festival was the way people joined in events like the Gumboot procession. Winding through the fields, they picked up a large crowd. By the time they reached the Soul Supermarket, the Gumboot Cult had more followers than anyone.
In an inspiring channeling of ‘The Farce”, Alan revealed himself as the Perfect Bastard, expounded on the mystery of the Cosmic Gumboots, Yin and Yang, and expressed his relatively humble desire (compared to other gurus) to be showered with an electric Blue Ford Escort.
After his student days, Alan held many positions at the ABC, not just limited to annoying the militant feminist staffers at Triple J where he was the newsroom’s head.

When he finally got the gig of being the industrial roundsman for ABC TV, he knew he had to sound the part. So he copied an amalgam at that time of the ABC copperplate singsong voice. Viewers could not tell whether he was deliberately trying to send up the ABC’s ‘reporter voice’ or just epitomising its style.

Needless to say, Management assumed he was taking the piss, which he probably was, and which he denied with his mock serious smile. As his career prospered, he spent years as an ABC foreign correspondent in Asia and China.

In a distinguished academic career, Alan Knight was a Professor of Journalism at Central Queensland University, then at Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

I recall him relating how a quip he made about his head of department led to his departure from QUT, and seeing him smiling his impish smile, delighted by his own humour.

His departure from QUT took him to a better place. He joined the Journalism Department of the University of Technology (UTS), ending his days as Emeritus Professor of Journalism at CQU.

In these years, I would ring him for the Brisbane Line to comment on media controversies and he was great radio talent: waffle-free, his wit tamed by age, but still waspish.

When I heard about his cancer, I cried, but I recall him now with a smile, a funny guy, impish and mischievous; disruptive, when the word still meant something.

Jim Beatson writes, “Alan was a magnificent, annoying bastard, yet quite shy and loving in a quiet way that we have all known and loved over many decades. A real Aussie larrikin and a devoted inquiring reporter of the principled kind.”

Vale Perfect Bastard!

May flights of gumboots sing thee to thy grave!

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