Bombed out

Come what may in this crazy world that many fear is on track to go down in a ball of flames, the civility of Cocktail Hour must continue, so today we’re looking at an IBA Official Cocktail that is appropriate for a number of reasons (and comes with a message of hope).

The B52.

Invented in 1977 by bartender Peter Fich at Banff Springs Hotel, where he named it not after the massive long-range aircraft designed to carry nukes (cheery), but after his favourite band The B-52s (for the pedants out there, they dropped the apostrophe in 2008).

b52It’s easy to remember the recipe  – 20mLs each of Kahlua, Baileys (shockingly, another dropped apostrophe – doing my head in), Grand Marnier – pour in that order, carefully over back of a cold spoon to create layers and you can set fire to the top, or not.

It’s sweet and tasty, but like all shots, is more about getting bombed rather than enjoying a sociable time over a cocktail.

Surprising then that the band it was named after was formed after what is possibly the most sociable cocktail.

The B-52s came together in 1976 after the band members-to-be shared a Flaming Volcano cocktail at a Chinese restaurant in Athens Georgia (also birthplace of REM and Indigo Girls).

They didn’t have enough money to eat so chose to pool funds and share a cocktail.

The Flaming Volcano is not so much a cocktail as a s51s7qg-m-nl-_sx425_hared alcoholic experience. You don’t drink
it out of a glass, you pour a large amount of rum, brandy and juice into the purpose-built vessel like this one and drink through long straws.

The long straws are to avoid the dangers of head clashes and your hair catching hair on fire from the small flaming pit in the middle.

It’s just the sort of thing you drink in your 20s with your friend who you met at the local bong shop.

mi0003516017Thus, over a cocktail of sorts, a creative collaboration that is still delighting fans 40 years later, was sparked. And by the way, you can see The B-52s playing classics like Rock Lobster and Love Shack with Simple Minds and the Models around Australia in early 2017.

But sadly, without founding member Ricky Wilson.

December 1 is World AIDS Day.

The day is designed to raise awareness of issues surrounding HIV and AIDS.

HUGE news in 2016, with AIDS being declared to no longer be a Public Health Issue in Australia. This means that the number of people being diagnosed with AIDS each year in Australia is now so low that we can say that we are one of the only countries in the world to have beaten the AIDS epidemic.

This was inconceivable just a few decades ago when the world was gripped with a panic about AIDS. Bloody good job scientists.

Ricky Wilson, who died in October 1985 of AIDS-related illness, just ten days after Rock Hudson died, was one of the first celebrities to succumb to the disease that first started appearing in 1981.

USA President Ronald Reagan did not even mention the word – think 1101860707_400about that, a massive public health risk that was killing thousands but it was so contentious, the President of the USA wouldn’t even say its name until 1985 – perhaps inspired by the diagnosis of his friend Rock Hudson?

The 1980s were scary times and people behaved in an ugly way towards one another (see where I’m going with this?).

Families whose kids had HIV were being run out of their towns and having their houses fire bombed (good job West Virginia and Florida).

But it wasn’t just in the USA – on the same day Ricky Wilson died, this Good Weekend article appeared in Australia, looking at the cruel treatment of poor little Eve Van Grafhorst who was pushed out of day-care on NSW’s Central Coast because of fear and ignorance surrounding her AIDS. The family had to move to New Zealand to find a welcome.

Way to go Kincumber.

250px-thedayafterAdd to this the Cold War panic which gave us a genuine fear of nuclear attack by the USSR.

At school we were shown films about what we would do in the event of a nuclear attack – FYI, the answer is the same for school drills today – get under your desk. (Seriously, what do they make those desks out of?)

In 1983 we all watched terrifying movies like The Day After, to help us prepare.

The Day After is still the highest rated television movie of all time.

In brief, its message is: in times of crisis, even Steve Guttenberg may not know what to do.


These were dark times, filled with the dread and fear that many are feeling now about what one man moving into the White House might mean for peace and the treatment of minorities and women.

But here’s the thing, we got through the 80s.

Ok, there were precisely zero civil rights legislation for lesbian or gay individuals passed during Reagan’s 8 year tenure and there is still one of his appointees on the Supreme Court, 28 years after he left office.

But think of all that has been achieved in spite of that lingering – and yes, influential – legacy.

And we won’t go back because of a change in President, because Governments can’t actually tell us what to think. And we do think differently now.

The first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras was held in 1978 as a protest march and the police beat the shit out of peaceful marchers and arrested 53 of them. Now the organisation is able to tell the Prime Minister he is unwelcome.

323c5eac00000578-3494517-image-m-8_1458109805975This is the same country that ignored the USA’s inaction on AIDS and started a massive public education program.

The Grim Reaper campaign had the double impact of showing us that there are actually men walking around in our country spelling Simon with an extra i, and no doubt, contributed to this year’s declaration of the AIDS crisis in Australia to be over.

Those of us old enough to remember the 1980s not only have the moral superiority of knowing that our music really was the best, we have lived through what seemed like scary times before.

So on December 1, to celebrate the amazing work of our medical scientists, public health officials and men named Siimon, have a cocktail – flaming or otherwise – and have a little faith.




2 thoughts on “Bombed out

  1. Ah, I was at the B52s concert at the State Theatre in 1979 and that whole upper level was bouncing up and down to the heaving throb of Planet Clare. I’ll take the band, and leave the drink, if that’s okay on this occasion.

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