Category: The Eighties

A Tribute to Joey’s Landmark

Illustrator: Trevor Romain

In a week, heavy with sad news, I hear from my international informants that The Doll House Roadhouse on Louis Botha Avenue in Johannesburg will close on 31st August 2017.

It opened in 1935.

At last! A cause we can get behind that isn’t political. Save a Johannesburg Heritage Landmark. Rhodes must fall, but the Dollhouse must stand!

On a Facebook page, the fans of the Doll House implore you to email the Gauteng Province large fromages to halt the imminent demolition of the road house on Louis Botha Avenue next to the Reform Shul.

I suspect that it is the memories rather than the menu that people recall. 

The Doll House has – had – a menu that was guaranteed to make a Banting blanch.

You could have fried chicken and chips, curry and rice and…

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Face to Face with Magnus Malan

In June 1988 I flew to Cape Town to interview the South African Minister of Defense, Magnus Malan. The world’s media was fixated on the conflict in Angola as the Cuban forces were thought to number over 54, 000 in the war-torn country. Meanwhile a controversial Nelson Mandela tribute concert, televised live to millions of people in over 60 countries, gave the anti-apartheid movement its biggest worldwide audience. Whitney Houston, George Michael, the Bee Gees and Dire Straits performed at the Wembley Stadium concert.

The lens of the world’s media this week zoomed into close-up on Africa’s Vietnam – Angola.

In the spotlight is General Magnus Malan, Minister of Defence since 1980.

This week JANI ALLAN flew where Eagles Dare, caught the ‘Superhawk’  on the wing and interviewed General Malan FACE TO FACE in Cape Town. 

 

MOST people love to talk about themselves. Not the Strong Arm of the SADF.

Perhaps he prefers war-war…

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Finding Tracy

Pic: Pretoria Moot Rekord

One of the main news items in South Africa this week comes after Mark Scott-Crossley handed himself over to police. A warrant for Scott-Crossley’s arrest was issued in December after an alleged racist incident in Limpopo. He now faces attempted murder charges. In 2005 Scott-Crossley was tried and convicted for the murder of a worker who he threw into a lion enclosure.

In 1988 Jani Allan found herself in the Johannesburg family home of Mark Scott-Crossley whilst working as a journalist for the Sunday Times. The disappearance of Mark’s sister, Tracy was quickly developing into one of the most high-profile crime stories of the decade. Tragically, Tracy was one of six schoolgirls who disappeared in 1988 and 1989 shortly before paedophile Gert van Rooyen and his lover Joey Haarhoff committed suicide…

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Canvassing – with a Nat out of Tatler and an assertive DP yuppie

I wrote this column in  the winter of 1989 – six weeks before the South African general election. The Sunday Times was leading with the story ‘NATS FACE VOTE CRISIS’ as a shock poll was predicting a deadlocked parliament.

I was tasked with accompanying the NP’s Sheila Camerer and the DP’s Tony Leon on the campaign trail in their Johannesburg constituencies. Leon would later become the gifted leader of the re-branded Democratic Alliance where Camerer would join him as an MP.

 

ALL politics, someone once observed, is based on the indifference of a majority.

With only 47 more days to The Election, JANI ALLAN pounded the pavements with a pair of politicos and came FACE TO FACE with that privileged species, the White Registered Voter.

Sheila Camerer, MP for Rosettenville is quite charming about agreeing to let me tag along with her for a morning’s canvassing in the deep south.

We meet at the…

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I get married and become a columnist (extract)

This is an extract from Jani Confidential (Jacana, 2015) by Jani Allan.

If you really want to know who I am, let me tell you a story. The windows of my memory are casually framing pictures of a roseate hue. I just happened, for a while, to be at the top of a layer cake with icing decorated with stars.

The story I am going to tell you contributed immeasurably to my sense of self.

It is my Gordon story.

*

Gordon Schachat will tell you the story. My shrink will tell you the story.

Gordon said he saw me walking down the steps of the Great Hall at Wits University and decided then and there to marry me. That day my avatar was wearing a chocolate suede midi-skirt buttoned up the front and a pair of matching chocolate suede thigh boots. I was twenty-one.

Gordon took to hanging around the canteen when he knew I would…

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Beyers Naudé: ‘Who defines the concept, Afrikaner?’

Twenty-seven years ago Jani Allan interviewed the Rev Beyers Naudé at his modest home in Greenside, Johannesburg. His endless soul-searching in defining the concept of an Afrikaner   continues in Afrikaners’ ongoing existential quest for belonging.

Christi van der Westhuizen, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Pretoria, advances  andersdenkendheid – a condition of thinking differently – as the democratic duty of Afrikaners. Andersdenkendheid lies in direct opposition to eendersdenkendheid – a condition derived from the doctrinaire advances of JG Strijdom. The Afrikaans word refers to a condition of thinking the same. In 1948 Strijdom claimed that opposition to apartheid was as treasonable as refusing to defend one’s own country during an outbreak of war.

The Rev Beyers Naudé (1915-2004).

The hallmarks of andersdenkendheid – dogged questioning and critical…

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Fasten your seatbelts! The Force is with you again

I wrote this column some thirty-six years ago on the eve of the release of the Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. Trapped in a maelstrom of political uncertainty, South Africa in the ’80s was like Berlin before the war. People tried to blot out the reality of what was happening in the country with the same desperation. I think that this piece captures the spirit of my young avatar, spellbound by the magic and escapism of the epic space opera franchise.

 

THE Empire Strikes Back! Slide into your spacesuits and leap onto the spacewagon (again) with Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader, extra-terrestrial, celestial Uncle Tom Cobbly and all.

Hold onto your PLSS (Portable Life Support System) and get ready to make the jump into cyberspace!

Swop your Maserati Mercedes or Mini for a Millenium Falk, and when he says ‘Your place or mine?’ remember he might just mean ‘galaxy’ and not ‘pad’!

A long…

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Afrikaner pride and passion mix with fun and laughter for the new era boere punks

Twenty-seven years ago Jani Allan interviewed Afrikaner musical guerrillas Johannes Kerkorrel and André Letoit at a restaurant in Hillbrow. Their rendezvous coincided with one of the most sensational developments in South African history: State President P W Botha met with Nelson Mandela at Tuynhuys in Cape Town.

Marianne Thamm has explained how this “Voëlvry” generation of the 1980s laid the foundations for progressive Afrikaans music of the 21st century. The likes of Francois van Coke and his alternative punk band, Fokofpolisiekar  make music that is  ‘defiant, provocative, rebellious, subversive and engaged in deeper existential questions.’

Kerkorrel would tragically end his own life and Hillbrow would become unrecognisable. I have chosen this passage from Marq de Villier’s White Tribe Dreaming. This pair of ‘boere punks’ embody the spirit of Afrikaners that made the dramatic leap in rejecting the Afrikanerdom of Die Groot…

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An open letter to Daddy dearest, Tertius Myburgh

You were hugely influential as the successful editor of the country’s largest newspaper. You were seen as a builder of bridges in a deeply divided society. Before we both become a footnote in history, let the record show I believe you used me as a cabaret turn.

Dear Mr Myburgh,

Almost 25 years to the day after you died, John Matisonn’s book God, Spies and Lies has been published.

Most journalists are doing a “yawn yawn snore”, pretending that everyone knew that you were an apartheid spy.

I remember our first meeting.

I thought you were handsome and debonair,

(Andy Garcia in the movie.)

You looked exactly as I thought an editor should look. Lots of thick wavy hair. Big strong teeth. Braces. You were vain about your clothes. Your shirts were made in Jermyn Street. Your…

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Life as a scatterling of Africa

 

In the early eighties two young men came to the offices of the Sunday Times in downtown Johannesburg on a Monday morning to be interviewed.

One was a Lancashire-born son of a Jewish immigrant from Poland; the other was a Zulu migrant worker. During the interview (which took place in the office while someone hoovered the newsroom) they were slightly awkward and most obliging.

It was transparent as cellophane that neither Johnny Clegg nor Sipho Mchunu were used to the adulation that they were receiving.

They met when they were in their teens and formed Juluka. Juluka went on to become one of South Africa’s biggest musical exports.  Their “Scatterlings of Africa” was first released in 1982 and remains the band’s biggest hit.

Although their albums were pointedly political, “Scatterlings” remains the track that all…

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My secret envy

Kotel, Jerusalem – where my prayer was planted in the cracks two years ago. Earlier this year the journalist Caryn Gootkin was in Jerusalem. She said a prayer for me at the Kotel as I nervously prepared for my return to South Africa.

A couple of weeks ago I waited on a Jewish wedding party.

One of the women in the party gave me the challah (the bread eaten on Shabbat) and asked me to warm it in the oven. I was required to put it on a plate and bring it to the table covered with the traditional embroidered challot.

A young man said…

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Letter to a Young Jani

 

 

 

 

 

This column was originally published by De Kat in August 2014. 

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On Valentine’s day – then and now

When I was working at the Sunday Times in Johannesburg on Valentine ’s Day, my  office looked like a florist shop.

‘No one has the right to have so many admirers!’ adjudicated a reporter spitefully.

It’s a very South African thing to define someone by what they have, what they wear, what they drive and where they live.

I tried to heed the caveat of my yogi raj Mani Finger: Take your work seriously, but not yourself. If you take your possessions seriously what will happen if you lose them.

What will happen if you lose them?

I thought about that when I took the roof off the car and drove home with Talking Heads blaring, the song-snatching wind blowing through my hair. At times like this it was easy to believe that I had hit three gold stars on the fruit machine of life. Did I deserve my good fortune? What gods…

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Mandy Rice-Davies – From High-life Scandal to High Life

I met Mandy Rice-Davies in the summer of 1989. 

We got on like port and nuts. She invited me to have supper with her and Ken Foreman, her husband, at Le Caprice in Arlingston Street, Picadilly.

She said she was interested in how my life was going to turn out.

It was with sadness that I read of her death this week.

This is the interview I wrote after meeting her.

The first thing you notice about Mrs Foreman, née Mandy Rice-Davies is that she looks innocently young. It’s been 26 years since that spot of bother with Profumo, Keeler and Co which led to the collapse of Harold Macmillan’s government. But the years have passed without leaving the barest trace.

Enviable figure, too, Wafer-thin and perfectly groomed, she looks exactly right in the opulent setting of her Knightsbridge drawing room….

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By Golly! It’s Hello Dolly : RIP Joan Brickhill

I have just heard of the passing of Joan Brickhill. As a tribute to her I remember an interview I did with Joan Brickhill and Louis Burke.

Joan Brickhill and Louis Burke. Photograph by Andrzej Sawa.

The giddy glitter and G-string gun ‘n doll of South African stage and cinema fulminate into the room – Joan Brickhill and Louis Burke.

Before I can say Follies Fantastique, I am whirled out, slow-slow-quick-quick-slow into Joan’s garden to ‘ooh-aah’ the marvel of Joan’s Green Thumb.

“She talks to them you know,” Louis explains proudly, whizzing me past outsized rhododendrons….

“….and of course they respond!”

We zoom past seed-packet Technicolor ranunculus, delphiniums and snapdragons, before stopping at a giant rose-garden that would have done Capability Brown proud.

“She’s had a rose named after her you know…

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Diagonal Street Déjà vu

Twenty five years ago on January 8th I was told by my editor to write a front page interview which was to be entitled Jani by Jani. In those days the Sunday Times cost R1.61 +19c tax. Many of the key players in this storm in a thimble are dead. Hopefully the other haters are dying off. I write this for a different generation and for those with a sense of the ridiculousness that has always been a hallmark of many things South African. Cf Nkandla, Malema, Zuma etc. 

Jani by Jani

Hot on the trail of South Africa’s most-wanted journalist.

Photo credit: James Soullier.

Roll up! Roll up! It’s the Jani and ET show. BOM. Bring own mud.“Broedertwis! Blondine!”

Credited…

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Feeling Beautiful and Turned On? Sorry…

I wrote this piece for the Sunday Times in 1981.

EVER since I saw Twiggy on the cover of Petticoat magazine I was obsessed (like every other 16-year-old) with becoming a model.

I used to practice making up my face for hours (‘if Twiggy could wear three pairs of false eyelashes, then so could I).  My hobby was skin care. I would dash home from the rigours of Caesar’s Gallic Wars (BK 1) and plaster my face with home-made face-packs, elbows rammed into lemon-halves.

I painstakingly cut out hundreds of pictures (with pinking shears) of glamorous vacuous-looking models from every magazine from Huigenoot to Harper’s Bazaar …

I just KNEW that modelling was my vocation.

Once I was through with my studies I would fly to London, Paris or Rome (I wasn’t fussy). I would be spotted in the streets of one…

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AN EVENING WITH KIM & JANI

A week before Christmas in 1984 veteran broadcaster Kim Shippey accompanied me to Robert Kirby’s play “Wrong Time of Year.” It was followed by supper at The Palace in Rosebank, Johannesburg.

This is what Kim wrote about our evening together:

What does one say about a girl who loves TS Eliot and Vivaldi, Cote d’Or and Camelot and thinks she’s a vampire?
I suspect even Erich Segal would be stumped by that one.
Draw a little blood, you might say, and analyse it carefully?
Or keep out of her way.
But what do you do when she insists that she’ll lose her job unless she can take you to a show of your choice and a nightspot of her choice?
Turn up the volume on Richard Harris and see what he says about handling a woman?
No, you climb meekly…

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