July 26, 2012

Frankenstein in Brisbane, Part 3:
The Monster, in Person!

A stir was caused when the Kiyogle mail train came to a standstill at the South Brisbane Station yesterday, and a man more than 7ft. in height, with his face hideously made up, stepped on to the platform to face a battery of cameras.

So read a short notice under the title “Giant’s Arrival” in the Brisbane Courier of June 9, 1932. Frankenstein’s Monster had come to town.

The sullen, lanky gentleman in the clunky Monster boots was one Lance Robartson, “6ft. 11in. in his socks”, self-proclaimed Tallest Man in Australia. Reporters dwelled on Mr. Robartson’s difficulties in securing sleeping accommodations, train berths and hotel beds invariably too small and uncomfortable.

Robartson would appear at the posh Carlton Cabaret — “FRANKENSTEIN will be present… A Monster” — on the night before the film’s premiere. Ads promised an “Evening of melody, song, dancing and laughter”, but there is no record of how The Monster worked the room. Did he dance or sing? Was there a skit?

The Courier reported, simply, that “An enjoyable time was held at the Carlton Cabaret on Thursday evening”. A long list of guests was published, local bigwigs no doubt, treated to a dinner party by the Tivoli Theater management, and a note saying that Mr. Robartson would soon entrain for Melbourne. Beyond that, all traces of Mr. Robartson or his stint as a Frankenstein stand-in are lost. As of this writing, all we have are some newspaper ads and an old grainy photograph.

The Carlton Cabaret, adjoining the Carlton Hotel, opened in March of 1930 as “a social rendez-vous” and “a thoroughly modern amusement palace”. It was said to combine the best features of the world’s leading cabarets. Several rooms allowed for all-day operation, serving luncheon, “tea dansant”, dinner and evening entertainment. A ten-piece orchestra, reportedly among the highest paid bands in Australia, occupied “a raised dais of beautiful design” in the large ballroom, its dance floor a sprung and polished surface of redwood. Once an opulent showplace, the Carlton Cabaret was later cut up into smaller venues and finally demolished in the late Eighties.

Next up in this series: Frankenstein Opens!


Anonymous said...

He actually looks more like Lee's Creature than Karloff's Monster!


Rick said...

Beat me to it!! I don't see a lot of Karloff in Mr. Robartson, but there's a very strong feel of Lee.

Great stuff.

Pierre Fournier said...

Good call on the Lee Monster. There's also a bit of Conrad Veidt and Cesare going on here.

Robert Kiss said...

I've turned up some dates for this not-so-Karloffesque Australian, although nothing that gives any insight into his professional path or other accomplishments.

Lance Gregory Robartson was born in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick in 1910 and remained resident in and around Melbourne until he was in his early twenties. During the late 1930s and early 1940s, he then turns up on the electoral roll in a couple of other towns in the state of Victoria, Wimmera and Flinders, before returning to Melbourne, where he died in 1965.