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Thursday, 15 January 2015

One of Us Had to Go!

Long-time friend and workmate, and fellow former Canberra Times columnist, the pleasantly eccentric Mark Juddery died on Tuesday. He was aged just 43.
Stanford Mark Juddery was born in Canberra on March 9, 1971, the son and eldest child of another friend and colleague of mine, Stanford Bruce Juddery, the abrasive New Zealand-born political writer to whom US President Bill Clinton once replied, "I was briefed about you!" Most of us were warned in advance of encountering Bruce for the first time. Mark, happily, was a completely different kettle of fish.
Mark passed away two days short of the 12th anniversary of his father's death. Whereas Bruce's demise, shy of age 62, came much later than had been expected, given his many years of serious alcohol abuse, Mark's end followed an agonising year-long battle with cancer, which had spread to his lymph nodes, liver and lungs. To the best of my knowledge, Mark never touched the hard stuff, though he would have been easily forgiven for doing so in his dying days. His end was most grossly premature.
Mark instead had managed to retain his youthful handsomeness, which he had quite evidently inherited from his sweet-natured Philippines-born mother, Delia. "Youthful handsomeness", indeed, is the very term Mark might have used to describe the appearance of a reincarnated version of one of his most adored fictional characters, Doctor Who. At the drop of a hat, Mark could, and often did, recite a detailed synopsis of any Doctor Who story.
Mark also maintained his Peter Pan persona. Growing up in the home of the hard-drinking, fractious Bruce, Mark was old beyond his years. At 19, just out of Narrabundah College, his response was to seek inner peace and study medication under Sri Chinmoy. He ran three ultra-marathons. More importantly, perhaps, with these teachings he was celibate and shunned drugs, including alcohol.
Conversely, even as a well-developed journalist, Mark maintained an interest in child-like things - most notably a "geeky" passion for movie and TV fantasy and trivia, pop culture and comics. (A keenness for avidly reading science fiction and comics came, incidentally, from his dad). Mark could easily have had a role in The Big Bang Theory - or, academic achievement aside, been an exact role model.
Mark also retained an ability to write with a deftness and clarity way beyond his father's capacity - his last published piece, a lengthy but well-crafted obituary for Australian-born actor Rod Taylor ("The Hollywood star who never forgot he was an Aussie")  appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald the day Mark died.
Mark's intimate knowledge of the history of the movie industry was one of his strongest suits, and I am delighted to have been able to contribute to that deep well, through the donation of an extensive library on the subject. Mark also freely borrowed from my own often first-hand experiences and research in the areas of pop culture and popular music - though he had his own full collection of Velvet Underground albums (and learned to play the mandolin). In gratitude, perhaps, Mark once suggested in print that a Canberra street be named in my honour.
Our closest collaboration came when Mark published his book Busted! The 50 Most Overrated Things in History in 2008. He asked me to launch it, at Dalton's Bookshop on Marcus Clarke Street. In doing this, Mark's impish sense of humour and his delight in the ridiculous was very much in evidence. Among the 50 things he had cheekily included in his book was the typewriter (he also included Gallipoli, with perhaps greater cause). I can't now find my copy of the book or recall his reasons, but Mark knew full well how I would react. Indeed, most of what Mark wrote in his 18-year career in freelance journalism was expressly intended to elicit adverse reactions. He inherited that from his father as well. But in Mark's case his subtlety was often too much for his readers, and his selections were taken too seriously. 
Despite me most forcefully pointing out the serious error of his ways, Mark kept the typewriter (but removed Gallipoli) in his book when it was republished in the US in 2010 as OverRated: The 50 Most Overhyped Things in History - as the cover clearly indicates:
Described in part in his obituary as a humorist and a man of "biting wit" - regardless of him being a quite markedly serious person - Mark also contributed to The Australian, The Bulletin, The Spectator, the Huffington Post and Mad Magazine. He wrote comedy sketches for radio and television, and short comedy plays which he directed and performed worldwide.
When diagnosed with cancer, Mark responded with questions about the disease's "senselessness" and lack of "fairness". "In that way, it reminds me of everyone over the years who has hurt me, everyone who has threatened me, everyone who has tried to control me, everyone who has made me feel scared."
Jack Waterford's acerbic 2003 obituary for Bruce Juddery was notable enough to be included in Nigel Starck's book Life After Death: The Art of the Obituary. It was about an "unsocialised" and infuriating man a mother couldn't love, yet one who was a loving, caring father. In the main it was about Bruce's rudeness and "tragedy and waste". But it ended with the reasonable claim that many who had led exemplary lives would be satisfied with half of Bruce's achievements. In Mark's case, he did led an exemplary life, and his achievements more than matched those of his father. They will most certainly be remembered for a long time to come.
Vale, Mark. Membership of our Mutual Admiration Society has just been halved. You will be missed. 

1 comment:

Dalisay Krege said...

Thank you for your wonderful words about my brother and harsh but true words about my dad.