At the Cemetery

a sip for bon

[David giving Bon a sip…]

Yesterday was the anniversary of Bon Scott’s death. I kept a vigil all day in Fremantle Cemetery, resting in the shade of a tree near Bon’s grave.

Even though I had never been to the cemetery before, I was aware that Bon’s grave, like Jim Morrison’s in Paris, has long been the most popular slab in Freo’s city of the dead. Fans from all over the world make their way to Bon’s final resting place to pay their respects.

Rumour has it that a few weeks back, none other than heavy metal legends Iron Maiden were chauffeured to the cemetery to have a drink with Bon. Apparently this kind of thing happens all the time.

So it is odd, indeed, that Bon’s grave, when you find it, is so unassuming. Jasmin dropped me off about 11am, as she had to run off to some meetings. I entered through the main gate and wandered around. I noticed there was a “heritage trail” – a painted green line on the bitumen pathway, and I assumed this would lead me to Bon. But instead I meandered into the depths of the cemetery, and it was not long before I got lost. Row after row of ornate headstones made from mottled granite baked under the sun. Many of the graves were adorned, in that strange Italian way, with fading ceramic photographs of the deceased.

“Bon’s grave can’t be too far off,” I thought to myself. I decided to walk around til I found it, rather than going to ask the caretaker. He must be sick of that question. Looking around, I noticed a fellow dressed all in black waving at me. He was too far away to be heard, so he didn’t bother shouting, but once he caught my eye he pointed, repeatedly, down to a spot just in front of him. I wandered over.

“You after Bon?”
“Thought you were”, he said. “Wandering around like that with your backpack on.” His name was David.

I asked David if he came by often. “Oh yeah,” he said. “A couple of times a week I stop by and have a drink with Bon.” He had a premix can of rum and coke, and after having a sip himself, he leaned over and poured out “a sip for Bon”, in the patch of dirt just beside the plaque.

david giving a drink to bon

The plaque itself is alarmingly small. Perhaps only the size of a record cover, and flat to the ground. It mentions that Bon was the loved son of Isa and Chick, and brother of Derek, Graham, and Valarie. To Bon’s left is a similarly small monument, honouring someone called “Mary Betty Savage”, and to Bon’s right, a mysterious blank slab smeared with traces of glue, but no plaque. There’s no mention of Bon ever having been in a band, let alone one as famous as AC/DC. So ordinary, I thought, compared with the forest of ostentatious Italianate marble masterpieces just over yonder. Neatly brushed in white paint on the curb in front of his plaque were the words: “RIDE ON BON.”

David stood, swaying slightly, in front of this small slab, sipping and contemplating, dribbling a little from his can for Bon, and supping a little for himself. “He’ll talk to ya, he will,” David said. “If you stand here long enough, he’ll have a talk with ya. You hang around and see.”

David is a big fan. He used to play music, but not much any more. He lives nearby, in the housing estate a short walk away. I told him about my project, and how I was going to hang out in the cemetery all day to see who came along, it being Bon’s anniversary and all. David leaned in to have another look at the plaque. “Shit, man! You’re right! It is today!” He wanted to rush off and tell his brother to come down and pay his respects too.

I asked David if he was planning to go to the concert on Sunday. “Sure,” he said, “I’ll be there. And I’ll recognise you by your red cap!”

I pointed out that my crappy red baseball cap (which I bought in a second hand store on a previous trip to WA) is embroidered with the paternalistic anti-littering slogan: “Don’t waste Western Australia”.
“Should be GET WASTED in Western Australia, more like, eh!” he chuckled. “See ya on Sunday, then, Lucas”. And off he went.

raelee, kingsley, maurice

Next to arrive was a family: Raelee, and her grown up kids, Maurice and Kingsley. Raelee’s son David (known as “Cookey”) died one year ago, and they came down to see about ordering a memorial bench for him. These benches are peppered throughout the cemetery, and provide a place to sit and rest while you visit dead relatives. Cookey, Raelee said, was into AC/DC in a big way, and he had a huge collection of music and memorabilia which they’d stored carefully after his death. They would pass these cherished keepsakes on to David’s son when he got a little older. David was only 37 when he died, in a workplace accident. He was also nuts about Jim Morrison.

I took a photo of the family in front of the grave, and Raelee, in turn, took a shot of me too – “so we know who we’re talking about when we read your blog!” she said.

Ben Scott

They couldn’t have been gone two minutes when a long haired character in a new-smelling leather vest, AC/DC iron-on patches, thongs, and two cans of Wild Turkey bounded up in front of me. He pumped my hand and introduced himself: “I’m Ben Scott. The love-child of Bon Scott”.

I couldn’t believe my luck. I’d really hit paydirt this time.

I vaguely remembered reading something about a love-child, (or was it more than one??) coming out of the woodwork recently. But I never dreamed I’d get to actually meet one in the flesh. A bona-fide, illegitimate self-proclaimed heir to Bon’s throne. I took out my voice recorder and taped our entire conversation. I could not leave this to the vagaries of memory. I’ll put up a transcript of the whole thing when I get a sec: Bon’s son, in his own words…

Ben said he’s been campaigning to get the supreme court to give him access to Bon’s DNA. Apparently not just any average Joe gets to do these paternity tests. You have to obtain the consent of the family, or, failing that, you’ve gotta give the judge sufficient reason to suspect that there might be some possibility of truth to your story. So that’s why Ben has been hitting the media recently, to raise awareness for his cause. He hopes that a wave of popular support will convince the court to let him take that test.

Ben told me the story. Here it is, in a nutshell. His mum’s name is Gloria Torrance. She was one of Bon’s girlfriends in the early 1970s (Ben is now 34). “Well, I wouldn’t say girlfriend, but they used to sleep together I guess”, Ben said. He remembers hanging out with Bon as a little kid, the young rocker taking him swimming at the beach. But later, Bon drifted off and didn’t spend any more time with him. Eventually the band and the record company closed ranks and denied him access to his dad. They effectively erased the memory of the paternal link. But in Ben’s own mind there is no doubt whatsoever that Bon is his dad.

Apparently, this story is corroborated by the members of the The Angels, who used to hang out with Bon at Gloria’s place too. It obviously would help to get a proper statement from Gloria, too, but unfortunately, she now has Alzheimers, so that’s not easy any more.

In the 24 hours since I met Ben, I’ve told his story to several of my friends, and they’ve all laughed at the idea. Ha ha, imagine Lucas hanging out with a madman in the cemetery. But Ben didn’t seem crazy at all. I quite liked him actually. He was easy to spend time with, and was really quite reasonable.

sue and amanda and jason

While we were talking, two genteel Aussie ladies rolled up with a picnic basket and a fluffy white dog. Surely they couldn’t be here for Bon? I was right: they rolled out their blanket and sat down to sandwiches next to a neighbouring grave, where their mum is buried. They’d come down from Northam for the day. It’s a month since their mum’s birthday, but it was too hot back on the 19th of January, so they saved their visit for now. Their names were Sue and Amanda, and the dog is called Jason.

Sue and Amanda seemed happy to have someone to natter away with. They asked about Bon’s grave: why was it so small? shouldn’t the family pay for him to get a better one? surely it’d be preferable to have a proper place so that fans could visit without causing trouble?

“Often”, said Sue, “there are full bottles of whisky and cans of beer and bottle tops and everything littered around his grave”. Ben said these get cleaned up pretty fast, although he wasn’t sure whether they were drunk by other fans, or just shoved in the nearby bin by the cemetery caretaker.

We talked about “the price of fame”. According to Sue and Amanda, Heath Ledger is also buried in the Freo cemetery, although they don’t know where. It was a shame he died, they thought, because he was a good little actor, and had so much promise. They wondered why he had been so sad. Clearly, all the money in the world won’t make you happy.

“It’s like this, I reckon,” said Ben. “Famous people get paid more, it’s like penalty rates for the stress they go through. Basically they sacrifice their ordinary lives so that we can look up to them and have something to believe in. That’s what the extra money’s for. There’s no reason to be unhappy about it. It just the way the system works.”

ben scott article
[click on the article to see it larger. (To avoid confusion, you should know that “Ronald Belford Scott” is also the legal name of Ben Scott, changed by deed poll some time ago…) Read another article about Ben here.]

Sue and Amanda packed up and Ben took me over to the cemetery cafeteria to get a sandwich. Before he left, he opened up the boot of his car and showed me his recent news coverage. I particularly liked the headline “Who made who”. That was an inspired piece of cheesey copywriting.

(Incidentally, you can join Ben’s campaign to have the paternity test over here at his myspace page.)

While I was munching my white-bread-salad-beetroot-&-cheese, a couple of Scots came into the cafeteria. “You’d be looking for Bon, then?” the nice lady behind the counter asked them. It seems cemetery regulars can spot us Bon-people from a mile off.

Bill and Ashley

Back at the grave, the Scots introduced themselves: Bill and Ashley. They’re from Glasgow. Bill has a brother living in Perth, so he came out last year for the statue fundraising concert. This year, he decided to bring his daughter along with him. I asked Ashley if she liked AC/DC too. “Sure!”, she said. “But I prefer Korn.” They had brought a small “Scott” fridge magnet with the family tartan, as an offering. Bill placed it gently on the edge of the plaque.

As the afternoon wore on, groups of two or three trickled in to say gday to Bon. Here are a few I met…

Paul and Mick

Paul and Mick, two old mates. I told Mick that when I started this blog I was a “non-fan”. He had this bewildered look on his face, like, “How could you NOT be a fan of AC/DC?” I was a bit worried he was going to punch me out. I hastily explained that it’s not that I don’t like the music, it’s just that for whatever reason, I never came across it much while I was growing up… and um, besides that, now that I’m doing the project, I’m struck by the quality of their music, more and more…

That seemed to hold him off, and he started to explain to me why Bon’s life and work are so damn important: “He stood for non-conformity, man, he stood for a big fucken fuck-you to the system, he stood for doing your own thing, and not being caught up in the crap of authority and capitalism and all that shit, man! How could you NOT like Bon??!”

Simmo and his flower and singlet

Then there was Simmo, who wore a fantastic Dirty Deeds singlet, showing a cheeky Bon holding a can of Swan Lager. Simmo brought a couple of bright yellow sunflowers picked right here in Fremantle. He gave me the tip-off that on Sunday night, after the big concert, the Esplanade Hotel was the place to be. All the stars would be hanging out there.

bec shooting andy
[Bec, left, taking a photo of Andy the flower man.]

Next to arrive was Bec, a photographer. Like me, she’s working on a Bon Scott project. Her particular thing is taking pictures of Bon’s fans in their domestic environments, surrounded by home made shrines. Fortuitously, shortly after Bec arrived, Andy showed up. He’s a gentle flower delivery man. He drove his van all the way up the cemetery path, threw open the roller door and invited us all to grab a few bunches to lay around Bon’s grave.

Vanessa and her flower arrangements

Vanessa, a blond lady, took to this task with great energy. She took big armfuls of blooms and tried them out this way and that. But finally she rejected nearly every fancy carnation and tulip, concluding instead that the simpler the arrangement, the more Bon would have liked it. She laid Simmo’s two yellow flowers together with a couple of pink ones, and called it quits. Bec took photos of the whole process.

Incidentally, Andy the flower man had a striking black AC/DC shirt he had custom-designed and printed up in Las Vegas. He posed for me in front of the Bon Scott memorial gate.

Adam and Niina

Adam and Niina, visiting from the UK. Their ferry to Rottnest had been cancelled for the day, so they decided to come down and see Bon instead. Adam was amazed that they’d stumbled upon the very day of Bon’s anniversary. They were very pleased with themselves. “This is way better than a trip to Rotto,” Adam said.

glenn and his tatts

Next up was Glenn, and his girlfriend (whose name I have forgotten, I’m ashamed to say). Glenn had the most incredible AC/DC tattoos covering his entire back. He’s added to them, bit by bit over the years. One of his favourites was a Brian Johnson tattoo. The story goes that once, after a concert, he got to meet Brian, and he asked the man to sign his back with a sharpie. Glenn rushed straight to the tattoo parlour, and within an hour, Brian’s signature had been inked and needled permanently. “He’s got such a rock and roll autograph, doncha think?” asked Glenn.

Glenn was really excited about my project. “My brother Todd, he’s a great muso, I reckon he’d love to hang out with ya and talk about AC/DC”, he said. It’s all very well being a fan, but Todd, apparently, will be able to explain the musicological side of things. He rushed off and called him on his mobile, and arranged it all. So next Monday night I’ll visit Todd’s studio to talk music and drink beer.

Justin's tattoo

Then there was Justin, who used to play guitar in legendary Perth band Raucus. “At one stage we were declared the loudest band in the world!” he bragged. “Although, that was based on our sound levels being tested inside a small pub. The previous record holders, The Who, were tested outdoors, from a distance of a couple of hundred metres. So it was a bit of a beat up really.” Justin showed me his home-made tattoo: Bon’s lightning strike icon, on his inside right ankle, shakily applied when he was just 15.

Glenn with Matt
[Glenn (40) on the left, Matt (17) on the right. Glenn is obviously impressed with Matt’s old school shoes…]

And finally, Matt, the youngest fan to pay his respects. Matt is only 17. Glenn marvelled over the fact that AC/DC continues to attract young fans from each new generation. Sure enough, Matt picked up his acca dacca passion from his dad. “I hate the new music, bloody Justin Timberlake and all that shit,” he said. He hoped to get to the concert on Sunday but wasn’t sure he’d be able to afford the ticket.

This assembly of characters lounged around on the grass as the sun dropped down in the sky. Justin had some Jack Daniels and coke, and Glenn had brought a carton of Toohey’s extra dry and a bag of ice. Suprisingly, no figure of authority came along to tell us off for our “antisocial” behaviour. I guess they must be pretty used to it by now, and anyway, the whole scene was peaceful enough. Everyone snapped photos of each other in front of the grave on their mobile phones. It was time to go. Bec offered to give me a lift to the train station.

Rick at the Fremantle Train station

But the day wasn’t quite over yet. Waiting for the train to Perth, I got talking with Rick, a fan from Canberra who had flown over for the concert. He remembers seeing AC/DC from the very earliest days in the 1970s. “I’m the same age as Angus” he said, “but my birthday is two weeks earlier!”

24 thoughts on “At the Cemetery”

  1. [nb: the location of the statue, revealed in the following comment, has been blanked out to protect the privacy of the artist…x Lucas]

    HEY dude
    Met ya down at Bons Memorial 19th The hippy sunflower Bogan. U can travel all around perth freo and south freo is the only place with sun flowers on every street !!!! Bons old stomping grounds . Well after paying my respects I thought we would head down to see if we could glimps of thye holy statue and yes the Bon spirit was shining down on us .Here we r sneaking a look through the doors , There he was smiling away at us on a box troly ,so true to life ,even though his arms and leggs werent attached he was real as his creators . Yes we got busted and with all respect I didnt even take a photo , even when his creators ( forgot there names……..) wheeled him over 4 a closer look. Man I felt friggin awsume man . here we r the 1st people to see part of Bon !!
    When I got home I checked out your blog > awsum
    So 2moro u head on down to c Bon statue hey ! Well find XXXX st in freo and head towards the XXXX. As u neer the end u will c a big old building called the XXXX and just go under it through the XXXX to the XXXX. go right along the XXX towards a big XXXX that has a big glass end on it.Now walk around the XXXX side of the building and right smack in the middle is the holy grale ! Now no sneaky photos and I garantee u will get a look !!
    It is BON or BUST !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    check out the Espanade hotel Freo on sun morning and u will c the guys who will play that night !!
    Mums the word , but then again I think this what Bon would have done .
    Let there B ROCK
    Simmo : )

  2. Thanks Simmo, AMAZING! great story about going to see the statue. Hope you understand I had to BLACK OUT with XXXX the details of where to go, so as not to give the game away!

    (as Bon says in “No fun waiting around to be a millionaire” – “the names have been changed to protect the guilty” he he.

    great to have met you at the grave yesterday



    Love it
    Hope u checked him out ! look for those true die hard fans and a bit of interlect , he is not hard to find . but I some how think to many fans finding out could ?? upset the creators , or doug mat ( blooby hopless on names )who organized it all. I woke up this morning and me being the Hippy bogon had a wierd insight . I think tha that I picked up Bons spirit and transported him to his statue , as when they showed him to me , the statue started to come alive . Hey I DONT do drugs and I was not even pisst !!!! Come sunday night he is going to come fully alive , so LET THERE BE ROCK ! for we salute YOU !

    As for Bons stomping grounds many say north freo , but his ashes r here in south freo , his finnal resting place , his mums mantle peace.
    I dont mind having my story on his blog , as after all he was a hippy bogan as well . going down thursday 4 another sneek preview as he should be complete . if ya didnt have much luck finding him this is my no XXXXXXXX ,should catch up 4 a drink ?
    Siimo : )

  4. Hot off the press, Simmo: I followed your advice and went to visit the artists studio. Stay tuned for a world exclusive sneak preview of the statue in progress!
    update: here is that sneak preview…

  5. hey! how are you?

    you been up to much?

    haha! you posted our pic 🙂

    i like how you added i like Korn more
    but of course i do 🙂

    loving the blog

    Ma dad says “Ride On Lucas”

    hope your well

    hope to see you at the concert on Sunday
    it’ll be fantastic


  6. Hi Lucas

    Met you at Bon Scotts monument at Fremantle on Tuesday………Been following your Blog, love the shots you took.
    He’s one I took of you.

    lucas at bon scott grave in fremantle, by raelee

    Keep up the good work and look forward to reading what have to say next.

  7. Thanks everybody, it was great to meet you all.

    I should add something that I ran out of space to mention in the main blog post above – there was big discussion all day about that blank slab adjacent to Bon’s. (It just had a trace of glue, but no plaque.)

    Well, apparently that was a heritage listing plaque. Two years ago, Bon’s grave was granted a “heritage listing.” See an announcement about it here. It includes a “statement of significance” about why such a strange thing as a rocker’s grave should be listed on the national trust as a site of significance.

    However, last year that plaque was stolen: read about it here. There’s a picture of what that heritage plaque looked like here.

    There was a bench near the grave, which was also missing its plaque. Visitors to the cemetery on Tuesday told me that it had once held a dedication from the other members of AC/DC, but this has also since been nicked.

    It seems there is a division amongst the fans:
    there are those who come along with gifts (bottles of whiskey and beer and CDs and flowers etc; and there are those who come looking for souveniers to place on the mantlepiece at home. Naturally, I only met fans from the first category on Tuesday at the graveside, and they were all pretty cranky about the second category…

  8. Bill:
    just to say you were spot on about the divide between the REAL Bon Scott fans who respect what the man stood for and those who are just plain ARSEHOLES who dont deserve to call themselves Bon Scott fans. They’re just scum of the earth and i hope i never come across any of them. WHY?….Ill let you use your imagination 😉

    hope you are well


    hey hope your well
    hope to see you on sunday 😀



  9. Great story Lucas, have to check out the grave next time I’m in Freo.

    Reading this reminded me of visiting Jimi Hendrix’s grave on the outskirts of Seattle, Washington while travelling around The States back in 1992. It was the day after his 50th birthday and the plaque (about the same size as Bon’s) was littered with beer bottles, cigarettes and spliffs. There were also birthday cards, a few of which I read. One that I’ll always remember was from a 15 year old girl who signed off her message with something like “I’ll be with you soon Jimi.” I was hoping this didn’t mean she was going to top herself?

    While paying my respects a guy in his late 20s or early 30s came up and introduced himself as Jimi Hendrix’s second cousin. He told me how Jimmy’s plaque used to be gold plated, but that one was nicked. They’re on their third plaque now apparently. He also told me that because of the legend that Jimmy is buried with a gold guitar people have tried to dig him up. Because of this the Hendrix family bought a house opposite the cemetery, and with a view of the grave which you can see from the road, and family members come and check on him daily. He told me that they have more than once discovered a half dug hole, which the grave-robbers couldn’t complete before daylight as Jimi is buried extra-low down, and had to abandon. He told me that a few graves away used to be the final resting place of Bruce Lee, but that his family moved his remains after people tried to dig him up also. But I digress.

    Good story Lucas, pity the other members of AC/DC didn’t show up for it all, but I guess they have their reasons. The Ben Scott anecdote is interesting, perhaps you should pitch it to Good Weekend or some other mags back in Sydney?

    Perhaps we should do a book on graves of famous rock stars around the world, who knows?


    And have fun watching the sun go down backwards over a beer, there are some nice breweries round Freo from memory, no?

    Benito Di Fonzo

  10. PS: I have just discovered that in 2002, ten years after my story, and what would have been Jimi’s 60th birthday, the Hendrix family built a shrine to Jimi, partly due to complaints from familys of people buried near him. A statue of Jimi was also erected around that time in the Seattle CBD. I guess this should give Bon’s fans hope that after so many years he may also eventually have a shrine, incorporating the original plaque, like Hendrix finally received 32 years after his death.

  11. Thanks Benito, I especially like the image of would-be crims slinking away at dawn from Jimi Hendrix’s half-dug grave. A gold guitar! Really? Hah! In WA, I reckon they’d leave the spade at home and come down to the cemetery with a bobcat.

    Regarding the possibility of a special shrine for Bon, set apart from the regular cemetery: the impression I get is that most fans I’ve met so far would aruge that Bon is fine just where he is. He’s in a relatively unregulated, ordinary grave, next to ordinary people. That suits him just fine. If he (via his rowdy visitors) occasionally creates a few nuisance for his neighbours, well, what can you say? As he was when alive, so he is when he’s dead!

  12. highlights of this entry for me:
    -classic photo of david pouring bundy from a can onto bon scotts grave. so very very australian. and romantic?
    -the mention of jasmine, someone i know, to anchor the entry in reality for me instead of ‘off in a far and distant land’ type of thing. being anchored in reality only raises the hilarity of what is supposed to be a sombre place.
    -david turning up! he turns up everywhere. i’ve met him a few times at exhibition openings and generally round about freo. quite a social guy david, and charming too.
    -the small fluffy white dog named ‘jason’. ’nuff said.
    -the quote “bloody justin timberlake and all that shit” from a 17 year old.
    -the appearance of 6 pairs of black jeans.

  13. Thanks Alyssa. Amazing that you know David. I hope he makes it to the Bon Scott Exhibition Launch.

    By the way, speaking (as I was at the very beginning) of big rock stars making a pilgrimage to the grave, add to the list: Dave Grohl, and Sebastion Bach.

  14. HI LUCAS,
    Bill here,how are you ? Well i hope. Ashleys not long back from Download Concert 2008 to see Johnathon Davies(KORN} and ROSE TATTOO then she went to see Johnathon in London at his solo concert.I on the other hand am waiting for the one and only AC/DC to tour Britain.Looking forward to the release of the new album and the DVD of the BON SCOTT concerts.Say HI to Mark and his family and give them my love,missing all you guys,i had the best times of my life when i was in OZ.

  15. Hi Bill and Ashley
    great to hear from you guys.

    If you send me your postal address (send to lucas[at]bonscottblog[dot]com) I will mail you a copy of “at the cemetery” – the little booklet I made about the day I met you all. You are featured in it!


  16. Hi Lucas,
    Just thought we’d drop you a wee note just incase you thought we’d forgotten about you,believe me we haven’t,Still awaiting the “little booklet” you were going to send out to us.Hope you are well and keeping busy.Great to see Bons Statue has finally been placed in an appropriate place and hopefully we’ll get out to see it for ourselves at some point and if we do we’ll arrange to meet up.Say HI to Mark and his family and Mary of course and give them our love.YOU take and we hope you all have a Great Christmas and an even better New Year. CHEERS. Your Friends Bill and Ashley Fae Scotland.

  17. Hi Lucas,
    Well went to see the mighty AC/DC at Hampden Park Glasgow and it was AWESOME!! On a few occasions we must have been 6 feet from Brian and Angus,what a Buzz. Best of all is my wee bro has got me a ticket for the OZ gig so guess what, YES see you there. I’ll get Ash to send photos of the gig.
    Well Take Care. RIDE ON.

  18. brilliant bill and ashley! great to hear from you.

    see you there! i’m going to the concert in perth too!

    yeah, send some photos and i will put them up…

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