Who saw the video of the bloke jumping off the Queen’s Wharf Hotel pavilion into Newcastle Harbour last Sunday, as Supercars celebrations went cuckoo?
Equally strange was the footage of a security guard on top of the pavilion wrestling with another bloke, who appeared to be readying himself to make the crazy leap.
The bloke who dived in the harbour only just reached the water.
Lambton's Phil Mahoney was among those who saw the video. While noting the lunacy of the incident, Phil said it reminded him of the “Birdman of Mattara event” – which was held in Newcastle in 1989.
It was part of the Mattara Festival, which Phil was involved with.
The Birdman of Mattara contest involved people dressing in costume and running along a specially-built ramp and platform, before jumping into the harbour.
Festival organiser Alan Ward asked Phil to dress as a bird and dive into the harbour before the media to help promote the event.
“At the time I wasn’t that keen diving into the harbour. But I couldn’t get anyone else to do it. I didn’t know if I’d get stuck in the mud at the bottom of the harbour,” he said.
“I bought a tow rope on the way in. I said to my wife: ‘If I’m a bit long coming up, throw the rope down to me’.”
So, dressed in a striped outfit, wearing large gumboots and a big set of wings, Phil leapt into the harbour.
Ever since then, he’s been a bit like Michael Keaton in the movie Birdman.
Keaton’s character Riggan Thomson was famous for playing the role of Birdman the superhero some 20 years prior. Since then, he’d lived with Birdman as an alter ego and inner voice that he couldn’t shed.
Phil has done a lot in his life, but he’ll never live down the moment when he became the Birdman of Mattara. He lives with that alter ego. It’ll never leave him.
And he’ll forever have – in the back of his head – the voice of the old man who gave him a stern warning moments before he leapt into Newcastle Harbour in his resplendent bird costume.
“Just before I went to take the jump, the old bloke said: ‘You’re crazy jumping in there. Thirty years ago a mate of mine’s fox terrier got taken by a shark’.”
Thankfully, Phil survived. He didn’t get stuck in the mud or meet any sharks.
As for the Birdman of Mattara contest, Phil said it was brilliant. People dressed in all kinds of flying costumes to make the leap into the harbour.
“It was one of the best events I’ve ever seen at the Mattara Festival,” he said.
This from reader Simon Kelly: “Have you heard the one about a duck walking into a barber shop. Seriously, I was in the barber’s at Wangi and in waddled a group of ducks. Apparently, they started doing this a few weeks ago. It started with three of them, but now there's about seven. Word has obviously got around that the barber shop is the place for Daffy and his mates to be seen”.