Debbie Kruger
I'm always grateful that I was a teenager in the 1970s, when music was so great, and that I was a groovy 20-something in the 1980s, when people knew how to party and greed was supposedly good. In my twenties I went to university, learned everything one could ever need to know about shoes, wore a lot of hats, drank a lot of strawberry daquaris, was passionate about theatre, started my professional life in the entertainment industry, travelled a lot (see Jetsetter) and, like any good Debbie should, I did Dallas.
My 21st birthday party had a Dallas theme, being that it was my favourite television show at the time. Yes, that's me next to Sue Ellen, although as many people pointed out, I wasn't exactly in proportion to the others.

The party was guaranteed to be bigger than the Oil Barons' Ball and better than the Ewing Barbeque. My parents' house was made into the North Shore version of Southfork for the evening, and guests were asked to dress "Dallas style," which for me meant hot pink silk with wide shoulders; for other guests it meant Texan cowboy hats or, in the case of my friend Emanuel, bandages and crutches, as the episode immediately before the party involved a devastating car crash. Another friend, Cameron, came as the ghost of Jock Ewing.

21st birthday invitation

Did you do Dallas in the '80s? You may well remember who shot JR, but do you remember that there was a girl called Debbie who was a waitress at the Oil Barons' Club? Check out Destination Dallas to find out everything you always wanted to know, and more, about the show.

Debbie at her 21st
Debbie Does Dallas
in pink Carla Zampatti with
Joshua Shoes to match. So 1980s.
From 1983 until 1985 I worked part-time, and occasionally full-time, for Joshua Shoes, a now defunct shoe store chain that had the coolest fashion shoes in the '80s, and in every shape and colour. You wanted white perferated leather flat boots? No problem. Baby pink high-heeled court shoes? You got it. I knew everything there was to know about how shoes were made, how to fit them, how to get your foot into a boot with an impossibly high instep (a plastic bag, of course), and lots more besides. I was an extremely well heeled uni student.
Debbie at Joshua Shoes I worked in the Double Bay shop at a time when Double Bay was the place to shop in Sydney. Here I am in the shop modelling a dress by hot new designer Stuart Membery which was featured in the hot new magazine Follow Me, which never really worked all that well on me, fashion victim that I was.
So there I was, studying Shakespeare, singing with Sherbet (go to Music and Mayhem for more info), and selling shoes. And boots, of course. Boots in every colour imaginable.


Debbie at Joshua Shoes
At your service, 1985.
Debbie Does Double Bay shoe sales girl.
The best thing about working at Joshua Shoes was the friendships I made with the girls I worked with. They were career sales girls, and I was only passing through in the big scheme of things, but it was a special time and we bonded. It was a real wild social time, a real "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" time, and we were always going out, and Carrie always seemed to be getting flowers from us. We all stayed friends for years after I left Joshua; we were even all living in London together in 1990. Carrie's in Brisbane these days. Terri and I often talk of tracking her down. Terri, one of life's sweetest souls, is still one of my best friends to this day.
Joshua Shoes friends
Unlike most of my high school friends, who went straight from school to university, it took me a couple of years to work out what I wanted to do in my tertiary education. First I deferred a year to go and live in London. Then I went to Mitchell College in Bathurst (now Charles Sturt University), the arsehole of the universe, to study Communications. I can assure you the fact that 20 years later I was a Communications Manager had absolutely nothing to do with my brief semester at Mitchell College. I hated it there and decided I would never be a journalist. Who knew?

Anyway, finally in 1982 I decided to do an Arts degree at the University of NSW, majoring in English and Drama (although the History department tried in vain to enlist me in their Honours program). My uni years were full of knowledge and hard work (and shoes) but very different to my school years in terms of bonds formed. I remained closer to my school friends during this time, and although there were adventures and tales to tell from the Library Lawn, I haven't really stayed in touch with people I knew at uni, except by accident.

University friends
UNSW 1982. Clockwise from top:
English tutor Peter Alexander with eager first year students Gina (raising two kids somewhere in Sydney), Debbie and Socrates (wonder where he is today);
Deb with good pal Jon whose mother cooked the best Greek-style fish I ever tasted, and who now lives in the Byron area;
Deb with Karen and Rob (no idea where either of them is);
Deb (in a sarong I still own) with Cameron (no idea where he is), Margi (now a professional stage performer with an amazing singing voice) and Pauline (now a film journalist in LA)
In 2nd Year of Drama I got involved in a production of William Wycherley's The Country Wife. I had shocking stage fright (unlike those gigs with Sherbet) and was fairly shocking as an actor, only confirming my belief that I would be better put to use behind the scenes in the theatre industry. But it was fun, and I loved studying Restoration plays, although not as much as Shakespeare or the French Neo-Classical playwrights. The best essay I ever wrote was a comparison of Shakespeare's and Racine's tragedies. But what can you do with such expertise in Australia? Become a lecturer in Shakespearean and French Neo-Classical theatre? No, I wanted to be a dramaturg. But that's another story.
In costume for The Country Wife
Sarah, Jo and Debbie – Ladies Sqeamish and Fidget
University friends
UNSW 1984. With English lecturers and fellow Honours students. Where are they all now?
I did Honours in English and topped the year in 1984, my 3rd year. But only one semester into my 4th year – the thesis year – I had a life-changing experience when I made contact with Richard Wherrett and Wayne Harrison at the Sydney Theatre Company, and realised that being an academic was not what I needed to be. So I dropped out, opting to graduate with a plain Bachelor of Arts. A few years later, while I was working full-time as a showbiz journalist with Variety, I did a part-time Master of Arts degree in Theatre Studies, and studied lots more French Neo-Classical theatre. And then I vowed never to set foot on a university campus as a student again. Enough was enough.

Debbie and Clare graduate University Degrees
I graduated with my BA on the same day that my dear school friend Clare graduated with her LLB.
October 1985.

After dropping out of my Honours year at uni, I did some casual writing and research for the Sydney Theatre Company. some volunteer work for the new Company B at Belvoir Street Theatre, and then landed my first full-time Arts job, as the Membership Officer for the Australian Writers Guild. I quickly found myself mixing with the cream of Australia's script writers, and although the actual work was drudgery, the company I kept was pretty cool.
Not long after starting at the Guild, and on the day I collected my BA at UNSW as photographed above, I helped out at the annual Writers Guild scriptwriting workshop weekend up in the Blue Mountains. The theme was "Writing Narrative Comedy" and the elite of Australia's comedy writers mixed with aspiring scriptwriters. I was in my element, especially as I was able to chat with David Williamson at length about his script of Gallipoli, my favourite movie of all time (still today). Not that Gallipoli was a comedy, but writers always love to talk about their work!
Writers Guild office
My glamourous office space at the AWG, 1985,
featuring the first ever computer I used and the
No Smoking sign that pissed off members and my boss.
Comedy writing workshop
Maryanne Fahey, Patrick Cook, Debbie and Ian
McFadyen working on a comedy script in workshop situ.
This was pre-Comedy Company days.
David Williamson
David Williamson struts his stuff at the AWG comedy writing weekend.
I was very ambitious and was doing freelance dramaturgical work on the side for Wayne Harrison, researching for a play he directed in Adelaide called Redinka's Lesson, and reading unsolicited manuscripts that were sent into the STC. Certain people at the Writers Guild felt this was a conflict of interests for me and tried to have me stop the work, but the issue went to Management Committee level and I was triumphant.
I made long lasting friends and allies during my one year at the Australian Writers Guild. Aside from David Williamson, who was a great supporter early in my career, writers such as Justin Fleming and Stephen Measday became life-long friends.

Writer/Producer/Director Michael Le Moignan (pictured with me and my shoulder pads at the 1986 Awgie Awards) was one of the most influential people I have ever had in my life, and the Guild's legal advisor, Rick Raftos, now runs the literary agency that represents me!
Mick and Debbie
So although I wanted to be working full-time in theatre at that point, it turned out that my time at the Australian Writers Guild was absolutely pivotal in shaping my life and career. As it is with most things we do in our lives.

After I left the Guild Michael encouraged me to start writing articles about people in the media and Arts industries, and before I knew it I had a nice portfolio of stories that had been published in The Australian on subjects ranging from Aboriginal filmmaker Bob Merritt to up-and-coming actress Nicole Kidman. You can read these and more on my Freelance Writing page.

From there it was on to my full-time reporting job with Variety.

Debbie and Carrie My Variety days are detailed in a page which you can visit by clicking on the photo at left. That's my Joshua Shoes cohort, Carrie, on one of her regular visits to see me at the Variety office.

Through my work at Variety, I made lots of friends who, like me, were obsessed with theatre and the Arts. Today those friends find me slightly odd, as my passion is almost entirely based around music and I am little more than indifferent to theatre. But back in the 1980s when I was in my twenties, theatre was all, and as Variety's Australian theatre critic, I was always at an opening night. Thankfully, although my theatre passion has since died, my closest friendships from those days have remained.

I first met Peter Cochrane in 1986 when I pitched my first ever freelance article to the Sydney Morning Herald and he was the paper's Arts Editor. Here I am in December 1987 with Pete (left) and the Herald's then theatre critic, Bob Evans, outside the church at Arts journo Jo Litson's wedding to actor Sal Sharah. Pete, Deb and Bob
Debbie and Jo Jo Litson was and still is one of the most prolific and enthusastic Arts writers in the universe. Back in the late '80s we were almost inseparable – always at opening nights, parties, anything. Here we are at one of the Sydney Festival concerts at the Domain (I think this was the Symphony Under The Stars) in January 1988.
One of the more gregarious characters back then was theatre publicist Bruce Pollack, who liked to have a ball. So on this occasion in 1988 we masked up for a charity ball.

My chief mentors throughout this time continued to be playwright and author Justin Fleming, and theatre wunderkind Wayne Harrison. Wayne was the Sydney Theatre Company's dramaturg at this time, and went on to become the STC's Director. He's now a roaming theatre producer based in London, and Justin bases himself between Sydney, London and Paris. And they both feature elsewhere on this site, particularly in the Jetsetter section. Here they are, below left, waxing both lyrical and literal in 1988. And below right, they're with my mother and me at a party I had before moving to London in 1990.

Debbie and Bruce
Justin and Wayne Wayne, Mum, Justin, Deb
Of the many friends I made during my twenties, two of the most special were David Glyde and Jeff Bartolomei. David is something of a legend, having played saxophone with Sounds Incorporated in England in the early '60s, touring with the Beatles to Australia in 1964. He ended up moving permanently to Australia later in the '60s, was married to jazz chanteuse Kerri Biddell in the '70s, and played in numerous bands, including the Jesus Christ Superstar band. When I was introduced to him by a mutual friend at a Christmas lunch in 1986, I impressed him by sauntering up to him and singing Jesus Christ Superstar from the Overture through the Crucifixion... or highlights thereof. He decided from that moment on that we would be friends forever.
Sounds Incorporated
Sounds Incorprated, circa 1961
David Glyde
Davo, Christmas 1986
David, affectionately known as Davo, quickly became one of my most loyal and ardent friends and fans. He took to calling me three times a day just to tell me what beautiful skin I had. He told me great tales of his life and loves, and taught me that whatever happens, it is "all part of life's rich tapestry." A wise man. And a fanatical postcard writer, too. During a 1988 tour of several months duration in the UK, playing with the Fabulous Singlettes, Davo sent me so many postcards that my fridge was completely covered.
Deb and Davo
Deb and Davo warming up for
the ARIA Awards, 1988
Davo and fridge
"Did I really spend that much on stamps?"
Davo performing
Davo performing with the Jive Bombers
at the Festival of Sydney Bacardi Club
January 1992
Jeffrey, originally from Perth, was a keyboard player who worked with lots of groovy '80s bands and artists including Richard Clapton and the later version of Dragon. He had already been sharing a house with Davo for several years before I came on the scene, and they continued to share right through until early 2002. Some 20 years, I think. They now live around the corner from each other.
Jeff Bartolomei
Jeffrey, Christmas 1991
Jeff is a Leo like me and an extraordinarily sweet soul. We spent a bit of time together in London in 1991, after which he decided that the life of a musician was too tenuous, and he went to uni to study computer science and become a geek. He worked for APRA for two years in on-line licensing, and then moved over to a company developing mobile phone ringtones. Now he is developing speech recognition software.
Davo, Deb, Jeff
Davo, Deb and Jeff at the Festival of Sydney Bacardi Club where Davo was playing in January 1992.
Jeff, Deb, Davo
I was 30 when this picture was taken at Christmas 1992 so it doesn't really belong on my "Roaring Twenties" page, but it's my favourite shot of me with Jeff and Davo.
Throughout this time my friendships with Killara High people remained close and constant. Although most of them went straight from school to university, while I took a couple of years to start my degree, it didn't mean that we didn't still have a great deal in common and many reasons to catch up.
Peter and Deb
Peter and Debbie, July 1982.
Well... he was 20 and I was almost there.
Marcus, Andrea and Peter
My very favourite photo of Marcus, Andrea and Peter, taken at Sydney Airport when they were
seeing me off on one of my overseas jaunts.
We all celebrated our 21st birthdays in turn, and then we all started graduating from university, starting full-time professional careers, travelling more extensively... but, thankfully, not getting married and having babies straight away like my friends in London were already doing!!

Marcus and Andrea were in a long-term relationship and living together, while Peter and Norm were shacked up in a flat and calling themselves The Odd Couple.

Peter's graduation
Peter's graduation, April 1984.
L-R: Mike, Deb, Peter, Norm.
We haven't changed a bit.
Andrew, Marcus, Peter
Andrew, Marcus and Peter do dinner
at Deb's, 1985
I had a flat to myself in a nice area of Sydney and enjoyed having some of the guys over for dinner parties. In those days I liked a drop of wine as much as they did... well, maybe not as much as they did... but it was fun.

There were very few times in our twenties when we were not in close and regular contact, although responsibility started catching up with some of them towards the end of the 1980s, alas.

Andrew, Deb and Peter in 1985 and 1989
Andrew, Deb and Peter in 1985 and in 1989. Spot the differences.
Now and then I would hook up with my old friend from the junior years of high school, Alison. She maintained her happy disposition and had some interesting experiences through her twenties so catching up was always fascinating and loads of fun... especially when we would dig out some of the old satirical writings she had done back in 1975, sending up my own work. She was something of a genius in her day!
Alison and Debbie
Alison and Debbie, 1989
Debra, Shari, Jan, Deb
Debra, Shari, Jan and Debbie, February 1990
There was also fairly regular contact with another gang of female friends from school. Jan moved between Sydney and Boulder, Colorado with her American husband, Shari got married to the guy who used to drive her school bus, Marina (absent from this photo) had a child, Debra was developing as an artist and photographer. I was off to live in London and this picture was taken at my farewell party.

About my colourful dress... Linda Jackson was so de rigeur in the '80s in Australia. I loved her designs and miss her presence in the local fashion scene today.

Food was a fashion of its own, too. Oh my, did we eat our way through the 1980s!! At the high end there was Pruniers, Eliza's, Edna's Table, Chez Oz, Claudes, Beppis, Bilsons, Rogues Streetons... at the cheap and cheerful end there was the Atlanta, No Names, Deans, Nino's and other places where you could eat for less than $10. There were also these fine establishments, some of which are still around, some of which have long since gone.
Kables, August 1985
Berowra Waters Inn
With my darling father and my sister at
Berowra Waters Inn, September 1987
Celebrating my 23rd birthday at Mischa's on Balmoral Beach in 1985. The restaurant has now been reborn as the Bathers' Pavillion.
Bluewater Grill
With my Geelong-based friend Leanne at the Bluewater Grill overlooking Bondi Beach, March 1987.
That was a damn fine restaurant!
Bayswater Brasserie
Hanging at the Bayswater Brasserie
with mandatory daquari, October 1986
Doyles, of course. December 1986
Cafe Jax
Celebrating my 25th birthday at regular hang out Cafe Jax, August 1987.
The Whart
Lunch at The Wharf, November 1987
Tre ScaliniTre Scalini, August 1989 for my 27th birthday
Life as a twenty-something in the '80s was fun. I'm sorry to see affordable dining gone from Sydney, but grateful for the disappearance of wide shoulder pads. I'm well and truly over the whole Arts/theatre scene, but so glad I made friends through that period of my life who are still around today. As I spent most of my thirties living away from Sydney, I do look back fondly on my Roaring Twenties, when Sydney was one big party.

- Top of page -

About - PR Whiz - Writer - Broadcaster - Jetsetter - Homebody
Links - Contact - Site Map - Home