Jimmy Sweetman was Jimmy Sweetnam

Malcolm Lambe writes to tell us that the person named in the Australian Prohibition section of the Museum as Jimmy Sweetman has had his name misspelled. It’s actually Sweetnam.

Our apologies for that and our thanks to Malcolm, who provides this fascinating account of meeting the man himself … and a few others.

There’s more to the Jimmy Sweetnam story. When he first bought the Whale Beach property (and I could find it on a map) he had a tradesman working there…who discovered a snake in the garden (tiger or red-bellied black snake probably). Jimmy wasn’t home but his girlfriend was. She came out to take a look…rushed back inside and came out with Jimmy’s handgun and went “blam blam blam” and shot the shit out of the snake. The tradie was so freaked out he packed up his tools and left.

As for Hunter S Thompson (“Fear & Loathing” etc)…he and Jimmy had been up all night doing cocaine. My mate and I arrived on site at 7:30 and started sanding weatherboards on the side of the house and making a hell of a racket. Hunter S poked his head out the door. I recognised him straight away. Then Jimmy came out looking the worse for wear and said they’d been up all night and were just about to crash and did we have to sand the boards. I said, as it happened Whale Beach Wedge was huge that day (I was a surfer) and we wouldn’t mind taking the day off to surf it. Jimmy was pleased and said he’d give us something for our trouble. He led us up into his kitchen and proceeded to scrape some Coke into some foil – dropped a bunch of it on the floor. “There you go boys – have fun”.

Neither of us had ever taken cocaine before (this was mid-70s) but we snorted some of it back at my place and then went surfing Whale Beach at 10-12 foot or more.

As for the Brett Whiteley … I took it along to the Art Gallery of NSW when they had a retrospective of Whiteley’s work. (I knew the curator of Australian art – he gave me some stuff on Sali Herman when I was editor of the Hilton Hotel magazine.) He was quite excited to see it. There’s a view of Pittwater (from Sweetnam’s balcony) on one side and a drawing of an iris flower on the other. Wendy Whiteley happened to be in the gallery at the time so he got her to take a look. She asked me where I got it and when I told her Jimmy Sweetnam had given it to me she declared it a fake. The curator was surprised and said “Are you sure?” She said some “chancer” must have done it. Turned out that she was dirty on Sweetnam ‘cause Whiteley had given him some drawings or paintings to sell while he was in London and Sweetnam ripped him off. At that stage I had no idea about the “Double Bay Mob”. I just knew he was a drug dealer and a villain. But it’s a Whiteley. I was there when he did it. He must have been there to score some heroin off Jimmy is my guess. Arrived in a Mini Moke.

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