Posted by: jkirkby8712 | December 24, 2010

Thursday, 23rd December 2010 – Gus Mercurio passes on!!

I noticed in the media the other day, reports of  the funeral of Gus Mercurio. I don’t know if readers from outside Australia will know who Gus was  – in fact, he was born in the USA, and apparently came out to Australia with the US boxing team for the 1956 Olympic Games at Melbourne, and never left!  Mercurio was the father of dancer and actor Paul Mercurio, who starred in the hit 1992 film Strictly Ballroom.  I saw a report that Paul had posted a message on his website yesterday before his father’s ”fairly major” operation: ”My dad is at this very moment [lying] on a table in a hospital getting cut open to fix an aneurysm in his chest. Spare a thought for him if you can. He is a tough old bugger, so he should be fine. However, he is getting on – 82 and has become a little frailer over the last few years.”  Unfortunately, he apparently wasn’t tough enough to survive that particular battle.

With a distinctive ‘gravelly’ voice, he was described by one commentator as a ‘have-a –go-man’. Born into a boxing family, he served three years in the US Marines where he put his ring skills to good use, as the marines looked after their fighters, and later became a professional boxer, was injured in his last two fights, was treated by a chiropractor and decided to become one. He was a have-a-go man.  As well as working as a chiropractor, he will be remembered for his efforts in the boxing ring as a top referee, commentator and administrator.  His natural talents spread to other areas, and brought him to the attention of Australian television studio networks.  Mercurio starred in several Australian TV series, including Cash and Company, Tandarra and the miniseries Power Without Glory.  He played guest roles in Australian TV police series, including Homicide, Division 4 and Matlock Police.  Meanwhile, film appearances included The Blue Lagoon, The Man from Snowy River, Turkey Shoot, Crocodile Dundee II, Return to the Blue Lagoon and Doing Time for Patsy Cline.

Paul Mercurio and his dad.

Paul Mercurio and his dad. Photo: John Woudstra

As described in the ‘Age’ on Tuesday,  ‘There were cowboy hats, broken noses, and a few familiar faces in Diamond Creek yesterday as about 300 people, many from the worlds of boxing and entertainment, gathered to farewell August Eugene Mercurio’.  His partner’s words at the funeral included the comment that ”He was the first to admit his was a man-made face,” she said. ”Boxing was his first love, it was his means to escape his underprivileged youth … It granted him his dream to join his boxing mates in coming to the Olympics here in 1956, when he first fell in love with this country”.  Meanwhile, Paul Mercurio, who was the MC at the ceremony in Diamond Creek {Melbourne] on Monday had this to say about his father:-

”Dad had lots of different families, but probably the greatest love in his life was boxing,” Gus was the product of a brutal home in Milwaukee, and that upbringing cast a long shadow. Paul recounted an episode from his father’s childhood when Gus arrived home to find ”his mother bloodied at the bottom of the stairs, and his father standing at the top”.  ”His father was a very hard man, and he instilled that toughness in Dad,” Paul said. ”[Dad] could be a hard man, he could be a mean man, he could be a tough man and often he could be a difficult son of a bitch. But he was also a generous man, and a loving man, a committed man, a unique man, a talented man and a very courageous man, and we all loved him.” 

As did many ‘fans’ around the country over the past 30-40 years as his popularity developed in the many fields he became involved in. I recall him, simply because he always seemed to be turning up somewhere. In fact, I’m sure one of our local radio presenters  interviewed him via the telephone a few years ago, perhaps as part of the sports show, can’t remember.

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