FELLOW ROCK & ROLL FAN Steve Adams posted an image on my Facebook page of an Australian predator. It brought back memories that I had long suppressed of an event that involves three inhabitants of Australia: the Mamu, an ancient spooky thing from the deserts of Down Under; the drop bear, a legendarily ferocious critter that preys on unwitting tourists; and the extraordinarily lovely actress Nicole Kidman.
I am going to assume that Ms. Kidman needs no introduction, but that the drop bear does. The following is taken directly from the Australian Museum’s website entry on the creature:
“The drop bear (Thylarctos plummetus) is around the size of a very large dog with coarse orange fur with some darker mottled patterning (as seen in most Koalas). It is a heavily built animal with powerful forearms for climbing and holding on to prey. It lacks canines, using broad powerful premolars as biting tools instead.
Examination of kill sites and scats suggest mainly medium to large species of mammal make a substantial proportion of the animal’s diet. Often, prey such as macropods are larger than the Drop Bear itself.
Drop Bears hunt by ambushing ground-dwelling animals from above, waiting up to as much as four hours to make a surprise kill. Once prey is within view, the Drop Bear will drop as much as eight metres to pounce on top of the unsuspecting victim. The initial impact often stuns the prey, allowing it to be bitten on the neck and quickly subdued.”
What the Museum ignores is the fact that Aboriginal Australians believe the drop bear to be a favorite form of a native shape-shifter. They also believe that this shape-shifter has adapted comfortably to the white man’s culture and enjoys taking the forms of movie and pop stars.
I found this out the hard way in 1989 when I was working in downtown Seattle at a forgettable sales job. I worked the late afternoon-early evening shift, so I was usually at the bus stop a few minutes after 8 o’clock.
This poster contains a simple warning from the Australian Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife: “Look up! Stay Alive.” Nonetheless, tourists pay no heed, thinking the whole drop bear thing a Down Under joke. I learned the truth of the drop bear the hard way.
Excuse me, I need some help
One night, as I was walking down 4th Avenue to get the 545 to Bellevue, I heard someone say “Excuse me … I need some help.” It came from a table in front of one of the countless independently owned coffee shops that made Seattle so marvelous for espresso-lovers (before Starbucks wiped many of them out).
And there was Nicole Kidman looking up at me from beneath a paisley babushka.
Now, Ms. Kidman was hardly a household name at that time, but I was a fan of Australian films and had seen Dead Calm a few months before. I immediately recognized the beautiful woman calling for my attention. 1
I asked what she needed and she explained that she was in Seattle for some Catholic charity event, and needed some help with “things” in her hotel room.
Would I help?
Hoowah, would I help?!!?
So she asked me to accompany her to her hotel room (no hard sell there). Once in her room, she was quick about telling me her “needs.”
Almost bossy about it.
“Mamu (Spooky Spirits)” by Nura Rupert is a synthetic polymer painting on linen (approximately 3 x 4 feet, or 92 x 122 cm). It is very difficult to find any depictions of a Mamu, but Rupert’s painting captures a childlike sense of the dread of spookiness that is universal in the human spirit.
Bossy women with accents
I was a little nervous—bossy women with Australian accents were almost as sexy as bossy women with South African accents—so I had to use the bathroom. I wanted to brush my teeth—make a good impression on that first kiss.
I always carried personal items along with a sketchbook and pencils in my man-bag. My toothpaste was Tom’s of Maine all-natural, fluoride-free Cinnamint, made with propolis and myrrh.
When I walked into the bedroom, something dropped from the top of the wardrobe onto my head and attacked me!
It was screeching and growling.
It was strong as a leopard.
But I didn’t have to fight it off much: For some reason, it screeched loudly and ran out the window and up the fire escape!
Despite the fact that Seattle has far less rain than most of the other major cities in the states, it’s almost impossible to watch a movie filmed in Seattle without one scene of the city in pouring rain. No doubt it’s an archival film made by one person years ago and referred to by directors who have never been to Seattle and don’t believe in research, This painting by Jer-088 is 6th Avenue in downtown Seattle. (It wasn’t raining when I thought I’d met Nicole Kidman.)
Nicole Kidman would attract any man
I thought it was a Koala bear but had never thought of them as vicious. A little research led me to identify it as an Australian drop bear. Further research with a few knowledgeable sources—I had a friend that dealt in the types of investigations that would have titillated Mulder and shaken Scully—I concluded the following:
1. What attacked me was a supernatural creature related to the Mamu of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara. 2
2. It had taken the shape of a drop bear, as Mamus never allow themselves to be seen in their natural form outside of Australia.
3. It had initially taken the form of Nicole Kidman because it too had seen Dead Calm and thought Nicole Kidman would attract almost any man.
Here is what I also learned: I was lucky that I had my man-bag in the bathroom, as the smell of myrrh repulses drop bears. 3
I was very lucky to have escaped with my life!
Still, I was a bit bummed, you know, as that’s probably as close to sleeping with Nicole Kidman as I am gonna get in this life.
HEADER IMAGE: You know what the critter at the top of this page is by now, so who needs to see more, right? Instead, I’m just going to post a photo of the actress-as-redhead. And yes, this is the real Kidman, not a shape-shifting imitation like the one that seduced me all those years ago. 4
1 Dead Calm is a suspense-thriller film from 1989 starring Sam Neill, Nicole Kidman, and Billy Zane. It was based on the 1963 novel by Charles Williams and filmed around the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. Not bad if I recall correctly.
2 The Mamu is an Australian destruction spirit, a dingo spirit, that eats and absorbs the spirits of children who stray at night. (Godchecker)
3 “When it comes to magical uses, myrrh has a wide variety of applications. In fact, the possibilities are nearly endless. Because the scent is fairly strong, it’s often used in conjunction with other herbs or resins, like frankincense or sandalwood. Associated with purification and cleansing, you can use myrrh in a number of different ritual and magical contexts. Try one or more of the following:
Burn myrrh, combined with frankincense, in rituals related to banishing. In some magical traditions, myrrh is incorporated into workings to break hexes and curses, or for protection against magical and psychic attack. You can also blend myrrh into an incense to use for purifying sacred spaces, or to consecrate magical tools and other items.” (Learn Religions)
I wonder if Tom knew all that.
4 Um, some of the facts above were made up. You figure out which is which …