Dario Lo Schiavo grew up in a Italian household in Potts Point. In this interview he describes his middle class extended family, his parents’ cultural and political pursuits, and schoolboy life in the 1920s and ’30s. In the excerpt below he refers to his artist brother, Virgil Lo Schiavo, and his contact with notable film stars and artists of the period.
The early ‘30s, my brother was mixing with a fairly artistic crowd. For dinner at night we’d have Peter Finch [film star], Chips Rafferty [film star] – whose name was John Goffage in those days – and Unk White who used to be the illustrator for The Bulletin, and we’d have all these artistic friends at our place for dinner. And they used to love spaghetti; and the conversation was fantastic for a twelve, thirteen year old, to listen to the way they spoke across the table. Peter Finch lived with us for six months. We taught Peter Finch to fence. That’s why actually he was a good swordsman, and he acted as my brother’s [painter Virgil Lo Schiavo] model for two paintings he did for St Mary’s [Cathedral]. But he used to love living with us because it was easygoing. He used to give me beer to drink – you don’t do that to a thirteen, fourteen year old – and they’d be racing around, having parties everywhere, girls all over the place. They used to keep me out of the way as much as possible but I was pretty curious, I had a look to see what was going on and I learnt very quickly. Chips was a tall, gangling bloke, came in, very boisterous, blusterer, and you always knew he was there because he was loud. And a nice bloke, do anything for you, but never had a razoo most of the time, neither did Peter, they were always broke, and a heavy drinker; Peter Finch was a heavy drinker even then. He would drink anything that was on the table. They had parties down at my brother’s studio which was in Wylde Street, down the bottom – it’s now navy headquarters – and he actually rented the boardroom area which was one huge room and they’d have parties down there. Claret was a shilling a pint in those days