American born promoter Lee Gordon arrived in Sydney in 1953, after a chance meeting with an Australian used car salesman, and immediately put his American know-how to work.
Gordon was responsible for bringing 472 American entertainers to Australia between 1957 and 1962. He was also a hustler, entrepreneur, drug addict, eccentric and visionary.
Above all, he was a capitalist, who bankrolled his first plunge into promoting rock & roll shows with the proceeds from scams at Sydney’s Royal Art Furniture Shop, where cheques were offered to housewives over the phone if they could answer a simple question.
Everybody won, but the cheques turned out to be discounts redeemable only at the furniture shop.
Lee was a small fastidious man in the latest skin-tight pants, with a lust for life matched only by his disciple-to-be Johnny O’Keefe.
Always a big gambler, Lee only felt comfortable when he was broke – so after making thousands of pounds from his furniture shop rackets, Lee hired an accountant and shipped in Ella Fitzgerald and Artie Shaw, booking them into an old cavernous boxing shed in Rushcutters Bay.
The Sydney Stadium was to become the Mecca for rock & roll in Australia, and Lee Gordon its Messiah.
His enthusiasm and energy were unrelenting, although his tactics were unorthodox, to say the least – He often hung around Las Vegas gambling tables waiting for celebrities to go broke.
When they did (allegedly including Sammy Davis Jr), Lee was there to offer them cash in return for a trip down under.
Gordon set up shop in Rushcutters Bay near the Stadium. Here he flitted from one strange idea to another.