James recalls a magical place called Cloudland

James Lergessner will promote his new book
James Lergessner will promote his new book "Queen of the Dancehalls" in a literary lunch at the Grand View Hotel, Clevleland.Photo by Chris McCormack

WHEN author James Lergessner wrote Queen of the Dancehalls Cloudland Ballroom in Brisbane 1939-1982, he published it in big print.

It says something about its potential readers and indicates that this is a story told at a fortuitous time.

James will speak fully about his research and findings about Cloudland at a literary lunch being staged at the Grand View Hotel, Cleveland, on Tuesday, February 26, from noon.

Tickets which include a two-course lunch and drink on arrival are $40 and $35 for GV members and can be booked on 3286 1002.

Already a prolific writer about Brisbane places, James said the book sprang from a popular segment from an earlier book Snippets from a Baby Boomer's Diary.

Through research and interviews, James was to discover not only that the history of Cloudland was fascinating but it was also tied in with social and political influences of the time.

"Just look at when it was going to be built 1939. Immediately there was a war and that changed things straight away. It was nevertheless opened in August 1940 with the release of 1000 pigeons," James said.

The building housed soldiers and military from 1942 to 1945 and the American GIs taught hand jiving and jitter bugging.

"Remember Rock'n'Roll George? And then Ivan Damon took over and brought in Sunshine Records, recording artists like Normie Rowe and Johnny O'Keefe. Bigger bands led to home grown bands like the Sounds of Seven and Seasons of the Witch," James said.

Besides the musical influences of the times (Buddy Holly gave a concert there in 1958 as part of the Lee Gordon tour with Johnny O'Keefe, Jodie Sands, Paul Anker and Jimmy Lee Lewis just one year before his death), Cloudland was also associated with intrigue.

"The creator Thomas Eslick built it and disappeared. He was involved in various bankrupcy cases including the building of a utopian paradise in the Pacific Islands," James said.

"Who could forget the building's exteriors the dome and how Cloudland's myriad twinkling lights beckoned from the heights of Bowen Hills?"

The 500-page book is self published and available for $25 on 3408 3908, jameslergessner@bigpond.com It can also be purchased on the day. Front cover artwork is by Kerrith Giese.