RIP Billy O’Riordan 18/7/56 – 23/11/23

Nov 26, 2023 | Obituary | 15 comments

Punk band pic from the 80's, Jimmy and the Boys

I’ve met the most fascinating humans through my chosen profession. But none of them more so than Billy O’Riordan who passed away this week. 

Any newspaper articles about Billy, including now his death notice, will undoubtedly feature ‘aka Joylene Thornbird Hairmouth’. Billy was a notorious member of the cabaret/punk band Jimmy and the Boys, fronted by bad boy Ignatius Jones in the 70’s-80’s.

It wasn’t until the 90’s, though, that I met Billy, when he climbed the wide wooden stairs of my school, Sydney Yoga Centre, and joined our yoga classes. At this time of his life, he was attempting to stay sober and make healthy living choices.

Billy was a born performer and his favoured expression that of drag queen. I’d heard about his amazing dress and makeup presentation and finally got to see him in full regalia at my 50th birthday party. My invitation suggested a dress code where anyone might cross-dress if they liked.

He stole the show. Dressed in his mother Gwen’s slim-lined, red, very sequined frock and mile-high hair, Billy arrived at the party ready to boogie. When Daniel and I cleaned up the morning after, we found red sequins that had popped off Gwen’s dress under and over and all around the place. 

Billy was generous and spent time on piano rehearsing with Daniel and me the Stephen Sondheim song ‘The Little Things You Do Together’ which we then sang, and he played, at Collyn and Maarit’s wedding.

Someone described Billy’s intelligence as a diamond wit. True. He just loved words and learned the Sanskrit names to yoga poses just for fun.

I hadn’t been in touch with Billy for a long time so I didn’t know he was approaching end of life. When I phoned and reached him directly at his hospice bed, I was glad I could say some of the happy memories I had of him. He cried. He was tired and this life was hard. I think he knew, too, that he wasn’t going to go home.

A giant and audacious talent has been extinguished, and Bill will be sorely missed. Likely we won’t be dwelling on his death but on the fact that he lived and gave us memories too vivid to forget.

 

 

15 Comments

  1. Beautiful words!

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    • I loved Jimmy and the Boys used watch regularly

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  2. I loved Jimmy & the Boys.

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    • I never heard of Jimmy and the Boys until I met Billy. And then I had to reconcile the yogi with the drag queen!
      xo

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  3. I can hear him belting out tunes. Fabulous words Eve. A life truely lived full.

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    • Yes, he was a hit at Camp Berringa, too, of course….

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  4. One of my favourite bands when I was in my teens and I loved seeing them live. Thanks for the fun memories.

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  5. He was a kind schoolmate who looked after a boy whose parents lived overseas. To watch and hear him play the massive pipe organ in the chapel at school was a revelation. He was a gifted performer even then.

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    • I love your comments, Jeffrey. Thank you to adding to a beautiful picture of our friend, Billy.
      Kindly, Eve

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  6. I shared a house with Billy for seven very action-packed months a very long time ago. He was lovely soul and a great museo, the world will be drabber without him.

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    • I agree, Louise. He was simply brilliant!
      Kindly, Eve

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  7. Hello Eve. Didn’t know we had Billy in common. He was a cousin and we had had known each since childhood because his family home was opposite my grandparents’ in Rose Bay. Lots of glorious shenanigans as kids. His cheek, wit and outrageousness was evident even then. We stayed in touch through the decades. Saw each other a couple of times in recent months by chance when we crossed paths at the Kinghorn Cancer Centre. Didn’t manage to have the meal together we had intended. I really regret that. Such a fierce intelligence, brilliant wit and huge talent. His light burned bright. We’ve lost another special soul in Billy.

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  8. Just got an old Countdown clip on my Fb feed dated 17 May 1981 and Ignatius an Joylene were hosting. I was just doing some post Goggling on Ignatius ( as I worked with his cousin during the late 1980’s) and discovered that William aka Joylene had passed away 😢. William was ahead of his time and had a quick and smart wit.
    RIP Joylene

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  9. What a lovely tribute, thank you for putting into words what so many of us feel. Billy was a unique, most amazing man. I feel privileged to have know him closely and shared so many memories. He will be missed by so many, leaving a space that no one can come near to filling! Mat he rest in peace (at least until our next incarnation, haha!). Thank you for posting this – Jen x

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  10. I worked with Billy at a language school for a few years. He was kind and generous enough to combine his considerable musical nouse and talent with my limitations as an Elvis tribute artist to entertain our colleagues at the staff Xmas party. Billy was one of a kind who will be very much missed but never ever forgotten by all who knew him.

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