Three days in and Dan Force knew she was never gonna leave. Well, not until she’d drunk in every last Californian dream drop with multiple Kodachrome cherries on top. Day four and the Earth moved. An earthquake measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale hit Los Angeles and things got pretty hairy, but this Black Rock-born and Wesley-educated 20-year-old who had an RMIT Bachelor of Photography in her pocket had decided that the US was her oyster and she was ready to bite. She held tight. She’d been accepted into an exchange program at Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara and wasn’t going to let a “piddling” crack in the Earth’s crust get in her way.
She explains. “I was running late for a lecture at Brooks where Playboy photographer Arnie Freytag was speaking about his work and the industry. There was nowhere left to sit, so I went down the front and ended up almost sitting on his legs. I was the only female in the room and asked a lot of questions. He offered me a job on the spot and meeting the studio manager sealed the deal. I found myself interning at Playboy within a week and continued working as a freelancer on and off for around four years.”
Things don’t move slow in this force of nature’s world. She continues. “I’d left home at 17 and moved into a house owned by Albert Tucker in Albert Park with a boyfriend. We eventually separated and I wanted a new beginning. LA was the ideal solution.” Enter Seinfeld and intergalactic Barbarella gun photoshoots, Santa Monica Blvd and Bunny-loving media mogul Hugh Hefner.
‘Hef’s 29-room Gothic-Tudor-style Playboy Mansion in Charing Cross Road was notorious for the risqué related shenanigans he and his celebrity cohorts enjoyed. Dan describes. “Hugh had just got married so was in the background. I worked with Arnie most days and met editor Marilyn Grabowski, who was the driver behind the gatefolds (centrefolds). Most Bunnies had long blonde hair and big boobs like Pamela Anderson. They also wore incredible make-up. I’d help light the girls, set the dials and filters, go over the pics and do the test shoots. We’d go through rolls and rolls of film taking hundreds of frames, then I’d drop the film off at the end of the day and pick it up in the morning. There was a real artistic flair to taking those pictures. I also shot the burlesque performer Dita Von Teese and moved into videography but eventually got burnt out, so I left LA, drove to San Francisco, put on my rollerblades and skated the Golden Gate Park as soon as I got there and started meeting people. It was the late ‘90s.”
But La La Land kept calling.
“When I returned to LA, I got into the music scene and landed a job with Behind the Music, which interviewed artists like Milli Vanilli, Debbie Harry, Ozzy Osbourne, Chaka Khan and Stevie Nicks. Then I went on to MTV and started clubbing and meeting LA-based DJs whom I started to manage. I went on to promote LA’s biggest club, Giant on Vine St, with DJs Sasha and Carl Cox,” she continues. Next stop? London and becoming Hedkandi’s booking agent and tour manager. “We did parties all over the world, including Australia and the Netherlands, and a weekly gig in Ibiza. We also opened for Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas with circus performers, drag queens and stilt walkers.”
This laugh first, express and explain later cropped-hair force of nature stayed in London for nine years and became a booking agent for 20 burlesque performers who wowed audiences from London to Russia and everywhere in between. She landed back in Australia in 2010 and now delivers a ripper brew and spirited conversation at her café Via Battisti in Mount Martha, where she welcomes everyone with open arms. She is travelling back to the States later this month with her two children and partner for a reunion.
“It will be fun to catch up with people again. Those were wild times, but I’m happy. I mean look at that.” We both grin at the sea as she opens her arms again. “Not bad?”
And the Force continues.