John Hannay, the larger-than-life identity behind the perennial The Beat Nightclub has died from cancer.
Hannay was a showman, entrepreneur, storyteller – and for many, an enigma. He had boundless energy, making friends and enemies readily – and often. His friends remained for life. The Beat's Facebook Page is running hot with condolences and memories stretching back to the 1980s.
Hannay was the only boy among eight sisters born in country Queensland where his family operated hotels.
His lifelong career in the entertainment business dates back to the 1960s where myriad stories of his (mis)adventures are more likely true than not – if not slightly embellished with each re-telling. Certainly he once kidnapped his own band for a front page headline, was mentioned in the Fitzgerald enquiry, was linked to the hideous Whiskey Au Go Go bombing (neither proof nor charges arose of his involvement) and flirted with the laws of the land more as game than malintent.
For the past quarter of a century Hannay operated hotels and clubs in Spring Hill and Fortitude Valley, including The Roxy at 210 Brunswick Street (the same complex in which scenestr now operates) and the Spring Hill Hotel. But his enduring legacy is The Beat (now Beat Megaclub) – the iconic LGBQT safe haven at 677 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley. It is Australia's longest-running club.
At its peak – there have arguably been more than one – The Beat ran red hot 7 nights a week, 365 days a year with a roster of name resident DJs. Tragically John lived to see two of his brightest lights – Angus and Edwin – both lose their lives early – Edwin five years ago this month
Also on that roster was Jenny Juckel (Jen-E) who told scenestr, “I know those who didn't know John may have found him imposing or passed [adverse] judgement [on him] ... but from my experience I saw a man who treated his staff as family. He started and nurtured a community for people, some of the most beautiful people I've met, who wanted and needed a place to express themselves, make friends, and feel home. He also sacked me from The Beat because I took a gig in Townsville one New Year's Eve after explicitly being told not to. But our relationship never changed."
Longtime colleague, collaborator, competitor and ultimately friend, Peter Brown, told scenestr, "Hi John, I'm sure you're having a read of this. We have had some “party battles” over the years and then I came to work with you. It was always challenging and rewarding and we had some good times and a lot of laughs. May you rest in peace, you will always be a legend and remembered."
John Hannay has left The Beat. And he may be some time.
1995 advertisement for The Beat in Scene Magazine, later scenestr.
RuPaul in Fortitide Valley 25 Years Ago
Dyewitness Appeared At The Beat, 1995