The short life of Richard Trevaskis was a classic and tragic story of precocity which turned into addiction, a life which burned so brightly but with an intensity which finally and prematurely consumed life itself.

It was a waste of significant talent in photography, art and theatre as Richard continued, against the warnings of his many friends and his family, on a self destructive path which could have only one conclusion: his premature death from a heroin overdose in his mother’s house in North Adelaide in 1997, aged only 36.

It was in the mid 1970s in Adelaide that Richard burst onto the scene, befriending a much older crowd of actors and artists drawn to his classic good looks, his talent, and the appetite for heavy intoxication which was his ultimate downfall.

His parents had separated when he was young and he lived largely with his mother Sally in her grand but slightly run down Victorian two storey house in Jeffcott Street, North Adelaide, just above the statute where the city’s founder, Colonel William Light, looks down on his created vision from Montefiore Hill.

It was a very Anglo Australian upbringing in one of Australis’s most Anglo cities, and Richard was sent to the exclusive Scotch College where he excelled in art and drama, and gathered around him a coterie of bourgeois misfits, teenage experimenters in radicalism.

Sally was a lawyer with strong left wing opinions who made her later reputation as a regular talkback radio caller on the local ABC station, always putting the most radical and controversial views to bemused and largely conservative radio hosts.

His father John, an Englishman who moved to Adelaide in the 1950s to head the University of Adelaide’s Classics Department, was a remote figure and he and Richard orbited around each other with a polite regard but with an emotional distance between them.

Both parents outlived the death of their son.

Richard exercised his theatrical talents as a teenager with the Saturday Company, a youth theatre group headed by Helmut Bakaitis, which was active in Adelaide in the mid 1970s and produced a well regarded production of When the World was Wide, adapted from Henry Lawson.

Trevaskis performed in this play and may also have been on the periphery of the State Theatre Company in 1976/7 or thereabouts (clarification welcome).

By this time he had fallen in with an older group of artists and thespians who congregated around a house in Miller Street, Unley, home to Bill Rough, Martin Portus and the writer and journalist John Stapleton.

He also progressed with his photography and art, working with photographic silk screen printing and producing a series of innovative rock and theatre posters.

In 1979, Trevaskis appeared at Adelaide’s Theatre 62 in a play written by Stapleton and directed by Rough entitled The Police Commissioner’s Grandmother, a comedy/farce about marijuana laws.

“None of the reviewers paid any attention to Trevaskis’s sterling efforts,” Stapleton wrote of Trevaskis in his 2018 memoir Hunting the Famous.

“But the rest of us did. We were all a little in love with Richard.”

From there, Trevaskis didn’t hang around in Adelaide for long. He piled his possessions into his tiny Honda Scamp and drove across the Hay Plains to Sydney, where he could reasonably have expected to make it big.

In a sense he did, but not in the way he might have imagined. The drama and the art fell away and instead he forged a career behind the bar, eventually managing one of Sydney’s best known nightclubs of the 1980s, the Freezer on Oxford Street.

The move into the hospitality industry coincided with a rapid increase in Richard’s already large alcohol and drug intake, beginning an irreversible trend particularly when he discovered heroin.

From Sydney it was to London, which Stapleton describes in his essay as “Richard’s high water mark.”

“He was the barman par excellence; looking smashing in black and white,” he wrote.

“Trevaskis had a knack of wrangling jobs in some of London’s trendiest restaurants and nightclubs, including that massive cathedral of hedonism known as Heaven.

“He had a knack of spotting our little gang and swishing us drinks from behind the bar across the six deep queues of customers clamouring for his attention. With the greatest of panache.

“Richard didn’t finish work until late, and often drank heavily until dawn. For a long time he got away with it. Women adored him. Gay men swooned.

“The lethal speed he kept scoring across a particular counter up Kings Road in Chelsea kept us running at a million miles an hour.”

Coming back to Australia, Trevaskis bounced between Sydney and Adelaide, where he always returned to his mother’s house in North Adelaide.

He harnessed his entrepreneurial skills in the late 1980s to create events in Sydney and the beginnings of Adelaide’s dance party scheme with two well remembered events, Warehouse One and Two.

But he was becoming increasingly dysfunctional and his consumption of his two favourite drugs, alcohol and heroin, was escalating.

Stapleton writes that he took him along to a meeting in an attempt to get him sober, but he wasn’t interested.

“After the meeting Richard couldn’t wait to get down to the nearest pub, the Lord Robert in Darlinghurst,” Stapleton writes.

“Richard drank that night and every other night; and was determined not to stop.”

Eventually he took to drinking in parks and was homeless for a period after losing his Elizabeth Bay flat.

Stapleton takes up the story again: “Richard retreated to his old bedroom in his mother’s giant house in North Adelaide 1400 kilometres away. For the last year of his life I heard stories, and wanted to go and visit. And then came the news. Richard had died, 8th of May 1997.

“The saddest times, deliberately askew, couldn’t beat the adventures we had; but now they were just sad little dollops of memory down through the gloom, everything tainted with nostalgia.

“There wouldn’t be any visits south.”