‘the man outside Hoyt’s’: meaning and origin

This is the definition of the Australian-English phrase the man outside Hoyt’s in A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms (Sydney University Press in association with Oxford University Press Australia, 1990), by Gerald Alfred Wilkes (1927-2020):

Hoyt’s, the man outside The commissionaire outside Hoyt’s Theatre in Melbourne in the 1930s, so elaborately dressed as to seem a person of consequence, and jocularly referred to as the authority for various reports.

Wilkes quoted in particular this passage from The Hard Way: The story behind Power Without Glory (London: T. Werner Laurie Ltd, 1961), by the Australian author Frank Hardy (1917-1994):

‘Struth, it’s funny enough for a fat bludger dressed up like the man outside Hoyt’s1 to come into a prison cell in the middle of the night.’
1 Uniformed announcer outside Hoyt’s Theatre in Melbourne who wears a most elaborate uniform.

On Saturday 7th April 1951, Pix (Sydney, New South Wales) published this photograph of, and details about, the commissionaire outside Hoyt’s Theatre:

“The man outside Hoyt’s”

For 43 years Charlie Fredericksen has been doorkeeper of Melbourne’s Esquire Theatre, an Australian record. He began in 1908 at St. George’s Hall in Bourke Street, carried on when the hall was rebuilt and renamed Hoyt’s De Luxe. And he was still on the job when the old De Luxe became the modern Esquire. He is one of Australia’s few remaining spruikers and today he uses the same lines for Charlie Chaplin that he used in 1921: “It’s the laughiest laugh of the year. When you see those feet you’ll think it’s a quarter to three!” He likes to yarn about the stars of the old days—Mary Pickford, William S. Hart, Maurice Costello, Gloria Swanson, Douglas Fairbanks, Olive Thomas, Wallace Reid. (“These ones nowadays aren’t in the same street.”) Without “the man outside Hoyt’s” Bourke Street wouldn’t be quite the same to a generation of Melbournians.

The earliest occurrence of the phrase that I have found is from Getting a Bit Each Way: A Tale of Telephone Betting, a short story published in The Sporting Globe (Melbourne, Victoria) of Saturday 23rd February 1935—Jim Salton, Adelaide bookmaker, receives a telephone call:

Jim answered a trunk call from Melbourne.
“Can’t hear you . . . a bit louder . . . that’s better . . . Who? . . . Billy Marvin? . . . It’s good to hear your voice, Billy! Go right ahead!”
“What’s the best you can do me Slick Anton and Amalfus in the Port double, Jim?”
“Thousands to thirty! How much do you want?”
“Aw, break it down a bit, Jim! I asked for your BEST price! I can get thousands to twenty-five this end—plenty of it!”
“Tell me another one, Billy! You must have been listening to the man outside Hoyts!”
“Alright, Jim! I’ll go quiet. Book me five to fifteen!”
“Five hundred to fifteen.”

The second-earliest occurrence of the phrase that I have found is from an advertisement for “a Special Fifty – – Fifty Sale” at R. H. Young, Ladies’ Wear Specialist, Maude Street, Shepparton, published in The Goulburn Valley Stock and Property Journal (Shepparton, Victoria) of Wednesday 31st August 1938:

The man outside Hoyt’s Theatre would tell you that this Sale will be Thrilling.

The phrase has often been used jocularly—for example in this question from a quiz, Are You Quite Certain You Know?, by ‘The Dragoman’, published in The Sun (Sydney, New South Wales) of Saturday 19th November 1938:

13.—Put all your family trees away and just say quickly that the only child of your only uncle’s only brother, is:—
Your cousin; your nephew; your step-brother; yourself; the man outside Hoyts.

Another jocular use of the phrase—from How to win fights and influence people, an imaginary dialogue between boxers, by L. W. (“Pug”) Lower, published in Smith’s Weekly (Sydney, New South Wales) of Saturday 25th May 1946:

“Thought you hit me, didn’t you?”
“’Course I did.”
“That wasn’t me. That was the man outside Hoyts.” Crack!
“Yes. I am lying on the floor of the ring. I am merely taking a rest. I fight better after a rest. I will now get up and do a little ducking and weaving.
“Ha! Bells!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.