What a Life! Cover

What a Life!

Jeff Patterson with Robert Hillman

Ibis Publishing

It would be difficult to conjure up a more incredible story than that of the late Jeff Patterson, a quintessential Australian larakin and loveable scallywag.

Encompassing a period of 76 years, from the Depression era to the present day, Patto's exploits almost defy belief.


When little more than six hours old, he was wrapped in a blanket and left in a cardboard box on the doorstep of a Melbourne shoemaker. After fighting off paedophiles in a boys home, Jeff became a boundary rider fixing fences at the age of eleven. At fourteen he became a professional boxer.

He played AFL for Richmond with the legendary Jack (Captain Blood) Dyer and forged a life-long friendship with Tom Hafey, who has written the foreword to the book. Hafey described Jeff as 'the most colourful personality I've met in my life. Wherever he goes, fun and laughter surround him.'

That 'Patto' went on to make and lose millions in a variety of ventures is the stuff of folklore. He ran up debts of $250,000 as a publican in Launceston when he fell victim to the gambling bug. In desperation, he attempted to fix an Australian heavyweight title fight in which he was to be the winner, only to have the referee, who was not involved in the skullduggery, declare it a 'no fight'. Thus all bets were off, costing Jeff a small fortune. Consequently he fled to Hong Kong to escape his creditors, from where he smuggled gold into India. By chance,Jeff took up the management of the Del Rubio triplets, an American singing duo who were the great-great grand-daughters of US President Woodrow Wilson. This set him on the road to becomming Europe's No. 1 entrepreneur supplying entertainment to the various army and air force bases. He promoted and became close friends with the likes of Roy Orbison, Pearl Bailey, Sammy Davis Jnr, Johnny Ray,Fats Domino, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Cash and Tiny Tim to name a few. Patterson made millions, but left it all on the tables of casinos throughout Europe and the United States, many times clashing with film star Omar Sharif at the baccarat table at the famous Parisian Club. Pursued by the German taxman, Jeff went to London where he had a run-in with the notorious Kray brothers on whom he pulled a gun. This led them to becomming business partners. Three times he was arrested by police at gunpoint at airports in Teheran,Geneva and Montreal when mistaken for escaped British train robber Ronald Biggs, to whom Jeff bore an uncanny resemblance. He was held until Interpol checked his fingerprints.

Eventually Jeff reurned home to Australia after breaking his back in a cliff dive on the Isle of Capri. He made newspaper headlines by repaying his debts of $250,000. Seeking black entertainers for his shows in Europe from a New York agency controlled by the Mafia, Patterson became friends with Carlo Gambino, the No.1 mob godfather who offered to back Jeff's proposed world stud poker championship.Next Jeff was cheated by Donald Trump out of $10.8 million, a finders fee for setting up a meeting which led to Alan Bond buying the St.Moritz Hotel in New York.

Jeff was a knockabout bloke who mixed just as easily with royalty as mafia bosses. From Princess Grace and the Shah of Persia to Carlo Gambino and the Kray brothers, to Omar Sharif, Kirk Douglas, Arnold Palmer, Jake LaMotta and Don King

An incurable romantic, Jeff was married six times. Sadly, he passed away on 28 April 2013 at the age of 85 after a fall at his nursing home in Hunters Hill.