December 28, 2013 – 12:13AM
Private Sydney Columnist
Sydney’s Great Gatsby premiere. Photo: Belinda Rolland
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and, while it is impossible to do justice to the highlights of 2013, there have certainly been a few stories on the PS desk that have stood out over the past 12 months. Here’s a snapshot of a few of them. Enjoy.
PS’s year got off to a sensational start when former Sydney socialite Fiona Handbury, who these days is better known as Lady Dartmouth, ended up in the centre of a rather embarrassing aristocratic scandal in her adopted home of England where she is the wife of William Legge, the Earl of Dartmouth.
Challenged: Miranda Kerr’s shoot for Harper’s BAZAAR. Photo: Harper’s Bazaar Australia
He had been arrested on suspicion of assault following a domestic dispute over where their television set should be positioned. Not only is the earl the grandson of the late ostrich-feather fancier Dame Barbara Cartland, his mother Raine Spencer was the stepmother of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.
According to the earl, Lady Dartmouth went to bed and fell into a “deep sleep”, before he “shook her awake . . . to clarify my point of view. Looking back it was an unwise thing to do as Fiona was deeply asleep and became disoriented”. Indeed.
Chummy: Karl Stefanovic and Lisa Wilkinson. Photo: Getty Images
Former high-profile media identity Chrissie Swan has had a comparatively quiet end to the year after the ruckus she made back in February after PS revealed her management company was prepared to spend $53,000 to stop damning photos of her smoking while pregnant from reaching the news stands.
Swan’s management company, Watercooler, was bidding against Woman’s Day for the photos that the magazine ended up paying $55,000 for in one of the more extraordinary celebrity moments of the year. It blew open the lid on the lengths some personalities will go to in the quest to protect their “image”.
New angle: Erica Packer at her Vogue Australia event.Photo: Edwina Pickles
When Ellen DeGeneres flew into Sydney Airport, the US talk show star danced in the arrivals hall, crowds of people broke into song and one poor girl fainted.
DeGeneres and her wife, expatriate Australian actor Portia de Rossi, and DeGeneres’ mother Betty were quickly ferried to the penthouse suite at the Intercontinental where they spent three days before going to Melbourne.
A string of covertly executed surprise appearances resulted in DeGeneres popping up all over the city to film her hit show, though it appeared de Rossi – known as Mandy Lee Rogers when she grew up in Geelong – was just as big a tourist as her famous wife, and certainly had a US accent nearly as thick.
Surprise: Ellen DeGeneres and Portia Di Rossi arrive in Sydney in March. Photo: James Brickwood
MIRANDA FINDS HER WINGS
According to Miranda Kerr: “Sometimes, challenges and struggles are exactly what we need in our lives . . . May you welcome every effort, every struggle, and every challenge . . . May you open your wings and fly!” After the year she has had, Miranda must have flown to the moon and back.
Things started getting rocky back in February when PS broke the news her days with David Jones could soon be coming to an end and, sure enough, by March she was out of the multimillion-dollar gig.
All done: Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng. Photo: Getty Images
Soon her coveted role as a Victoria’s Secret angel was scuttled when the model was “de-winged”, only then for her to announce, after months of denials, that her marriage to Hollywood heart-throb Orlando Bloom had come to an end, after just three years and the birth of their son Flynn.
The Kerr-Bloom split was one of several high-profile marriage breakdowns that kept things busy at the PS desk, including James Packer filing for divorce from Erica, his second wife of six years and mother of his three children.
Loud and clear: The Voice’s Seal and Joel Madden.
That news reverberated around Sydney, with some of Packer’s closest friends refusing to believe it was true, despite the billionaire confirming the news following PS’s inquiries back in September.
Just weeks before, Erica had been posing in the grounds of a French chateau with the couple’s children for a spread in Vogue Australia that was initially intended to showcase the happy family. The story had to be quickly re-written when Erica discovered she was about to become another ex-Mrs Packer. The paint was barely dry on the huge and very empty $60 million mansion the couple had built in Vaucluse.
And while Kerr says she is “not in a relationship with anyone”, news of her blooming romance with Packer has certainly raised eyebrows, especially for Packer’s latest ex-wife, who hails from the same country town as Kerr: Gunnedah in north-west NSW.
Equally surprising was the news of Rupert Murdoch’s divorce from Wendi Deng, his third wife of 14 years and mother of his two youngest daughters. They appeared to part ways faster than a speeding Lazy Susan.
And while PS is still reeling from the news Shane Warne and Liz Hurley are no longer lovebirds, it is nothing compared to the devastation being felt around the offices of Hello! magazine, which was preparing to cover their wedding.
Liz Hurley and Shane Warne. Photo: Getty Images
Arguably the greatest celebrity fail this year belongs to talent show judge and sometime singer Seal, who botched things up royally in June during the controversy over marijuana being found in the room of his The Voice co-host Joel Madden at The Darling hotel in the Star casino.
The Grammy award-winning singer tweeted he was unable to stand by and “watch you attempt to destroy my Brother, you gun one you gun us all!” in a broad comment on the story’s treatment by the Australian media.
In the series of angry missives, Seal took aim at the Star and Australia’s “trash media” after less than five grams of cannabis was found in Madden’s room while he was doing a meet and greet with cancer patients.
But Seal struck a dud note, and was soon offering a social media mea culpa for his outburst.
“I want to apologise for my rant earlier. Joel is one of my best friends and I was really hurting for him,” Seal tweeted. “I want to say I have loved being in Australia, I’ve loved working on The Voice and with an incredibly talented group of Australian artists. It’s been almost 11 weeks away from my kids and me saying ‘I can’t wait to go home’ was me missing being home with them.”
Interestingly, Seal will not be returning for next year’s show, although Madden will be.
GATSBY HAD ALL THAT JAZZ
It was a long time coming but, regardless of what people thought of the film, the Sydney premiere of The Great Gatsby will go down as the best party of the year, hands down.
In New York they draped feather boas from crystal chandeliers at The Plaza hotel, in Cannes they sipped Moet under an art-deco dome overlooking the Cote d’Azur, but in Sydney Baz Luhrmann easily eclipsed the other premieres when he recreated one of Jay Gatsby’s fictional hedonistic parties for 1200 VIPs.
For just one night, New York in the Roaring 20s had been recreated in Sydney, complete with jazz bands, dancers hoisting giant bottles of Moet and models dressed as elegant flappers dripping in Tiffany diamonds.
At the after party, guests were greeted with a 10-metre champagne tower, as 700 magnums were splashed about the crowd that included Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch, Gillian Armstrong, George Miller, Barry Otto, Seal, Skye Leckie, Delta Goodrem, Simon Crean, Danielle Spencerand Ryan Stokes.
It was a way for Luhrmann to thank the city in which he created Gatsby, a $180 million production, underwritten by taxpayers to the tune of $40 million, but which had managed to keep Sydney’s struggling film industry ticking over.
HOT AIR, ON AIR
In terms of feuds, the duelling divas Mike Carlton and Ray Hadley gave us all a show in May when Carlton fumed about the ABC’s treatment of his comments during an Australian Story episode on Hadley.
Carlton launched a stinging attack, claiming his comments were “selectively edited” by the show’s producers to give a glowing account of his former radio nemesis Hadley, describing the program as a “travesty”, “disgrace” and “garbage”.
Within a nanosecond, Hadley fired back, telling PS: “I’d imagine Mr Carlton’s anger has more to do with the fact he was shown the door at 2UE after his ratings failure, and the day after the Australian Story [program], I recorded my 74th consecutive ratings win.” Hug it out, fellas.
It was not so much what made it on the screen as what was happening behind the cameras of Australia’s breakfast television shows that kept PS busy throughout the year, starting off with the removal of Melissa Doyle from co-hosting Seven’s Sunrise, to be replaced by Samantha Armytage, who apparently dropped a dress size by dozing off, according to her “sleep diet” story in Woman’s Day.
But it wasn’t long before our attention was focused on the spectacular demise of Channel Nine’s Today executive producer Neil Breen. The former Sunday Telegraph editor learnt the hard way about dealing with TV stars, which ranged from a “bollocking” of presenter Ben Fordhamto co-host Lisa Wilkinson storming off the show, reduced to tears in her dressing room after one of “EP’s Pet” Karl Stefanovic’s jibes missed her funny bone.
Last month it was announced Breen was moving on, far, far away from Today.
And yet all that paled next to what was happening behind the scenes at Channel Ten’s multimillion-dollar breakfast onslaught with Wake Up and Studio Ten.
Within days of their debuts, executive producer Adam Boland was on “indefinite leave” in Vanuatu, having abandoned ship as they sank in the ratings. He returned a fortnight later, only to sack one of Wake Up’s hosts – Natasha Exelby – before he disappeared again on leave.
The Sydney Morning Herald