6 September 2022

Have you ever had a brush with fame? Some are more memorable than others

| Sally Hopman
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Olivia with two men and a woman at Parliament House

Department of Parliamentary Services staff back in 2019, former Assistant Secretary Luke Hickey, Alicia Lewis and Craig Williams met Olivia Newton-John when she visited Parliament House, Canberra. Photo: Department of Parliamentary Services, Parliament House.

Have you ever had a brush with fame? Seen the person you loved on TV in the flesh, actually having a coffee or, controversially, walking their dog, in the street, wearing trackie bottoms just like a regular person?

Turns out just because their faces are on TV, movie screens, tablets and all those other devices only under-10s know how to use, doesn’t make them so very different after all.

I love a good brush with fame. The only skills needed when you meet them is to not appear too over-awed, break wind, or pat them on the back and call them “maaaaaaaate”. The last applies especially to royalty – actually all of them do.

READ ALSO We’ll never find another you Judith Durham, says fellow Seeker

This week’s been a funny one for said brushes, and memories.

We were asking around the office if anyone had met Olivia Newton-John or had a local story about her. Someone did and that was that. An Olivia story with a Canberra connection.

It was only the next day when I remembered I had seen her a few years ago, whilst working at Parliament House. I don’t even remember why she was there, but when one of my former colleagues posted her (better) memories of the meeting on social media, and a photo (no I wasn’t in it), they suddenly sounded very familiar. Probably because I was there too.

All I remember was how breathtakingly beautiful she was with skin as clear as cellophane and so very tiny. She also had the best smile and did I mention how tiny she was? Tiny, tiny. She even, sort-of, got physical, introducing herself.

Woman in pink dress

The Seekers frontwoman, Judith Durham, outside the Sydney Opera House in 2014. Photo: Courtesy of Keith Potger.

So how did that moment disappear from my mashed potato brain when one from about a million years ago won’t ever leave me. Bob Dylan at Sydney Airport.

I went up to greet him and nearly got flattened by his security guard. It’s not like I was leading a fan fool army, I was the only fool there. The only “weapon” I had was my leather-look fringe handbag and unbrushed hair which could well have still had some breakfast lost in it.

But I did feel obliged to ask him how he liked Australia, two seconds after he landed. I was rewarded with a grunt. Although apparently the grunt was translated as “get out of my way” in Bob-speak.

Years ago, working at one of the country’s major cultural institutions, I ran into Lindy Chamberlain. Literally. I wasn’t watching where I was going. Fortunately she was. I apologised and so did she because she had been moving significantly faster than most people do in rather large cultural institutions.

“I’m trying to hide from the Channel X TV crew,” she told me, although she didn’t say X.

READ ALSO Tributes flow for the iconic Olivia Newton-John and her unlikely Canberra connection

“They’ve been hounding me all day,” she added.

I directed her to a sensible hiding spot – well outside the building. She was lovely – and very grateful.

But going back to this week. With the death of Judith Durham, I’d heard that her former Seeker band mate Keith Potger lived in Braidwood, not a million miles away. It’s hard to speak to people days after they’ve lost ones, especially when they’re described to you as “my little sister”, but Keith did it with aplomb. Generously sharing his memories, including the fact he spoke to her only a couple of hours before she died.

Little wonder that band stood the test of time, with such kind, generous souls as its backbone.

But the saddest for me was Uncle Archie Roach, whom I had the honour to see perform but never to meet. I would have loved to have heard some yarns from that giant of a man. But as ever, Paul Kelly put into words what we all wanted to say: “Archie Roach. Big Tree Down. Weeping in the forest”.

Original Article published by Sally Hopman on Riotact.

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