Sydney Morning Herald
December 22, 2006
Actress Maria Venuti says she celebrates the European way, on Christmas Eve. "I’m cooking up a multicultural feast with rellies and friends; going Italian with antipasto and my Mama’s lasagne recipe [and] then wouldn’t miss out on the ham, turkey and roast vegies. Darling, my mouth is watering already … Yum yum. I adore Christmas."
A favourite Christmas memory is from the 1980s. "I was thrilled and honoured to be asked to go to the Sinai Desert with Rolf Harris to bring some Christmas cheer and sing carols to our boys in the multinational forces who were guarding the Gaza Strip. I think it might have been because I was the only singer in Oz that looked like Cleopatra … But I didn’t find my Mark Antony."
Fast-forward 20 years and Bessie Bardot remembers fondly a similar tour of duty in Iraq at Christmas two years ago: "I spent Christmas Day in the middle of the desert, sleeping in a M*A*S*H*-like base camp that was home to 5000 US, British and Aussie troops. Waking on a freezing desert morning in our tents with stretchers for beds, putting on bulletproof jackets to the sound of helicopters, and a cheery bunch of soldiers, also clad in full body armour, bringing around whisky-tea and good wishes."
Channel Ten’s music man John Foreman has issues with the Christmas turkey. "They’re cumbersome, difficult to squeeze into the oven and require considerable preparation. Besides, I can’t help feeling sorry for the bird, lying there, stripped of all its plumage – naked – with breadcrumbs being shoved up its cavity. That said, I love the flavour. So I thought I’d try the boxed, processed, ‘convenient’ turkey one year … I invited family and friends over, ready to impress them with my Christmas savvy. Table set, condiments in jars, the whole performance. Sadly, I didn’t realise that the turkey needed to be defrosted. All I had was a frozen chunk of processed bird and a bit of old cranberry. So we all headed up the street for a few turkey sandwiches."
The memories are happier for Deborah Hutton: "It doesn’t get any better than Christmas spent years ago with three close friends sipping bottles of chilled Dom, slowly munching through courses of fine food, sitting in the crystal-clear waters of Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays … without a soul around. It really was a dream day. We only figured it was slightly decadent when we were forced to change from a chopper to a six-seater seaplane, as there was far too much stuff – beach umbrellas, towels, Eskies etc – to take off."
There’s not a mention of turkey or ham from The Biggest Loser host Ajay Rochester: "We have a great Christmas tradition that started with trying to get rid of the dummy of a three-year-old who was extremely attached. We built it up that if he left his dummy under the tree on the night before Christmas Eve you wake up the day before Christmas and Santa has left you a present a day before any other kid. He then takes all the dummies, melts them down and makes new dummies for the poor kids. The first year saw the successful separation of the dummy replaced by a bear he still has, called Mr Snuggles. However, the funniest thing was the next year to see him drag out his little dinky all the way into the house and put it under the tree. He said he was leaving it out for Santa to give it to the poor kids and he would get a scooter to replace it."
Some like it hot
Filming has begun on what promises to be an intriguing television offering for 2007: a local version of the British TV show The F-Word. Instead of featuring the internationally acclaimed chef Gordon Ramsay, the Channel Seven version has signed up the Sydney celebrity chef Matt Moran. Each week Moran invites three amateur chefs into the kitchen of a new restaurant operating exclusively for the show. The chefs are grouped by profession – from hairdressers and surf lifesavers to surgeons and sports stars – and are guided by Moran as they prepare a three-course meal for 50 hungry customers. So far a group of greengrocers and flight attendants have shot episodes and these are due to screen early next year.
Over at Channel Nine there are high hopes being pinned on the former magazine editor Mia Freedman’s top secret "Project X". However, reports elsewhere last week that the new midday show would feature Ita Buttrose and Katie Fischer appear to be a little off the mark. Both Buttrose and Fischer had shot a pilot for Foxtel some time ago. Word from TV land says a pilot for the Mia Freedman project was shot last week with Libbi Gorr (Elle McFeast) hosting.
A friend in deed
He’s starred in some of the biggest-grossing films made, but Sydney actor Hugo Weaving shuns the limelight of Hollywood. On Tuesday he was helping a wheelchair-bound mate navigate the steep hills of Elizabeth Bay, gently negotiating up and down gutters and over potholes.
All is calm…now
It probably has not been the best year for the Australian Wheat Board, what with all that nasty business over Iraq and those kickbacks generating headline after headline. Yet the festive spirit appears alive and well judging by its Christmas card, which says "Peace Peace Peace" on the front and "Wishing you Seasons Greetings and a Prosperous New Year" on the inside.
That’s a bit rich
The Packer family has single-handedly driven the luxury market in Sydney for the past couple of months, with mum Ros dropping nearly a million schmackaroos on her Paspaley pearl-and-diamond collier, and James snapping up a host of big boys’ toys worth many millions more. However, perhaps the sales assistant at the swish beauty parlour Jo Malone, famed for his "couture skin care" and $200 scented candles, would do well to do a little research on Australia’s wealthiest family. Gretel Packer was left waiting and waiting and waiting in the Woollahra store this week as bemused fellow customers watched and timed just how long it would take for her to be served.
Ringing in the new?
PS has already reported that heiress-for-hire Paris Hilton’s former boyfriend and Hollywood "it" boy Brandon Davis is headed for Sydney for New Year’s Eve. Predictably, reports are now circulating that Hilton will be in town to party, too. PS can confirm that an equally interesting face will be in Sydney for the big night: New York’s Edwige Belmore. She was also a pop star, a former muse of Thierry Mugler and a close friend of Jean Paul Gaultier. She is heading to the Resolution Party being thrown by Tim Blanshard at The Metro.
AAPT appears to have lost its Christmas spirit – with some customers, anyway. One received a notice informing him the telco would be cutting off his internet and phone services on Christmas Day if he did not pay his $70 bill. Adding insult to injury, his payments were direct debits and the missed instalment was not his fault.