On Stage with Sir Les and a Sydney Whirlwind



It’s been a few days since Barry Humphries left the mortal coil, and while we weren’t lucky enough to have met him personally, Peter and I retain some fond memories of our brief brush with Sir Les Patterson.
We had gone to see Humphries’  Perth show, and doubled up after Dame Edna looked at one unfortunate in the audience and observed, “I haven’t seen a head like that since it washed up in a bag at Rottnest!”
She spotted us – contorted with laughter – and a few minutes later,  Sir Les materialised. He gestured to us, to “come on up.” The adrenaline surged as we found ourselves onstage, with 3000 of our closest scrutineers.
“I’m having a barbecue, Peter, can you fry the sausages?” Sir Les leered. “Jacqui, you butter the bread. Now, I have to go to the toilet.” Then he vanished.
For what seemed like hours, Peter and I were alone on stage. He kept cooking, I kept buttering. Then a shed door behind us on stage opened, some foul sounds emerged, and a hand shot out, “Jacqui, I’ve run out of toilet paper, bring me some napkins would you?” Les bellowed, emitting more gastric sounds. I dutifully headed over with paper. “More, more!” he yelled. Again, I plodded over with a pile.
Minutes crawled by. Pete and I, alone on stage, buttering and frying, trying to stay cool. The audience, enjoying our discomfort, of course. When would Sir Les return? Would we ever leave?
Finally, a priest turned up, his electronic prison anklet flashing. (The dark beady eyes looked strangely familiar. )”Les here?” this new character simpered. “He invited me over for a barbie.”
“Ah, come in, he won’t be long,” I murmured. More awkwardness as we all stood there, the priest’s ankle lit up like lasers at a disco. Still no Les! Pete and I were determined not to turn to jelly as the seconds slow-mowed along. How would all this end?
With a massive explosion. Sir Les’s dunny suddenly blew up, and in the chaos and smoke, we were whisked back to our seats. Our memorable memory of the great Sir Les and the even greater Barry Humphries.
It was a joy to be back in Sydney again for the first time since that pesky pandemic hit our shores.
I haven’t seen David Williamson play for years – unfortunately they don’t seem to crop up in Perth too often – so relished seeing  Rhinestone Rex And Miss Monica  at The Ensemble. I also saw Julia, starring Justine Clarke, at the Opera House. Having interviewed Julia Gillard for WHO magazine last year, it was interesting to see Clarke nail the former PM in this sell-out show.
I also got to feast my eyes on the Archibald Prize entries at the Art Gallery of NSW.
Culture aside, it was great to catch up with old chums.
One night I met up with Marie Claire editor Nicky Briger, at Berkalouw bookshop in Oxford St, Paddington, for a book launch. I’d interviewed one of the Berkalouw family years ago for a Fairfax newspaper; they’d relayed how the treasured family bookshop had been bombed in Rotterdam during WWII and they’d moved to Sydney to start again, with nothing. Thankfully all these years on, the store is still thriving and it was where Melissa Doyle and Naima Brown launched their book How To Age Against The Machine.
Melissa, you’d recall, used to host Sunrise with David Koch, and now that she’s not waking up at 3am for that show, looks much healthier and happier. She said their book will help guide women to “age on their own terms” and not be invisible.
I also popped into an inner city pub where a farewell party for Clay Hichens, the supervising producer at 7.30, was being held. Clay and I worked together at TV current affairs show Hinch, decades ago. His ABC colleagues including Laura Tingle gave some moving speeches singing his praises.
Also while in Syd, I met up with journalist pal Sue Williams at the State Library. Somehow in recent years, she’s also found the time to churn out 29 books! Her latest one is an historic novel, That Bligh Girl and my interview with her is in this issue.
Also in The Starfish this week, we bring you a delicious recipe for Orange-scented Cake from beautiful new cookbook Pomegranates & Artichokes by Saghar Setareh.

Thanks to our friends at Murdoch Books, we have two copies of this cookbook to give away to readers. Just drop us a line at info@thestarfish.com.au telling us why you like The Starfish. Easy!
Plus we interview Maria Halphen, founder of Meeting For Minds, an organisation dedicated to research into the brain and mental disorders, about an important forum being held on May 12 and 13.
And our film reviewers Ros and Margot bring us their usual fine critiques.
Something for everyone here!
Jacqui and Pete