This was after his private butler of 18 years, the consummately discreet David Allan – a man who had greeted and served some of the most influential names in the country at Jones’ home and never spilled the beans – left his long-held position.
Allan abruptly left his employer shortly after the arrival of handsome, young aspiring media commentator, 23-year-old Jake Thrupp, who has been by Jones’ side constantly for several years. While “assistant” Thrupp remains on Jones’ personal payroll, Hickey and Allan have departed The Toaster building after having dutifully served their master.
Jones told PS via a spokesman: “Jake Thrupp has no involvement with respect to the employment of Alan’s staff nor does he have anything to do with this matter. Any suggestion otherwise would be defamatory.”
The spokesman also added Hickey’s employment was “terminated by Alan Jones in accordinace with the terms of his employment contract”.
Jones’ butlers start their day early, ensuring the broadcaster gets off to work by 4am for his talk-back show, and that the home is ready for his return later that day. PS understands that Thrupp has remained at the city pad while Jones has been broadcasting from his country estate.
Thrupp has previously referred to Jones as his “mentor”, however his ongoing presence within the broadcaster’s most intimate orbit continues to be a subject of much discussion.
Love is in the air, along with an uninvited guest
Staring out at the azure waters from their isolated hut built over the sea in the Maldives last week, Scott Maggs and his new wife Emma Metcalf were still beaming from ‘‘all the love and joy’’ their March 6 wedding at Stanwell Tops had delivered.
That was until last Thursday when two of their wedding guests interrupted their romantic isolation with news that would, according to Maggs, “turn our world upside down, we just did not see it coming”.
Their guests had returned a positive result for COVID-19. Alarm bells began ringing, smart phones went into meltdown and before long NSW Health officials were on the phone as their 120 guests were thrust into the frontline of a 21st century pandemic.
Yesterday, Maggs confirmed the latest number of guests testing positive for COVID-19 was 37.
‘‘Throughout all this our priority was to bunker down and take care of each other, to keep in contact with everyone and try to get through all the craziness … it has been a hectic and difficult time. It was not what we were expecting to have to deal with after our wedding, which was perfect,’’ the advertising creative who is better known by his celebrity alter ego Jimmy Niggles revealed.
The couple admit that before long ‘‘the finger pointing’’ began.
‘‘We’ve had to deal with people accusing us of being irresponsible, blaming us for the virus. It has been pretty full on, we are very sensitive about that and trying to shield our guests from that,’’ Metcalf, a television and digital media producer, said.
‘‘I have to say the media attention … did not help things. It just created more hysteria and panic when really, I think we should be thankful for the people who went and got tested and let us know what was going on. We can’t shame people over a disease.’’
Maggs concedes his honeymoon took a darker turn when they heard the news from Australia about their guests, having been unaware of the increasing panic the virus was causing back home. ‘‘Ironically we were in the perfect place to isolate … from the entire world,’’ he said.
Upon returning to Sydney last Monday the newlyweds were tested for the virus and on Thursday both were cleared.
‘‘It’s insane. We were kissing and hugging people all night. We can’t explain it let alone believe it,’’ Maggs said on Friday afternoon. ‘‘We started planning the wedding months ago. There was no hysteria or bans on March 6, it just wasn’t on the radar.”
NSW Senator Andrew Bragg and Sally Hawach, the pregnant daughter of ad man John Singleton, and her husband Pierre Hawach, are among those to test positive. Sally is 30 weeks pregnant with her third child while her lawyer-husband’s diagnosis shut down the Family Law Court.
For privacy reasons, the newlyweds had appealed to the guests, many in isolation, not to talk about the wedding. ‘‘There are so many people involved in this, from politicians to our family … a lot of people to consider how this was going to impact on them,’’ Maggs said.
Maggs insisted that ‘‘Australians are famous for our mateship, we have to get back to that.’’ His new bride added: ‘‘I just hope people can be a little kinder to each other, and handle this a bit better. People are really suffering, the last thing we need is for them to be shamed.’’
Maggs created the character Jimmy Niggles to raise awareness and money for skin cancer after losing a friend to the disease several years ago. He vowed to shave the beard off for $1 million for his charity.
Some do and some don’t
COVID-19 put an end to celebrity hairdresser Joh Bailey and his fiance Michael Christie‘s planned glam-country wedding at their Southern Highlands property which was scheduled for today.
The 200-plus guests received an email on Monday from the disappointed couple informing them they were unable to go ahead due to the risk such a gathering could pose for many guests. They have postponed the happy day to a later date.
“It was the only thing we could do, no one could predict how this was going to go and the last thing we needed was the anxiety,” Bailey told PS.
Meanwhile former News Corp Australia boss and Prime Television head honcho John Hartigan and his third wife Miche Paterson had to rearrange their wedding plans at the 11th hour.
Guests, including media high-flyers John Singleton, Roy Masters, Mark and Wendy Day and Col Allan, were “regrettably” informed on Wednesday that the wedding, planned for Chiswick in Woolahra yesterday, had to be called off given the new rules on indoor gatherings of 100 people, with many of the guests in the high-risk category.
PS can reveal the wedding did go ahead however on Friday, but it was a far more intimate affair with just two witnesses and immediate friends – including fellow newsman and former New York Post editor Col Allan – and family at Paddington restaurant Cirpri.
The couple were first spotted together at The Australian Open in January 2017, months after Hartigan lost his wife Rebecca Wilson to breast cancer. Paterson worked with Hartigan as the public relations executive looking after Prime and is a partner in the corporate affairs firm Newgate Communications.
Hartigan, 72, and now a grandfather, previously told PS he was headed down the aisle for the third time with Paterson, 44, a mother of two young boys, after popping the question over lunch at Woolloomoolloo’s China Doll last October.
Dazzling mystery fit for Poirot
It’s a story that could come from one of the pages of an Agatha Christie mystery novel – how did a bejewelled brooch which was once one of the author’s most beloved pieces end up in a dusty vault in Ballarat?
The brooch is one of several interesting pieces of bling which went under the hammer at Leonard Joel this week, fetching a hefty $37,000 when a Melbourne collector of Agatha Christie curios placed the winning bid which was nearly four times the price guide.
The vendor, who declined to be named, bought the brooch 14 years ago while she was living in London at an auction of contents from Christie’s home Greenway House.
When she moved to Australia with her husband, the brooch spent most of its time in a safe, with few opportunities to wear the piece which features a jewelled basket of flowers of opals, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and rose and single cut diamonds set in 18 carat gold.
On Monday it was bought by “fanatical” Christie fan Scott Baker, who told PS he was “still in shock” after securing the highly prized item.
“I did wonder what on Earth I had done when I ended up winning the auction … but I have had a fascination for Agatha Christie ever since I was a little boy … this brings me much pleasure and it is sitting in a specially made Fortune Teller’s cabinet sparkling under lights in my home,” Baker revealed.
Baker also has an evening gown worn by Diana Rigg in Evil Under The Sun, which adorns a mannequin in the corner of his dining room.
“In all it cost me $6000, that was to buy it and have it restored. The bugle beading on it is quite extraordinary,” Baker added, whose Christie collection also includes rare copies of books signed by the author and original artwork from some of her book covers.
Other items in the sale included a gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual wristwatch for Asprey ($1600), a diamond Melba stick pin ($1050) and a gold, citrine and diamond collar ($2100) all from the collection of the late Dowager Countess of Harewood, who died in May 2018.
Before she became a countess, she was former Sydney model and violinist Patricia Tuckwell, known around the bohemian cafes of post-war Potts Point simply as “Bambi”.
She became the centre of a global royal scandal in 1964 when she gave birth to the Earl of Harewood’s son while he was still married to his first wife, Marion Stein (who later went on to marry politician Jeremy Thorpe). The Earl (George Lascelles) was the Queen’s first cousin and a senior figure within the royal family at the time.
Bambi would later become Lady Harewood when she married the earl in 1967 after finally winning the Queen’s approval amid a blaze of scandalous headlines.
Andrew Hornery is a senior journalist and Private Sydney columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.