“He is a good bloke, you might not always agree with what he says, but he says it with passion. It would be pretty boring if we were all the same.”
In 2016 Evans and Co were the stars of the most-watched television show in the country, with an average nightly audience of a staggering 2.267 million.
However, in recent months, amid the obliteration of the television advertising market thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, audiences were smashed after MKR went up against ratings juggernaut Married At First Sight on Nine (the owner of this masthead).
Then there were Evans’ constant controversies – from being labelled an anti-vaxxer to being fined by the TGA a fortnight ago for selling a lamp he claimed could defeat COVID-19.
MKR’s golden days had clearly ended.
However Seven, under the stewardship of recently installed chief executive James Warburton, has invested deeply in the MKR franchise, and sources within the network say it is not ready to kill off the show.
At its peak, media buyers estimate MKR was responsible for around $50 million worth of advertising a year to Seven, money which underwrote the fat pay cheques the stars were earning, and underpinned the additional hundreds of thousands of dollars Feildel and Evans have earned in various product endorsements, from chicken stock to cookbooks.
With audiences for the 11th season roughly halved on what they were just two years ago, Seven has found itself in a precarious position having to “make good” with advertisers who bought into this year’s season of the show expecting much larger numbers.
MKR is an Australian concept co-created by Rikkie Proost, who was the executive producer on the show for the first four seasons. At its peak MKR was aired in more than 160 countries and sparked overseas versions in the United States, Britain and New Zealand, all generating fat licensing residuals for Seven back in Australia.
In 2016 Proost told industry podcast Mediaweek: “MKR is a really important brand for us as a company, not only for the Seven Network here in Australia but also Seven Productions internationally.”
Evans, who has been managing his media career himself for several years from his northern NSW farm, did not return repeated queries about his position this week. By Friday Seven insiders had confirmed he would “pursue his own endeavours” and maintained the parting was “amicable”.
But as Fassnidge summed it up on Friday: “Well, I’m pretty surprised. That’s a pretty big pay cheque to say goodbye to”.
Hutton on paparazzi high alert
Australia’s one-time sweetheart Deborah Hutton has become something of a paparazzi magnet in recent weeks, from being photographed slipping behind fences to go for a dip near Tamarama to relaxing with her meditation guru, Bondi deep thinker Andrew Marsh.
PS hears Hutton was on high alert well before she was busted slipping behind the temporary fence that blocked off access to Mackenzies Bay as part of COVID-19 social distancing measures. The 58-year-old was pictured swimming in the spot where she has been a regular for years.
However the photos of her with Marsh, which were taken over a period of days and include the pair laughing, sipping wine on Hutton’s balcony and walking arm in arm have miraculously disappeared since being published on the Daily Mail and later in Woman’s Day.
Friends’ of Marsh’s wife Holly say the meditation guru fired off a terse legal letter which resulted in the Daily Mail story disappearing.
Hutton is said to be less than pleased with the exposure she has generated, which comes 18 months after her former boyfriend was slapped with an AVO after planting a bag of condoms and restraints inside the multimillion-dollar home he had shared with the former model in Bronte.
Neither Hutton nor Marsh responded on the record to PS’s queries.
Big names leave magazines behind
Amid the carnage pervading Australia’s once glorious magazine industry, with some 140 jobs gone in a week as Bauer swallows up rival Pacific and titles including InStyle, Men’s Health, Harper’s Bazaar Australia, Elle, OK! and NW placed in limbo (with many unlikely to return in print) some of the game’s biggest names have also quietly left the building.
Among them was Julia Zaetta, the former editor-in-chief of one-time cash-cow Better Homes and Gardens who, with half a century under her belt working on titles from Australian Women’s Weekly to New Woman, ranks as one of Australia’s longest serving big-league magazine editors.
“I’ve worked for all of them. I had my first cigarette in 20 years with Kerry Packer during one meeting, that’s just what you did when Kerry offered you a cigarette! I’ve been beguiled by Kerry Stokes, who is one of the most generous, handsome and thoughtful people you could ever imagine. Rupert Murdoch was very business-like … all of them different,” Zaetta reflected to PS.
“What is happening is very, very sad. Bauer’s deal to buy Pacific started off as something promising, but then someone ate a bloody bat and this nightmare engulfed us all.”
Zaetta said media pundits had wrongly written off magazines. “People keep saying it’s because of digital but a lot of the impulse-buying opportunities disappeared when self-checkouts came into place. Australians were once the highest consumers per capita of magazines in the world … the younger generation may not engage so much but they remain a potent, portable, fantastical and thoroughly entertaining experience … I just hope some of them can survive.”
Vale, Michael McMahon
They just don’t make hosts like Catalina’s Michael McMahon anymore.
McMahon, 67, a father of four and devoted husband to Judy, died after a long battle with illness last week and was farewelled in a moving service on Wednesday that was live streamed to his loved ones and many loyal customers, who over the years have included everyone from Malcolm Turnbull, Kerry Packer, Bob Hawke and Eileen “Red” Bond to Rupert Murdoch and US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
A raconteur and all-round bon vivant, McMahon was also fiercely loyal to his best customers, such as the glamorous Angela Fleming, widow of supermarket baron Jim Fleming.
When McMahon walked past a table at Catalina and overheard ladies gossiping disparagingly about his friend he couldn’t let it slide and abruptly evicted the entire table, mid meal.
PS remembers well a story of McMahon following a couple of diners out of the restaurant and throwing the measly tip behind them after they complained about the wagyu being “too fatty”.
His great mate Turnbull would often jump in his boat and putt around from Point Piper to pick up fish and chips, which McMahon would personally deliver, while it was a brave soul who dared eat an oyster incorrectly in front of McMahon, who was known to suddenly materialise at tables to give detailed, and very loud instructions, on how to slurp them down.
He will be missed.
Andrew Hornery is a senior journalist and Private Sydney columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.