While Yabsley has been open about his new life with friends and family for months, when PS approached him he asked for time to discuss the potential media coverage with his loved ones, conscious that while celebrating his new life it did not come at the expense of his old one.
The cancer diagnosis and subsequent surgery was such a major event in his life Yabsley admits he “faced my own mortality”, a reason to pause and re-evaluate his life, and ponder the years he had left.
Last October Yabsley called an end to his 37-year marriage with Susie, to whom he says he remains close and speaks to on an almost daily basis, though he admits his decisions have not been easy on those he loves.
Yabsley left the picturesque Southern Highlands home Wombat Hollow that he and Susie have turned into a high-profile ideas forum where the likes of Alan Jones, John Howard, Mark Latham, Nick Greiner, Bob Carr, Thomas Keneally, Andrew Forrest and Scott Morrison have all held court.
Indeed the hip Darlinghurst apartment where he is happily ensconced these days, and in a new relationship with a man, is a long way from the tweed and pearls brigade that would converge at Wombat Hollow.
“Yes, we are very happy. It’s early days for us, but the relationship is very comfortable and we are very at ease with each other,” Yabsley explained, asking that his fledgling relationship with his new partner be spared the public exposure he once courted as a politician.
However, the months since his cancer diagnosis have been anything but easy, especially on his family. “My decisions have impacted a lot of people I care about. I have to be conscious of how this, talking about my life, impacts on them,” he told PS, acutely aware that as a man in his mid-60s, there are not many role models when it comes to “coming out” in 2020.
“We had a pretty happy marriage,” Yabsley said of his time with Susie. “But for me, it was not an authentic marriage … and that had nothing to do with Susie, that was about me. I was not being an authentic husband.”
“I guess it … my sexuality … had become the ‘elephant in the room’. Having confronted my mortality I was at a point where I wanted to live the years I have left the way I truly wanted to, something I probably should have done 30 years ago.
“I feel significantly unburdened by that, but there is also a truckload of guilt about hurting people I care about.”
Gem of jewellers
Sydney bid farewell to society jeweller Tony White on Friday at a memorial service at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
White died last Saturday after a short battle with cancer. He was 78.
Throughout his career, White eschewed the sort of publicity so many of his peers today slavishly seek. And yet he was undoubtedly one of the most successful artisans of luxury jewellery ever produced in Australia, counting among his clients the likes of singers Michael Hutchence and Kylie Minogue (who commissioned White to create a diamond ring for his then girlfriend), former PM Julia Gillard, media maven Ita Buttrose (White designed her engagement ring from Alasdair Macdonald) former United States first lady Barbara Bush, US President Donald Trump, model Carmen Dell’Orefice, Lauren Bacall, Jill Hickson Wran, Gai Waterhouse, Carla Zampatti, Caroline Laws, Lee Remick, Lee Marvin, Evelyn Lauder and New York’s fabulously wealthy Newhouse family, owners of the publishing stable that includes US Vogue.
With his partner of 38 years, architect Alexander Michael, whom he met over the bar at the old Albury Hotel in Paddington, White also collected one of the most extraordinary private contemporary art collections in Sydney, which contains works by Jeffrey Smart, Margaret Olley, Brett Whiteley, Charles Blackman, Keith Looby, John Coburn, Donald Friend, Martin Sharp, Tim Storrier and John Olsen, along with Linde Ivimey’s exquisitely macabre bone sculptures.
Having originally studied to be an architect, White quit after five years of practice to focus on his passion to create objet d’art and jewellery out of materials, relics and heirlooms that fascinated him.
Self taught, for nearly half a century he created one-of-a-kind pieces, some of which would incorporate anything from corals and ancient stones to rare finds sourced from antique markets around the world.
Each year he would “exhibit” pieces around the world, finding great success in Chicago and New York, and garnering a two-page spread in US Vogue in the early 1970s, virtually unheard for any jeweller, let alone one just starting out from far off Australia.
While the rest of the world was posting black squares on Instagram, Real Housewives of Sydney stars Krissy Marsh and Nicole Gazal O’Neil were not going to face the breakdown of civilisation with anything less than a creaseless forehead and pout.
The pair made a dash to co-star and “cosmetic injector” Matty Samaei’s Double Bay clinic, where PS hears the Botox needles have been working overtime to keep up with demand since COVID-19 trading restrictions were eased.
Meanwhile in the Big Apple, it would seem the looters of Greenwich Village have very good taste when it comes to shops to raid. Sydney-based designer Louise Olsen’s Dinosaur Designs boutique was cleaned out this week, resulting in the store being boarded up on Wednesday, much to the dismay of Olsen who has had to watch on, like the rest of us, from afar.
Dawson-Damer’s court battle
She is a celebrated arts patron, staunch Liberal, one of the wealthiest women in Sydney and is about to publish her memoir, but PS can reveal that for many months Ashley Dawson-Damer has been quietly waging battle in various law courts around the world over a $614 million family trust.
It’s been a battle royal from London to Bermuda, after Dawson-Damer disputed the transfer of a significant amount of assets, worth several hundred million dollars, from the Bahamas to Bermuda. There, she would not be recognised as a beneficiary.
While the case is ongoing, she has reportedly had a few victories along the way, and PS hopes it will make for a fabulous chapter in her soon-to-be-published tome.
Dawson-Damer is the widow of John Dawson-Damer, younger brother of George, the Earl of Portarlington.
Eton-educated blue blood John Dawson-Damer, who owned what was billed as the world’s finest collection of Lotus racing cars, settled in Sydney in 1964, but was killed aged 59 at the wheel in a crash in 2000 on the racetrack at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England.
It is a tragedy PS understands will feature prominently in Dawson-Damer’s new memoir, titled A Particular Woman.
According to the publicity material sent to PS, she writes of “the incomparable heartache of multiple miscarriages, the challenges of single motherhood, her surprise entry into modelling and the joy of a second chance at love. And when her world is unexpectedly torn apart, Ashley pushes through her grief to find solace in the arts.”
Andrew Hornery is a senior journalist and Private Sydney columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.