The BBC’s documentary quickly drew comparisons with Succession after it went to air in Britain on Tuesday – so much so that viewers commented on social media how its theme music and opening credits were almost identical to the TV drama.
The other likely home for the show in Australia would be the ABC, which has been under constant attack from much of the Murdoch empire in recent times. However, when PS checked, the national broadcaster had no plans to buy it, nor did SBS, Nine, Seven or Ten.
British critics quickly shared candid thoughts on the documentary’s subject matter, with The Independent’s Sean O’Grady not holding back: “The mogul has occasionally been happy to let the cameras in, though not this time. The program’s producers, therefore, had to rely on quite a lot of archive material, but it was shrewdly chosen. Thus we are treated to the younger jet-set era Murdoch bustling around newsrooms; fag in gob. We see him frolicking in the pool with his family, including the time when teenage Elisabeth playfully attempts to drown the old monster.
“There is an extraordinary interview with himself and a pregnant Wendi Deng, who he met while she was an intern, discussing what language their progeny will speak and some absurd footage of the dotard boxing. It all speaks to a man who seems at once extraordinarily ordinary but also has a nasty streak of vanity to complement his other unattractive qualities.”
Anita Singh in The Telegraph wrote: “Not that you need all that to guess at what’s going on behind the scenes, as when Elisabeth Murdoch, face composed but eyes blazing, said of her father’s new partner, one Wendi Deng: ‘She’s delightful. It’s something I couldn’t have foreseen but Dad seems extremely happy, and when someone’s extremely happy you can’t begrudge them their happiness.’ You imagined her walking calmly out of the room, shutting the door and screaming into a pillow.”
Other highlights include Rupert Murdoch’s private dinner with the Blairs, after which he said “Cherie’s a bit strange”, a 13-year-old Charlotte Church asking her manager if the Murdochs realised they’d requested a requiem for their wedding song, and of course the image of new girlfriend Deng reclining on a sun lounge devouring her reading material: a copy of Fortune magazine.
Saved by the love of his life
Friends of former Channel Nine boss and eastern suburbs blue blood David Gyngell say it was his wife, journalist Leila McKinnon, who saved the 54-year-old’s life after his headline-making heart attack last week.
McKinnon convinced “bulletproof” Gyngell – who had cholesterol issues – to seek medical attention after he returned to their Byron Bay home not feeling well following a training session with his friend Pat Rafter.
“He came home from this super macho crazy boot camp with his mates looking a little grey and complaining of the classic heart attack symptoms, such as pressure on the chest and a tingly arm so I gave him the choice of an ambulance or hospital,” McKinnon told PS.
“He didn’t put up much resistance so I knew he was worried too. But if there’s one lesson from this it’s that even if you are fit and healthy and relaxed you can suffer from narrowing in the arteries. And if the doctor says you should be on statins you probably should be.
“We got lucky, and the hospitals and nurses and doctors were incredible. But I’ve heard from so many people with a similar story, don’t muck around with these symptoms and don’t hesitate to call an ambulance or get to emergency.”
McKinnon also revealed a new world order taking shape in the family household.
“We’ve put the jafflemaker away and replaced it with a juicer and broken up with our local pizza place. If anyone sees me there on my own keep it to yourself.”
Doctors eventually found Gyngell had a 90 per cent blockage in two of his arteries.
ECG tests revealed Gyngell had suffered a heart attack and he was rushed into surgery at the John Flynn Hospital on the Gold Coast where stents were inserted to clear the arteries and improve blood flow to his heart.
Christa’s big slip
PS’s favourite swinger, Sydney socialite and Real Housewives chorus girl Christa Billich, says her injuries look worse than they actually are following a stint at St Vincent’s Hospital after a nasty fall at home.
A battered and bruised Billich, who had only recently relaunched her regular parties with artist husband Charles, told PS she had a dizzy spell in the middle of the night en route to the bathroom.
“Ooooh darlink,” she purred in her trademark Bavarian tones, valiantly laughing off the drama. “I vas flat on the floor! Charles had to call an ambulance, it vas terrible. But you know vot? I vas more vorried about my new porcelain teeth, they were everywhere, like I had broken a string of pearls … I was on all fours trying to collect them because they cost me a bomb!”
Billich says she will make a full recovery and has already booked in an appointment with her plastic surgeon, declaring: “Oh darlink he is a miracle verker, I will be shipshape again very soon.”
The cancellation of this year’s Tulip Festival is not the only scandal that has been rocking the Southern Highlands of late.
Racy new local newspaper The Southern Highlands Express published a blistering front-page story revealing how a “wholesome highlands girl became a serial white-collar criminal”.
To say the coverage had tongues wagging among the tweed and pearls brigade would be putting it mildly.
Turns out the “wholesome highlands girl” is former Frensham student Annabel Walker, who is a descendant of wealthy squattocracy from the Snowy Mountains.
The 32-year-old is due to be sentenced at Downing Centre on Wednesday after pleading guilty to a string of fraud charges which saw her victims out of pocket thousands of dollars.
Portrait of an unhappy lady
Millionaire businessman and arts patron John Schaeffer, who died this week after being hit by a ute on Macquarie Street, had been planning to sell much of his art collection in August.
His untimely death came as much of his collection was being prepared to go under the hammer with Leonard Joel.
The eclectic collection includes some unusual items, which Schaeffer had kept in storage for years, like the pair of lamps that once belonged to Margaret Thatcher.
But it was the portrait of the late Lady Susan Renouf, by the acclaimed Australian artist and two-time Archibald winner Nigel Thomson, which caught PS’s attention.
In 1984 Thomson had been commissioned by one of Renouf’s former husbands, Robert Sangster, to paint the portrait, which showed the fabled socialite sitting in front of Sydney Harbour.
However, Renouf was not happy with the finished product, Thomson later revealing she had her butler call to explain she no longer wanted it after friends told her she appeared unhappy.
Given she sat for the portrait while reports emerged her husband was having an affair with Jerry Hall, who could blame her?
Thomson was mightily peeved, having not been paid his $7000 fee. He was preparing to take the Sangsters to court over the matter when Schaeffer, a friend of Thomson’s, stepped in and bought the painting.
It has sat in storage ever since, but will be part of the upcoming sale, with a price guide of $4000.
Andrew Hornery is a senior journalist and Private Sydney columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.