real life

'In 1986, I met Duran Duran's Simon Le Bon. It changed the entire course of my life.'

I’m supposed to be in my blue uniform working my regular Saturday shift as a Kmart checkout chick in suburban Adelaide. Instead, I’m in Sydney sitting beside the hottest pop star on Planet Earth, Simon Le Bon, the lead singer of 'Duran Duran'.

I’m in the penthouse suite of the famous Sebel Townhouse, home to international stars, Australia’s own Chateau Marmont. How did I get here? In the middle of a shoot with a TV crew setting up to film an in-depth interview with Simon for a feature-length documentary?

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I’m a radio contest winner. That’s how. I’m 16, painfully shy, and about to start my final year of high school. I’m on track to study computer science at university. I work Thursday nights and Saturday mornings at Kmart. 

This day, in January 1986, changes everything.

From the summer I met Le Bon. Image: Mara Blazic.  

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I’m positioned next to Simon on the sofa to ask my two ‘winning’ questions. The week before a popular Adelaide radio station had been giving away a trip to Sydney to meet and interview Simon Le Bon! 

Listeners had to ring in with two questions they’d like to ask him. Incredibly, I got through on the congested phone lines and won! 

My parents had recently upgraded their rotary dial to a Touchfone with the amazing redial button and I feel this was the contributing factor to my success. 

I’m dressed not like a teenager hanging out with a pop star, but like 60 Minutes reporter Jana Wendt jetting off to interrogate a dictator. 

The interviewer, a well-known Adelaide TV presenter and radio DJ, wants me to ask my two questions first before he commences his comprehensive list of professional ones. I’ve brought along my chunky cassette recorder to tape proceedings. I’m planning to use this recorder to capture my Physics, Chemistry and double Maths classes.

From the Summer I met Le Bon. Image: Mara Blazic.  

Simon leans in, listening attentively. He has to because I’m barely audible. I’ve become incredibly self-conscious about my two questions. I don’t want to ask them, so I just sort of whisper them through several pauses. His answers are thoughtful, comprehensive and intelligent. My questions are not:

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From the Summer I met Le Bon. Image: Mara Blazic.  

When the real interview commences the interviewer stops – "Get away from the superstar Mara," is what I hear him say, what he actually says is something like, “Simon, you might be more comfortable if Mara moved, so you can move your legs around?” Simon’s legs are just fine. He’s happy for me to be beside him during the entire interview, which goes for an hour. He acknowledges me often with regular eye contact causing me to blush and look down at the floor.

I. Am. So. Nervous. 

He’s open and honest and there doesn’t seem to be any subject matter off limits. This would definitely not be the case today with any global superstar.

After the shoot, Simon Le Bon takes me out onto the balcony for photos overlooking sensational Sydney Harbour. Being a dork, I position myself beside him like I’m posing for a school photo! He moves me closer and hugs me. I panic before I make myself relax. If this was now, 35 years later, can you imagine what my Insta would look like? #AViewToAKill

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From the Summer I met Le Bon. Image: Mara Blazic.  

That afternoon changed the course of my destiny. I wanted a lifetime of Simon Le Bon-like experiences, so I applied to journalism school and was accepted. Having this extraordinary event on my short CV I feel clinched it for me.

I was lucky to land my first job in an Adelaide TV newsroom. I largely covered car crashes, crime and catastrophes but I hated those (and still do) and always had my hand up for any celebrity encounter. 

Cher ignored me (walked straight past me and the media throng waiting at the airport), John Farnham wanted to throttle me when I approached him at the Grand Prix Ball (Adelaide had the Formula 1) to ask about the motor race, and Phil Collins’ minder wanted to punch me (there was an altercation with my cameraman filming Phil walking down the street). 

With Julian Lennon, 1992. Image: Mara Blazic.  

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By the time I filmed with Jimmy Barnes and his kids’ new band 'The Tin Lids' (that included a nine-year-old Mahalia Barnes) I thought wild Jimmy might want to kill me. I’m happy to report I was unscathed and have never forgotten how kind Jimmy was to this green reporter.

In 1993 I was selected from a pool of 1500 applicants to work on a new youth current affairs program for ABC TV in Melbourne, Attitude. We were based in the same Elsternwick building where Countdown was filmed, where 'Duran Duran' would often appear during the 80s. 

On Attitude I continued to work on stories with celebrities. I filmed with Claudia Karvan and Aden Young on the set of Broken Highway, hung out on the Neighbours set with Natalie Imbruglia, and interviewed two unknown movie directors, P.J. Hogan and Stephan Elliott, about their debut movies, Muriel’s Wedding and The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert.

Attitude, 1993. Image: Mara Blazic.  

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Later, on The 7.30 Report, I met one of my crushes, Chris Isaak. He’d flirted with every female TV reporter in Australia, but not me. On crutches after a nasty surfing accident, my presence seemed to annoy him. He ordered the entire lighting and set be rearranged so his drummer Kenney could be in shot.

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I spent 16 years as the Associate Producer of ABC TV’s Australian Story filming numerous episodes featuring superstars like Nicole Kidman, Matt Damon, Jason Donovan, William McInnes, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Samuel Johnson…

I never would have had this TV career if I hadn’t met Simon Le Bon. He changed my life.

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