Saturday, November 17, 2007

Charlie's 30th

Good evening ladies and gentlemen - assembled friends and dignatories

I would like to officially welcome you all here to this - the second, and less formal party, celebrating Prime Minster Charles Forsyth's 60th birthday.

First of all, let me say what a wonderful day it was yesterday. The parade from the spaceport to parliament house was a welcome distraction after that interminable 2-hour flight from LA. And the Sydney weather turned on a perfect welcome for myself and Amelia as we made our way through the streets to Charlie's front door.

For those of you who were still awake for the celebrations at midnight - I think you'll join me in singing the praises of the engineers who pulled off that spectacular space-work display around the new moon. A fitting end to a wonderful and inspiring day of celebration, for the wonderful and inspiring man we all know as Charlie.

I am glad to see many of the same faces that were here, at the [?] yaught club - almost exactly 30 years ago - the last time we were all here together - for Charlie's 30th birthday party - feels like only yesterday - and yet... well, what a DAY it's been.

I am also happy to see many new faces. People who were not even born when last we met in this room to celebrate Charlie's birthday.

Who would have thought, 30 years ago, on that Friday evening in 2006, when I joked casually about Charlie's aspirations to start a political revolution in Australia, that only 5 years would pass before the Advance Australia Fair Party was officially launched - with Charlie as their first, and as yet only, leader.

Who would have even dreamed to predict that the party would not only be able to bring about the slow yet complete demise of right-wing politics in Australia - through the Better Education and Nutrition campaign - but that it would, within the space of only 10 years become the unquestionable first party in Australian politics and a model for fast reform to all moderately liberal political parties around the world.

On the long 2-hour flight from LA, Amelia and I were reminiscing about the last 30 years and marveling at how much things had changed. I remember when the only way down to this yaught club was by land road - and parking was just impossible - and while the extra security surrounding tonight's celebrations are one less positive sign of the way things have changed - I think you'll all agree that the new hover-craft loading bay is a much preferable way to come and go.

As you may or may not have read, in the 5th and most recent biography of Charlie's life - "Meeting Charlie" by entrepreneur and philanthropist Dick Smith - some of the most important and influencial times of Charlie's life were packed into a small number of years, shortly after his 30th birthday - and I can't help but look back feel that there was something in the air that night - telling us all to sit up and pay attention. There was a man that was going to chasnge things. There was man that was going to make a difference... well at least I can say that I DID know you when...

Charlie was a great help during this period in my own rise to fame. It always amazed, me over those years, how he found the time, helping me with scripts and production plans, and then later even, flying out to LA on the weekend, just so he could make sure my next film was all going according to plan.

My wife, Amelia, and I - now happily living in LA - were remembering recently how impossible that would have seemed to us 30 years ago. How much the political climate around the world has shifted, mainly due to Charlie and his parties success. How America, seeing the success of the AAF and Charlie's policies, changed direction, socially an politically, and became a place that we are now happy to call home.

To list all of Charlie's many and various political triumphs over the past 30 years would take so long as be tedious. Suffice to say that having made Australia the proud republic it always deserved to be, he has gone onto...

Recent accusations of Positive Discrimination aside - it cannot be denied that Charlie's all women front bench is a collection of some of the best politicians and policy makers that Australia has to offer. Senator Georgina Hibberd, who is here tonight was one of the founding members of AAF and can attest, I am sure, to Charlie's unwavering ability to surround himself with the best and brightest of the bunch.

... breaking John Howard's previous record by being in power more than 15 years...

In 2018, shortly after Oxford University declared the position of Official Keeper of the Truth, and [?]'d Charlie in it. I was given pause to reflect...

.. King Charles [joke about the same name?] sent his best regards and no hard feelings...

... Father of the year... Nobel Prize winner Cooper Forsyth...

... sang his paises then, but how much more now [something about all the nice thing sI would have said - I "did" say - 30 years ago - but, oh how much more there is to say now - kind of thing... just so it doesn't sound like I'm avoiding being nice about him now]

... won't bore you with details of Charlie's more private life as I'm sure you got all the details you need in the recent lift out special in the Women's Day...

... while I say that we were marveling at the way things have changed - it is also amazing how much we are actually all the same... and I suppose that's where I would like to leave you all tonight - with this thought - that despite all of his achievements over the last 30 years, since we were all here for the same purpose the most important thing...

[Originally written March 2006]

Josh's Best Man

Josh & Mel

A Spacey Oddity

A long time ago in galaxy, far, far away a boy was born. I know that many of you have suspected for a while that Josh was from another planet – and I’m here to tell you that it’s true.

Episode 1.

The Phantom Menace

I am told this is often what people think of Josh on first meeting. I’m not so sure about the menace part – but the phantom, well, yeah - that I can see that.

One family in particular, may have seen Josh as a Menace – Josh certainly appeared to them as a Phantom. You see – the thing was Josh was, and still is, often to be found in trees – perched – viewing the world from a-high. One day perched thus, in a tree in Victoria Park – just around the corner – resting in the branches - Josh was surprised by a family of picnic-ers who came and placed themselves in the shade of His tree. Josh found – that day - that he had many hours to wile away up in this tree while he waited for the family to move again. The only problem was – they didn’t. They resolutely stayed their, for hours - enjoying the shade and the warm summer air – completely oblivious to the phantom menace hovering in the branches above them. Finally, however, the call of the wild over-came Josh and he was compelled, for fear of rupturing his bladder – to remove himself from his vantage. The first awareness this poor family had of Josh’s existence was the slowly expanding shadow over their picnic and the strange flapping noise created by the rushing air through his over-coat. Like Luke from the city-in-the-sky, Josh plummeted from his perch and landed heavily – only metres away from the innocent, unsuspecting group below. He looked at them, they looked at him. Josh - tired, hot and panting from the strain of needing to relieve himself, simply looked at the group and made a noise like [DARTH NOISE IN MIC] – and ran off into the distance.

One of my first strongest memories of Josh was one of seeking his tuition in the cryptic ways of the String. I had heard epic tales and bold stories of a Master in the way of Finger Picking and found myself drawn to learn more of this Musical Mystery. Through a series of oddly related events I found myself in a strange house sitting with an even stranger man, discussing the intricate and mystical details of Twelve Bar Blues and the more marvelous hidden powers of The Riff.

Josh was house minding for the weekend and somehow I found myself there (I’m still not sure how I got there…) I was quickly engrossed in conversation, and knew, instantly, I had found a friend… How good a friend was only to be revealed later in the story.

Episode 2.

Attack of the Clones

Now, this is a little known fact… but all over the city at this very moment – there are clone construction factories, operating continuously. Seriously. I know. I’ve been in one of them. I was a captive for 10 years. I’ve seen how they operate. They’re well disguised and operate under our very noses. Josh has had some experience with them as well – the clone factory he was once a part of is known as Trinity Grammar School. Their clone produce – the private boys school boy.

Much like Anakin Skywalker, this period of Josh’s life gave him a healthy disregard for authority. It left him with desires to pull down the constructs around him and question everything accepted as normal.

Ironically, however, for all of its evils, this clone factory is also where Josh first discovered the power wielded by THE BLUES and all other forms of THE MUSIC. He learnt to wield his Electric Guitar with deadly force and soon found he could control many impressionable minds with the magical words handed down to him though eons of secret song writers. This power pulled him and invited him to follow. It was his calling. Mysterious voices inside him directed him to learn more of this scary underworld. It was his destiny.

He broke free from the shackles and mind-control attempts of the clone masters and instead devoted his life to the destruction of all worldly assumptions and preconceptions. He started to develop and hone these strange forces inside himself and after many years found that he could co-exist with the clones and their masters with no more than a flick of the wrist [JEDI MIND TRICK ACTION] and a quick “These are not the boys you’re looking for”. Much like Anakin, again, however, his well intentioned rebellion and unavoidable destiny threatened to pull him towards THE DARK SIDE.

Much like Episode 2, to which Josh’s life is currently being paralleled – this is also the wankiest, most angst ridden, love-sick and by far the worst written period of his life. Trust me – I was there, I read the poetry. I wrote some of it with him. We were both published in the same misguided and terrible book. I saw him in caf├ęs and I failed to console him every time the world went wrong.

Episode 3.

The as yet untitled, unwritten part of Josh’s life, a dark, undefined and little understood period. Much of it is lost in the murky mists of time. Much of it could only be recalled through years of deep therapy, and skilled hypnosis, but I, for one would rather not go back there. Many who were there at the time have little to say on the subject (or little to say at all really).

THE FORCE was strong with this young lad – THE MUSIC still burned within him - but the Dark Side had a hefty grasp on him. Josh, at this time appeared to have thrown away his training – and seemed more interested in following his friends into adventure than concentrating on more long-term prospects. He still spoke of THE MUSIC, and still said he was trying to follow these dreams. Many were the times I was heard to say “There is no try – only do” For a while we feared that all was lost. Luckily, however we were to find there was no opportunistic Lando Calrisian waiting the wings of Josh’s future.

We all wait with anticipation, by the way Josh – much like the parallel film series I keep alluding to – for the future writing of an account of those times… Perhaps in your Memoirs.

One quote that I believe must be used – however – in the telling of this part of the story, comes from the woman who is now his wife. Mel once confided in me that she knew Josh during this period – and actually quite liked him – the only problem was, she found that THE DARK SIDE had such a strong grasp on him that he found it hard to keep a coherent conversation going for more than few minutes.

Another story I can relate from this period – because I was there and I was almost in a fit state of mind to remember it – comes from Josh’s and my first experience living together – at a house, or rather a grotto between two other houses – called Hereford Street.

During our stationing at Planet Hereford, Josh bore a stronger resemblance to Jabba the Hut than to a Jedi initiate. Many was the day that he could be found luxuriating on pile of mattresses in the middle of lounge room that was his bed, his head in the fireplace, recovering from the night before. These nights were, more often than not, spent in Cyberspace. No, he was not surfing the net for Johnny the Homicidal Maniac websites - but surfing into oblivion at the squat house disguised as an art gallery across the road. It was here that Josh took refuge from the Empire after we were evicted. The story of our eviction… is one in which Josh plays a central role.

It was the morning after the night before – I had got home at 5:00 in the morning to discover no-one else in the house but Josh. No one actually slept at Hereford street out of choice any more – we just paid rent there on the off chance we couldn’t find anywhere else to stay for the night.

The door bell rang at 9:00, and I got up – with much swearing and other exclamations – and opened the door – in my boxer shorts – to a group of men that looked like they belonged in Reservoir Dogs. They explained to me slowly and carefully that they were the owners of and estate agent for the house and that they had arranged to see the house seom days ago – my house mates had neglected to warn me – no wonder no one else was home.

Once my brain started working – I slammed the door shut on them, got dressed and ran upstairs to wake Josh – he was in his accustomed place on the mattresses with his head the fire place. I shook and shook him and finally got a grunt. I explained the situation as quickly as possible – got him agree to throw the pizza boxes full of ash out the window – hid the bongs, pick up the cat shit and generally clean up the living room while I stalled them down-stairs.

Now, - stalling them down-stairs was more difficult than I thought, but I managed to avert their attention in the front garden for a while. After some time I finally gave in and let them in. I shepherd them quickly past the worst parts of the hall way and took them, quickly into the living room – which I expected to now be horribly dirty, rather than nuclear waste pit it had been when Josh started.

What I discovered when we walked into the living room was that Josh had got together enough energy – just - to crawl across the room, turn on Pink Floyd at full volume and collapse with his head between the speakers. He had also sent one of the pizza boxes full of ash flying across the room, for the owner of the house to step in when he entered. Revealed from under his bed clothes, he now lay face-down across the middle of the living room, semi-naked, with only his dirty flesh coloured Y-fronts on, fast asleep, listening to Pink Floyd, in a worse pile of cigarette ash, Cat droppings and other paraphernalia than had been there a few minutes earlier.

I looked at the men in black suits beside me. “This is Josh” I said of the dulcet tones of Pink Floyd – “He’s just staying with us for a while.” The eviction notice was delivered, by hand, the next day.

Now shortly after this period – for a while. I went away. I had my own callings to answer – my own destiny to follow out there in the wide universe. And when I returned, it was to find a new Josh. One would almost say – a Josh reborn. Let’s go as far as to say, Josh’s spiritual progeny (you see where I’m going with this – don’t you) Much like Josh had transformed himself – reincarnated, into a new form. Anakin has turned into Luke – a new hope had been born.

Episode 4.

A New Hope

When I returned from the other side of the Galaxy… I mean the Earth - … - it was to find a new Josh. When Josh lived with us – in Surry Hills, he was actually – for a short time, the cleanest person in the household.

He had – after his dance with the DARK SIDE – found joy in a completely different sort of high. No coffee, no meat, no cigarettes, no alcohol – he had found a new calling to be a cleaner, freer Josh. And was once again confusing the hell out of us – and loving it.

Through all of this, though. Even though his training was going well. Even though the force was still strong in him. Even though I could see the training Jedi, now under the watchful eye of Amelia, was finally using his gifts in the ways of THE MUSIC for the right side – we still worried. And many was the night Amelia could be heard saying to me “There is another” – she’d had too many cigarettes the night beofre you see – “There is another – there must be… somewhere… he can’t be the only one in existence… can he?… surely”

Episode 5

Josh Strikes Back

During this time, news came from the underground of the return of a certain legendary lady. Unfortunately, she was still a captive of the Emperor. Josh made it his mission to free the damsel in distress and to make her his own. Storming in like a trooper, within weeks the enemy was defeated and victory was assured.

Josh had previously had two great loves in his life… - I hope you don’t mind me revealing this now, Josh. They are small, furry and prone to face plants. Bob and Mogwai were the focus of Josh’s feline fetish… Mel is not furry and is slightly less prone to face planting (as far as I know) – but she is possessed of a certain kittenish, feline demeanor and appearance… - Is it any wonder, therefore that she should have captivated Josh from the start.

Another reason, that must be mentioned here, for Mel’s appropriateness for Josh – is a slightly more subtle one. I had often been concerned that, however much Mel was in love with Josh for his quirky-ness and spacey oddity – that to maintain those feelings would be a difficult struggle if one were not similarly inclined to bizarreness. I couldn’t see what it was in Mel’s character that gave her an understanding of what it was to be as different as Josh. How could Mel understand this strange creature without – herself - having some odd qualities that would give her experience with being a social outcast. I dispaired that she was just a little bit too normal.

That was, of course, until I had the revelationary experience of spending time with Mel during the Great Beer Hunt. If you have not experienced The Great Beer Hunt – let me try to give you some idea of its severity. At some time around midnight – or whatever the local closing times are in the area – if you have been drinking in the presence of Mel, you will find that she transforms – evolves – mutates – from Mild Mannered Mel, in to the Great Beer Guzzling Beast of Trall. No pub wall is her obstical – she will smash them down without a thought. No bar man or woman is her equal as she will squash them with the cry “What do you mean your licence doesn’t cover it!!!!” And no risk to life or limb is too great as she will threaten to jump from moving cars rather than miss an opportunity to find another long-neck. With the threatening war cry “Stop the car or I’ll jump – you …” Well I’ll let you fill in the rest – I’m sure.

As Josh’s careful watcher at the time – I was glad of this experience with Mel. It heartened me, and gave me faith that she was in some small way, capable of knowing what it is like to come from the wrong side of reality. Some idea of what it is to not know difference between reality and fantasy. Some concept of what it is to be obsessional and mad, herself.

As defenders of Josh’s home base at the time… (our defenses were built skillfully from large piles of pide pizza boxes out the front of our house), no news could have brought a greater boost to morale, in the ranks of the rebellion, than to see our favourite Jedi find his Jedette. And what prouder moment could there have been than to have him propose to her in our lounge room.

Episode 6

The Return of the Jedi

Now having defeated the clones, battled the Dark Side and mastered the force of music Josh had completed his training and had graduated into a true Jedi Knight.

It must be said that to love a Jedi is not an easy task, they are mysterious and strange creatures. I never doubted that Josh could find someone who could love him despite his stranger aspects but how wondrous for him to find someone who loves him because of them.

Josh, like most people in your life I love the fact that you are truly twisted and that you approach life in an off-kilter fashion but Mel, I think, is unique in the fact that she doesn’t just love those things about you but that she love you because of them.

[Mel bit]

Anakin Skywalker said “Compassion is central to a Jedi’s life” and I know few people who demonstrate this quality wholly with their life. Josh is certainly one of them. I have touched very lightly on my life with Josh but if asked to give an account of our friendship I would say that he has been one of the most loyal, generous and loving men that I have had the privilege to call my friend.

Mel I can honestly say that there is no-one else I would consider trusting with the beautiful and fragile enigma that is my friend Josh. You have brought joy to his life that I did not seriously believe possible – we were right – there was another. Thank you for being there. Thank you for finding him and thank you for seeing the true wookie in the man.

Josh, you have and always will be my friend – and it gives me great pleasure – at this point in your travels through galactic history, to be with you. To see you embark on new and exciting adventures in space and time. You bring new hope to me, and to everyone you touch. Today, in your union with Mel, we witness the seed of a new generation of Jedi might and power. And I say to both of you, May you live long and prosper… - I mean - may the force be with you.

[September 2002]

Charlie's Best Man

Ever since Charlie asked me to be his best man, the prospect of the best man's speech has loomed over me. I have searched high and low through many worthy texts for a clear definition of a best man... and his speech. My research has only left me more ill-at-ease.

I found one quote that I thought might help. A quote from Shakespeare, Measure for Measure:

They say best men are moulded out of faults.
And, for the most, become much more the better
For being a little bad.

This may be true of this present Best Man and other Best Men; I am not - of course - advancing it as a description of Charlie...

Best Man. Best for what? Best for Charlie? Best friend? Best at reminiscing about the past and giving future advise to the new couple? Best at being able to speak about him? Best at telling witty and derogatory stories about him to amuse everyone else? Perhaps best at saying what the strong friendship between us has meant to me and to him.

Let me try that tact as a first avenue for this speech.

The Reverend Sydney Smith, a famous eighteenth century English wit, once said

Madam, I have been looking for a person who disliked gravy all my life; let us swear eternal friendship.

I don't know Charlie's attitude towards gravy. I presume he likes it. I regard it with indifference. Gravy is not the basis of our undying friendship. Then again, neither was Charlie's reason for originally introducing himself to me. The story goes like this. One day Charlie saw me across the School Yard and thought to himself "Hey! Isn't that the guy whose been in a movie. He'd be a really useful contact to have" And so he came across and introduced himself. Needless to say that since then out friendship has developed much stronger foundations than that.

Charlie and I had many wonderful years at St. Andrew's, spending, as I remember, most of our out of class time together, creating imaginary stories in which to play and arguing intensely about anything.

The habit in those days, as it was for many years after, was that I would go around to Charlie's place on a Friday afternoon. Charlie has told me, over the years about how he used to write in big letters across the Friday page of his diary "Nick Coming Today". Not having ever been one for anything as organised as a diary, I cannot lay claim to such an outward demonstration of commitment to our friendship. However I can say that in the terribly disorganised diary in my brain there was always a Friday page with the words "Going to Charlie's today" written in gold embossed letters.

When I moved into secondary school Charlie was still in Year 6 and it became harder for us to spend as much time together. Then at the beginning of the next Year Charlie moved to Trinity and our meetings became even more infrequent. It is no exaggeration to say that, my time at school, from then on, felt somehow empty. I couldn't help always comparing the new friends I made to Charlie, and being grossly disappointed. It took me many years to come to terms with the fact that there was only room for one Charlie on this small planet, and that, instead of being disappointed with my attempts to find someone to replace him in my life, I should simply count my numerous blessing at having found someone so special at all.

Charlie, in the mean time, in his usual way, was both impressing and scaring people at Trinity and making numerous new friends. On hearing of these new friends, I must admit to certain silly sensations of jealousy. Charlie had assumed, quite rightly, that our friendship and its continuing longevity was so obvious that it need not be stated to each other.

Over the years we found opportunities and reasons for spending more time together. Through this I finally managed to meet a lot of the new friends that Charlie had made, and have discovered - rather than being a threat, they have become a circle my closest friends as well. I have been doubly blessed by Charlie's appearance in my life. Not only have I been blessed by his presence but also by the presence of the people he introduced me to.

After leaving School, Charlie and I entered first year Uni together. He was doing Arts - me Science. The only subject we shared in common was Philosophy. Once again I was blessed by Charlie's presence in my life. It was now my turn to look at Charlie and think "Hey! He could be a really useful contact". Many are the times I remember, sitting in Holme Court Yard, eating my lunch, when Charlie would arrive and give me all the relevant information on the project we had just been given, by our tutor, Whom I had never seen or met.

I saw Charlie then, in what I think was one of the happiest times of his life (until now of course). Impressing everybody in SUDS. Doing well at Uni. Producing plays and proving that SUDS productions and Stress are not necessarily synonymous (A hard thing to prove, I can assure you). Charlie, I have always looked up to you - and during that time, more than ever, you inspired me.

Enough of the history lesson.

I'll try something else. How about being best at talking about the present.

Charlie and Hannah

There is a long standing, supposed, axiom of relationships that opposites attract. Charlie and Hannah are certainly very different people - and from that they can derive great hope for the future. I have a theory for why this might be the case, and it goes like this.

People, most often, want or aspire to be that which they can't. I want to be a well organised person who doesn't get distracted by tangents, Julian Knysh wants to be on time - the list goes on. I also believe that people are often attracted to those people that display these unattainable attributes. There are more examples of the differences between Charlie and Hannah than I have the time or energy to list. I have chosen only one which I feel is very interesting and makes my point well.

I have heard it said by many people, on first meeting Charlie, that they found him scary. When this is reported back to Charlie, he often seem surprised, confused and disappointed. As far as I can tell, scary on first meeting is something that Charlie does not want to be.

I have also heard reported of Hannah that she actually does desire to be scary on first meeting. I am afraid to say, Hannah, that scary is not the first thing that came to mind when I first met you, even though, after getting to know you, I have found you a very strong person, .

And so the cycle continues. Charlie and Hannah are attracted to each other through a mutual appreciation of those attributes in each other which they desire, but will probably never achieve. I am of course never implying that Hannah and Charlie's relationship is based on nothing more than whether they are scary or not, any more than our relationship is based on whether I am a very useful contact or not ... is it Charlie?

Let me try ,briefly before I sit down, to fulfil one more attribute of the best mans speech. That of being best at giving advise.

I was attending a twenty first birthday party once. I remember the advise given by the main speaker. It appears particularly relevant.

Most people talk about the early twenties as being the time for making mistakes and learning from them so that you never need to do them again. However people also talk about the early twenties as being the best years of your life.

The advise given to the new 21 year old at the party was this - that the early twenties are the years for making the best mistakes of your life. You must do them boldly, treasure them, be proud of them and always remember why and how you did them so that you will be able to do them all over again.

I am not for one minute trying to imply that Charlie or Hannah are making the best mistake. I am in fact confident that they are both making the best decision of their life. The advise, however remains exactly the same.

This is the best decision of your life. Do it boldly, treasure it, be proud of it and always remember why you did it so that you will be sure that you would do it all over again.

Charlie, this is one of the most important days of my life, as well as yours.

I can say, honestly, without a hint of exaggeration, that you have been an inspiration in my life. I can see in you many things to which I aspire - but will probably never achieve. You have blessed my life in many more way than I think you are aware.

You have been, and always shall be, my friend. I love you and I hold great hope in the future of your life together with Hannah.

[April 1996]