COMMENT

The cost of celebrity ... Katy Perry being interviewed by Jackie Frank on <i>Sunday Night</i>.

The cost of celebrity ... Katy Perry being interviewed by Jackie Frank on Sunday Night.

Darren Hayes, one of Australia's most successful music artists as one half of Savage Garden, has lambasted the Seven show Sunday Night for "bullying" pop star Katy Perry in an interview where topics such as her ex-husband Russell Brand were deemed off limits.

Sunday Night has nothing to apologise for ... Celebrities can't have it both ways. 

The resulting interview, which was done by Marie Claire editor Jackie Frank, included footage of the star becoming uncomfortable and looking to her PR agent for help, when the subject of her former romance was broached. (There was also the words "out of bounds" stamped in animated letters across the screen). Perry also later stopped the interview again, in a moment of annoyance, to ask her PR agent whether the interview could more closely focus on her new album, Prism.

The cost of celebrity ... Katy Perry had a tense interview with Jackie Frank on <i>Sunday Night</i>.

Katy Perry had a tense interview with Jackie Frank on Sunday Night.

Hayes, in a Tumblr blog, said the piece was an "ambush" on Perry. "Especially with a pre-recorded television interview it is widely accepted that as the crew sets up, cameras roll but the final edit will only use the footage in the context of the interview," he wrote.

Opening up an intriguing discussion, from a celebrity's viewpoint, Hayes said the interview was symbolic of a wider situation in Australian media, which he doesn't feel occurs elsewhere.

"I watched the interview online and I saw something that has been bothering me, as an Australian living overseas, for about 15 years. There is a tone, and a quite nasty one, to the piece that sadly has come to epitomise mainstream Australian media that I must presume is only obvious to those who don't live there. It is, quite literally, bullying. Yet it presents itself as the victim.

Uncomfortable: Katy Perry looked to her PR agent for help when a <i>Sunday Night</i> interview veered into topics deemed  'off limits'.

Uncomfortable: Katy Perry looked to her PR agent for help when a Sunday Night interview veered into topics deemed 'off limits'. Photo: Reuters

"It's a seductive and insincere friendly pat on the proverbial couch to sit down and have a lovely cuppa and an honest chat. But there's a knife just behind the cushion and it's waiting to come out. It's almost like a sort of a sticky flytrap - sweet and inviting but ultimately an ambush."

He went on to apologise on behalf of other Australians. "We're better than this. Sorry Katy."

Hayes is an eloquent and thoughtful writer - and it must be said one of the most intelligent, endearing celebrities I've ever dealt with. He is a clever, insightful person and I'm a huge fan of his honesty in all that he does.

'There is a tone, and a quite nasty one, to the piece that sadly has come to epitomise mainstream Australian media': singer Darren Hayes.

'There is a tone, and a quite nasty one, to the piece that sadly has come to epitomise mainstream Australian media': singer Darren Hayes.

But on this topic, Darren Hayes is wrong.

Sunday Night has nothing to apologise for. Katy Perry is a star who has made millions of dollars from her music career, not to mention ticket sales to the documentary about her life which included footage of her receiving a text message from Brand, ending their marriage. Perry was shown sobbing on screen. In the film she released to the public. Yes, let me repeat it again, to the public.

Celebrities can't have it both ways.

If it is seen as an intrusion or out of bounds to ask about her former marriage (despite the fact Jackie Frank barely even grazed the topic), then Perry is being a hypocrite. Watching her during the interview, looking to her PR for intervention, was embarrassing. It summed up everything that is wrong with celebrity culture, particularly in the US.

Australian fans and readers might actually be surprised to know Australia is one of the only countries where entertainment journalists are still able to ask straight questions, without the underlying threat of being kicked off a publicity circuit or black-banned by powerful PRs, because a celebrity might be "upset".

Yes often, the questions concerned are indeed the ones the stars don't enjoy, despite the fact they publicise their lives in every other way (tipping off paparazzi, walking red carpets, tweeting, releasing documentaries) and reap millions of dollars as a result.

In the US, the interviewing circuit is strictly controlled by powerful PRs who insist that their protected celebrities are never asked anything "uncomfortable". In many ways, it is they who are the bullies.

If journalists there dare to ask a straight question (on behalf of their curious readers) usually they are ejected from the circuit or seen as troublemakers. It means there is a constant stream of sanitised celebrity stories, a glossed-over, air-brushed presentation of these peoples lives, which has become a type of embarrassing propaganda. For readers, who don't see the inside workings, celebrities are being worshipped like gods - instead of simply being highly regarded men and women with considerable artistic talent (and human failings like the rest of us).

There are huge exceptions to this, but only because of the way some stars themselves behave. Hugh Jackman is incredibly clever with the media and photographers, often talking to them directly about what he needs (particularly when his children are included in a photo) and agreeing on the boundaries. He is widely respected as an intelligent, gentlemanly star, who understands the real meaning of show business - yes, it is also a business, which feeds readers, viewers, audiences and of course the stars themselves.

On the other hand, Perry, in the way she behaved in the interview, is falling for the hype that she is more important than the people she is singing to or making her documentary for. It made her look infantile. Why is she above being asked a simple question about her former marriage (which she has publicised in her film and her music)? If the Aussie approach is a direct one, surely that is a refreshing thing, in a world where the cult of celebrity has gone mad.

I'm reminded of a Jodie Foster press conference many years ago in Sydney, when a stern public relations woman told the gathered media a number of topics were off-limits and warned us that questions would be stopped, or not answered, if those topics were broached.

Then Foster arrived, one of the world's most renowned actors, and set everybody straight. When a journalist asked something nearing the off-limits questions, Foster said "ask me anything, I'm a grown up, I'll answer them if I want to".

I can't imagine what it must be like for celebrities to be asked the same questions the world over, in country after country, people prying into their private lives or asking inane details about every aspect of their life. It must be as boring and frustrating as hell - one of the worst parts of the job.

But isn't it a side of celebrity we should show more often? So for all those kids out there who now have no ambition except for being a "star" or "being famous on a reality show", there is also a balanced view about the mechanics involved behind the industry and how celebrities are treated and behave in real life.

In being honest about the way Katy Perry acted during her interview, Sunday Night did a good job.