Ageing angry misogynist and fascist punk? Less than 24 hours after a spectacularly cranky – and offensive – debut on The Project, John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, was far from contrite on arriving at Sydney Airport.
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Lydon hits back at TV 'hyenas'
John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten, gives his justification for telling a female Channel Ten presenter to 'shut up' while he was talking during a TV interview.
But the 57-year-old former Sex Pistols lead singer was in a more affable mood, laughing off suggestions he performed a Nazi salute on Australian TV.
"Is this the latest scandal?" he asked.
"There's many movements I make that could be misinterpreted. If I've got feathers on my pants and I [touch] them that don't [sic] mean I'm masturbating," he said, referring to the apparent Nazi salute.
"If you really want to pin and skewer me, pull [me] up on the real details in my life, what I believe in: my class my creed, my culture . . . You will find that I am flawless, faultless, blameless . . . and handsome."
What about telling The Project co-presenter Carrie Bickmore not to interrupt "when a man is talking". Is he sexist?
"I think [being called sexist] is lovely . . . there should be more sex in the world."
It's worth noting Lydon is not considered either a fascist or sexist at home: in fact he's known for closely involving his wife of 35 years, Nora Forster, in his business decisions. And his late step-daughter, Arianna Forster, was lead singer of feminist punk band the Slits.
He has also paid tribute to his upbringing in multicultural Finsbury Park many times. This month he told The Sun's Jacqui Swift: "It was a good community – multicultured and multi-raced".
Lydon argued that the format of The Project wasn't explained to him before Tuesday night's show, that the four presenters talked loudly over the top of him and producers refused to turn the volume down when it was too much.
"I was facing a blank wall with a camera with an earpiece and a lot of people shouting all at once . . . and I couldn't quite make out who was what . . . I didn't know if they were males or females at the other end," he said.
You have to tell a hyena to 'shut it' from time to time.
"If someone is going to keep interrupting you and don't [sic] let you finish a sentence you are going to have to say something at some point – whether it be male or female.
"Basically they sounded like hyenas and you have to tell a hyena to 'shut it' from time to time."
And he did just that, prompting Bickmore's fellow panellist, Dr Andrew Rochford, to label him a "a flat-out, sexist, misogynist pig".
"Some silly idiotic words have been bandied about since," Lydon said. "I'm not sexist, I'm not a misogynist."
So was his over-the-top reaction just another piece of theatre, Johnny Rotten-style? Bear in mind this is the man who told fans after the Sex Pistols' final performance in 1978: "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" Was Lydon just trying to stir up controversy to flog tickets for gigs by his band Public Image Ltd, in Sydney on Wednesday night and Melbourne on Thursday night?
"Just sell some tickets? I'm in the entertainment business!" he said.
"Of course I'd like to sell tickets. Politically it's well known where I stand in the world. You think I really need a fiasco? A word like misogyny bandied around? That's low-rent for a high achiever."
It does seem Lydon's particular brand of in-your-face humour was lost on Australian audiences.
"I don't know if it came across too well . . . there is always humour in what I do. I try so hard to be nice."
Does he think Australia become too politically correct?
"If that's the kind of spin that's been put on this, yeah that's a real tragedy. My only enemies are governments and institutions, certainly not women. I've been married to one for 30 years. We love each other."
The Project was contacted but declined to make further comment.