Private Sydney: Naomi's Diana disaster
Naomi Watt's opens up about going down with a sinking ship of a film and Rose Byrne could be in line to play Sheila the Russian Princess. Columnist Andrew Hornery investigates.PT1M29S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-363ul 620 349 April 4, 2014
It would be every Sydney shopkeeper's fantasy to have three generations of Packer women in store for the day, and on Friday David Jones chief executive Paul Zahra was living it.
Matriarch Ros Packer, daughter Gretel Packer and granddaughter Francesca Packer-Barham hosted a grand luncheon in the store's ballroom for 300 gal pals to celebrate the family's Crown Casino Autumn Racing fashion festivities.
Missing from the phalanx of Packers was last year's luncheon mascot Erica Packer, who has had a tumultuous year since, divorcing James Packer and moving with their three children into a gated community in the exclusive Bel Air in Los Angeles.
Ros, Gretel and Francessca Packer
But it was the subject of racing and what to wear that engrossed the party, with David Jones' star clothes horse, Jessica Gomes, modelling some suitable trackside clobber.
Money raised went to the White Ribbon Foundation and actor Rachael Taylor gave a moving account of her ordeal with domestic violence.
Taylor said each case of domestic violence had its own unique circumstances and why women ended up in those situations could be attributed to a variety of factors, but she was adamant there was one universal truth: "No one else has the right to to determine your self worth or your self esteem other than you."
Rachael Taylor and Jessica Gomes at the Crown Resorts Autumn Ladies Luncheon.
Throughout her candid discussion about her experiences of abuse at the hands of her former celebrity partner, the actor made it clear she did not want to mention his name.
"I didn't want to tarnish the whole thing by creating some sort of celebrity aspect to it, this kind of abuse happens to all women in all walks of life," Taylor said, still opting to not mention Matthew Newton's name, though given the huge publicity surrounding her ordeal with the actor, her story is well known.
In 2010 Newton is alleged to have assaulted Taylor in the lobby of a hotel in Rome reportedly moments after he proposed to her.
Naomi is hoping for a real laugh
With three comedies scheduled for release in coming months, Naomi Watts declares that she is ''not sure'' she can ''do'' the genre, though those who saw last year's unintentionally hilarious biopic Diana could probably argue otherwise.
Having endured scathing criticism over the role, Watts has spoken about the experience and admitted in an interview in next week's issue of Harper's Bazaar Australia that much of that criticism was deserved.
''I've felt with my career it was worth taking risks and addressing controversial ideas - I'm not like that in all areas of my life. And it's worked for me in the past; I've had a really good run,'' she tells Harper's, drawing on every philosophical bone in her body to explain what happened with Diana.
''I don't know … I got seduced by the fantastic character. Diana did a lot of things that had positive and negative results. She was so multifaceted. But ultimately there were problems with [the film] and it ended up taking a direction that was not the one I was hoping for. With risk there's every chance it's going to fail. If you have to go down with that sinking ship, so be it. You tried.''
Watts is hoping her next three releases are intentionally funny: she will appear opposite Michael Keaton in Birdman about a washed-up actor who wants to mount a Broadway play; she plays Bill Murray's Russian prostitute alongside Melissa McCarthy in St Vincent, and she plays one half of an uptight couple with Ben Stiller in While We're Young.
Tale of Aussie princess revived
The story of an Australian beauty who was born to a grazier and died a Russian princess is about to become the subject of a major television series, being co-produced by Australia's Goalpost Pictures and London's Left Bank Pictures.
The story of Sheila Chisholm was largely forgotten until Australian journalist Robert Wainwright started researching her extraordinary life, publishing the best-selling book Sheila, which has captivated readers across Britain and Australia.
According to Wainwright's book, Chisholm wedded earls and barons, befriended literary figures and movie stars, bedded a future king, was feted by London and New York society for 40 years, and when she died, was a bona fide Russian princess.
Goalpost and Left Bank are staying tight-lipped about who will be the project's screenwriter, or take on the titular role. However, PS hears two favourites to play the lead character are Australia's Rose Byrne and British blueblood Lady Alice St Clair-Erskine, Chisholm's great-granddaughter who previously portrayed the Duchess of Cambridge in Hallmark's rather forgettable William & Catherine: A Royal Romance.
According to the book's synopsis, Chisholm was ''vivacious, confident and striking'', marrying her first husband, Francis Edward Scudamore St Clair-Erskine, a first lieutenant and son of the Fifth Earl of Rosslyn, when she went to Egypt during World War I to nurse her brother.
She arrived in London as a young married woman, the world was at her feet and she enjoyed it immensely.
Edward, Prince of Wales, called her ''a divine woman'' and his brother, Bertie, the future King George VI and the Queen's father, was especially close to her.
Chisholm subsequently became Lady Milbanke and ended her days as Princess Dimitri of Russia.
Along the way she had torrid love affairs with Rudolph Valentino and Prince Obolensky of Russia. Among her friends were Evelyn Waugh, Lord Beaverbrook and Wallis Simpson.
Mark Carnegie and Sydney City Council in court
An unholy row has erupted between high flying businessman Mark Carnegie and Sydney City Council over the case of missing pews from Darlinghurst's former First Church of Christ, Scientist building, which the millionaire has transformed into a luxurious inner city townhouse.
The blue became so bad that lawyers for the council applied for, and won, a Land and Environment court injunction to halt the removal of the historic pews from the premises, with the matter scheduled for its next court hearing on May 2.
The building, together with its ''ecclesiastical'' contents, are the subject of a heritage listing under the Sydney Local Environmental Plan.
In 2011 the council granted development consent for the adaptive reuse of the building, which allowed Carnegie to build ''living pods'' within the old church. However, the approval was conditional on the pews removed from the building being stored on-site.
Council was notified of removalists taking the pews out of the building last month. Carnegie claimed he was unable to insure the property if the pews remained in storage, despite having lived there, with the stored pews, for the past 18 months.
Indeed when PS visited the residence late last year for lunch, surrounding the ''living pods'' was a collection of pews still in situ, the Carnegie family sofa just a few metres away.
And while Carnegie's architecturally designed living pods were suitably impressive, the same could not be said for the surrounding gardens, which remain encased in cyclone fencing and littered with inner city detritus and weeds.
Last year Carnegie lodged a development application to build apartments above the site, incurring the ire of neighbours along the way, with about 40 objections lodged before the application was refused by council. Carnegie took them to the Land and Environment Court to challenge the refusal, but failed in his bid.
No nipples for the duchess
Artist David Bromley is famous for his portraits of topless women, with a few of them hanging over several Sydney society matron's fireplaces. However, when it came to doing a portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge, there is not a royal areola to be seen, the artist opting for an uncharacteristically conservative take on the Duchess on the eve of her first official tour of Australia. Bromley, along with several other creative types including Toni Maticevski, Alex Perry, Carla Zampatti and Cherry Hood, were commissioned by Marie Claire to paint the Duchess' portrait. The finished works, featured in next week's issue, will be sold at auction with the money raised going to charity. Not that the duchess has any idea about it - the portraits are unauthorised - but she would no doubt approve of the KidsXpress charity that will benefit.
Mercedes-Benz Australian Fashion Week 2014 kicks off on Sunday with Carla Zampatti showing her latest collection. Zampatti will also be guest of honour at a dinner for 50 of fashion's finest inside Carriageworks, with Grandiflora's Saskia Havekes brought in to transform the space into a ''floral fantasy''.
All plane sailing for H&M
Forget gravy trains - these days it's all about the gravy plane. It's a good thing Swedish retailing mogul Karl-Johan Persson has deep pockets; he certainly needed them for Thursday's launch of his store H&M's first outlet in Australia. He chartered a Qantas jet and took 200 Sydney VIPs down for the launch party, where in all 1100 people helped make a dent in the store's entertainment budget.