The social walkers
Adam Williams and Charlotte Dawson. Photo: Danielle Smith
In days of yore they were referred to simply as ''walkers'': erudite, elegant and well-mannered chaps who squired the society matrons of the day in need of a date to the myriad events one simply must attend to retain one's social status.
There was plenty of affection but nothing romantic about the arrangement, with most of the walkers of 30 years ago referred to in Sydney's social circles simply as ''confirmed bachelors''. In these more enlightened times, they would simply be ''GBFs'', or a girl's gay best friend.
It was these men who filled the vacancies left when husbands died, were uninterested or too busy to accompany their wives to a party and make small talk.
For some Sydney socialites an invitation reading ''and guest'' can cause serious heart palpitations.
But a trusted walker makes for a convenient stand-in for those ladies who prefer not to navigate Sydney's often choppy social waters, surrounded by couples, without a ''wing man''.
In recent years, some luminary chaperones have been lost, such as Ros Packer's favourite, Johnny Baker, who despised the term walker.
He referred to himself as an ''escort'' and was a loved figure in establishment circles.
And the winding down of Ita Buttrose's social outings means fewer appointments for her preferred walker, Professor Ross Steele.
The scene is set for a new breed of chaperones to take to the stage.
So who are Sydney's new walkers?
The party season is in full swing, which means a hectic schedule of air kissing and social soirees for the likes of Sydney social identities Skye Leckie and Melissa Hoyer.
Leckie and Hoyer share the same walker, Mark Coppelson, an eastern suburbs blue blood who PS has known for years and who has the necessary social stamina to keep up with thoroughbreds such as Leckie and Hoyer, who can cram two or three parties into a single night, three or four nights a week - and that's just during the ''low season''.
Leckie is married to former Channel Seven chief David Leckie, who has made his dislike of a social event abundantly clear over the years. His wife remains a seasoned veteran of the Sydney cocktail circuit.
And while she is a confident woman in her own right, she is a stickler for tradition, such as turning up to a dinner with a date, which is often also her hairdresser, Double Bay snipper Joh Bailey.
''Walkers are different today, it is a less formal role,'' Bailey explains.
''Most of the women are not too shy about going to something alone, it's just they would rather have a mate with them. They have more fun.''
Former Sotheby's boss Justin Miller is another familiar face on the Sydney social circuit, a favourite walker of both Gretel Packer and Deborah Hutton, both women who attend myriad social engagements and who would rather do it with a trusted pal on their arm.
Miller is a celebrated raconteur, holding court but never overshadowing his charge, doling out the one-liners with the sort of timing to ensure he is invited back.
One-man cabaret extravaganza and television choreographer Adam Williams has also muscled in - quite literally, given his penchant for flesh-revealing outfits - on the walkers' territory.
Williams regularly accompanies the likes of television personality Charlotte Dawson and chicken heiress Jess Ingham down red carpets all over town.
''I guess for the ladies they can have a fun chat about shoes, bags and outfits with me and, really, if they are going to put so much time into how they accessorise, they might as well dress it up with a bit of arm candy, too,'' the buff Williams enthused to PS. Though PS gets the feeling Williams could be a little too sweet for some tastes.