Private Sydney: Nicole's tumble
Actress Nicole Kidman was knocked to the ground in New York by a paparazzi. Columnist Andrew Hornery takes a look at this and other tales from Sydney celebrities.PT2M13S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2tqqd 620 349 September 13, 2013
The ''acres'' of silk carpets remain in pristine condition, the priceless art collection hanging on the walls awaits admirers and a single foot is yet to step on much of the manicured, lush green lawn which wraps around the vast mansion James and Erica Packer barely had a chance to call home.
Sitting high above Vaucluse, the home was designed with a growing family in mind and was meant to be filled with the laughter of small children.
''It was truly stunning, like walking into your own resort … I guess you could call it homely if you were a billionaire, it was like no other home I had ever been into,'' one visitor to the palatial residence, who spent time there just three months ago, told PS, expressing shock that the couple had split.
"Shopping centre": No place for home for James nor Erica Packer. Photo: Supplied
The gleaming new palace was where a new generation of Packers were supposed to hold court, replacing the ancestral Bellevue Hill estate Cairnton which James Packer's grandfather Sir Frank had bought in 1935. Three generations of the family had lived in Cairnton, which is still home to Packer matriarch Ros.
Instead the billionaire casino king spared no expense to build a new private sanctuary for a new generation. His intentions were made clear from the outside: it would be the best money could buy.
About $50 million, though some estimates put the cost at closer to $100million, and 18 months later, the brief was more than fulfilled, with the multi-levelled, largely subterranean home ranking as one of the most expensive and ambitious private estates ever built in the country.
James and Erica Packer. Photo: Jesse Marlow
Yet just three months after they moved in, the Packers' huge home sits eerily silent, its intended residents scattered across the globe.
The gleaming glass and limestone pile has become the tragic symbol of a marriage shattered.
PS revealed Packer and his soon-to-be ex-wife Erica had met in secret three weeks ago with a team of lawyers to sort out their separation, including a property settlement which is understood to be ''above and beyond'' the contents of a pre-nuptial agreement the couple signed before their glittering 2007 wedding on the Cote d'Azur.
Putting pen to paper: Julia Gillard. Photo: Nic Walker, Louie Douvis
However, it appears neither of them wants to call the vast house home, friends reporting that Erica had compared it to ''living in a shopping centre'' and say she is reluctant to take up an offer to live in it made during their divorce settlement meeting.
Spare a thought for the neighbours who endured 18 months of construction, including massive excavation works which made the site resemble an open-cut mine, the cavernous hole filled with a winter garden, wellness room, gym, sauna, a fully-equipped commercial kitchen, expansive living quarters for staff, 22-seat cinema, a room described as a ''dance hall'' and a 13-car, soundproof garage.
On top, a rooftop lap pool and spa gleam like sapphires in the sea of emerald green lawns which encase much of the home and camouflage its true magnitude. The decore is described as sumptuous, with hand-painted silk wallpaper in the children's rooms, shipped in from Japan, while the live-in nannies have their own express lift from their living quarters straight to the children's wing.
Dear Diary: Bruce Hawker on the campaign trail with Kevin Rudd. Photo: Andrew Meares
The estate covers 3345 square metres of primereal estate, however the six-level home provides acres of living space, much of it underground.
It incorporates the original mansion built in 1972 and designed by Guilford Bell, replete with the distinctive archways, which have been retained in the grand new vision created for the Packers by high-profile Sydney architect Alec Tzannes.
Publishers push for pollie reads
Wordsmith: Peter Garrett. Photo: Andrew Meares
The post-election dust has barely settled and already the race is on among Australia's publishers to get various memoirs out into the market before Christmas.
Leading the charge is former PM Julia Gillard, who has signed a deal reportedly worth about $500,000 to write her memoirs, to be published by Penguin.
No doubt Gillard will devote a chapter or two to Kevin Rudd, however, PS is yet to hear if Rudd has signed with any publishers to do a book any time soon.
Beauty and the beast: The Joilie bear. Photo: Brendan Esposito
Instead, Gillard's book will be going up against Kevin Rudd's campaign adviser Bruce Hawker, who has a deal, understood to be worth more than $150,000, to publish his campaign diary, a sort of on-the-road with Kevin affair, for Melbourne University Publishing.
PS hears Hawker's book is being rushed through and is due to hit the market on November 1. Hawker has kept a campaign diary during the past 12 months which will form the basis of his book, while MUP is promising his first-hand account will be a ''blow-by-blow account of what really went on''. Hawker's manuscript was due on Friday.
Another potentially juicy page turner could be coming out of Peter Garrett, the rocker turned MP, who is understood to have enlisted literary agent Deb Callaghan and has been shopping around his own version of his time in Canberra.
Cosy: Cate Blanchett with husband Andrew Upton. Photo: Danielle Smith
There's a seventh member of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's brood who is being ignored by the media despite his very best efforts to be noticed: a huge purple teddy bear belonging to the star couple's son Pax.
The bear has been flying around the world for months, photographed at airports as the famous clan makes its way from country to country, hitching rides on commercial airlines and private jets and checking into the finest hotels on the planet. When Pax sees the herd of paparazzi, he brandishes the huge bear at them, the toy becoming a sort of fame shield. PS hears the bear's media appearances have become a bit of an in-joke among the family, appearing with great regularity in magazine spreads, and now here in PS.
Hit: Nicole Kidman is knocked over by a cyclist during New York Fashion Week. Photo: Splash News
Blanchett steps out
Cate Blanchett has the stamina of an Olympian. Having jetted around the globe for the past few weeks promoting Blue Jasmine, the actor injected some glamour into Thursday night's Sydney Theatre Company season launch, turning up with her husband Andrew Upton, the couple appearing as cosy today as they have ever been.
Kidman an easy pushover
Her critics have been trying to knock her off her perch for years but to no avail. Instead it was a cowboy photographer on a bicycle who collided with Nicole Kidman in New York on Thursday and managed to floor our Oscar-winner. Kidman, who was uninjured but shaken, is said to be furious by the incident, which occurred as she was leaving her hotel following an appearance at a fashion show. While the police opted not to lay charges, Kidman is reportedly considering legal action.
Sydney artist Charles Billich has presented a portrait of the late Michael Jackson to his mother, Katherine, and is now preparing to paint a family portrait of the musician's three children. PS hears Jackson was ''delighted'' by the portrait, painted in classic Billich style. Jackson intends to put the painting up for auction to raise money for various charities in Gary, Indiana, where Michael was born and the family - all nine children - lived crammed into a two-bedroom home until the singer was 11 years old.