Private Sydney: Today's troubles?
Are tempers really flying between Today show host Karl Stefanovic and co host Lisa Wilkinson? Columnist Andrew Hornery delves into all the gossip from across Sydney in this week's Private Sydney.PT2M38S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2vds9 620 349 October 11, 2013
That all important ''chemistry'' between Today co-hosts Karl Stefanovic and Lisa Wilkinson has come under the microscope this week, but it's the behind the scenes dramas causing considerable discomfort in the corridors of Channel Nine.
Wilkinson walked off the Today set recently for about 45 minutes in disgust over what she saw as a slight Stefanovic made against her on air. Stefanovic later went to her dressing room and apologised for the incident, the pair engaging in a robust and frank discussion which had producers sweating rivers.
PS hears the incident was Wilkinson's breaking point, the popular and respected co-host becoming increasingly frustrated with the show's producers and the direction in which Today was heading. Stefanovic was seen as the ''favoured one'', being delivered several plum interviews, including with Tony Abbott.
Pairing: Karl Stefanovic and Lisa Wilkinson. Photo: Louie Douvis
PS hears the pair have since ''made up and moved on'', however it is executive producer Neil Breen, the former editor of The Sunday Telegraph, who is now in the spotlight, with Nine's news ''gun'' Mark Calvert starting to oversee the show on Monday and putting a question mark over Breen's future.
Today, the gateway program for Channel Nine and a critical element in the network's overall programming strategy, has endured a ratings slide since July.
As Channel Ten prepares to sink millions into its new breakfast programming onslaught and Seven's Sunrise enjoys a rejuvenation among audiences from the arrival of co-host Samantha Armytage, over at Today the team has been preoccupied by internal tensions which have been bubbling away for months.
Sydney bound: Erica Packer pictured with her baby Emmanuelle and daughter Indigo Packer and (inset) James Packer. Photo: INFphoto.com, Bloomberg
That tension came to a head when Breen dished out what was described to PS as a right royal ''bollocking'' to Ben Fordham in front of junior staff members, who were left shaken by the outburst. Breen later apologised to his team, though it was not the first incident - some of the show's personalities have been ripped into during ad breaks and forced to compose themselves within seconds.
Neither Fordham nor Breen returned PS's calls this week to discuss the matter, though it was reported elsewhere that Nine's big kahuna and Breen's loyal buddy David Gyngell was ''backing'' him.
However the internal resentment in recent months has centred around the growing ''blokeyness'' of Today and the increasing presence of Stefanovic under Breen's direction, and at the expense of Wilkinson's profile.
Rolls Royce aficionados: Jennifer Lopez, above, and John Laws.
Erica to return to Sydney
Mother-to-be: Supermodel Gemma Ward. Photo: Mark Rogers
A little over a month after billionaire James Packer shocked society circles by suddenly filing for divorce, his estranged wife Erica Packer is making plans to resume life in Sydney as a single mother of the couple's three small children.
It is understood she will be back in town by the end of the month, her return coinciding with publication of a heavily guarded interview she has given to Vogue Australia in which she speaks for the first time about the breakdown of her marriage.
Packer and the couple's three children, Indigo, 5, Jackson, 3, and baby Emmanuelle, 1, appear on the cover of Vogue in a glamorous shoot which took place in Paris in July.
New item: Julie Singleton and Craig Ahrens. Photo: Supplied
The shoot and story was initially intended to be a glowing report on the happy family.
However Vogue editor Edwina McCann found herself in the awkward position of having to personally rewrite the story to reflect the marriage breakdown. McCann interviewed Packer on the delicate subject.
Despite weeks of rumours and denials, a catalyst for the marriage breakdown has not been identified, though James Packer's camp cited ''stress'' of running an international casino operation and his foray into Barangaroo as being contributing factors.
He has also made it clear there were ''no third parties'' involved.
The Vogue franchise in Australia is owned by the Murdoch family's media conglomerate, with the Packers having cultivated a long and close friendship with the extended Murdoch family, though rival magazine Harper's Bazaar is understood to have also been in discussion with the Packers back in June about doing a similar story and photoshoot, possibly aboard the family superyacht SeaHorse.
McCann opted to keep Packer and the children on the magazine's cover. However, she declined to reveal the interview's contents when approached by PS, bowing to her corporate overlords to keep the story within the Packer-friendly Murdoch camp.
''She went to California to regroup. She has close friends there. I think Eri just wants to get on with her life and she hopes she can do that … she is a strong woman, she inherited a lot of that strength from her mother Sheelah,'' a friend of the former model and aspiring pop star told PS this week.
Sheelah Baxter lost a long battle to cancer in November 2011.
Packer's Sydney friends say she remains strong and committed to shielding her three children from any fallout from the divorce, particularly son Jackson, who is seen as the inevitable heir apparent given the patriarchal nature of the family's succession planning.
Jackson will be the first Packer heir raised without his powerful father living under the same roof in three generations.
Oh, so it's not JLo?
Apart from their initials, Jennifer Lopez and John Laws would not appear to have much in common.
However, the Latino sexpot and old Golden Tonsils do share a love of Rolls-Royces, which is probably why the blue Rolls-Royce convertible whizzing about Sydney with the number plates JL0 has been causing such a stir.
Was JLo's biggest fan driving around town in more than a million dollars worth of car proudly displaying his affection for the pelvic-thrusting singer of note? Or was it Lopez herself behind the wheel?
Er, not quite. On closer inspection the crinkly bloke at the steering wheel was none other than Laws.
Further investigation revealed that the registration plate actually says JL-0 rather than JLo, and is one of many cars in the Laws fleet, each of them bearing plates with initial and number combos, it just so happened the Roller was 0.
Ward's man snaps at paparazzo
For a couple who have made their living out of posing in front of the camera, reclusive former supermodel Gemma Ward and her boyfriend, David Letts, were in no mood for happy snaps at Sydney Airport on Monday.
PS hears Letts was none too pleased when paparazzo Jamie Fawcett began photographing his pregnant girlfriend as they arrived at the airport to board a flight for the United States where it is understood Ward has gone to give birth to their first baby, due in December.
Federal police had to intervene when Letts went after Fawcett, brandishing what appeared to be a violin case. The Feds told the male model that Fawcett was entitled to take pictures in a public place.
Then Letts attempted to take snaps of Fawcett in retaliation, only to knock one poor chap off his crutches.
The model couple soon gave up and were quickly on their way to the departure gate, while Fawcett got his shots, which were later snapped up by Who magazine.
Ward once sat atop the international modelling heap, however she has become a virtual recluse since the death of her former boyfriend Heath Ledger.
Singleton pairs up
John Singleton's former wife, divorce lawyer Julie Singleton, has a new man in her life: online bookmaker Craig Ahrens. The pair stepped out together at Clover Moore's party on Tuesday for the launch of the Asia on Your Doorstep promotion showcasing Sydney's diverse Asian community.
''Its early days and we are having a nice time,'' Julie Singleton, who leads a much quieter life than during her years with John, told PS, adding: ''I really didn't think anyone was that interested in me any more until I started racing a horse with Gai Waterhouse a couple of months ago called Ecuador and it turned into an issue.'' Relations between Waterhouse and John Singleton remain frosty.
So long, Col
Rupert Murdoch's Mr Fix-It Col Allan has left the building, having moved from the media group's Holt Street bunker this week back to the New York Post. Allan had also become something of a fixture around the Marquee night club at the Star, adjacent to the luxury suite he had stayed in during his Sydney sojourn. No doubt he will be missed.
Tragedy has struck chocolate heiress Carissa Lea, great-granddaughter of Darrell Lea founders Harry and Esther Lea, following the sudden death of her 41-year-old husband, Peter ''Hazard'' Maxwell. Members of the close knit eastern suburbs circle said there was no warning Maxwell was unwell and his death had come as a complete shock. Funeral arrangements are being made for next week in Watsons Bay.
With so many fine two-legged fillies in attendance, you really couldn't blame the poor stallion for feeling a little, er, overexcited at Thursday night's decadent Royal Randwick launch. The thoroughbred was meant to be a prop to the pretty Myer model sitting in her designer gown, hat and stillettos in the new Theatre of the Horse, though he stole the show when he made a rather eye-catching display of his (gulp) amorous mood. Let's just say that at one point, the horse appeared to have five legs, as organisers attempted to conceal the growing appendage behind a phalanx of nervous-looking waiters delicately balancing platters of Moet.
The Sydney bling market appears to have bounced back judging by the baubles that were sold at Wednesday night's Paspaley soiree inside the newly refurbished Watsons Bay hotel. About half a dozen pieces, priced from $30,000 to $150,000 were snapped up, which compared to recent years represents something of a bumper sale for the pearling family. Sadly, the likes of Samantha Armytage and Catriona Rowntree were not among the buyers, though they were draped in golf-ball sized pearls for the night, generously on loan.