five weddings & an illusion

broken heart

So the other day I got to interview one of the world’s most outstanding young magicians.

Sam Powers was in town to promote his upcoming role in The Illusionists 2.0 at the Arts Centre in January.

We got to talking about his early career and how, at the age of 18 or 19, he was summonsed to attend an audition for a “private party.”

The call-out for close-up magicians to mingle in the crowd was ignored by many more established talents who were offended by the request they audition. “It’s unheard of to audition for close-up work,” Sam revealed.

But teenage Sam – still wearing braces on his teeth and keen as mustard – went along. “I got the job and I still didn’t know what it was. We had to meet in a car park in Double Bay and get in this minivan with other entertainers and start heading up Bellevue Hill when I realised it was the … Packer wedding.”

I tell you people, this guy is good. Suddenly I was transported back to that rainy October night near the turn of the millennium staked outside the Packer compound along with half the press pack of Australia.

What I wouldn’t have given then to know how Sam made the engagement ring Tom Cruise gave Nicole Kidman disappear. Or about the Cuban cigar bar lined with hundreds and hundreds of the most expensive stogies ever to go up in smoke.

The $10 million wedding of James Packer to swimsuit model Jodie Meares (she later refined the spelling to Jodhi) was the pinnacle of ’90s excess.

It would be the last “celebrity” wedding I attended uninvited, but not the first.

My role as a wedding gate-crasher started in 1991 when Gretel Packer, married financier Nick Barham in the tiny village of Easebourne in Sussex in what was then gleefully described as the most expensive non-royal wedding in British history.

As well as gleaning riveting details of the numbers of lobsters ordered and bottles of Krug drunk at this comparatively modest $2.5 million shindig, I also stumbled onto the fact John Singleton – a guest in the same hotel where I was holed up – had “secretly” married Liz Hayes.

Princess Anne’s wedding to naval commander Tim Laurence at the Craithie Parish Church, close to the royal estate of Balmoral, was next. At least on this occasion the bride and groom did not seek to hide from public or press pack.

The last wedding stake-out was for the second marriage of Fergie, the Duchess of York’s sister Jane Ferguson to Rainer Luedecke at Jonah’s – a boutique Whale Beach hotel and restaurant.

It was New Year’s Day. Having partied in the city I hadn’t made it home to change and Tara Brown – then still A Current Affair reporter – had loaned me her black jumpsuit pinned up with paper clips because her legs are about a foot longer than mine.

It was stinking hot. Most of us in the press pack were hung over and our mood was not helped when a colleague from a rival Sunday newspaper strolled past the security cordon into Jonah’s on the arm of an ancient guest.

I still remember that sick feeling, thinking we’d been scooped – only to find out much later that the reporter had been virtually imprisoned well away from the wedding party.

For all the hoo hah and expense not one of those marriages survived. I guess they just lost the magic.




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