The Guardian 21 September, 2005

Culture and Life

by Rob Gowland

Cult TV,
royal bastards and overpaid models

Did you see the full-page ads in the TV guides last week for Time-Lifeís latest clutch of "classic TV on DVD and video"?

Episodes of four TV series are on offer: a series of US made-for-cable tele-movies based on the Bible; íAllo íAllo! the British comedy about the French Resistance; Inspector Morse with John Thaw; and mawkish quasi-religious US drama series Touched By An Angel.

I suppose, given US cultural priorities these days, we should not be surprised that two out of four are religious (or as Time-Life prefers, "spiritual"). Curiously, itís the other two that could in any way be described as classic television.

A streamer across the top of the ad proclaims that these items of classic TV are "yours free!" Further down, free is revealed to mean "buy one, get one free", which is not the same thing at all, is it?

And considering that itís an ad for classic TV, it does seem a tad redundant to proclaim "As Seen On TV!"

I see another branch of European royalty has got itself in a spot of bother: asked if he was tricked into having a child by an airhostess, Prince Albert of Monaco replied "Yes, I think I was set up."

How, one wonders: "Itíll be all right, Albert, a condom with a hole in it will still work fine, trust me."

The "principality" of Monaco is smaller than Sydneyís Centennial Park, but it has over the years been useful to the ruling class of France as an "independent" state for luxury gambling, tax havens and money laundering.

While the bulk of the inhabitants have to prey on tourists or wait on table to earn a living, the royal family has amassed a fortune of some US$2 billion.

Now, thanks to thick-as-a-brick Albert, who apparently did not know that sex and babies are dialectically linked, a commoner named Alexandre stands to inherit the bulk of his loot. Sacrť Bleu!

Royalists are quick to point out, however, that the child will never be eligible to actually rule the princely statelet. So thatís all right, then.

Closer to home, a former ALP official from Illawarra in NSW has successfully appealed against the "harshness" of a sentence he got last September for child prostitution, no less. Neville Hilton was not only a Branch official in Port Kembla, he also ran a brothel, with the catchy name Southern Belles.

He was convicted last year of 19 counts of child prostitution. He had been employing girls of 13 and 14 in his brothel.

He was sent to jail for what in the circumstances seems a rather lenient term of four years, with a non-parole period of two years.

Nevertheless, he appealed and his lawyer argued that the sentence was "manifestly excessive" and Ėthis is the bit I like ó that the original sentence had failed to take into account Hiltonís "previous good character".

The guy ran a brothel and used young girls in it! But apart from that, Your Worship, he hasnít done anything bad.

Of course, Hilton was hardly the first Labor Party official to have connections with, let us say, unsavoury ó even criminal ó characters.

I donít know what influence his Labor Party connections may or may not have, but his non-parole period was slashed by the Court of Appeal from two years to ten paltry months. Heíll be back on the streets in January.

At one time, when I was with Quality Films, we were on the same floor as a "promotions" agency. They provided models for all manner of sales and PR activities and there was a constant stream of strikingly pretty young women coming into our office asking where their office was.

It made a pleasant diversion from our normal routine, although it did rankle after a while that if a really pretty girl came into our office you could be sure she would not be looking for us.

One of our staff was actually an artistís model, but the ability to strip off and stand perfectly still while assorted artists painted your likeness in oils, water-colours or charcoal was not nearly as glamorous, or as well paid, as handing out leaflets in Martin Place while wearing skimpy tights and roller skates!

Most models actually struggle to make a decent living, but for those who get selected as the next "look" for some product or fashion house, their earnings are absurdly out of proportion to what they actually do.

Gemma Ward, originally from Perth, was one of five models on the foldout cover of the newly-launched Vogue China. I do not know what she received for that gig, but according to The Sun-Herald, she was paid a cool $1.3 million for the posters and billboards around town advertising Kalvin Kleinís Obsession fragrance.

The paper also reports that the seventeen-year-old "counts similar deals with Burberry and Valentino among her model earnings". But thatís not all.

"In February [2005], Ward appeared on no less than twenty New York runways for designers including Vera Wang, Oscar de la Renta and Klein, and was rumoured to earn about $20,000 per show."

Fashion models are part of the business of selling. To people in that business they may be important.

But to pay them more than brain surgeons is absurd and indicates a system that has lost touch with reality.

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