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Sleeping Buddha at NGV

The National Gallery of Victoria has installed one of its largest works – a monumental 18 metre long Buddha. The work has been especially commissioned for the blockbuster summer exhibition, the inaugural NGV Triennial.

Weighing approximately 15 tonnes, artist Xu Zhen’s sculpture features a replica of a famous reclining Buddha statue adorned with 3D scanned and cast Greco-Roman, Renaissance and Neoclassical sculptures, fusing together Eastern and Western cultural heritages in order to break down boundaries.

The sculpture is in 20 sections that have been meticulously pieced together by six staff from Xu Zhen’s studio. Fifteen white sculptures have been lifted by crane and positioned on top of the reclining Buddha.

“People are already scratching their heads about how we got this in here,” NGV curator Simon Maidment told me. The NGV had to ensure all the pieces fit through the doorways and entry points.

Mr Maidment said, “When the gallery was built in 1968, art of the day was quite different and certainly it wasn’t presenting 18 metre long sculptures at that time.”

unnamedOccurring every three years, the NGV Triennial is a free, gallery-wide exhibition of contemporary art, design and architecture that features the work of more than 100 artists and designers from more than 30 countries around the world.

“I’m not plastic” Real Housewives of Melbourne Season 4

“I’m not just a feisty b*tch that looks good,” declared Venus Behbahani-Clark as she was introduced as a new cast member of Foxtel’s The Real Housewives of Melbourne , which has been filming Season 4 around town for a few weeks.

The 35 year old mother of two has no qualms about joining the successful franchise but doesn’t want people to be too quick to judge.

“Please, please don’t judge a book by its cover. Get to know me. My heart is kind. Don’t judge me by my looks,” she told 3AW before confirming, ‘I do believe in looking good so I have had a little bit of cosmetic work done but it’s not that I’m all plastic.”

Her children, aged seven and three, will appear in the series. And her oldest has already started asking questions about her mother’s role in the show but Venus says she will not allow her children to watch.

Venus has seen the previous series, commenting on the cast. “All the girls have challenging personalities because they are smart girls. So we all have a little bit of guard there.”


Venus Behbahani-Clark photo by Donna Demaio

46 year old Gamble Breaux has enthusiastically returned to the show, hinting that while she had a “rough start” she’s now having a great time despite sparks flying. “It’s a treasure trove of trash and I’m so excited. I’m having a bit of fun with some new meat.”

She also hinted that after just a few weeks, she already has some regrets, explaining “I was in a bad mood when we started, so I wasn’t really myself for a while but I’m feeling normal now.”

Gamble says the program has been good to her. “It’s life changing. It gives you a platform not to do boring stuff. You’re obviously up there to be made a bit of fun of, but that’s all right.”

Breaux also spoke of the stress involved in planning her stepson’s 21st birthday party, revealing that it cost twice  as much as her wedding.

The other new housewife is 51 year old Sally Bloomfield who, after talking to former Real Housewife Chyka Keebaugh, thought she’d give the show a go.

The Bold and the Beautiful Down Under

The cast professed to have no clue as to the story line, as long-running Channel ten soap The Bold and the Beautiful announced it will film on location in Australia in February.

The stars of the popular show about feuding families in the fashion industry gathered at CBS’ Studio 31 in Los Angeles to toast the announcement with fake champagne. They then were seated on set for a celebratory lunch of meat pies, sausage rolls and lamingtons with miniature Australian and American flags as table centerpieces.

The world’s most watched soap will film in and around Sydney between February 12th and February 17th. There’s a whisper Melbourne may also feature.

Based on the show’s usual filming schedule (it surpassed 7,500 episodes in January), it’s understood producers are aiming for about six episodes.

John McCook (Eric Forrester), one of the original cast members, is thrilled to be marking the show’s 30th anniversary with a trip to Sydney.

McCook, who has never visited Australia, said, ‘It’s a wonderfully big deal. It’s another hemisphere for God’s sake. I look forward to a very luxurious flight. We’re going to be very well taken care of by Qantas.’

He insisted he had no idea what the scenes will be. ‘We haven’t seen the script yet. We have broad strokes of what we’ll be doing down there but it’s sort of gossip.’

Meanwhile another soap life-timer Katherine Kelly Lang (Brooke Forrester) is looking forward to her tenth trip to Australia.

‘Australia is so fabulous. What I always find so amazing is that everyone is so nice. You don’t feel there’s a care in the world. No worries, mate.’

Australia’s Ashley Brewer (Ivy) who joined the show in 2014 is looking for tips to share with the cast. ‘The thing is I was born and grew up in Brisbane and then lived in Melbourne for five or six years, so I’m not an expert on Sydney.’

And she has no idea how the story-line leads them to Australia. ‘I don’t know a single thing. It’s going to be news to me as well.’

Qantas will provide round-trip flights for the cast and crew. Qantas Group spokeswoman Olivia Wirth said, ‘It’s a terrific opportunity to promote Australia by featuring it in one of the most popular TV programs in the world.’

The national carrier said from previous experience and similar partnerships, such as bringing the Ellen show to Australia, it noted a spike in bookings after the shows aired.

The Bold and the Beautiful broadcasts in nearly 200 countries including Iceland, Estonia, France South Africa and Switzerland.

The writer travelled as a guest of Qantas 

POW Kitchen, St Kilda

If you desire a lunch that packs a (chilli) punch, seek out a meal at the Prince Bandroom’s POW Kitchen in St Kilda. Executive chef Daniel Hawkins (ex-Longrain) and head chef Woosun Choi (ex-Newmarket Hotel) ensure their love for chilli is evident in many of the South East Asian dishes, adding the perfect kaPOW  to a bunch of authentic and powerful flavours.

POW Kitchen has a superbly located balcony overlooking the ever-intriguing Fitzroy Street. This means you can laze away the afternoon, watching the street’s colourful characters stride by below, while munching on a fine array of yumminess. The menu includes crisp school prawns wrapped in betel leaves, soft-shell crab with green mango and super spicy Kung Pao Chicken. All delicious.

Cocktail concoctions abound with an enthusiastic bar manager eager to please – and occasionally create new tastes on request. Drinks such as Pomiscuous Girl ( spiced rum, pomegranate, mint and lime) and Mango Baba (Cachaca, Montenegro, mango, soy and vanilla) can be ordered in pitchers or in glasses. And naturally, the classic Aperol Spritz is virtually on tap. A total of 14 cocktails and 28 brews and nearly 30 wines.

It’s a place ripe for further discovery. It’s a place to share a magnificent  pile of fried Mochico chicken ribs with green chilli kewpie. It’s a place to please those who enjoy genuine, tangy flavours in a truly laid-back setting.  Oh, there’s also a “South East Feast” which at 45 dollars a head (minimum two people) is a pleasantly surprising string of sensational  sharing plates. KaPOW.


Dream Lover World Premiere

The talented and charismatic David Campbell is a huge fan of legendary 1960’s singer/song-writer Bobby Darin. And it was with passion and gusto that Campbell took to the Lyric Theatre stage in Sydney for the world premiere of Dream Lover: The Bobby Darin Musical.

The show, written by John-Michael Howson and his cousin Frank Howson, traces the highs and lows of the entertainer’s life, cut short by ill-health at age 37. The musical is a window into his rise to fame, his family secrets, his personal struggles and his frought marriage to Hollywood sweetheart Sandra Dee.There are more than 30 songs and an 18 piece big band on stage, playing such tender tunes as Mack the Knife, Under the Sea and of course, Dream Lover.

Campbell told me, minutes after stepping off stage, “After 20 years of being a fan of someone who has such an emotional connection to my life and is an idol to me. And to have his son come out to give his blessing. It means everything to me.” His dad Jimmy Barnes was in the audience, proud as punch.

The show is competing with two other productions that are classics, for vastly different reasons. My Fair Lady (directed by Julie Andrews) has just broken box office records at the Sydney Opera House and stars Anna O’Byrne as Eliza Doolittle. She’s marvellous, with a powerful voice and incredible presence as her confidence and character grows over the three hour show. Reg Livermore is delightful and bursting with energy as an exceptional  Alfred P Doolittle. British performer Alex Jennings is an excellent Professor Higgins but is to be replaced by Downton Abbey’s Charles Edwards in the Melbourne season. The costumes and choreography are gorgeous.

Meanwhile Disney classic Aladdin has audiences spellbound as they watch the Genie appear on stage at the Capital Theatre. The magic carpet is mesmerising and the ensemble a dancing, thieving, fantastical frenzy. The show, based on the hugely successful 1992 film (grossing more than half a billion dollars at the time) is fun, romantic and just the right amount of frivolous.

The writer travelled courtesy of Destination NSW

We Will Rock You: Melbourne

It’s really loud. But that’s how the audience likes it. Ben Elton’s We Will Rock You is pounding out Queen hits at The Regent Theatre, with a cast that impresses from the first few notes.

The ensemble cast is energetic, frenetic and garishly good, while Gareth Keegan as Galileo and Erin Clare as Scaramouche are wonderful.

Must mentions include Brian Mannix (Buddy), Casey Donovan (Killer Queen), Jaz Flowers (Oz), Thern Reynolds (Brit) and Simon Russell (Khashoggi). They each bring a certain pzazz to the futuristic show about a time when people don’t know what live music is anymore.

The cast

Entertainment reporter Donna Demaio caught up with the main players including Ben Elton.

Watch video here:


Uluru: by drone

Drone footage of Uluru has been released by Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia. It’s an incredible perspective of the 600 million year old monolith. The drone was the first ever to operate under permit inside Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

The area captured is of great spiritual significance to the local Anangu people and approval was given by the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board and the Film and Photography Consultative Committee.

“We are delighted to present one of the most astonishing landscapes on earth, and we thank the Traditional Owners for their support,”said Voyages Chief Executive Officer Andrew Williams.

Uluru is the tip of a huge rock that continues below the ground for up to six kilometres. The monolith is 3.6 kilometres long and 348 metres at its tallest point..

It’s breathtaking footage.

Watch here: or call 1300 134 004.



Review: Notel, Melbourne CBD

Six gleaming airstream trailers perched on a Flinders Lane rooftop, with retro tangerine décor and pale pink accents, make a fine first impression. But it’s the quintessential novelty of Notel that is most alluring. Young enthusiast James Fry, owner of Fry’s Fast Park, has realised a dream that he concocted two years ago and cemented during a trip to the US. Fry deflected multi-million dollar offers from others who wanted to develop the space atop the inner city car park he’s owned for ten years with his dad. Instead, he’s invested more than a million dollars in trans-locating and sprucing up the 1970’s airstreams.

Fry says “It’s prime real estate and after having a million ideas on what to do with the space, I think with Notel (“not a hotel’), we’ve nailed it.”

It’s a stylish and super fun concept. You use a smart phone app as an entry key after booking online. You munch on the bourbon and bacon popcorn or hand-made chocolate goodies while sipping on craft Shiki beer from the Lucas Group or even piccolos of Paul Louis bubbles while nestling in the comfy Queen size bed at one end of the trailer. The other end, thank goodness for smart design, has an in-built toilet, basin and shower – that’s where the bulk of the “tangerine theme” shines. An I-pad Plus pumped full of Netflix and free Wi Fi is attached to the wall next to the mini-fridge but can also be re-located to the trailer’s ceiling – above the bed. There are cushions on a bench that could fit five visiting mates or sleep a couple of kids.

Each suite has sourced products from local Melbourne businesses from the Aura home bed linen and bathroom towels to the Crown posture mattress. Nice touch.

There’s no restaurant but there’s talk of Uber Eats delivery soon enough.  Of course, just metres away is an array of coffee shops, bars and eateries. Easy. Or pack a picnic of sorts and dine-in.

Each airstream has a simple outdoor space with white chairs and table and cactus. The communal area is a vibrant red with a backdrop of graffiti walls. It’s unique. And while there’s no concierge and access is via a grungy flight of stairs, there is someone on call, 24/7. I see romantic escapades, milestone birthdays, proposals, weddings and novel getaways ahead.


The North Melbourne Hotel

The North Melbourne Hotel

Do not be deterred by the utterly plain façade of The North Melbourne Hotel on Victoria Street. Inside the latest restaurant offering from publicans Sandra and Jose de Oliveria (owners of Richmond’s Bouzy Rouge) you will find a delightfully enticing décor and a reasonably priced, modern European menu.

The black chandeliers, marble-topped tables and eclectic knick-knacks are charming. Bartender Marco bounces around, hoping you will be tempted by the cocktail list or perhaps try one of his own concoctions. His Pisco Sour with a twist (a dash of chocolate bitters) is excellent. Apparently, the wrong pisco turned up in an order but Marco has made it work and now the Muscatel Pisco is on the re-order list.

Share fare is encouraged so there are smaller plates such as Steak Tartare through to Duck Liver Parfait .The early crowd favourite are the Jalapeno Poppers. While the crispy fried lambs brains are a stand-out. Larger dishes include Seafood Paella and 12-hour roasted lamb shoulder.

Local breweries and craft beer have been embraced with the North Melbourne Draught at four dollars a pot. A house red or white is also four dollars while there’s a solid range of local and Italian, French and Portuguese wine.

Surprisingly, the par-baked bread imported from France is excellent, with a perfect crunch and teamed with a subtle olive oil for dipping.

Portions are generous. The Cajun spiced soft shell crab, brioche bun and spicy remoulade is enormous (11 dollars) while the side dish of Angry eggs (crispy potatoes, Iberian ham, aioli and fried egg) is nearly too large for two.

The char grilled pasture fed Eye fillet, sweet potato puree, jus and roast witlof makes a classy main while the king fish cerviche is both sizeable and satisfying.

The 100 seat pub is an elegant space for relaxed dining. There’s nothing dull about it on the inside.

Location: 480 Victoria Street, North Melbourne

Phone: 03 9329 1634

Review: Ricky Martin

There can be no argument: Ricky Martin (born Enrique Martin Morales) is a passionate performer. He positively glowed as he entered Rod Laver Arena stage – a veritable glistening specimen of a man, head to toe in white cotton.

The international superstar has earned the respect of a multitude Australians through his nurturing and caring role as a judge on talent tv show The Voice. And those who believe that those who judge should be able to do, can’t criticise this man. He can move. He can sing. He can entertain.

The crowd was transfixed as he gyrated through his hits. He was ably “assisted” by an impressive group of dancers who I am convinced wore less and less as the night wore on. And  I would suggest the black bralette and butt-cheek skimming shiny hot pants may have been a crowd favorite.

Martin dedicated the Melbourne concert to the victims of the quake in Nepal, with an intriguing “intermission” of a video montage of beautiful, smiling faces of underprivileged children being helped via the Ricky Martin Foundation.

The singer urged the crowd to forget their woes – all their issues of home, work and school. Perhaps that was an acknowledgement that his fans are of all ages. I know that there was at least one 86 year old woman in the audience, while in the row in front of me, a young girl of about seven stood on her seat to watch Martin shake his bon bon.

There were smoke machines, a spectacular light show, brilliant nine piece band (love a brass section) and an impressive, mega confetti machine. But in a way, these accoutrements were superfluous, since most of the time, I really couldn’t take my eyes off Martin – with the occasional sideways glance at the aforementioned barely-robed dancers.

Melbourne choreographer Jason Coleman, sitting nearby, was in awe of their expertise. “Every step, every dancer was amazing. Really world class and uber-hot.”

Coleman said of Martin’s moves. “When he started I thought he’d hit a bit harder than that but by the end of it he did exactly what he said he would do and left his soul on the stage.”

Martin welcomed onto his stage Melbourne singer Jackson Thomas that he’d mentored on The Voice. A powerful duet ensued and Thomas’ voice was gorgeous.

It was a lovely gesture indicating that Martin is giving that promised “leg up” to those who appear on the talent show.

Amongst Martin’s parting words. “I don’t care what people think. I don’t care what people say.” Then he managed to get the crowd to do a daggy dance involving throwing hands in the air and rubbing tummies to a song with Spanish lyrics. And yes I joined in. And no, I have no idea what the song was about. But it sure was fun.

First published 2015