Breakfast at Sweethearts
A True Story written by Noel Anderson
I arrived in a clap of thunder and knew immediately that this was not going to be an ordinary Mardi Gras. I opted out of staying with friends in Sydney because I felt I needed to open my stay up to new experiences. ‘Let 2017 inspire you’ my mantra for the year. I booked into Central Hostel (hotels had inflated their rates over Mardi Gras to a ridiculous prices like $900 a night) and upon arrival immediately unpacked. Sydney was in full Mardi Gras mode, rainbow banners lining the streets and arcades. I felt like the prodigal son returning home for the first time in years, slightly wounded from my experiences in Melbourne but stronger for every bullet hole. I had arranged series of appointments and catch ups with old friends, watching the parade, and a meeting with Hayes Theatre about the possibility of bringing Audrey Hepburn and I Consider Our Assets up to Sydney. Audrey being my pet musical theatre project. A nine year journey, a project that saw me through tough times including 18 months of therapy.
I was on my way Spice Alley on Broadway with a mate when my iPhone rang, someone wanted to have breakfast with me at Sweethearts in Kings Cross. Someone famous I was told, could I make it tomorrow morning a female voice enquired. “Yes, of course” I answered. But, wondered who that famous person could be?
The next morning I showered at the hostel and quickly dressed. My sleep had been broken several times through the night by a rather large Aussie bloke with a chronic snoring problem and unpleasant odour coming from his Bluntstones. Tired but excited I grabbed an Opal card at Central Station and headed to Kings Cross. Once at Sweethearts, I was ushered to the rooftop, seated in room with a view at a small table set for two.
“She won’t be long,” I was told by a female security guard and left to my own devices. Five minutes passed, still no one came. So, feeling hungry, I stuck my fingers though the top of Corn Flake packet (travel size) stuffed some in my mouth and crunched.
“Darling you could have waited. Shame on you. I was fashionably late I believe?”
I recognised the voice immediately. It had a husky breathless quality. A voice that belong on the silver screen.
“Well, governor don’t just stand there, offer a ladee a seat won’t cha Mr. Anderson,” she mocked in a thick cockney flower girl accent.
Audrey Hepburn was born to be a star, she knew it and so did I…so I immediately pulled out a chair.
“Darling it’s frightful being this rich and famous for such a long time. Sometimes, you crazy little man, I wish I could just die away like Cary Grant or Joan Crawford. But, then someone like you comes along believing in me more than I do myself. It’s touching, honestly. Now, pass me a packet of flakes.” She smiled, adding milk and sugar to her bowl and continued chatting, mouth full. “These Australian flakes are delicious! Now, tell me me, how is my musical going? Don’t answer! Of course it’s going well, isn’t it?”
I explained to Ms. Hepburn over a bowl of Corn Flakes and a cup of English Breakfast that Australian musicals don’t have a big success rate, and even her being in it doesn’t guarantee a rich producer will come banging on the door.
“What nonsense! All producers care about is making money” she quipped crunching down. “I’m a star darling, they’ll make money. What is wrong with Australian producers? They should respect Australian music. You know music is a great healer, particularly after a breakup. You just haven’t found the right partner that’s all. Music like love demands respect. Have you tried David Campbell? He loves theatre.”
I explained that years ago I shared the same stage as David at the same time. He was doing the 8 PM show at the Stables Theatre in Sydney and I was doing the late night slot with a show I wrote and directed, which was very successful.
“Really darling. You had a hit in the same theatre as David Campbell? Fabulous. BTW I just listened to ‘Travellers in Time’ from our show, what a delight. Thinking? The problem is finding the right set, the right crowd. Stay away from neutral toned people, pig people I call them, they are the pits. It’s the pink people you need for our project. I believe in you can do it darling, nothing is impossible.”
We finished our breakfast and sat in silence sipping tea. Then Audrey asked…
“The first movie you ever saw me in was….?”
“Lillian Hellman’s Children’s Hour, directed by William Wyler. The first movie I remember watching with my mother as a kid. And, Wyler is one of my favourite Hollywood directors,” I answered.
“No kidding. Me too.”
I thought for a moment then confessed, “I like films that have been adapted from theatre pieces.”
“Darling I just had a brilliant idea. Write a letter to the prime minister, Mr. Morrison. Say ‘Toodles said hello’… and remind him he owes me a favour. Tell him I sent you.” She smiled a Hollywood smile and finished her Corn Flakes. We chatted for another half hour about our musical Audrey Hepburn and I Consider Our Assets. She admitted to loving the lead song ‘Travellers in Time’… and begged me again to write to the Australian government demanding funding.
At Mardi Gras I stood huddled on the side of the road watching the parade with my friend in a yellow plastic rain jacket trying to stay dry. During the parade as drag performers and PFLAGS passed by I kept hearing Audrey’s voice over the dance track 'I Will Survive.' I stood dry as a bone in my yellow rain jacket watching the marching boys (dressed in pink speedos) thinking of Audrey Hepburn, thinking that ‘Nothing is impossible.’ Slowly I started to chant under my breath the mantra ‘I believe in pink.’ I repeated it twenty times then I thought ‘I must write to the prime minister Malcolm Turnball, before the parade passes by’.