About Derryn Hinch

Derryn Hinch has been a journalist for 60 years. Worked in newspapers, radio and TV. Former editor The Sun in Sydney. Host of HINCH on 7 and 10 for six years. Jailed for naming paedophile priest, served 5 months under house arrest for naming serial sex offenders and jailed 50 days for contempt of court in 2014. 3AW, 2GB, SKY, Sunrise, Today. Written 15 books. Justice Party senator 2016-2019. Current host HINCH SKY News.

I recently had the privilege of being wowed by an 83-year-old Kris Kristofferson. However, being present for the latter performances of other legends, I wasn’t nearly as lucky.

 

 

It’s that show biz moment that people, of a certain age, really dread. You’ve bought expensive tickets to see the musical superstar you have revered for eons. A famous international singer, who is still out there working the antipodes and clubs, and you painfully discover, they should have buried their microphone years ago.

(Just think of a fat, sweaty Elvis, squeezed into a spangled white jumpsuit, struggling with the words of a Presley classic).

I thought I was up for such an experience recently when I read Kris Kristofferson was coming to Australia, I knew I had to be there.

Why? About 20 years ago, a journo asked me if ever there was a movie made about my life who would I want to play me. I said: Kris Kristofferson. The Rhodes scholar, who swept the studio floors in  Nashville before becoming a star, who wrote songs like Me and Bobby McGee and Sunday Morning Comin’ Down and the haunting Darby’s Castle and my favourite – Just the Other Side of Nowhere. And who starred with Barbra Streisand in the third version of A Star Is Born.

I read that Kristofferson was booked to appear at the 100-only Saddles restaurant owned by John Singleton at Mt. White, near Gosford, NSW. So, I phoned the man who once sacked me from 2GB in Sydney, and invited myself.

Several days later I started having real doubts. Is this wise, as my ex-mother-in-law used to say. I saw a video of Kristofferson performing in Canberra. I didn’t realise he was 83. He was singing Help me make it through the night. I didn’t think he would make it through the song.

The day arrived for Saddles and the early word was not good. At 2.20, the star was still asleep in his van. But, at 2.30 on the dot, he strolled on stage. No loud backup team of pretty female singers to distract and disguise any weaknesses. Just one male with a violin, a drummer with brushes and snare drum, and a subtle keyboard player.

Kris Kristofferson played for two hours with just one ten-minute break. Talk about a star is re-born, in my mind. It was fabulous. What a privilege.

It reminded me though of times when there was no such redemption.

Decades ago, I went to Las Vegas to see Frank Sinatra at Caesar’s Palace. As one does. Unfortunately, the night before, Sinatra had had a bad night on the gambling tables and been refused extra credit. He responded by punching a croupier and then driving a golf cart into the switchboard area which caught on fire.

Sinatra’s performances were cancelled. But, good news, his spot would be filled by Friends of Frank. The early show before ours starred Sammy Davis Jr. We were to get Dean Martin. And we did, sort of. Martin, who made a comic career out of pretending to be drunk, appeared on stage and he was drunk. He even forgot the words to his greatest hit O Mein Papa.

At the time, Martin was married to actress Connie Stevens. She was sitting just in front of me. Not for long. She walked out in disgust. As I headed up the aisle, I was jostled by a man coming the other way. It was a staggering Dean Martin, shouting “Wheresh Connie? Wheresh Connie?”

 

Decades ago, I went to Las Vegas to see Frank Sinatra at Caesar’s Palace. As one does. Unfortunately, the night before, Sinatra had had a bad night on the gambling tables and been refused extra credit. He responded by punching a croupier and then driving a golf cart into the switchboard area which caught on fire.

 

Speaking of Vegas, the singer who probably appeared there more than anybody, and who made millions, was Wayne Newton. He then did a final world tour and washed up in Australia. Friends went and were appalled. He could barely sing apparently and was propped up by a wall of back-up singers.

And then there was Luciano Pavarotti. I am not a real opera fan. The lead singers take far too long to die. But this was Pavarotti’s farewell tour and a showbiz contact gave me two $1300 tickets to the god-like, much-anticipated, appearance at the MCG. We left at the interval. Or “half-time”, seeing we were at the G.

Pavarotti had an amazing female co-star who sat, respectfully, downstage from him and sang like a bird. But el supremo could hardly hold himself on his stool, let alone hold a note. And he spent most of the time brandishing a huge white handkerchief and wiping copious amounts of sweat off his flushed face.

Which shows the class of one Linda Ronstadt. The singer of such great songs as Desperado, Just one look, When will I be loved and You’re no good decided she was no longer any good, and quit singing. Acknowledged her voice was no longer what it had been and walked away.

For me, that left a positive memory. We had watched her at the Arts Centre in Melbourne singing with Nelson Riddle and his orchestra. Linda finished without singing one of her biggest hits.

For an encore, she casually walked in front of the curtain and, acappella, sang Desperado. It was stunning.