Flashback Friday: partying with Sly, Bruce and Cindy

The Public Opening Of Planet Hollywood in Sydney

It was May 26, 1996. The pavement on George Street was 20 people deep for the opening of Australia’s first Planet Hollywood restaurant. Crowd estimates ranged from 5000 to 10,000 people. It was probably the most Hollywood-celeb-crammed function Australia has ever seen: illusionist David Copperfield, Charlie Sheen, Cindy Crawford, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Danny Glover, Jackie Chan … the list went on.

And then there were the Aussie celebrity guests, all eager to brush shoulders with Hollywood royalty.

Little did we all know that the company – which had roped Bruce and Sly in as co-owners – would almost go bankrupt twice and be forced to close 100 of its restaurants around the world, including the Aussie one.

But on that chilly May night it seemed impossible. It was the most exciting thing to come to Sydney since ABBA.

I had a prime spot on the red carpet, courtesy of my role as a feature writer at Cosmo magazine. I managed to score a piece of pavement for my sister too. I think she was my “photographer”. We watched in awe as all the Hollywood stars sauntered past.

To the accompaniment of the Rocky theme and rapturous screaming fans, Sly bounded onto the stage that had been erected outside to entertain the masses. He announced: “Oh, stop that, I’m not a god. I thought we saw enthusiasm in Las Vegas, I thought we saw enthusiasm in New York, in Rome – but you bury them!”

The crowd roared.

Charlie took to the stage and patted a koala. Bruce performed with his rhthym and blues band, The Accelerators.  Jean Claude raved: “This country is like a beautiful woman, the more you touch Australia the more you want it.”

Then the strangest thing happened. An Aussie guest, I think it was Kate Cebrano, took off her VIP pass and threw it on the ground at my feet. She flounced off up the stairs into the venue. I stared at it. My sister stared at it. I grabbed it. I stared at my sister. She stared at me. She said: “You had to go in.”


It was in the days before mobile phones, so I felt a bit guilty about abandoning her in a crowd of 10,000 screaming Sly fans. But hey, I had a golden ticket to the party of the year. The decade maybe. So I sauntered up the red carpet and through the door like I owned the place.

Which was all very well until I got inside and thought: What the hell do I do now? The problem with being an interloper – and a shy one at that  – is I didn’t know a soul. So I found a pay phone in the corner and called Husband (who was then just Boyfriend) and squeaked: “OH. MY. GOD. I am INSIDE the party. Cindy Crawford just walked past! I can see Bruce Willis!” etc etc


And then, as my eyes scanned the crowd for more stars, I realised I DID know someone. My hairdresser, Shane Paish. I think he’d done Cindy’s hair and scored an invite to the party out of it.

(These days he’s the International Beauty Expert for Dior and Charlize Theron’s personal makeup artist. Back then he was a kid starting out at a salon in Paddington.)

And that’s when things got really fun.

Shane introduced me to Cindy and Big Love star Bill Paxton. Bill was starring in Twister back then with Helen Hunt, but he hadn’t really registered on my radar as important when he walked the red carpet. I recall being miffed he wasn’t Bill Pullman, who I had a weird little crush on at the time.

That changed when I got talking to him, I was hooked. Bill was a total sweetheart. Very laidback and self-deprecating. We hung out together for the rest of the night. Well, for at least an hour. I think there may have been some vague chance of partying afterwards … but that evaporated. Probably because I’ve been a Cinderella my whole life and that wasn’t about to change even in the presence of Hollywood royalty. Or maybe Bill changed his mind. I can’t remember. Husband suggested I search for the magazine article I wrote about it to jog my memory. But it’s buried in the attic somewhere and my back hurts too much to scrabble around looking for it. Gawd I sound like an old person reminiscing about some moment from their youth at the start of the movie before it flashes back in time.

Or maybe I was just a bit lairy of what “partying afterwards” might mean, after getting invited to a soiree at Siimon Reynolds’ pad (there’s another blast from the 90s past) with my girlfriend then realising when we got there that we were the only guests and the party was in his pants. Awkward!

So I caught a cab home to Boyfriend/Husband all starry eyed. And Shane partied the night away with the A-list and became their go-to guy for hair and make-up.

And the queues formed outside Planet Hollywood the next day with people wanting to dine on outrageously over-priced American food surrounded by movie memorabilia. However, just four years later the chain’s moment in the sun was over, much like the ill-fated Fashion Cafe (remember it!) launched in 1995 by supermodels Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer and Elle Macpherson, which called in receivers  a year earlier.

But for one glorious moment it was the most exciting thing Sydney nightlife had ever seen and I was at the epicentre.

Have you ever crashed a party? Did you do a better job of it than me? 

6 thoughts on “Flashback Friday: partying with Sly, Bruce and Cindy

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  1. Off memory it was about four years before your party, but in the same location. I was 18 and got roped into being a minion for a major electrical company who sponsored the Christmas Parade in Sydney (whatever happened to those?).

    A friend from school’s sister was in a dance troop that was performing on the float and dancing in front of it and they did the call around to see who wanted to be part of the show. They basically wanted people to dress up in sparkly silver Hammer Pants (remember them?) and black sleeveless tops or possibly singlets and walk side-by-side with another volunteer carrying a Boom Box (remember them?) which played the same song over and over and over and over; well you get the picture.

    But it was the “after party” that was the best part. It was held at one of the top hotels in Sydney in their function room. I can’t remember which one it was but I remember the room and the decorations.

    It was wall-to-wall with celebrities too. I couldn’t tell you anyone that I actually saw or met, but I remember spending pretty much the whole evening with my friends going “oh look, that’s….” and “isn’t that………..?” Oh if only I had a smart phone for Googling and a camera to have captured those “memories” so that they didn’t have to be strained memories.

    1. Thanks for the trip down memory lane Modern Father. I remember all those things too well. I think the celebs much preferred the non-camera-phone days. Much more anonymous. Actually, what am I talking about? They LOVE the camera phone days – can’t stop taking selfies of themselves and putting them on Twitter.

  2. Re the Planet Hollywood opening in Sydney – Danny Glover rode in on a horse. Desperately seeking photos of this, did you or your sister have any? Very grateful if you could provide one!

  3. I have an old photo of Danny Glover riding in on his horse. It’s a personal photo, so not the best quality, but I have scanned it.

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