The Packer years

DD sent me an article yesterday from the SMH, featuring journalists reminiscing about their encounters with Kerry Packer during his rein at ACP. It was such a step back in time.

The article slipped up when it said: “Overlooking Hyde Park, the top floor private dining room with its full time chef and waiters was where the Packers presided over the politics, fashion, commerce and popular culture of Australia for more than half a century.”

I’m pretty sure the dining room was on level 6, the weekly mags were on the top flooor, level 12. And the article failed to mention the bite-sized Violet Crumbles that were offered to guests at the end of every lunch, but otherwise it was a juicy read.

One of the memories came from Monique Butterworth, who talked about an encounter when she was a cub reporter working on New Weekly.

Butterworth hopped in the lift, about to head up to her floor at Park Street when suddenly an arm shot through the closing doors, followed by a rather large body, which she soon realised belonged to Kerry Packer.

“Suddenly the doors started closing in on him! He was sandwiched between them and looking at me to do something. I was in complete shock. I started hitting buttons, but the lift was malfunctioning. I thought to my self ‘my god, I’m going to kill Kerry Packer!'” Butterworth recounted to PS.

The lift story took me back … I have two Kerry lift stories in my repertoire – most ACP staffers from the Packer years have them, they invariably got your adrenaline pumping. I mentioned one of the encounters back in a 2017 post. I reread the post yesterday and realised I’d left out a few awesome details from my blog post last week about Bauer Magazines being sold, called I Can’t Keep Up.

I noted in the 2017 post: “I once flew in a private jet to the Packer estate in Scone for a remarkable weekend that included kissing Kez – no tongue, totally platonic – joyriding in his helicopter and go-carting on his private track.”

How could I forget kissing Kez! We all had to line up and kiss him on the cheek, one after the other … well, the women did. I think the men just had to shake hands. Aside from pressing my lips to his papery cheek, it was also a terrifying weekend for me because I was secretly pregnant only months after being announced as the new Editor in Chief of Woman’s Day. So I was very not keen to do things like go-karting and riding on quad bikes with a 10-week-old fetus inside me and a terrible case of morning sickness, but felt I had no choice.

Anyways, back to the lift stories … the first one involved the staff of Cosmo stepping into the lift to go to Christmas lunch one sunny December afternoon (the main blog photo features a few of the old gang). Kerry stepped into the lift and faced us instead of the doors, then announced jovially: “So, are you all my Christmas present?!”

Upon reflection that’s a faintly disturbing story – a CEO wouldn’t get away with that kinda talk these days. But we all just giggled nervously and felt deeply relieved when he got out of the lift.

Another time he stepped into the lift about 9.10am, looked theatrically at his watch and remarked on us all running late. As our hearts collectively jumped into our mouths, he stepped out of the lift on the third floor, where his office was located, tripped and fell flat on his face.

No one knew quite what to do. So we just stood there, blank faced and silent, as he got back to his feet and the lift doors closed. Eeeek!

I also remember running into James Packer on the third floor of ACP a few days after his dad died. It was “Christmas shutdown” and the place was basically empty, but I was in the building editing Woman’s Day, the magazine that never sleeps. I stepped out of the lift just as he was trudging past. I gave him my condolences and for one awful moment it looked like he might cry. He quietly thanked me and we both went our separate ways.

And there you go, those are my major Packer memories. It was such an incredible time to work in the magazine industry.

Song of the day: Sherbert “Magazine Madonna”


One thought on “The Packer years

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  1. What great memories! I worked in that building for just a few weeks in 2001 freelancing on Take 5. I have fond memories of my magazine years. Things are so different now!

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