Backstage at David Jones’ high-voltage fashion shows, it was pretty clear that Miranda Kerr was not just another run-of-the-mill model. Installed in her own luxurious private marquee regularly filled with fresh flowers and champagne on ice, she would be fussed over away from prying eyes by her own team of make-up artists, stylists and hairdressers.After five years, it was clear to all who entered her private domain that she was the department store’s undisputed queen. Entry was by invitation only, even for David Jones’ top brass. On Friday morning the glamour vanished as an ugly, protracted tussle between the model and the retailer finally surfaced, resulting in her contract being terminated nine months before it was due to expire. The news took Kerr by surprise, though she later claimed it was a ”mutual decision”. She was abruptly replaced by a younger, lesser-known model: Perth-raised Jessica Gomes, a Eurasian beauty now being groomed by David Jones to become its new queen.
As the news reverberated throughout the Australian fashion industry, it emerged the decision to dump Kerr had been coming for some time.
The boardroom machinations are also rumoured to have prompted rival Myer to review its long-term association with its star model, Jennifer Hawkins.
For Kerr, negotiations had been dragging on since January. While fashion editors sniped about her hair and make-up at the February autumn/winter collections show in the David Jones ballroom, senior management were not happy when their celebrity muse opted not to walk in the customer showcase the day after the glittering VIP fashion launch.
”In the end it is all about the customer,” a senior source at the store said somewhat
In recent months the retailer had commissioned extensive research into the model and her appeal among its core market: fashion-conscious young women. The results were not good for Kerr. Her increasing fame and jet-set lifestyle with Hollywood husband Orlando Bloom meant many customers no longer ”related” to the model.
Then came the demands. Kerr, who is based in Los Angeles, wanted to reduce the number of fashion shows she did for the store each year from two to just one.
She also wanted the biannual catalogues for the store to be shot only in the US, enabling her to stay with her son, Flynn, in the US instead of travelling around the globe as she had done previously.
Then came the money. Rumours swirled that Kerr wanted her million-dollar-a-year pay packet doubled. In the end, it simply proved too much for David Jones.
”The money wasn’t the obstacle, it was really about how much value we would be getting and it just didn’t measure up,” explained the senior David Jones source.
City falls under spell of Ellen
She arrived, she danced, people cried, a few sang and some poor girl fainted.
It was all over in about five minutes, but PS had experienced first hand the Ellen Effect.
Unlike Oprah Winfrey’s arrival in 2010 to Sydney via a private jet, when she was whisked through customs behind tinted windows in a mini van, Ellen DeGeneres chose to go through the arrivals gate at Sydney Airport just like everyone else on Friday morning, only to be greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of 500 people who had been waiting for her, some for hours.
As the Qantas choir broke into a rousing rendition of Men at Work’s classic Down Under, the crowd’s excitement had ramped up to ecstasy as a clearly pleased DeGeneres walked through the terminal, hundreds of camera phones trained on her every move with a huge media pack following in her wake.
Sydney Airport hadn’t seen such pandemonium since, well, the arrival of boy band One Direction, who share a strikingly similar hair-do to DeGeneres.
DeGeneres and wife, expatriate Australian actor Portia de Rossi, along with DeGeneres’ mother, Betty, were quickly ferried to the penthouse suite at the Intercontinental where they will spend three days before moving on to Melbourne. Over the weekend a string of covertly executed surprise appearances are being planned, DeGeneres promising to materialise at some of Sydney’s most popular hot spots, from Bondi Beach to a harbour ferry.
One of those adoring fans who is keen to meet DeGeneres is Sydney geologist Michelle ”Mitch” Spooner, who for years has been told she was the spitting image of the popular US celebrity.
”Usually when I dye my hair blonde people start telling me I look like Ellen. It’s been happening for the past seven years … and seems to increase when people have had a few drinks,” Spooner told PS this week.
Hoping to come to the attention of DeGeneres’ producers, Spooner admitted she was a ”huge fan”.
And while at 36 she is nearly two decades younger than the star herself, Spooner said she was flattered by the comparisons.
”I just think she is a great role model and a very cool person … it would be good to meet her so we can do a face-to-face comparison,” she told PS, somewhat hopeful.
Death of a legal eagle
Friends of the late Sydney showbiz identity Peter Ikin keenly observed news from France this week that one of the country’s top legal eagles Olivier Metzner, had died, presumed to have committed suicide.
They were particularly interested in the news because Metzner had been in a romantic relationship with a much younger Frenchman named Alexandre Despallieres, the same man who was imprisoned on suspicion of foul play over Ikin’s death in a Paris hotel room in 2008, initially put down to a heart attack. Ikin was well known across Sydney’s media and showbiz circles, having worked for years with Warner Music.
Two years ago Metzner was questioned by French police about his relationship with Despallieres as part of their investigation into Ikin’s death, and following claims Metzner helped forge a fake will for his younger lover to claim Ikin’s $20 million estate.
Despallieres spent more than a year in Fresnes prison in Paris but is on bail awaiting a decision by the French judiciary to determine if he will ever face trial over Ikin’s death.
Ikin died unexpectedly just one month after marrying Despallieres in a London civil ceremony. Despallieres presented a will, which was later found by the British High Court to be a fake, in which Ikin had left his entire estate to Despallieres.
The will was challenged by Ikin’s Sydney family, which reached a settlement with the Frenchman. However, the case sparked further investigations into Ikin’s death. An analysis of a blood sample taken after he died showed he had ”lethal” amounts of paracetamol in his system.
Despallieres has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing over Ikin’s death, and has become something of a minor celebrity in the French media, which has covered the story with great zeal.
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She won’t lay low for awards
Marie Claire editor Jackie Frank made quite an arrival in London recently en route to the European fashion shows.
Excruciating back pain meant Frank had to be put in a wheelchair and wheeled off the flight at Heathrow. She was ferried straight to her suite at the Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge where she spent the following three days lying on the floor, even conducting a meeting with high powered British Marie Claire executives while laying on the carpet.
Frank, previously known for conducting her editorial meetings while aloft on her cross-trainer, had to cancel the rest of her trip to Paris and New York, and return to Sydney where she spent the following week on her back at St George Hospital.
So it is no wonder she needed a little bit of cheering up before she hosts next week’s glittering Prix de Marie Claire awards.
With no expense being spared to make sure the evening goes off with a bang, a selection of 40 shoes worth a total of more than $40,000 have been flown to Sydney from London by luxury shoe designer Christian Louboutin for Frank to find the perfect pair to wear for her big ”reveal”. Sadly they must all be returned after the party.
Frank has also enlisted some of the biggest names in food with four different chefs producing the four different courses for 180 guests. Momofuku’s David Chang is on canapes, Balla’s Stefano Manfredi on entree, Black’s Teage Ezard on main and Sokyo’s Chase Kojima doing dessert.
This year marks Frank’s 18th year at the helm of Marie Claire.
PROBING OBEID DEPTHS
Last November, Eddie Obeid (right) declared he would be found innocent of the allegations of corruption levelled against him and his family before their star appearance at ICAC, telling Fairfax Media: ”Of course I will be f—ing vindicated. I have been looked inside out with a microscope up my arse and everything is clean as far as I am concerned.” Now, this was an interesting choice of words on Obeid’s behalf, especially since Fairfax Media published the contents of his secret diaries last week, with a startling number of colonoscopy appointments featured, along with a colonic irrigation. PS probed (gulp) a little further, only to discover that Obeid and his son Moses have been regular visitors to a colonic irrigation facility in the Blue Mountains, and are so enthusiastic about the benefits of the procedure, they have extended the invitation to several of their associates to join them in the ”cleansing sessions”. PS can report several of those invited were left feeling clenched, rather than cleansed, by the prospect of such an outing.
HIGH ART HOTEL
Australian artist John Olsen was honoured at a ”celebratory feast” at his son Tim Olsen’s Paddington gallery on Thursday to celebrate his involvement with the Art Series hotels, but the artist was unable to make it because he was struck down with flu. PS hears John Olsen has landed a six-figure commission for a new Melbourne office development, which will rank as one of his largest works ever.
Rupert Murdoch’s former ski chalet in Aspen has hit the market, and the media mogul is being used as a selling feature, along with a $10 million discount. According to the ads running in the local Aspen press, the huge log home is ”perfectly situated with breathtaking views on a premier lot with outdoor entertaining areas, tennis court and indoor pool, a spacious master suite, four additional guest suites plus staff quarters, a majestic living room with a massive stone fireplace and gorgeous reclaimed beams”. The vendors are even throwing in the designer furniture, all furnishings, linens, towels, a fully equipped kitchen and artwork. The price has been reduced from $US18.75 million ($17.98 million) to $US8.5 million.
Could it be possible there is a fake Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch (right) fronting up to crowded Sydney bars and being turned away? It seems the only possible explanation after the response to last week’s item, duly regurgitated elsewhere, about the power couple allegedly being turned away from one of Sydney’s hippest watering holes. Avid PS reader Sarah Murdoch quickly hit Twitter to deny she had been turned away from The Baxter Inn, claiming she had never heard of the place let alone darkened its door. Nor had hubby Lachlan tried to hire sister bar Shady Pines for a birthday and been knocked back. PS went back to co-owner of the bars Jason Scott, who had confirmed the story. Scott told PS he too had received a call from one of ”Murdoch’s people”. ”The only inaccuracies in your story that I’m aware of is that it was Frankie’s Pizza not Baxter Inn. I thought we were talking about Frankie’s, my apologies as you were talking about Baxter. Lachlan tried to book Shady for his birthday a few years ago, not months.” PS went back to Murdoch spokesman John Connolly and specifically asked about whether the couple had been turned away from Frankie’s. ”Absolutely not,” Connolly informed us. If anyone comes across the fake Lachlan and Sarah, please send them my way, PS would love to interview them.