Thursday, April 21, 2011

"intellegent women who want more .. and love men"

The title of this blog is a quote from Paper Giants : the Birth of Cleo.  It pretty much describes the aim of 'Cleo', a hit Australian magazine.  As someone who cannot justify spending your average 10-15 bucks on a glossy magazine filled with images and content I can find online, even I recognise the mag.
But I had no idea of its beginnings.

I know the lady Ita Buttrose to be a well dressed, elegant writer and commentator, occasionally on tv talk shows and ads for osteoporosis and starving children.  And of course I know of the the rich and influential Packer clan, controlling the non-Murdoch half of the media.  But I had no idea they were entangled in the beginnings of Cleo.  Or that they worked together, making a name for themselves during the dramatic downfall of the Whitlam government.

Set against that backdrop and the dying days of Sir Packer, the ABC recently aired a colourful two-part biopic, telling us of the tale of these ambitious folk, working hard to fulfill their destinies in the print world, encouraging Australian women to feel worth more in a mans world, all during the political ups and downs of the seventies.

Enter 30 year old Ita Buttrose - journalist and editor, and 35 year old heir-to-be Kerry Packer.  It's early 1972.  And in the midst of the ruthless and powerful publishing family business, the pair team up to put together a great women's magazine, 'Cosmopolitan', only to have the plug pulled at the last minute when the rights go to Fairfax.  So, to show they will not be beaten, they team up to create a better women's magazine, and publish it six months before theirs.

A team was assembled, 'Cleopatra' was brainstormed, and the pair then followed their gut instincts, opposing the market research that the project would majorly flop.  Good thing Sir Packer didn't catch sight of those reports!!

The magazine became the most sensational mag of its time.  So fun, so naughty!  More importantly, I appreciated its history and how it helped define women in its time .. at least helping them have a voice, giving them the courage to ask questions, reach out for what they want, and to not be defined as a wife or housewife.  A new confidence in entrenched patriarchy.

Their first issue featured a nude centrefold.  Shock!  And it was none other than Jack Thompson.  Jack, I had no idea you had it in you back then!  See a Daily Telegraph opinion article about the success of that sensational idea!  And later, Dame Edna.  Hehee .. loved it.

The program was great.  I liked the depiction of the Sir Frank Packer (or "God" to his employees) and Kerry Packer.  As someone who has grown up knowing the family and its empire, I enjoyed watching their approach to business behind closed doors, at least according to the screenwriters.

Wouldn't you just like getting this from Sir Packer?

A highlight was the fashion.  Seriously, the fashion of the seventies just shone!! I guarantee this will start resurrect a few trends.  Every scene brought out a new trench, wrap dress, accessories, and big sunnies.

Seriously.  It's a must-have wardrobe.  Will we be seeing a revival of 70's retro now?  Please people, do it with class.  Nice bold prints and feminine outfits that work together.  No bad taste.
And we are already seeing a start of a revival elsewhere - Zimmermann shop winders have been spotted showing off high-waisted pants as part of a classic 70's outfit.  And Diane von Furstenberg (yum!! - not her; her designs) has put bold trench coats on recent runways.

Without giving too much away ... this is a quick summary of my thoughts and reactions throughout the program:

Oh, this is gonna be great.
Look at that footage.  That's Whitlam.  His voice sounds like an ABC news presenter.
I wonder if this was done by the same people that did Hawke.  I really enjoyed that movie.
Wow she's got that lisp exactly right! Ooh, and I like what she's wearing.
Oh, and I like that dress.
Whoa.  Was that what Sir Packer was really like?
That's a great outfit!
He just threw the phone!!
Gosh that's a cute dress.
Naw, she's a mum!  You go girl!!

What?? He's leaving????  Rude.
Mmm .. nice dress.  Again.
She is such a power figure for women.  She does it all!!
He's married?!  Pig.
Oooh.  Cute hair clips.  Should I cut my hair?
That poor secretary - what's wrong with friands?
I like those accessories.
Not sure about that dude's hairstyle.
Or that dude's.
Woah.  The door is almost of the hinges.  Packer tantrum!!
Nice sunnies.  And she catches the bus!!  I like her.
Ahh Malcolm Fraser.  Packer saw that coming.  I wonder if they were bias in their political coverage ..
Gosh I want her wardrobe!!

And guess what .. the airing of the two-part series became the highest-rating program on the ABC1 (1.2 million and 1.34 million tuned in on Sunday and Monday nights respectively) that it will be aired again.  Alas, the ABC is not paying me for this plug, or even acknowledging me, but I thoroughly enjoyed the biopic.

So .. tune in this Easter Sunday on ABC2.
[warning: occasional offensive language and mild sex scenes]

I wouldn't mind Asher Keddie winning gold at the Logies for this .. it would be well deserved.

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