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Blanche d'Alpuget - PETER THOMPSON: 'On Talking Heads - like a colourful novel, an author whose life reads replete with exotic locations, rich and powerful people, and lots of bedroom scenes. Bob Hawke's lover for four decades, An award-winning author and Blanche d'Alpuget has also undertaken

and life-long spiritual journey.' a deep, diverse

kissed Beatle Paul McCartney, She built a career as a novelist, and survived a plane crash - for a program like this. all fertile ground Blanche, welcome to Talking Heads. Thanks for coming on. Thank you, Peter. Your mother, It's a pleasure. God help her, said that... (LAUGHS) one set of rules for the d'Alpugets in your family there was

and one for everyone else. of my father when she said that. Yes. I think she was mostly thinking and to box and, I presume, to sail. He taught you to fish, Yes, and how to kill an octopus. how to kill a octopus? Why would you need to know and an octopus came up Because one day we were fishing and started climbing up my arm. how do you kill an octopus? So, just by the by,

but you bite it between the eyes. Well, it's pretty terrible, So you had practice at doing that. to have to kill an octopus again. I did once. I never want father figure obviously. So he was a strong and he could be a very... He was a very strong father-figure domineering character. He could be very terrifying. I'm grateful for that upbringing And... I was never frightened of men. because it meant that

about writing One of the things you say is how tough it is physically. Yes. It takes a lot of stamina. of the intense concentration. I think, probably because joy out of this whole process too. But you talk about getting lots of It's absolutely fabulous joy. Oh, enormous. It's almost...bliss. if 'bliss' is right, But...I'm not sure

of yourself when you're doing this. because you're completely unaware in spirituality You've had a lifelong interest

began for you... which, as you recount, in this area Your first interesting experience when you were seven. was an out-of-body experience I was on holiday with my parents That's right. on a bench in the sun, and I was just lying on my back thinking of nothing in particular,

of my body into another dimension. and suddenly I felt myself rise out since? And you've not had that experience similar experiences, Oh, yes, I've had very many hundreds and hundreds of times. I mean, then? So, how would you describe them, that it's...um... I think all I can say is ..blissful. And...

um...there's a great sense of... Well, the sublime.

(LAUGHS)

That's fantastic. named after me 'This boat was actually when I was four years old in 1948.' OK. Wait, wait, wait. One more gasket.

growing up. 'She was really my second home I was born in Sydney in 1944. I must say, I really loved. I was an only child which, temperament that I've got - My own mother gave me the sort of very cheerful and optimistic.'

condition still. It's wonderful. She's just in...very, very nice Oh, he would. Dad would be thrilled. He'd be thrilled. was a terrific bluewater yachtsman. 'My father was a journalist, and he of the Sydney/Hobart Yacht Race. He was among the founders

My father wanted me to be a boy. My mother wanted me to be a boy too. I was going to be a boy, In fact, my parents assumed I was going to be called Paul. as if I were a boy. So my father treated me really and to fish and to sail and to box. He taught me to swim, of course,

important for girls to be educated. He thought it was tremendously "When you grow up He used to say to me, if you want to. you can marry a truck driver an education." But you've got to have actually when I was 12 years old. My first encounter with sex was He was a district court judge. We had a neighbour. And he... As I recognise now, he groomed me for a long while. he used to... from the bus stop He used to walk me home and he used to lend me books "Mon petite souris Blanche." and he used to call me, I think I was a precocious child wanted to join the world of adults. and I was a child who certainly for quite some months. And that went on a wonderful love affair. But for me it was

I was very romantic in those days. He was 54, I might say. (LAUGHS) all of that for just a moment. Blanche, let's hold off talking about Your childhood... or expecting a boy, Paul. Your mum and dad were hoping... And it turns out you were a girl. They were. did it make much difference Boy/girl - in terms of the childhood you had?

was when I reached puberty What made a difference choosing to be a girl. I remember very consciously Yes, very much. Yeah. So that was a turning point, was it? Now, that judge, who are 12... the man is 54 against you to leak out. um...doesn't want word of this I could have been hanged for this." In fact, as you write, he says, "God,

Mm. isn't it, And that's...completely unreasonable, they're complicit? that children somehow feel like entrusts you with a secret No. I think when somebody they they give you...their power. I was being...suborned. So, I didn't feel as if

bad and dangerous to know. And I did end up saying he was mad, I made that point very strongly. something slightly unusual, This is the trouble when you say of their already existing prejudices people read it through their prism actually what's on the page. and don't look at writings, one of the reasons Well, as you've said, in your recent you thought he'd break his neck. you didn't tell your dad was He would have.

There's no doubt. He would have. Yes.

to deal with. That's a lot for a 12-year-old Well... (LAUGHS) I don't... than what I've said. I can't say anything more than... What about your dad? He had a pretty interesting life. He was editor of daily newspapers, he was involved in The Daily Telegraph and the Sydney Sun.

What did he want for you? He wanted me to be a scientist, which is what he wanted to be. Back in the late '50s, early '60s,

the belief was that the world was going to run out of food and starve

so I was going to be a marine biologist and make a discovery which would save the world from starvation. So his ambitions for me were not...large.

'VOICE-OVER: These are university students of today. At Sydney University alone, the enrolment this year is well over 12,000.' 'When I was 17 I had just started at university. I was in the honours stream of science.' TEACHER: I want to discuss first what happens in animals... 'And I met a defector from Poland. He was a writer, and I started to have an affair with him.

And my father found out and he was absolutely beside himself with fury. I had a terrific fight with my father and ran away from home, and my mother left the next day. It was the hand grenade which ended the thing. When I ran away from home I remember one day standing in Kings Cross

and I had no money, I was very hungry, and the thought just struck me - "I am totally responsible for this." It was the beginning of my adulthood. My protective angel said to me, "Listen, kid... (CHUCKLES) grow up." And then I linked up again with my lover and we ran away to Melbourne.

Anyway, finally we were caught. He was arrested and I was bought home. ENERGETIC MUSIC PLAYS So the dreams of becoming a marine biologist crashed to earth and that was the end of university. After that I had to get a job. I got a cadetship on the Daily Mirror.

I used to wake up every morning and think, "Ooh, goodie, what will we be doing today?" You would never know from one day to the next. It was tremendously varied and exciting.' WOMEN SQUEAL 'One group of celebrities whom I did interview were The Beatles and there's a photograph of me being kissed by Paul McCartney

at his 21st birthday party, which I attended. I was married when I was 21. My husband and I went to live in Jakarta where he was doing postgraduate work. Then joined Foreign Affairs with the Australian Embassy. And from there to Malaysia where my son was born.

I didn't cook a single dish while I lived Indonesia and Malaysia which was for years and years, really. It was a very pleasant life. I realised when I got to Australia, I had an eight-month-old baby and I had never changed a nappy. (LAUGHS) That, I think, was when reality set in.

You got to Asia with your husband and... It's the time of the turmoil in Indonesian at the end of the Sukarno period. Then you go to Malaysia. There's the Vietnam War going on, there's migrants... What did it do for you? Well, it... Other than give you material for books. It gave me material for books, that's right. And it gave me the... It made me the sort of writer that I was in fiction

and that was a witness to history, because one was really seeing it all around. When you were there in those days, did you think, "I'm going to write about this. I'm going to write novels about this or write books about this"? No, not at all. I was just living from day to day. It was only when I got home and started to reflect on it and realised I was bursting with stories that made me want to write. Then you find yourself back in Canberra suburbia, which must have seemed like Siberia. It did seem very like Siberia, in temperature as well, after you've been living in the tropics for years, yes. It was...very gruesome. So, suddenly, shopping and cooking and cleaning and all these dreadful daily events were pretty horrible. I think writing saved me from it

because then I discovered another world. 'Although the first book I wrote was a novel,

I couldn't get it published. So I did a biography of Sir Richard Kirby. I was only 30.' He really took a punt. biography of Sir Richard Kirby. 'GERALDINE DOOGUE: Mediator is her She is no aloof intellectual.

a journalist-cum-writer She's, rather, modern Australia and Asia tick. fascinated by what makes set in Indonesia, So came Monkeys In The Dark about Vietnamese refugees.' and the highly acclaimed Turtle Beach WOMAN: Hi. Hello. was made into a film 'My second novel Turtle Beach called Turtle Beach.' Hello. But that's kind of normal, 'I didn't like it much. the movies of their books.' for authors not to like This man was a colonel. And so we come to Blanche d'Alpuget. of Australia's bestselling authors, Blanche d'Alpuget is one Winter In Jerusalem and her last novel another bestseller. looks like becoming The Sydney Morning Herald said it was and efficient novel." "a thoroughly enjoyable its author was "talented and feisty". The New York Times said

thought it was "middlebrow - Although the National Times nor emotion".' straining neither intellect 'I write for exactly two people. One of them's myself and the other is my step-mother, to whom I owe a terrific amount because she was the person who encouraged me to write in the first place. And I've written, really, all my books for her. There certainly wasn't automatic success

because, like lots of other authors, you had plenty of rejection slips. Yes. For my first novel, I had 20 rejection slips, actually. The self-doubt... When you put something in the hands of someone else you're hoping that you're going to get that positive news that it's about to be published. And that must be unbearable for most. It's horrible. Until you break through. It's as if you take out your heart and put it in somebody else's hand and they throw it on the floor and stamp on it.

Yeah. Because the impression is, "Well, that's rubbish, that's no good, that's not worth reading." And you're rubbish too. (LAUGHS) Yeah. That's how the author, I think, always feels it. Yes.

What gave you then the sense that there is something in this, there's enough in this to actually make it worth persevering? I don't know. I thought it was a good story. And obviously there is some psychological pressure to write. And I think that pressure is because it was...

in my case, the way of...self-discovery, who I really was. It's true that a lot of the story-lines have biographical elements in it, you know... big dramatic events, sexy young protagonist... and so on. (LAUGHS) Yes. Yes. There are biographical elements. But then there's also a lot of working out of who... people you knew, who they really were. Trying to understand other people. That's a very strong impetus too. To try and understand not only yourself, but your world better. Well, now to your relationship with Bob Hawke, who at various times you've wanted to write about, marry and murder. Yes. All in that order. (BOTH LAUGH) Not really.

# I want to be with you every night and every day # 'I first met Bob in Jakarta in 1970. I was 26 years old. I was a young embassy wife.' No, I think not. In fact, already... 'And he was 40 and had just become president of the ACTU.' # Crazy in love, all right #

'We met again in 1976 when I asked him for an interview. We became lovers within 24 hours. (LAUGHS) In late 1978 Bob proposed to me. But I was absolutely devastated when he told me that he wasn't going to get divorced after all. I was really beside myself with distress over it. Initially I thought I would commit suicide. And then I hit the next layer, which was anger and fury with him, so then I wanted to kill him rather than myself. And then finally I worked through that. Before we had broken up,

I was already wanting to write a biography of him and I thought the Australian public was entitled to know his genuine strengths and some of his genuine weakness. And, also, how serious his drinking problem was.' You like him a lot, don't you? Oh, yes. I like him tremendously. I admire him a great deal. "In his own way, Bob remained faithful to Hazel." What did you mean by that? He admires his wife a great deal and he supports her and he would never say anything nasty about her. It's incomprehensible that... He's just got a great deal of fidelity in that... emotional sense.

'I was divorced in 1986. Bob and I resumed our relationship in late 1988. My father was sitting next to him at the lunch table and he lent over and he felt Bob's thigh, and it's very... He's very muscular and hard. And my father said, "That's good, he's strong."

Did I cry? I had a couple of tears in my eyes but... You're an argumentative lot. Bob and I, because of our ages, we know that we've got 10 or maybe 15 very good active years together. MAN: Kiss the bride, yeah. (LAUGHS) BOB: Do you know whether it's going in or out? I can see that it's going out. Can you? Yeah. I love her... the warmth of her personality, she's a... very generous-hearted person. I love her intelligence. I love her beauty.

I'll wipe my hands on you. (SQUAWKS) (LAUGHS) This relationship's brought more love, obviously, and turmoil in your life than anything else, I guess. It certainly has, yes, but it's been wonderful. It's been worth it.

Let's go back to some of the elements of this. In 1978 when he said, "Look, let's get married," the narrative is that that he was told, "Well, you can't be prime minister and get divorced." What he...realised was that it would be disastrous for his chances. So, he didn't... Nobody said to him, "You can't be Prime Minister and get divorced." He was savvy enough to know that himself. Did you... And... And, look, I must say, I think it was that they got their marriage together. Hm. Now... You were so angry, so infuriated, that you made inquiries at the pistol club. I certainly did, yes. (LAUGHS) You'd better explain. Well, I went through the period of thinking, "Oh, I'll kill myself," to the period... to the next stage which, "No, much better if I kill him." (LAUGHS) And I thought, "Well, I could stab him." and then I thought, "No, Well... That's not a good look. I'll shoot him." So I rang up a pistol club and found out what you had to do to get a pistol licence and... "Who's that on the phone?" (LAUGHS) No. I was just making an ordinary inquiry. A member of the public, I was. (LAUGHS) But you had second thoughts... ..about that. Yes. Evidently. As you reveal, in 1988, you did recommence a relationship. Wow. That must have been quite dangerous. He's Prime Minister. Yes, it had its moments. (LAUGHS) Well, you talk about... (LAUGHS) there being wigs and stetson hats. I'm not sure who was wearing which.

(LAUGHS) There are officials, you know. There's security. There's all of that stuff. Well, that's right. He didn't go anywhere without bodyguards.

So shaking them off or...kindly asking their assistance was quite a...quite a task.

Your essay On Longing, it's... Did you think hard and long about whether you'd write your story? I did. And one of the things that made me do it... made me want to do it was an entry in Wikipedia about me and my relationship with Bob, which was completely inaccurate. And I thought, "Well, if this is going out into cyberspace

I must now set down chapter and verse myself. So it's partly an effort to set the record straight, in your own words, is it? I have a very strong belief that you can't live your life in fear. And... the fear of being vulnerable is one of our greatest fears and it's something that I think everybody has to deal with.

Because, at the end of your life, you're vulnerable. Bob's substantially older than you, so there are vulnerabilities there too. You know, you... you could become carer. I could. I've... And obviously I've thought of that. But the whole thing about love is being vulnerable, one to another. That's what love is.

For better or worse. Yes. Absolutely.

Because we don't know what's going to happen. We don't... No matter who we are. None of us does. In that regard, we are really in the hands of God. 'My spiritual life is, I think, the foundation of my life. It is, I think, the most important thing for me. I'm unhappy if I don't consciously feel

the presence of the Holy Spirit during the week.' Give us, this day, our daily bread. 'I've been in touch with many religions. I'm friendly to all - Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam. And, of course, the one I know best is Christianity.' ..the power and glory, forever and ever. 'From the late 1980s through to the late '90s,

I was very involved with a mystical Christian church called the Independent Church Of Australia. I undertook training to be able to conduct a Eucharist, hoping or thinking of going on to becoming a priest. But my rebelliousness came to the fore again and I thought, "I really can't commit to these vows." Oh! My son Louis is an artist, a sculptor mainly. Oh, there we go. Oh, doesn't that look great?! (LAUGHS) 'I think later... I have to plunge my hand in alginate for it which is rather uncomfortable, but it's quite fun. Yeah. How... Can you get... How's that feel? Yes! And a hand is born. (SIGHS) OK.

Good. Getting better. (BOTH LAUGH) Hope you got your... Shut up! Shut up! Why? No dinner for you. 'I'm glad I didn't turn out to be a boy called Paul.

I love being a woman. (LAUGHS) I love all those girlie things. I love clothes and perfume and earrings... (LAUGHS) and cosmetics. And blokes.

You're back to your writing desk, you're revising the biography you wrote on Bob.

How are you going to write yourself into it, or are you? I don't know. The publisher suggested I should say, "Dear reader, I married him." (BOTH LAUGH) I haven't dealt with that problem yet, but obviously it's going to be quite difficult.

of the story. Hm. Because...you're a big part I guess. There's a risk, isn't there?

not speak to me, There's a risk he may (LAUGHS) Again. I suppose. Yes. life? What would you like it to be? What about the next chapter in your I'd like it to be more laidback together. and just having more fun times all our lives, Both Bob and I have worked very hard

look forward to travel and... and I think I would like to the...relaxation. Living more in the moment? Living more in the moment, yes. having you on Talking Heads. Blanche, it's been great Thanks, Peter. Closed Captions by CSI ..