The Loved One
In the days and months following Michael's death it seemed the words most often posed to me, and the ones I heard myself repeating over and over, were 'Why? How could this happen?' and 'Did you know something was wrong?' No doubt anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide, especially when there is no apparent glaring reason will ask these questions. We have also had the added pressure of media speculations. On the surface Michael would seem to have had it all. You would think that it would be enough to be talented and wildly successful in your chosen career, especially when this success transferred into fame and all the enjoyable excesses that go with it. And to have the sort of exotic good looks that attracted women effortlessly. Michael was one of those special individuals who commanded the attention of both men and women. He had good friends, and the most loving and supportive of families.
Perhaps to get some measure of Michael's inner feelings, you need to appreciate the dynamics within the family and climate in which he was raised. Crucially, I can tell you that Michael was a most loved child, happy, well-adjusted, and affectionate.
As a member of the immediate family, it seemed to me that it was almost impossible to imagine Michael failing no matter what he chose to do with his life. He had tremendous encouragement from our parents, and I always recognized that Michael was the favoured child. This had less to do with any deficiencies on our parents' part - I knew myself to be deeply loved too. It was more to do with Michael's endearing nature. I now know that birth order and gender play a major part in how a parent relates to a child, thus influencing personality, and therefore outlook on life. In many families there has always been a special place for the first-born son – it's as simple as that. Or as complicated if you happened to be a younger son, like Rhett.
Another issue is that of an ‘overlapping' family. Mother and I had been a family with an absent father, when we were joined by Kell, who became my father. We have never gone in for designations like step-parent or sibling. After our parents' divorce, Kell married Sue and later Mother married Ross. Although Rhett was fifteen at the time, Michael seventeen, and I was involved with my own young family by then, this made everyone's role more salient. That is, each of us adopted a more pronounced role, separate and unto ourselves. This differs from a conventional family where everybody knows what role they are to play within the family. We were no longer accountable, each having learned to become responsible for their own lifestyle, with no one to answer to, or feel responsible for – except by loving choice.
It helps to look carefully at Michael's background. Not through the stories written in the tabloids by those who interviewed him throughout his career, because during those times, he recognized that he was selling albums with his ‘wild boy' persona, a character he referred to as "the other Michael Hutchence" - the performer, the character people saw on stage. I was about nine when I learned how valuable good press and public relations could be. Mother's friend, who represented the advertising agency handling the public relations for the Rin Tin Tin television series, had me write a fan letter to Australia's very own Rin Tin Tin (a dog who appeared in the Australian commercials), rather than the more distinguished American canine who performed heroic rescue acts week after week in a kids' TV adventure series. The Australian dog, a German shepherd named Lofty, actually belonged to my mother's friend. The letter was written by a copywriter. I just had to copy it in my own childish handwriting, then it was reprinted in the newspapers to launch an advertising campaign. I remember that the original copy arrived late, sent to the airline terminal right before I was to catch a flight back to Melbourne . In my haste there, I made all kinds of mistakes, but they liked it because it made it more authentic. When my grandmother cut it out of the newspaper I had no interest in it at all, because it wasn't really mine. This taught me a valuable lesson; don't believe everything you read in the newspapers.
You cannot even always rely on the ‘serious' news sources, as Michael, and eventually the rest of the family found out. When people outside the immediate family refers to our ‘family thing' as if there were a deep rooted secret upon which others might speculate I must admit I do not know what they are talking about. More than half the population comes from what is referred to as a broken home. Besides, Michael was only six months away from leaving home to begin his journey with INXS when our parents were divorced. I would say that he had a better, more stable, start in life than most -and that includes Rhett and myself. However, Michael's death has had an astounding impact on us all, not just because we loved him so, but as you will see, he had become the symbolic patriarch.
I began to write about Michael immediately after his funeral. I have always resorted to pen and paper when I have felt passionate about something – particularly at times when there didn't seem to be a way to articulate things and at times when I have felt that there has been some great injustice. I'm not one for verbal combat – never have been. Michael was the same – I guess he was able to express his passions in his songs. Neither of us could face friction in any of our relationships and tended to retreat into silences rather than have confrontational, angry scenes. With Rhett it's a different matter. I don't know why, but sometimes he almost seems to thrive on argument. I see it as a strength.
With Michael's passing I was faced with the greatest unresolved conflict of my life, a divided family and a rage against the press who were getting everything so wrong. I was angered by Michael's needless death and outraged by the behaviour of many of those whom he had trusted and in some cases paid handsomely to oversee his affairs and generally take care of him. It was torment to see some of those people – many who were compensated; talking freely about family matters about which they knew next to nothing. People who barely knew him claimed close friendship. I suppose some of this was inevitable but it made me burn with a desire to set the record straight. Michael had homes in Australia , London and France and he was a generous host whenever his schedule permitted. But he was basically on tour or in the studio for perhaps ten months of the year, living out of suitcases in hotel rooms. Basically he hadn't had time to develop some of the deep friendships of the type that so many others now claimed. Sometime during the ‘Kick' tour he began to travel separately from the band. He enjoyed sightseeing and taking side trips and spent much of his down time with friends outside of Australia . He had taken up residence in Hong Kong in the mid-eighties. Very often following a show, he would be flown to the next city ahead of the band in order to do press. On what would be a free day for INXS Michael was sitting in a hotel suite, while an endless stream of journalists came through the door asking very much the same questions over and over. He never complained about this arrangement, he understood that this was his job as frontman and he was very good at it. It is astonishing to me that people automatically assume that band members socialize and live in each others' pockets. The fact is, facing so many months on the road with the same people; Michael made it a point to socialize outside of the band.
I wearied of reading newspaper reports riddled with mistakes or lies about Michael's unhappy childhood and his estrangement from his family. I particularly hated to read this sort of nonsense because it basically defamed the character of the loving brother I knew and who could not now correct things. There were stories about the family feuding over his estate and others about his plans to marry Paula – all, again, untrue. In his life Michael had abominated the intrusions of the media and had sought to protect what little privacy he had. He would have been appalled by the terrible untruths about him now being unleashed. I began to feel it was almost a duty to speak for him.
One leading Australian newspaper wanted Mother and me to co-operate in a special tribute edition to Michael about three months after he died. We declined. When the ‘tribute' was published, written by someone claiming to be a close source, we were horrified to read that Michael supposedly hadn't been close to either of us and that you could count the times he had seen me on the fingers of one hand. His relationship with Mother was similarly dismissed and distorted. Some would argue that Mother and I should display a lofty indifference to all these lies and basically treat them with contempt and disdain. Who are these cowardly, nameless troublemakers, anyway? What do they matter? But in our raw and grieving state only months after Michael's death I felt that something had to be done.
At first even the minor inaccuracies rankled – but I was not about to explain that Michael had his life and I had mine, that I had no need to follow him around from gig to gig like a groupie as was suggested when we cherished, extended periods of precious and private time as a family in France and the Gold Coast; when he routinely spent more months out of the year in the United States than in Australia. When there was a special reason and if I could easily get to a gig, sure I went, particularly in the early stages of his career. Why not? But as the nature and complexities of the lies intensified it became imperative to write the truth, most especially for the sake of Tiger Lily and his niece Zoe Angel in the future. I owe it to them to write an honest record of what happened and to sketch a truthful portrait of their loving father and uncle. I began to reconstruct every conversation I'd had with Michael over the past two or three years, dig out every note or fax from him and to confront the fact that, yes, he had been pretty unhappy although he seldom showed or admitted it. I made calls to people who I hoped could supply fragments of answers to the mystery of his death – Bob Geldof, his old friend Andrew Farriss and his long-time love and forever friend Michele Bennett. And I set about writing of the Michael Hutchence I knew as a child, a teenager, a glorious young adult and finally the troubled man he became.
It has been very hard over the last couple of years to keep my dignity intact, while trying to ignore some of the stories which have been written about my family, by various so-called ‘friends', who decline to give their name, and sadly these stories are repeated over and over in the tabloids. I wonder how these people can sleep at night.
I have kept a diary for as long as I can remember so it wasn't so odd, after I discovered that Tina, too, had been keeping notes, that we decided to work together on a book about Michael. It was my idea and Tina was reluctant at first but soon we found that there was some small therapeutic benefit in the work. I needed all the therapy I could get. I even found I was becoming ill so Ross took me to stay with Tina in LA for two months. So patient and understanding when I collapsed into tears yet again, Ross loved Michael too. So that's how this book began. In California we found we had a little peace and privacy. The media did not hound us so relentlessly- at least not at first.
I had thought that nothing could hurt me after the shock of Michael's death. But we were not being allowed to grieve and start the healing process in the natural way, so things just kept getting worse and worse. Like my daughter I felt helplessly wounded by all the lies about Michael, particularly when they were perpetuated by people who claimed to be his friends or who had benefited from his kindness and loyalty when he was alive. Tina and I began a back and forth process of faxing and exchanging drafts, correcting and integrating our memories. Sometimes as we worked together and spoke on the phone we were even able to laugh.
Maybe that gave us enough strength to begin litigation against the executors of Michael's estate in April 1998. Our reasons will become clear. We were relieved to be able to resolve that litigation in May, 2000.
In the early fifties, our mother Patricia Kennedy, had owned her own modeling school in Melbourne . It was a wonderful playground for a curious little girl. Often when a child was needed for a show, or a shoot, I would fill in. Or if my mother could not find a baby-sitter, I would accompany her and just observe all the activity in the dressing room. I was always fascinated by her chameleon qualities when she modeled. In those days, it was rare to find makeup artists and hair stylists at a shoot or backstage; the model was on her own. A professional model would carry an enormous bag filled with her own props - gloves, scarves, shoes, jewelry, hairpieces, and of course makeup. Mother was very clever about changing her appearance for every photographic set up. If it was a catwalk show, she would carefully lay out her accessories ahead of time. With the help of a dresser, she would perform the most amazing transformations at lightening speed and appear beautifully poised in a fresh outfit and ready to sweep down the runway. Superwoman could not have made a faster change. Later on, when Mother was learning the art of makeup, her close work with cameramen, and years of experience in front of the camera, for magazines and television commercials, was invaluable. I have only the utmost respect for the beautiful, dedicated, models of that era: they truly were the ‘Supermodels'.
Mother had been very much in demand both for print and the catwalk and was based in Sydney , where she eventually became a makeup artist. Days are long for a makeup artist - on set before the sun comes up and an average day is twelve hours, which leaves little time for taking care of a child. I remained in Melbourne with my grandparents and great grandfather but from a very early age flew alone to Sydney to be with her on vacations and sometimes weekends, and I enjoyed it.
Michael always kept a very special framed photograph beside his bed at his house in the South of France. Visitors to the 16th century villa would find most of the displayed photographs on the first level, depicting happy group shots of the immediate family - Mother, Kell, Rhett, Michael and myself in Hong Kong . But the photograph with the place of honour on his night stand was not that of a current girlfriend, it was a very glamorous picture of Mother, taken in the 1953 'Gown of the Year' awards, wearing a spectacular creation. As far as we know this photograph is still at the villa along with the other personal possessions which the executors of Michael's estate refuse to return.
I married Tina's father when I was seventeen. My mother and grandmother had also married young. The marriage didn't last but it gave me the beautiful daughter who is also my wonderful and true friend, always there for me in a crisis -as I hope I am for her.
After divorcing Tina's father I had a child to rear alone. I was teaching deportment and modeling in Melbourne , which eventually led to opening my own school. I modeled as well as taught but became more interested in the other side of the camera. Television work was the next step, and it was when I was booked for commercials that I found out exactly what I wanted to do.
I flew to Sydney for my first television commercial and was sent to makeup. This was a first for me, as we always had to apply our own makeup when doing a fashion show or photographic shoot, except for the big shows or special sessions. My first experience in the makeup chair was frightening. There were few experienced in television make-up and I thought I looked as though I had hepatitis, left with a white neck and hands to display the products. But I was booked regularly and spent a lot of time flying back and forth between Sydney and Melbourne for commercials - and also a lot of time in the ladies' room trying to tone down my garish makeup.
I moved to Sydney when I was offered the position of manageress of a new modeling school. I took it on the condition I could still do commercials when they were offered. I needed the money as I was saving to bring Tina to Sydney . It was becoming increasingly important that she should be with me, much as she loved her grandmother.
Then I met a makeup artist who knew exactly what she was doing, so I hired her to teach television makeup at my school and sat in on every class. Her name was Joan Von Adlerstein. We became very good friends and Joan would always ask me to help her when she was busy. I was an avid student, as I knew this was going to be my own career. Once when Joan went on a skiing trip she asked me to take over her bookings at the studio and her night classes at the school. She had a bad accident on the slopes and ended up in hospital for months, so I continued standing in for her. I had done okay up until now, but I had not had anything too difficult to do, but she had given me confidence. I studied from a book and practiced on anyone who would allow me to. Joan's fracture was a bad one and by the time she was able to return to the studio there was still ample work for both of us. I continued on a part time basis.
Years earlier my younger brother John had been shot dead by his best friend in a stupid and terrible accident. He was with a group of friends celebrating a birthday. One of the boys had returned with a borrowed rifle, from on a hunting trip, and hadn't checked to see if there were any bullets left in the barrel. My brother's friend picked up the gun and jokingly pressed the trigger. The one bullet left pierced my brother's heart and he died instantly. The young man involved was charged with manslaughter.
I mention this here because my mother never recovered from the tragedy and spent years grieving, as if unaware that she had three other children. Then she focused all her attention on Tina, becoming obsessive and even telling people that Tina was her child. It seemed to help her get over the grieving at last and I knew it gave her pleasure, but her possessiveness worried me rather. As time went on she began hiding my letters to Tina, making excuses why Tina could not fly to Sydney for weekends. So even recent family history wasn't all idyllically sunny. Maybe I felt I had something to repair with my children.
Kelland Frank Hutchence was the first in his family to be born in Australia . His parents came from the United Kingdom . Kell's mother Mabel, affectionately called Mabs, was widowed in her fifties when his father Frank, a sea captain, died. His sister Croy was also widowed and lived in Port Morsby, Papua New Guinea . When Kell met Mother he was a very popular bachelor about Sydney . Considered a 'good catch' he was much in demand at dinner parties and other social gatherings. He was well educated and traveled internationally on business for the firm of importers he worked for. Always a well of amusing stories, Kell was very engaging to be around. His stories were often tinged with humour and he was charming. He was also physically attractive, sported a mustache and fancied himself a David Niven look-a-like.
He was thirty-seven, when he met Mother but still lived at home with his own mother who spoiled him devotedly. Today most women would consider such an arrangement rather off-putting, but in those days, long before the sexual revolution had turned, few ‘nice' women were willing to go home to a man's place after a date. Anyway Kell may well have had fun with willing partners on his travels but in Sydney he observed polite convention. He was known to date beautiful women too, and models in particular. At a time when Australian men were being accused of rampant chauvinism, he was the epitome of the cultured gentleman. Most Aussie males would not dream of ordering flowers for a woman, but Kell could be seen walking down the street with red roses and a bottle of fine wine. He created an image of himself as the true romantic, wining, dining, and dancing at the most exclusive restaurants and clubs.
My first meeting with Kelland Hutchence was in December 1958. I was with my friend Leah McCartney who had just returned from overseas as the reigning Miss Australia . She was meeting her boyfriend and insisted I join them for a Christmas drink. When we were introduced Kell said to me "one of these days I'm going to marry you!" I didn't take this seriously but after that first meeting he was most persistent, with a daily bombardment of proposals, phone calls and roses. Even my students, who saw some of this, added to my sense of pressure with their questions. Amid fears, soul searching and against my instincts, I accepted his proposal. On the 'big day', less than two months after our first meeting, I got cold feet. My sister Maureen was my bridesmaid and I told her of my doubts and that I couldn't go through with it. Naturally, she wasn't happy. She was all dressed up and there was church full of guests waiting.
So Kell and I were married in January 1959. I had accepted his proposal on condition that he adopt Tina, and he promised he would. Three months later I became pregnant with Michael. We were happy then and excited about the new addition to the family. Kell and Tina had a nice relationship and Tina was happy to hear she would be getting a baby brother or sister. Tina stayed on with my mother for the first few months of our marriage as Kell and I were living with his mother and I was still trying to 'get Tina back' from my mother as gently as possible – altogether a rather complicated situation.
Kell gave Tina a locket with ‘Christina Hutchence' engraved on it, but as time went on he seemed to avoid any conversation about her adoption. This was a constant worry to me and it caused strain in our relationship. I did not take marriage vows lightly, nor any other kind of promise.
Michael was born at the Mater Miseraecordie Hospital in Sydney - an easy birth, as Tina's had been. He was such a placid baby, always smiling, loved his food, loved his bath, loved being on this earth and a joy to be around. Kell was a very proud father and adored his son but it soon became apparent that he did not have the time it takes for family life. He continued to travel frequently on business, sometimes being away for months on end. Tina was attending school and would rush home to her baby brother: she did a lot of baby-sitting in those days, but she seemed to love it.
An incident that burns in my brain, which neither Mother nor Kell remembers, took place the evening that I finally arrived in Sydney to live with them. When they picked me up at the airport I was startled to see my mother in a maternity outfit; she had always been so svelte. I had not seen her in eight months and now she was four months pregnant. This was curious; only other kids' mums looked like this. When we stopped for dinner on the way to their apartment Kell drank several cocktails and a bottle of wine. Mother was taking care of herself and was not drinking. They had a disagreement over Kell's drinking. Mother took off her heavy gold bracelet, one of many that Kell was to give her over the years, and threw it on the floor. From my point of view, as an eleven year old starting a new life in a new city , this did not look promising. Fortunately they patched things up that night, but we always had a well stocked bar in our home, and my parents continued to disagree about Kell's considerable liquor consumption in those early days.
Looking back on it now I understand how difficult it must have been for them both. Mother was a little edgy: it can't have been easy being pregnant after eleven years and to be fair all this was new for Kell in his late thirties, until recently a bachelor who had shared a well-run house with his mother. In just three and a half years, my parents ended up with a teenager (me), a two year old (Michael), and a new born (Rhett). Kell's domestic life had been so well ordered before, so maybe its not so strange that he wanted to escape on his travels rather a lot.
Soon after my arrival in Sydney , Kell presented me with that heart shaped locket. It had a hand-painted rose on the front and was backed in gold. He said it was a special day and asked me to turn the locket over. It was actually engraved with “Christina Elaine Hutchence”. I had a new name. Overnight, I was Tina Hutchence. He explained that he had gone to a lawyer and adopted me. Wow! Now he wanted to know what I was going to call him. I had avoided calling him anything and it had been uncomfortable. He asked me if I could call him ‘Dad' or ‘Daddio' or ‘Pops' or something like that. I chose Dad. This was going to be a whole new beginning. I would also soon have a little sibling and we would be a regular family. This meant so much to me as I had always felt that my own father did not want me. We became good friends after this and I trusted him with my secrets. Before now, I had found it difficult to explain my family situation to the nuns at my convent school or my friends there. I did not know any other children who lived with their grandparents and great grandparents. Actually now I think I was fortunate to spend so much time with them, but in the fifties, I was a novelty to other children.
Kell fussed over Mother so much while she was pregnant with Michael, so concerned about getting her through doorways or in and out of the car, you would have thought she was expected to give birth to triplets. I would be less than honest if I said I was not jealous of Michael before and immediately after his birth. It seemed as though he was the only show in town even then. And it was obvious that both Kell and my mother looked forward to this birth with heightened emotions. It was a new beginning for them both after all. This was also Kell's first child, and although my mother's second, she had been a teenager when I was born. This time she was mature, relaxed, and confident. We all worked on the nursery, painting it a bright lemon; a sensible colour, as we could not predict the sex of the child. This is before anyone knew about the effect of colour on moods and ultimately one's behaviour now they say that bright yellow can make a child excited to the point of practically bouncing off the walls.
Mother was booked to do some maternity fashion shows and her friends held a mammoth baby shower. Bob Rogers, a popular disc jockey at the time who was a family friend gave Mother an Andre Kastalanetz album titled 'Music For Pregnant Women' which she played during her afternoon rests. The music had a big orchestra sound, a choir, horns and violins. It was very beautiful and soothing.
On January 22nd, 1960 , while we were living in Lane Cove, New South Wales , Michael Kelland John Hutchence was born. He was named John for my uncle, John Kennedy, Mother's younger brother. It has been reported in various newspapers and even in biographies that Michael's second middle name was Frank. I have a copy of his birth certificate and the only Frank there is his father, Kelland Frank. My parents were extremely proud of the ‘little prince', as I secretly called him, and why not? Michael was an adorable baby, although his arrival certainly turned the household upside down.
Having this brother was like having my own little living baby doll. Although at twelve I'd not had any experience with babies, I began baby-sitting duties about one week after he came home from the hospital. I found that I was pretty good at it. We started off with two hours and progressed to a full day. Most of the time, I did not mind baby-sitting as we moved houses so often and it was somehow something stable. We moved three times in the first year alone. Kell switched companies and they would relocate him to different cities or states. I was shy and introverted which made it hard for me to make friends, and although he was too tiny to understand what I was rambling on about, Michael became my confidante. I felt most comfortable being a little mother and I felt responsible. When I baby-sat I could have Michael all to myself, without anybody being nervous that I might drop him. I bathed him, fed him and lulled him off to sleep when he was restless. I rubbed cream on his gums when he was teething. He would chew on my long hair and get it caught in his tiny fingers and the more I shrieked, the louder he would gurgle.
The first time Mother and Kell went out for the evening, they hired a nurse. I was mortified. How embarrassing, how come it was all right for me to take care of him during the day? What was the difference. Besides, I had just begun high school and was perfectly capable of taking care of myself. It felt quite unnecessary to have a nurse in the house, I had been so careful with Michael. Never once did I prick him with a pin when I changed his old-fashioned cotton diaper. I was careful with his delicate skull. I took him on walks. As the months went on and he began to recognize us, I was eager to be the first one into the nursery in the morning to come to his ‘rescue'. He would be so grateful for a friendly face to pick him up. He would stop crying and give me a big smile. As time passed he was able to pull himself up, holding on to the side of the crib, bounce up and down and holler only to grin as soon as he saw a loving and familiar face. From very early on it was obvious that he instinctively knew that if you smile, someone will smile back.
I failed to realize it at the time but due to Kell's career changes, this was only the beginning of a nomadic life for us all. I attended approximately six schools in three different states between the ages of eleven and fifteen. I rarely had the same uniform as everybody else. Once, I even took correspondence schooling for two months while Kell was out of the country on business and Mother and Michael and I spent a brief period in Melbourne.
And then there were five. On August 21, 1962 , Rhett Bradley Hutchence was born in Brisbane , Queensland . By then I was fourteen and we had been in the same suburb, even the same house for all of a year so I was beginning to have a social life. Baby-sitting was no longer all that appealing, especially with two of them. I sometimes asked a friend in to help. I was only allowed one friend at a time, because it was thought I might not keep my mind on my job otherwise. I began calling both boys, 'Babe'. I do this with my own children now and I called Michael 'Babe' until the day he died.
From the start, it was obvious that Rhett was going to be a handful. He was so different from Michael. He was not a happy baby and he let us all know about it. It is possible that his irritable disposition was due to allergies -he was allergic to cow's milk for a start. His paediatrician had my mother mix up a formula using goat's milk. Every morning she would line up the bottles and bring the milk to a slow simmer. It had the foulest smell and even though Michael was only two, he would walk into the kitchen in the mornings holding his nose. Rhett was even more fractious when it was time to change his diaper. When he could speak, his favourite word was “No”. He shook his little head before the words would form and when he could finally speak, he had the deepest voice for a child. “Nnnnno”. And to this day he is still contrary. If you point out the beautiful white snow he will say “Well, it's actually grey.” I felt protective of Rhett because I really did not feel that he was getting the kind of attention that Michael commanded when he was a baby.
Rhett was tiny and helpless as a new born, with huge, dark, tear-filled eyes. He only slept in short snatches. Sometimes, Mother and I took turns getting up at night for him as she became so worn out from her long days with the two of them. With the lack of sleep, Rhett was cranky much of the time, and so too were Mother and I. Kell was not affected as we were, as he continued to take overseas business trips and barely had time between them to notice the disruption in the household.
Rhett seemed to have arrived into this world an unhappy baby. There are studies to suggest that whilst most babies are catagorized as 'easy', others are harder to warm towards. There is the smaller percentage, who are 'difficult'. These babies have intense reaction to change, find it more difficult to adjust, and more importantly they are difficult to soothe. This sounds just like Rhett. When Rhett cried and Mother attempted to cradle him his body would stiffen and he would become rigid. There was just no telling how he would react to a new person, sound, or even a toy. Of course, as this was more than thirty years ago, studies to help understanding were not available, and my parents were not equipped to handle Rhetts' special needs. They reacted as most would, with a certain amount of exasperation.
Michael became in the meantime an adorable little toddler, up to all kinds of cute antics. He was not angelic all of the time, for he had his own fractious moments and he could be stubborn, but in general he was easy to be around. He had even learned the words of a song -actually 'his' words to a song. From the time he rose in the morning until he closed his eyes at night he sang over and over, "Up the magic dragon lived by the sea"; (instead of "Puff the magic dragon..) To stop him from singing this song, I taught him another song, Mary Wells' had a song out titled, 'My Guy'. He skipped around the house singing "no handsome face could ever take the place of my guy", which I'm sure sounded peculiar coming from a little boy, but it was the only song I myself knew all the words to, at the time. When he had been singing this for about two months, we progressed to another.
Even though I was only a teenager, I recognized that Rhett was being deprived of a major influence for his ultimate self-esteem – a certain amount of his father's love and attention. Kell's career was on an upswing about the time Rhett was born and looking to perhaps join the Australian Trade Commission, this left little time for family. Rhett craved his share of attention, and when he could not get it, he automatically did something to seek it, agreeable or not. As time passed you could tell that Rhett had realized that in order to get attention he had to raise some disturbance. Eventually his allergies subsided, so was not as cranky and he slept longer hours. He still had some medical problems but after a hernia operation he became physically very strong. But I guess the greater, deeper, damage, was done.
Rhett wasn't as easy a son to raise as Michael but I loved my boys – all my children – equally. Rhett was quite a handful. He later became distinctly fussy about his solid food. I will admit that I found it tiresome especially if I suspected that he was simply seeking attention. He hated vegetables, peas in particular, and if a single pea had touched anything else on his plate he would refuse to eat anything at all. He wanted to live on chocolate, which may have been an early signal of an addictive personality. As a toddler he would kick and bite if he did not get his way. He could be extremely bad tempered and really needed a man around to control him. With Kell away so much, I hated having to be the disciplinarian and ‘enforcer' all the time. But Rhett also had his endearing side and as he got older he could charm his way out of any trouble. He was smart and funny, but he didn't like to be cuddled as Michael did. After having had two children who were quiet, cheerful and easy to raise, I suddenly found my life revolving around a hyperactive child.
Even then, back in the early 60s, studies had been made of such children and their special needs but when I tried to discuss this with Kell he dismissed all that as mumbo jumbo. However, Kell wasn't there most of the time when Rhett was throwing tantrums.
We eventually moved back to Sydney in 1963. This was our first home in French's Forest, a relatively new neighbourhood then and even thirty years later it has not changed much. Driving down the main highway the trees are so thick, you cannot detect the little pathways leading off the road to the houses thirty yards back. If you have never been there before you would think you were going to come face to face with a kangaroo. In fact they do have ‘koala crossing' signs along the road. Nowhere could have seemed more safe and wholesome a place to raise children, and we were surrounded by other young families. By now I had left school, having found it difficult to keep up with the curriculum after so many moves. I was envious of the boys, as they had not begun their schooling or serious friendships and seemed unaffected by the nomadic life we had led.
In the early hours of November 23rd, 1963, I awoke to a quiet house. It was my 16th birthday. Suddenly, there was a commotion and my mother, in tears, burst into my room to tell me that the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas. On that terrible day, it was very hard to get out from under the cloud of the huge tragedy of that loss. The sadness and bewilderment was of course felt all around the world, most people who were old enough to comprehend the story can remember where they were when this happened. I remember the impact on the average Australian was enormous. I am sure that hearing the newscast over and over must have had some effect on my mother who could not help but think of the loss of her own brother every time she heard the name John Kennedy. We sat at the breakfast table unable to speak of anything else. Michael, who was not quite four, did not know who President Kennedy was and I remember that he was very confused with the adult talk, and the gloom surrounding the day.
Kell spent most of the following year overseas on business. Mother occasionally worked on commercials but spent much of her time caring for the boys who were a handful. The garden, both front and back was full of eucalyptus trees, ‘gum' trees as we refer to them in Australia, and for a child this was like having your own forest. Michael was as curious as a child could be, and Rhett of course wanted to follow his older brother everywhere. Although the yard appeared to be a wonderful playground; with all of the deadly insects, snakes and spiders making their home in the Australian countryside, Mother was pretty nervous.
Kell returned from a business trip in November of 1964, and announced that he had accepted a job as Managing Director of an import/export company, importing Haig Scotch Whisky, and Moet et Chandon champagne for restaurants and hotels in Hong Kong. He was to depart immediately, while Mother, Michael, Rhett and I would join him in January. For once we were all glad to be moving, despite our pleasant neighbourhood. After all, we had been up and down the east coast of Australia; it would be exciting to move to a foreign country.
Shortly before we left Australia, I was visiting friends in Melbourne and my mother arranged for me to meet my biological father. She had contacted him to let him know I was there and he asked to see me before I went to live on another continent. I had deliberately put him out of my mind as it was less painful that way. In any case, he had not attempted to contact me and after all I had a new father now. My mother's friend took me to a coffee shop and left me to wait for a man I only knew from old photographs. Then a man with sad, puppy-dog eyes - my eyes -came over to me. He was much shorter than I had remembered, but then I had been so short the last time I set eyes on him, as a four-year old. With what might be considered a lack of tact and sensitivity, he had brought his children from his second marriage with him and they kept staring at me. Finally, the little boy said “We have a photograph of you on our mantelpiece, but you look a lot different now.” The photograph he was referring to was apparently taken when I was three-years-old. The memory of this excruciating meeting remains very painful, not least because I felt so sorry for this man. Where do we learn to become a parent? We just do the best we can. Obviously, it was not the greatest idea for me to meet this man after so many years without contact. Sadly, we have not spoken since.
When I arrived back in Sydney, in early December, we barely had time for Christmas. But of course we had to make some effort for Michael and Rhett's sakes. Mother and I shopped and wrapped gifts, but we decorated the French's Forest house sparingly, for we were surrounded by packing crates. The house was being rented out whilst we were in Hong Kong. Since Kell's original contract was for only three years, we might as well keep it on just in case it didn't work out. We all four went to the local physician for our inoculations: cholera, typhoid and smallpox. Mother and I took turns taking care of the boys, the shots made us so ill, and it was a miserable Christmas and New Year's Eve.
Then it was time for our passports. We went down to the government office in Sydney to deal with the required paperwork. Mother and I found out that we actually had to go to Melbourne for our birth certificates for in those days they would not send this important document through the post. We returned to Sydney and had our photos taken and then went for the interview. Then there was a problem. My birth certificate did not match my name. Where were the adoption papers? There must be a paper trail. But there were no adoption papers, as Kell had not actually adopted me after all. He later explained, that when he went to the lawyer, he was told it would be easier and less expensive to simply change my name. What difference would it make? I guess it wouldn't have made any difference if I was never going to get married on foreign soil, apply for a passport, a green card, citizenship in another country, or an assortment of other significant matters that can come up in a lifetime. The authorities finally relented and granted me a passport in the name of Christina Elaine Hutchence after my mother had explained the situation and pleaded with the agency to make an exception. But I never got over the feeling of betrayal when I realized Kell had brushed my adoption aside as too much effort. It meant that the last five years had been a lie, as he did not care to officially make me his daughter.
In 1985, by then I was living in the United States, I went into the Australian Consulate to renew my passport and was informed that I could not have a new one under the name I had used for twenty-six -years. I sat in the office of the Consulate General, and cried my eyes out. I had never been known as anything else. My professional name was Hutchence, even through two marriages, I had kept my name. The Consul could not help me, those were the rules, I would have to get a formal name change, which could only be granted in the country of origin. Fortunately I worked for Continental Airlines at the time, so I was issued a temporary passport, flew to Sydney, changed my name legally to Hutchence, and was back in LA within the week.
Mother also had a problem. Her birth certificate stated ‘father unknown'. She was frantic. She had always known her father was Stephen Patrick Kennedy. She was Patricia Kennedy. Her father was killed when she was twelve years old -while attempting to cross the street, he was run over by an ambulance in another sad and senseless accident. But, fortunately, for both Mother and myself, in the mid sixties, it was still possible to talk your way into something like a passport under the name you were generally known under, if you looked decent enough. They gave her a certificate of citizenship and she was finally given her documents. But the whole incident evidently offended Kell's superior sensibilities.
At the time, Kell maintained that we were the only five people in Australia with the name of 'Hutchence', and very few outside Australia. Ironic now to remember that when I was caught skipping school, he said, "You must remember, you're a 'Hutchence', think of the name."
Following the initial publication of this book, Kell, who was unfortunately at the time under the influence of some unscrupulous people, took to the airwaves and announced that I had changed my name to Hutchence following Michael's death. He indicated that I had never used the name before, unfortunately this was picked up by several news agencies and repeated in magazine articles around the world, rubbing salt into an old wound.
I had brought Tina into this marriage on the understanding that Kell would adopt her legally. I especially wanted this when I became pregnant with Michael. I had waited a long time to be able to have Tina living with me permanently and I wanted her to feel part of the new family. When he failed to follow through with this, even though he told her he had done so, it was only a matter of time before he would be caught in the lie. Tina was very hurt by this and at seventeen years old, it damaged her self-esteem, and did little to deepen her trust in men.
In Vince Lovegrove's book about Michael, with which Kell collaborated on, but later regretted, the author says that Kell thought seriously about taking the little boys to Hong Kong and leaving me behind. Kell is quoted as saying, “I thought with the help of amahs(servants), that I could survive in Hong Kong with the boys because I knew the city well. But somebody told me I couldn't get them out of the country without their mother's permission. Then I realized it would not look good with the company if I rolled up with two children, telling them I had split with my wife. So I told Pat about the job, and she was on the next plane out of Melbourne , headed for Sydney .” According to Lovegrove, he also recalls, that even though the company had a flat, a car, and hefty expense account, he was not settled when we arrived two months later. This caused the company to spend much more on the move, as we had to take up residence in the Hong Kong Hilton.
I was astounded to discover according to Vince Lovegrove that Kell had possibly intended to leave me behind. I clearly remember that we had already discussed this potential job change and move together and when he was offered the job, we agreed he would accept –although I believe he had already made up his mind. As he had to return immediately, we agreed that I would follow with Tina, Rhett and Michael. If Lovegrove is right, he would have taken his two little sons, ages four and two-years-old away from their mother. There are many other stories in that account of Michael's life, particularly dealing with his childhood where if Kell is being quoted accurately, he has selective memory. I can only assume this is because he was rarely around during Michael's childhood.
It is also worth noting that while Mr. Lovegrove's book claims to reflect ‘unprecedented access to all (Michael's) blood relatives' and even thanks Tina and me for our ‘special inspiration', I can state publicly that neither one of us contributed a word to his book. If I had, he would know for a start that I have not been married five times, he also acknowledges Michele Bennett, when in fact Michele declined to be interviewed for his book, likewise Paula. He even thanked for her help Michael's grandmother, Mabs, who had been dead for almost fifteen years at time of writing!
END CHAPTER ONE