Supermodels and the South of France
Arriving home from the office one day in September of 1991, Richard greeted me with a distressing message from Rhett. He had called from Amsterdam and was desperate to speak to me. He would call back in thirty minutes. Rhett was obviously in some kind of trouble. I had not heard from him in some time. He usually called Michael when he was in a crisis these days but lately he had been much more difficult to track down and a lot less willing to send Rhett a cheque.
As I waited for Rhett's call I thought about yet another upcoming family Christmas. We had settled on the South of France. Michael had been so excited about the prospect of showing off his villa. It would be my first visit there so I was excited too as I'd heard so much about it from Mother and Ross.
The phone rang. I grabbed it, accepted the charges and the moment I heard Rhett's voice, I knew he was in a bad way. He was broke, had not eaten for some time, had nowhere to stay and he needed a doctor. He began to sob, and I wanted to fly to him but he needed attention immediately. I got a number and told him to call back if he had not heard from me within the hour. I caught Michael just a day or two before he was about to leave the villa to wind up a tour of Europe and discussed the situation. He said he would arrange for a train ticket from Amsterdam all the way through to Nice. He refused to pay for an airfare or to allow Rhett to bring his girlfriend. Although their bond was strong, and Michael loved Rhett very much, he was fed up, feeling used and wondered aloud when Rhett was going to recognize that he needed to get on board and use his help in a more positive way. I told him that Rhett needed professional help, this was serious and it was not something we could handle ourselves. If Rhett could finally commit to a better life, we should find the professionals who could help him get there. Rhett was ready to get clean, but on his terms.
Once he arrived the two brothers talked things over and made an agreement. Rhett would stay at the villa and get well. He would be given a weekly allowance from Carol, the property manager. He would not really have any expenses as Carole had an account for food and incidentals. The idea was to keep him at the house, get his health back and to get him off all illegal drugs before the family arrived for Christmas. It sounded good in theory, I called him weekly, finding him weepy and exhausted in the first month. Gradually he was more responsive and informed me that he was using the pool, gaining weight and getting a tan. I was delighted. I detected nothing in either the phone calls with Rhett or the private ones I had with Carol to suggest that he was up to his old tricks. How much trouble could he get into? After all, it was less than three months to Christmas and he had Carol, her husband Claude and their daughter Marie living on the property, taking care of his every wish. What a break: I was jealous!
Just before that Christmas in 1991, Michael bought a block of land sight unseen, in Southport on the Gold Coast of Australia. He paid AUD$1.3 million. He was in Europe at the time but Colin Diamond closed the deal after Michael okayed the investment on the property. This is not unusual for people in Michael's position: not only is it time-consuming to look for properties but the price often goes up when a well known person is known to be involved. This sort of thing was what he was paying Colin to do - to advise him on sound investments and do all of the legwork. Colin's clients paid him well for his advice and services. Michael would see the land for the first time while visiting Mother and Ross on the Gold Coast in January 1992. The purchase was made in cash transfer from Michael's bank account and the property was promptly placed in a trust company, owned by Michael and called Nextcircle. Once again Michael's name did not show on the paperwork for the property.
Erin and I arrived in Paris ahead of Brent, Richard, and his daughter Shawna, on December 18th, 1991. Michael met us at the airport. He had only just arrived from London with Helena who had gone directly to a shoot. It was early evening, cold, and we took a cab to the little apartment they shared in St Germaine de Pres. On the drive into the city Michael was just as excited, as we were, as it was our first trip to France. He gave us a running commentary on the sights, just like a tour guide. I was not at all amazed at his knowledge of the history and stories he was telling us it was so Michael. He always tried to learn as much as possible about any city, place or person he found interesting. Carole was teaching him French and I had never seen him so committed to acquiring a new skill.
He was preparing us for the tiny apartment he was so proud of. When we arrived at Rue de Cannettes, we found that the street was no wider than an alley, typical in Paris. We climbed a winding staircase to the first floor, Michael struggling with our luggage. He opened the door, and with great flourish gave us a tour of the enchanting two bedroomed apartment which had a large living room with natural wood floors, a few good scattered rugs and original paintings and tapestries on the walls. Some of the artwork was Helena's own. He proudly told me how they had gone to the local market and bargained for the beautiful old furniture. He was clearly in love with, not only the girl, but also the city, the language, and the whole lifestyle.
While we settled into the second bedroom, Michael made up a platter of fresh baguettes and cheeses. No sooner had we sampled the fine old wine he had opened in our honour and begun to catch up when the door swung open and in walked the most stunning young woman. At twenty-one Helena really was a heartbreaker, her green eyes mesmerizing, she was tall and shapely, along with fantastic bone structure and beautiful skin. But beautiful though she was, as soon as she opened her lovely mouth, out poured a stream of complaints. She did not like the hairstyle they had given her for the shoot, she hated the makeup, the clothes, the waiting around, she was starving, she did not feel like bread and cheese, I was expecting her to say she did not like me either. It was impossible not to contrast this tall, blazing and apparently rather haughty, beauty who seemed utterly confident and cosmopolitan with the tiny Kylie whom Michael had felt he needed to educate and protect. But comparisons are usually odious and I had long since ceased to detect a ‘type' in Michael's choice of girlfriend.
He made light of Helena's mood and suggested we all go to 'La Coupole' for dinner. Erin was a wide-eyed thirteen-year-old and this was my first trip to Paris. We were happy to go anywhere. Off we went to 'La Coupole', Michael again pointing out the sights and sounds of the city. La Coupole is an enormous old restaurant, steeped in art history and Michael had chosen it for just those reasons, since Erin was planning to take art as her college major. He was very animated and entertaining as always so the evening was filled with amusing stories, lots of laughter and excited expectations for the holidays. When he hailed a taxi to take us home the driver pointed to a sign and complained that he would only take 3 passengers. The taxi drivers in Paris have all kinds of rules like this, so Helena jumped in after Erin and me and playfully slammed the door on Michael ordering the driver to take us home. When we turned to see his face through the back window it was at first surprised then amused. Helena laughed most of the way back to the apartment and fell into Michael's arms when he arrived in his own taxi. Their relationship was very playful.
When Michael urged us to stay on in Paris it was tempting but impossible. I was disappointed that we were only spending one night there before going on to Nice, but we had made the plans months before. When you travel tourist class you must do things this way - Michael now had no understanding of what it was like to be cautious with money and I was not about to unload my financial problems onto him. I had not known during the initial planning that we would be staying with Michael and Helena and had been concerned about expenses for five adults at a Parisian hotel. Richard was a musician without a band so I was the chief breadwinner. Between us we had three adult students for kids, Erin and Brent and Shawna, so we were on a tight budget. Richard was arriving later with Shawna, and Brent and they too would be staying overnight with Michael and Helena. It must be said that even though it was only to be for one night, this was quite a strain in a small apartment. So if Helena seemed stressed I can't really blame her.
By the time I realized that we could all have spent another night in Paris we could not change the train reservations. I was embarrassed about our financial situation but did not want to throw this onto Michael. He was already taking care of Rhett, and paying for Kell and Sue's vacation. Michael thought that Erin and I should fly down on Christmas Eve, but I told him that I wanted to get to the villa and decorate it for Christmas before the rest of the family arrived. I could not afford to take a flight, and I did not want him to pay for one. I mention this, because I want to stress that over the years I went out of my way to never take advantage of Michael's generosity.
The next morning, Helena had a job and she left the apartment before we rose. She was in fact not feeling well having eaten something that did not agree with her and I thought it very professional of her to head out to the shoot. Michael woke us up with breakfast and lugged our bags downstairs. This was not easy as we were carrying a mass of winter clothing, and bundles of Christmas gifts. We ran behind him, while he tried to hail a taxi which he proudly directed the driver to the Gare de Lyon in perfect French. I told Michael that we had chosen to travel by train, because we had heard that the French countryside was so beautiful. Lately I had been used to seeing Michael with others around, people who carried the bags and had cars waiting so it was actually nice to see him in control. Clearly he was enjoying the fact that he could walk around Paris and just be a normal person. I could tell he enjoyed being responsible for Erin and me. He took pains to explain which bank I should go to in Grasse to exchange my U.S. currency before running off to buy a stack of magazines and snacks for our trip, depositing us and our bags on the train and waving us off.
The French landscape as seen from the train was indeed breathtaking and I was glad circumstances, had steered us towards rail travel rather than flights. I had faxed ahead to Carole but I guess both she and Rhett forgot or had the days mixed up, because we were not met at the station in Nice. Thirty minutes after I startled them with a call to the house Rhett arrived in Michael's Mercedes Jeep with a friend who had to be dropped off at nearby Antibes before we could go on to the villa. As soon as I met this friend I felt uneasy. Even Erin was uncomfortable. Why was this person being ‘disappeared' just as we arrived? I knew that it was pointless to even ask the question. I knew in the back of my mind that Rhett had been making friends as he does so easily, and the villa had probably been the location of much partying. I was positive that the house was being cleaned up for our arrival. As I sat in the front seat of the car, which was approximately six months old, I noticed cigarette burns in the upholstery and wires hanging where the stereo should be. I asked Rhett about it and he just shrugged. I feared Michael would be furious.
After dropping off Rhett's friend I suggested we shopped for food as it was now close to 8pm and Erin and I were famished. Rhett had said there was nothing to eat at the house. I had not exchanged my money into French currency but Rhett said that he had plenty of cash. So Erin sat in the car, as Rhett and I ran around a supermarket stocking up on all kinds of delicacies. The bill came to about 400 francs (less than USD$100). Rhett produced some large bills and handed them to me but when I proffered them the cashier gave me a suspicious look and called for the manager. The minute he arrived there was a commotion with everybody naturally speaking in French. Even to me it was obvious that the bills were counterfeit. I was so embarrassed and, without the language, could not rectify the problem. The manager insisted we leave. Rhett, never being one to back down, protested loudly. I ran out to the car with Rhett running behind and pleading with me to believe that he did not know the bills were no good. I yelled back that I believed him. Actually it did not matter, to me if he knew the bills to be bad or if he had just been hanging around with people who would pass these off to him. The incident set the tone for my relationship with Rhett for the rest of that vacation.
By the time we arrived at the villa it was very late, so Carole sent Claude out to the local village for a pizza. I took a bath and went to bed. At about 2 am I awoke to loud voices, music and laughing. The villa is two stories high and built out of huge bricks with eighteen-inch walls. It is certainly solid but noises echo in the French countryside. I made my way downstairs to find Rhett entertaining. It had sounded like there were at least a dozen people but there were only four highly intoxicated 'who are you to spoil our fun?' strangers staring at me. Without getting too heavy, and not wanting to embarrass Rhett, I asked them to lower the music. He told me that I could either join them or mind my own business and leave them alone. Deciding that, as usual, I was no match for Rhett's vicious tongue, I limply turned back to my bedroom and prayed for sleep.
In the morning I found extra bodies sleeping in the living room and by 9am decided that it was time they left. I went about the villa opening windows and doors to let out the stench of cigarettes, liquor, and pot. I had just two days to get the home ready before the rest of the family arrived. Carole took us shopping before Rhett surfaced. Michael had given me a list of wines and liquors he wanted to stock up on and I had a long grocery list. We had agreed to take turns to cook but I was in charge of Christmas dinner proper. Michael had also given me specific instructions about sleeping arrangements. He was concerned that Mother and Ross and Kell and Sue should have the same size bedrooms, as he did not want anyone to feel slighted. The master bedroom was huge and the second almost as large, two others were about equally sized and another one was a little smaller. He told me to take the second bedroom, the one next to his, and to let the others decide when they arrived. He was tremendously concerned that everything should be harmonious.
Rhett had bought a tree, which needed decorations and he had also troubled to find and hang personalized stockings for each of us. It was touching: he could be so confusingly thoughtful and lovable at times. We threaded a garland I had brought from California up the staircase and tied huge red and green plaid bows at strategic points. Rhett found some mistletoe and strung lights over the tree. Mother and Ross arrived with dozens of tiny clip-on koalas, which they attached to everything. It was definitely an Australian Christmas. I stocked the pantry, the refrigerator, and the liquor cabinet. By the following day this last had been considerably depleted so I went shopping again and this time I hid the liquor in Carole's house, hating being forced into the role of disciplinarian.
Then suddenly everybody was arriving. Even after just two days I was relieved that I would not be on my own maintaining law and order. Mother and Ross arrived first and there was the usual gabble of catching-up. That evening Richard arrived with a very happy Brent and Shawna. Michael and Helena had met them with a limo at the airport in Paris and taken them home to change and on to a Christmas party at Helena's modelling agency. This was all great thrill for Brent: nineteen-years-old, his first night in Paris and his uncle takes him to a party with ‘supermodels' even though he was probably too shy to talk to anyone. Kell and Sue arrived, then Michael, who had a massive toothache, which had necessitated a trip directly from the airport to the dentist. Helena's birthday falls on Christmas day so she had flown to Denmark to be with her family and did not reach Nice until the evening of the 26 th . Her parents came the following day.
On most nights before Helena's arrival, Michael, Rhett and Brent went out. Occasionally we would join them but I felt guilty about leaving Erin. The guys would arrive home in the early hours of the morning and sit in the kitchen, raiding the refrigerator, drinking more and laughing. Early one morning I went down to join them and was alarmed to see Brent with dried blood over his left eye. Michael, Rhett and he were laughing and saying "Uh oh, we're in trouble now" . Naturally my reaction was anything but calm. It seemed that they had been leaving a club, which had a low doorway. Michael, being shorter than the other two, slipped through first and when Brent followed, he forgot to duck. They were like the Three Musketeers, laughing uncontrollably as they relayed the story and it was impossible to remain worried or angry for long as I watched these three guys who I loved so much, bonding so well. They were all safe home, after all. Brent still has a little scar to remind him of that evening and one of his favorite vacations.
Even so, Michael was lonely and had trouble sleeping. During one of those early morning meetings in the kitchen, Brent suddenly went to bed and Rhett had already passed out. The house was full of sleeping people but Michael asked me to get dressed, as he wanted company as he walked around his garden. He grabbed three glasses and picked up a bottle of wine from the cellar. Richard and I just walked around with him as he described his plans for the west corner, the area beyond the pool and the unused basement. He was so enthused by this house. Then suddenly he suggested we take the Jeep and drive up to a little village on the hill to watch the sun come up. I can still hear him, “We should…… I know, I have an idea. You know what we should do? We should drive to St Paul de Vence and wait for the sun to come up.”
Halfway up the winding road, he pulled over and stopped at a favourite lookout. We got out of the car and sat on the side of the mountain. Richard pulled out his videocam and Michael quietly gave us an abbreviated version of 'Perfume', a novel by Patrick Suskind, making the tale his own. We were spellbound and he enjoyed even the very small audience of two. I did not realize that it was not his story until Erin found the book in Michael's library and began reading it during that very vacation.
I was having trouble finding all the foodstuffs for Christmas dinner that I am used to in the United States and decided that I could not bake turkey without having yams to go with it. Two days before Christmas we went to a supermarket in Nice. Michael took one trolley and I took another, everyone else had a piece of the shopping list. When I asked for a turkey I was given something called a capon. Close enough, I thought, it looked like a turkey but it was just so small compared to the twenty pounders we have in the States. I took two of them, but still no yams. I hoped to find some in one of the little villages near the villa, each one of them had a grocery store even if their stock was minimal. I had already found it a worry to find enough fresh vegetables and so on for up to sixteen people. The next day was a sightseeing day and I sent everybody in a different direction, telling them all to come back with yams. By that evening we had plenty for Christmas dinner.
Michael took me to Valbonne. It has cobbled streets and interesting, tiny, restaurants. We were browsing in a shop when we heard some very scratchy music. Silent Night in French combined with the laughter of children, getting closer and closer. Michael stepped outside and within seconds he jumped back in and huddled me toward the doorway to take in the most wonderful sight. The music accompanied the youngest looking Pere Noel I have ever seen, walking through the village with children hanging on to his coat, all singing. The wig and beard did not conceal this Santa's young appearance but this did not deter the little children from following him. Surrounded by the locals in the village, I felt that we had stepped into another century. The look of joy and pride on Michael's face to be sharing this with me was the best Christmas present ever. It was so obvious that he wanted his family to share in the deep peace and pleasure he experienced through the simple traditions of life in the French countryside. I was reassured and certain that only good lay ahead for him; what could possibly be lacking in his life when he had this perfect retreat?
Rhett noticed a poster in Cannes announcing a show by Lennie Kravitz. We all wanted to go and that night Michael piled us into the jeep, Rhett, Brent, Shawna, Erin, Richard and I. It was a crowded venue but the show was electric. Backstage I noted that Lennie ran a small, tight operation, nothing like the large crew that INXS carried along. Michael found out that Lennie would be back late Christmas day and invited him over to the villa.
On Christmas morning we all ran downstairs like children. Recently I came across a video that Richard made of that day, and I am so grateful to have this. It depicts an elated, jubilant Michael in his apple green suit walking around with a bottle of champagne in one hand and a jug of orange juice in another, pouring mimosas for us all. The fire was crackling away as we faced the mound of gifts tumbling out from the base of the little tree. The gifts that year were outrageously extravagant even if some of them had to be simply promised as we couldn't, practically, have them there in France. We had planned our surprises very carefully, calling and faxing for months. Mother was given a 1992 Honda from Ross and Brent was blown away with a '65 Mustang from us all. I was astonished to find out that Ross had organized another joint gift for me – a laptop computer. We all went just a little overboard, but this was such a special Christmas. Later we dressed for dinner, Rhett in a red, white and black suit, which Michael had given him.
It was an incredible meal, not because I was the head chef but because we were together at one long table and this did not happen very often. Carole and Claude joined us with their little daughter Marie. We began the meal with very Australian, Sydney rock oysters, which Michael had flown in and ended with plum pudding and hot brandy sauce. The wine flowed, and there was much laughter, storytelling and forgiving. The phone rang many times during the meal, always with good wishes. Helena called several times throughout the day, and Michele also rang with her love. To Michele, Michael jokingly said, "Yep, getting out the cookbooks, doing all the cooking for the family." He was reveling in the role of patriarch and host. I had already seen how much he enjoyed this role.
Later, when Lennie Kravitz arrived with his girlfriend, we were all delighted to see him again. He wore a huge cap over his massive dreadlocks. We were picking at delicious leftovers around the kitchen table and the conversation was lively. The first thing Lenny wanted to do was call his little daughter Zoe in the United States. After this he came back into the kitchen, removed his cap, and he and Michael headed for the music room. We all looked at the cap in silence, we had never seen such a huge brim. Ross tried it on and it fell around his shoulders, Mother took a photograph. I tried it on next. We were all in fits of laughter, Erin left the room, fearful that Lennie might walk back in and catch us. When he did return he did so laughing and said he wanted to show us the mass of tiny clip-on koalas he had attached to his dreadlocks. My children and I have seen Lennie perform many times since that Christmas and he has always been very gracious to us. His grandfather was backstage at one concert, a charming man. Lenny said he was staying on the road with him for a while. I don't think there would be many performers who'd take their grandfather on tour with them. I also met Lenny's mother Roxy Roker, a beautiful and vibrant lady. She thanked me for making sure her son Lenny did not spend a lonely Christmas that year in France.
Helena arrived the day after Christmas and then her parents flew in. I noticed right away that her mother Ilsa often carried magazines bearing pictures of her famous daughter on the cover. She sat around the villa reading them and left them lying around on tables. This seemed curious to me, I always felt foolish purchasing a magazine featuring an INXS story. Although, I guess she really did have something to be proud about in her eldest daughter, Helena was hugely successful in her field and so beautiful, it was difficult to take your eyes off her. The villa has a huge satellite dish and we could get TV from all over Europe. One day between Christmas and New Year's Eve, a recorded interview with Helena came on MTV. I was fascinated to hear her refer to models over twenty-five, as "old cows" . She went on to say that she ‘would not stay in the business that long' . Considering she was already twenty-two and had yet to reach her peak, I thought this was a reckless statement. I decided that, ironically, she was showing her youth.
I found that I could not entirely agree with Michael's view that Helena was down-to-earth. For instance, even though she spoke fluent English, she invariably spoke in another language whenever possible. Rhett had an Australian friend staying at the villa who also spoke French. If I were left alone with the two, Helena would break into French. Of course the girl would continue the conversation in French and I would feel excluded and foolish, even though it was they who were being rude and making me feel obliged to get up and walk away. She also had a way of directing all of her conversation to men. For instance, if Richard or Rhett were standing next to me and I engaged Helena in conversation, she would not look at me while answering but rather direct her answer to the man at my side. In this strange way we could have a whole conversation without making eye contact. It would make me crazy, leaping around trying to get in her sight. Richard noticed this and told me to ignore it. Easier said than done. My reaction only made me look bad of course. Women understand this u nsisterly behavior even as they may be enraged by it: some women, however successful or beautiful they are, may behave differently when they are feeling threatened or inadequate. I could not imagine Helena feeling threatened by me or for that matter anyone else, but I believe that she was so used to being around so many other beautiful women that it was a reflex, she could not help herself. Eventually I realized that Helena was not intentionally trying to be nasty. Stunning as
she was, she was quite young and though she had been thrown into a cosmopolitan lifestyle, she was obviously lacking in confidence and this made her nervous around certain people. I hoped that she would grow out
of the habit in time.
We took many day excursions, sightseeing in a caravan of three cars, going to St. Tropez, Monaco, San Raphael, Cannes and Nice. I have a video featuring the whole family in the kitchen while I am cooking. There is dancing, singing, and lots of ribbing and laughter. Rhett is doing his impersonation of a rap dancer, Kell flies by with a bowl on his head, Michael joins Rhett in the dancing and yells to me, " Tina, baby, get with it, on the table baby, come on, you can do it." -referring to my ancient history as a 'go go' dancer. It was a happy Christmas for all of us.
One evening, we were invited to a neighbour's house where they had gone to a lot of trouble to make us feel welcome. It was a magnificent home belonging to a couple who owned among other things, a local art gallery. They wheeled out a large cake, which said, ‘Welcome to the Michael Hutchence Family”. Their teenage son had a music room filled with microphones, a drum set and guitars. He took Richard and Michael up there and it didn't take long for the music to start. Michael picked up a microphone and asked Richard to lead him into a soaring rendition of Hendrix's ‘Hey Joe'. His voice was strong and it was evident that he was enjoying the departure from his INXS repertoire. The teenager could not believe his luck as he sat behind the drums. Downstairs the classical pianist was preparing himself at the grand piano and decided that the competition was too great, put off playing for a while longer.
Two days after Christmas, Carole and Claude told us they were getting a divorce - and they were both very relieved they had made the decision. Claude handed me a fresh glass of champagne and made a toast. He wanted to move to New York and drive a taxi. Carole said she would like to stay on with her job at the villa. It later emerged that she had been having an affair with Rhett. Michael was furious about this and angry with himself as well. He'd relied on Carole to look after Rhett and in doing so he had unintentionally thrown them together. He went about finding replacements and eventually hired a wonderful couple from the Philippines, Linda and Nestor Ventavilla and helped them obtain their papers to stay in France. It was all done through the villa trust company of course. The change was for the best because although Carole had been a reliable manager she did not cook or clean and Linda enjoyed doing both. Nestor came to love caring for the garden and Michael's cars.
New Year's Eve was ushered in with a barbecue and fireworks. Michael and Helena and her parents spent most of the day in the kitchen preparing for it. The barbecue is at the end of the pool - a good 100 yards from the main house and the December temperature in the south stays around 40 degrees fahrenheit at night. Michael wore a silk shirt, an overcoat, a straw hat and had hands turning blue from the elements as he cooked prawns and lobster and mahi mahi. Claude was down there doing his best, but Michael insisted on taking the chef duties. He would run all the way up to the house where the main party was drinking and then return to tend to his coals. Rhett and Brent had quietly bought fireworks earlier that day and began to light them off the balcony at midnight. Below the balcony lies the firewood store. Although it was winter, it had not been raining and within minutes Claude was hosing down a small blaze at the side of the pool. This sounds potentially serious, especially when you consider the surrounding dry shrubbery and neighbouring villas, but there was actually very little harm done and although Claude seemed very stressed and worried, Michael laughed louder than any of us.
Michael could sometimes seem thoughtless but this tendency was usually rooted in the absent-mindedness of a dreamer. He really enjoyed surprising and spoiling those closest to him. For instance, throughout this Christmas Brent had been craving a 'Big Mac' or anything else that did not have that suspicious healthy gourmet look about it. When we arrived back in Paris – where Richard and I planned a week sightseeing with the children; Brent was keen to check out the nearest McDonalds at once, but Michael called our hotel and invited us to dine with him at a great steakhouse he had chosen just for Brent's benefit. Michael and Helena were only staying one night at their apartment so he gave me the keys and an open invitation to use his driver. This whole vacation had been such a success that we all agreed to get together as a family at least every other year.
During 1992, Michael and Helena traveled constantly. Her star that was rising, and Michael was genuinely proud of her. After an evening at a nightclub in Copenhagen, Helena and Michael stopped for some take away food on their way to her apartment. They were standing in the little street when a taxi attempted to drive around them. As Michael took his time getting out of the way the driver leapt out of the cab and gave him a shove. He went down hard, hitting his head on the curb and sustained head injuries which, he did not take care of immediately. Complaining of a persistent huge headache he finally went to a specialist who found that the injury had hampered his sense of taste and smell. He did not speak of this much, unless he was drinking, but I noticed that he more often became short-tempered more often from then on. Eventually his senses returned to a certain degree and he would once again pass his wine under his nose, testing the bouquet or comment on my perfume. However I do not believe his senses of smell and taste ever returned fully. For a sensual, artistic being like Michael, this was a huge concern.
I saw less of Michael during the years he was with Helena. His career remained more or less stagnant whilst Helena's soared. He took on a whole new personality. When they visited, it was a quick dinner before 'we have to meet Kate (Moss) and Johnny (Depp)', or whoever. Michael was completely involved with Helena's work, friends and family. There were infrequent phone calls from resorts, occasional visits when Helena was in town on photo-shoots and postcards from exotic places and not much else. He had no contact whatsoever with Rhett. Mother and Ross were keeping up dialogue with Michael because they took trips to Europe every year but it was hurtful to read he was in Los Angeles but hadn't called me. To be fair I suppose he and Helena were very busy, they knew a lot of people in LA and rarely spent more than a week here. Thank goodness for faxes.
October 25th, 1992. ‘Dear Tina, Howdy, how are you?
Fine I hope. sorry for not being in touch lately but I've
been busy, busy, busy. I've art directed 4 videos and made
a half hour fashionish trendy social magazine type
program pilot called 'Eye On Style'. Dad has kicked me
out cause he thinks I'm doing drugs which is utter crap.
I mean I still smoke pot but even thats only rarely.
But f... it I can't handle their old world lifestyle. ITS ENOUGH TO MAKE ME START. I love you, please remember that - Rhett'
I did not see much evidence of progress in this communique from Rhett, though I had to admit he had the sharpest sense of humour, which thank God, never failed him.
In late January 1993 I had the following fax from Michael and Helena-
'Hi Guys, thank you for your Birthday fax! its great to get mail here I think I'm getting cabin fever. I tried calling, but your line must be on
fax - hope you had a great X-mas and New Year. I took in the Danish culture with Chris Bailey, it was hilarious of course! Michael and
Helena XX ' (a big heart with arrow through the center)
Michael and Helena had each made enough money to switch careers and try something else if they wanted. I don't think they knew how lucky they were, most people have to go to a boring job day after day. But I was only a little envious. To the outside world they were living a glamorous, jetset life, but Michael's self esteem had taken a dive in the company of the Danish beauty. He was constantly reminded that he had not had a successful album in some time. He spent much of his time sitting in hotel rooms with friends, waiting for Helena to complete her work or attending her shows. He was regularly seen on ‘CNN being interviewed at a fashion show. I was feeling so left out of his life - the whole family felt this way. Apart from refusing to speak with Rhett , Kell often called asking if I knew of Michael's whereabouts.
was so used to him traveling with Helena that it was easier to call MMA to get a number for him. One time when I faxed MMA London and Sydney simultaneously, I had a call from Michael within ten minutes. Without any greeting he said, "Paris is my home, you know where to find me, call me here!" I don't think he had any concept of how different his lifestyle was. Of course his home base was Paris but if you added up the days he actually spent there, you would probably get three months of the year.
He went to Sydney without Helena and called Michele Bennett to invite her
to a club. Michele had to decline. Early the following morning she had a call
from Michael, not unlike other calls when he had been up all night, a little
hungover and feeling miserable. Michele agreed to go to the hotel and help
soothe him to sleep but she made it clear that he could not just call her at the
times that he needed comforting and then disappear into the ether for who
knows how long. Although she was his friend and would always be there in
a crisis, she needed to know that they could have normal social interaction
In the spring of 1993, INXS came through Los Angeles on their Dirty Honeymoon tour, promoting their album ‘Full Moon, Dirty Hearts' . The album was not doing very well and they were no longer filling stadiums in fact this was downright disappointing compared to their previous tours, they faired a little better in Europe, playing the ‘White Nights Festival' in St. Petersburg, Russia along with Pearl Jam, Faith No More -and the Kirov Ballet. The venue for Southern California was Barker Air Hanger; in Santa Monica. The cool response to the new album was predictable. Michael had been frustrated with the musical direction of the band he felt that while he was traveling the world and listening to new music, most of INXS were musically stagnant. Hoping for inspiration he invited the other band members to the villa to prepare before the recording. His plan was to fill the house with a lot of different, new, music so they would be open minded when they got into the studio. I called him one day while they were there and asked him how it was going. He said that it was not what he had hoped for and added that he was worried, sure none of them had progressed in their musical taste since Kick . In fact it was a disastrous collaboration. The dynamics of the band was such that each member was talented in his own way, and they all wanted to be the producer. Andrew had always been the leader in the studio, but Michael was so frustrated, trying to drag him and the rest of his band into challenging themselves to keep up with the new music scene. Grunge was in and INXS was not going to be able to compete with Nirvana at this rate.
There was something very unfriendly about that tour, and that time in Michael's life. Where as previously, crew and band had been like a family, everybody on this tour seemed to be out of sorts. Michael did not even call when he reached LA, but I went ahead and made arrangements for 'will call' tickets, for myself, Richard, Erin and two of her friends. When I called Michael's hotel before the show, Helena answered, saying he was busy and suggested we come down to the hotel and ride to the show with them. I was working out the logistics in my head when she suddenly changed her mind, saying they would see us there. I had trouble backstage again. Eventually I saw Chris Murphy who physically stopped me from entering the ‘inner sanctum'. I was furious and told him what a lousy job he was doing and that I thought they had all become self-important at a time when the popularity of the band was on the decline. He tried to placate me but I just wanted to leave. Only the potentially disappointed teenagers in my care prevented me from doing so.
After the show, we went backstage to a tent set up outside, where there were tables and chairs. This was unlike the usual backstage gathering, where the guests mill around with the band. Michael and Helena were holding court surrounded by approximately thirty people sitting in a circle. After a while I ventured over to the circle and attempted to get Michael's attention without being too obvious. He was flying and did not notice me. I finally stepped inside the circle and bent down to hug both of them. Michael was too far gone, to notice and continued to speak, incoherently to the group. Eventually he realized it was me, and hugged me back without getting up. I don't think he could have done so without falling over. Helena seemed to ignore me. Michael waved at Erin and said he would be over to our table in a little while. Then Chris Murphy's assistant Sam, came over and asked if I would speak to a fan of Michael's. It seems that he had refused to speak with her which was very unusual for Michael, and he suggested that I take care of it. I followed Sam, expecting to meet a teenager. Instead I came face to face with a fifty-year-old high school teacher and her seventy-year old mother in a wheel chair. She gushed over the fact that I was Michael's sister, how lucky I was, and told me she had been a fan for years. Apparently she had organized her class into writing to the band in their very early days, and had become a huge fan herself.
I didn't quite know what to say to her, but recognizing she meant well, I was polite. I could not have known that this lady was obsessed. Sam did not warn me that she had a habit of sitting in hotel lobbies for hours waiting for Michael, that she constantly sent him gifts and letters, that she drove the tour managers mad asking for 'will call' tickets, that she followed Michael around taking photographs of him. One week after this concert, I began receiving gifts and cards and even visits from her. She would call me, show up at my office and send me expensive gifts from Tiffanys. It was disconcerting to have someone I didn't know talking incessantly about my brother and bearing gifts I didn't deserve. And it is very hard to ask someone to leave your office when they are handing you a present.
When I talked to the other members of the band I noted that each had something negative to say about this tour and the business in general. Where had the magic and camaraderie gone? Of course I would have expected them all to mature, but the men I found myself speaking to that night were a far cry from the fresh, idealistic boys that I once knew. Michael came by to say Helena was starving, so he was leaving with his friends to find a hamburger. I never spoke of this incident with Michael and Helena, though I should have done. It was rude and shabby to treat his family this way. Looking back, I suppose that I avoided bringing these things up with him because I knew that I risked being treated in the same way as others who had forced confrontation: he would take flight.
Four months later, when he was visiting Los Angeles alone, I had a letter delivered to his hotel. It completely bewildered him. I had simply set out two pages on my feelings, about how perplexed I was by his busy yet unfulfilling lifestyle. I wondered why he was not doing something for his own career, or painting or writing or taking acting lessons, anything. He asked me to meet him at the hotel for the afternoon, and we would discuss it. He was acting very pretentious when I arrived. He said that he was shocked by my letter and dropped names of celebrities he had been hanging out with. I was not at all impressed with this: LA is full of celebrities. This was a side of Michael that I did not like. We spent the whole afternoon thrashing out the dynamics of the family. At the beginning of the conversation I felt that Michael had taken on a very superior attitude, and his take was that I was all wrong about this. After all, as much as he loved his jetsetting lifestyle, he liked to be thought of as one of the guys. Here I was, essentially accusing him of being far too pleased with himself.
Now I realize that ours was a confusing relationship. Although I was Michael's sister, I was twelve years his senior and throughout his life had performed some motherly duties as well. I was not impressed with the outside world's perception of him, I knew as I read or watched his interviews, when he was making up a story. He was a great storyteller and I always enjoyed his embellishments, but I wondered if some of his yarns would come back to haunt him some day. Sadly some of Michael's imaginative tales of his childhood and teenage years have been repeated, taken up and further distorted by journalists and by acquaintances who truly believed Michael was telling them his true history. Some of these accounts of his life are pure fabrication and for my family to read such inaccuracies is painful. It is one thing to announce to the world, that your sister was a go go dancer in a cage - thus conjuring up a seamy strip joint (though totally false, this tale did give the whole family something to laugh at), but when a journalist reports that at twelve-years-old Michael was awoken one night by Mother and whisked off to the United States against his will - not only is a lie perpetrated, but a mother's character is damaged. I think that Michael spiced up his stories simply because he loved to get a reaction, to entertain. Asked the same questions over and over again in interviews, he would become bored and 'tweak' the story.
On that day in August 1993 we sat soberly in a private room but were slinging attacks as if we'd been in a rowdy bar. It became clear that Michael now believed in his own publicity and resented my questions. Few of those who surrounded him ever did so. It made him feel very insecure. But he knew I would not lie to him and I loved him for no other reason but that he was my brother and a terrific guy. Fortunately he was in town for a week and we were able to spend some time together, and patch things up over the next few days. The fact was neither of us had ever been comfortable with conflict and residual bad feelings and now, he was really seeming mature about mulling things over, and coming around to see some sense in what I had told him. I think this is a 'man' trait.
By August, 1993 Rhett had finally agreed to go through a rehab programme in New South Wales. He wrote a long letter as part of his therapy, telling me that he loved me and that he wished that we could heal our relationship.
October 10, 1993.
'Dear Mum, I must tell you now it isn't easy to write to you, I do love you and I do think of you, but I wish time could have healed our relationship. As it is, all time has done has glossed over a lot of pain, hurt and anger that I felt for you. Stuff I've carried around for years, and a misunderstanding I feel daily. When you and Michael left me for the States, I think I was too young to understand the ramifications of the issues of abandonment and rejection that I'm just starting to get a semblance of now.
My clown front and drugs didn't help at all. They suppressed
most of my emotions and feelings, so that its only now that I'm clean that these feelings have risen from within. Please don't feel responsible, the drugs etc. were my choice and my actions and I don't blame you or Michael or Dad. The drugs weren't even the problem, I was. I just couldn't handle the reality of me I guess, something I'm only getting clarity of now. I wanted to talk about this before, like Xmas time in France, but Michael didn't want any dynamics in the house, plus it seemed you were happy for the
first time in years. So again nothing was resolved.
Mum I'm really happy for you and Ross, I think you are a great couple. I don't mind if he reads this, maybe it's about time we were all a lot more honest with our emotions and took some risks. I believe he is caring and understanding and it would be good to have all the skeletons out of the proverbial closet. Also, don't worry, I haven't lost my sense of humour, this is just something I needed to say. I'd like you to know I'm happy here, safe, and healthy, surrounded by a community full of loving and caring people. Please give Michael and Tina my address and let them know I'm thinking of them. Take care and I hope you are not upset by this, but I do need to tell you. Love to you both. Always. RhettXXX. '
Christmas 1993 was spent on the Gold Coast. Mother and Ross were hosting and Helena's parents, Ilsa and Fleming were their guests. Once again Ilsa arrived with a fresh new batch of European magazines. When she and Mother went to the local supermarket, she picked up some local magazines featuring Helena showing them to anyone who cared to look. Rhett had checked himself out of rehab for a short time to join us and was also staying with Mother and Ross. Helena and Michael and their guests, a model, Gail Elliot, and her husband John were staying at the Marriot and Richard, Erin and I, had taken an apartment close to the beach. Kell and Sue had taken another one close by. Mother and Ross have great style when it comes to entertaining and they went to a great deal of trouble even to the extent of furnishing our temporary abodes with miniature, decorated Christmas trees, fruit and flowers.
There was a definite deterioration in Michael's relationship with Helena who often appeared unhappy. She had frequently made fun of him before but in times past it had been playful and he was in on it -the sort of loving banter you observe between two people who are close. Now it seemed that the mood had changed. Michael often seemed unsettled by her remarks and it was obvious that it took him real effort to rise above the joshing with humour, which had always been his deliverance. It was painful to observe and I can only assume that he loved Helena very much to stay in the relationship. We were told that since it was Helena's birthday on Christmas day we were to gather early for a Danish tradition. In Denmark it is the custom to wake your loved one on their birthday by breaking into the bedroom and jumping on their bed. If you fail to do this, it is bad luck.
Once again we had all tried very hard to seek out just the right gifts. Months before we arrived in Australia for this Christmas, Richard and I began combing antique and specialty stores up and down the California coast for the most appropriate, unusual, gifts. I had Helena in mind when I came across a Harpers' Bazaar from the late 1800s. I knew that she collected antiques and treasured things, which had been cherished before. As much as I was excited to find this for Helena, I also collect pre-loved treasures and was tempted to keep it and replace it with something more conventional. The little newspaper - as this is the form in which magazines were printed back then - was bound and sealed so as not to yellow. She must not have known what she was looking at when she ripped the gift wrapping off the package because, before I could stop her, she tore open the protective seal also and then tossed aside the gift. Oh well, I thought, at least it got to last 100 years and made its way from Burbank to Sydney without becoming fish and chip packaging. We had also commissioned a friend of Richard's who specializes in large, chiaroscuro style portraits of celebrities, to paint Michael. Michael loved it. Gail's husband John said that I won the prize for the most original, loving, gifts that year.
Mother received a lovely ring from Ross, Helena, a friendship ring from Michael and Richard surprised me with an engagement ring. The following day, the newspapers reported that Helena was seen with her mother, her sister and our mother in a bridal shop, choosing a gown for the upcoming wedding - as Michael had given her an engagement ring! Michael gave Erin a beautiful acoustic guitar. When we returned to California, she and her friend Linda formed a band called Bedlam Spiral and they began singing and writing their own material. Michael was thrilled, and encouraged Erin.
We spent New Year's Eve in Sydney. Richard, Erin, and I, dining outside, at a restaurant in Knox Street, with Kell and Sue. Just before midnight, Michael's limousine pulled up right next to us and out jumped Helena, Ilsa, Fleming, Gail and John. Michael sat next to me, Helena was to his right. Adding to the commotion reverberating about the streets from New Year revellers was loud bickering between the two most recognizable guests. In fact, people were beginning to take notice of our table as much for the raised voices as for the famous faces. Again Helena and her parents wanted to act out a Danish tradition this one involving everybody jumping up and down on their chairs. Michael was conscious of the attention we were creating and did not welcome the thought of any additional stares. I could tell that he was getting weary of these Danish customs. Eventually they departed for a local nightclub, taking Erin with them. Michael held Erin's hand protectively, after all she was his fifteen-year old niece and she was not used to nightclubs. As they left the limousine at the club a photo journalist took a photograph of Michael and Erin. When it made the newspaper it looked as if Michael was with a new girlfriend. Helena was not amused.
In that same week, Kell arranged for a long time friend of his to take us all out on his boat for the day. It was a perfect day for cruising Sydney harbour and it was a beautiful boat. As usual, we were driving caravan style, when halfway to the pickup point Sue remembered that she had left lunch in her refrigerator. It was too late to turn back so we stopped to shop for a variety of oysters, crab, bread and side dishes. On our way out we ran into Ilsa who had been into the local newsagent to fetch all the latest magazines featuring Helena. When we arrived at the jetty, Kell introduced us to his friend who was obviously starstruck with Michael and Helena and Gail and John. I registered that Kell had missed me out in the round of introductions but I was not aware that the friend he had not even connected that I was part of the family. We had a fun day without pressure and not a photographer in sight, except for myself. Kell and his friend told funny stories and Michael and John got into the spirit and tried to top them. Ilsa spent most of the day flipping through the fashion magazines. Later, on the way back to the dock, Richard and I sat up with Kell's friend and chatted as he steered the boat through the marina. During the conversation I referred to Kell as 'Dad' . This long time friend of Kell's looked at me, dumbfounded and embarrassed. He apologized: he had not heard any mention of me from Kell, during a forty-year friendship in fact he had not even heard of Rhett. He was only aware of Kell having one child, Michael. He overcompensated with his apology and I felt sorry for him. He became very quiet for the rest of the way to the jetty.
January 25, 1994. 'Dear Tina, Hope all is still OK, what a mess L.A. is in.(The 1994 earthquake hit two days after we arrived home from Australia) Michael fell on stage Saturday night, has a bad sprain, a hairline fracture, and pulled tendon -he had to cancel a couple of concerts, and is unable to walk on the foot for 2 weeks - he is on crutches-still, in Melbourne Como Hotel-Room #615. Rhett is coming up for a couple of days, should be here within the next hour. Love Mother xx.
PS. I forgot, Michael is under Mr Dick Shake!'
Ah yes, the all-important pseudonym. Mr ‘Dick Shake' was one of Michael's more imaginative. Understandably it was one that Mother and I had a great deal of trouble using.
In late January 1994 Michael returned to the Gold Coast without Helena and was due at our house for lunch. Rhett was staying with us, having checked himself out of rehab and Michael arrived two hours late. He apologized and explained that he had just bought a bowling alley in Labrador, fifteen minutes from our home, for $2.25 million cash and as it had a restaurant he'd had a sandwich there. He said he had decided to keep the same restaurant in place as it was bringing in considerable rent as was the bowling alley itself until it was time to tear the building down and put up some townhouses or apartments. Michael was exhilarated at the prospect of investing for the future. The Paradise Lanes Bowling Alley gave him more of a thrill because it was commercial property and unlike the rest, was already working to make a return. He'd been told often enough to ensure that his investments worked for him – hence his glee at the thought of the rents already coming in. The bowling alley was on a large block of land with a view across the water to Bribie Island. The view could not be built out, it was a wonderful investment.
Michael had arrived with a load of dirty clothes and asked to use our laundry. I guess life doesn't change too much just because you become a celebrity. Rhett already had a load in the washer and later he placed his jeans in with Michael's. When they retrieved the clean clothes from the dryer one pair of Michael's had a bulge in the back pocket which turned out to be a wad of sodden bills totaling a little over six thousand Australian dollars. Michael had totally forgotten about the money. I suppose it dried out all right but in those days it probably wouldn't have mattered to Michael if it hadn't. Rhett said he had heard of money laundering, but this was ridiculous! I thought about how things had changed, since that day Michael lost his little paycheck from the top of the houseboat.
Later in the same day, Michael asked to use our fax. I gave him some paper and a pen and left him alone. When I returned he was standing over the fax machine feeding it blank pages with his signature on the bottom and some with his signature in the middle. I assumed he was sending his autograph to someone, maybe his to fan club. He laughed and said that the faxes were going to Colin Diamond who needed them for some business transactions. "Regarding the Bowling Alley?" I asked; he said, "Just various things he needs my signature for, as he has to leave town and he may need my signature.” I said I thought this a strange way to conduct business and he just told me not to worry, as he knew what he was doing. It wasn't until after Michael died that I realized that these blank pages with his signature at the bottom were significant and held a key to his business affairs.
INXS played the San Diego Sports Arena in April of 1994 and as I was unable to go Michael sent a stretch limousine for Erin and her two friends Linda and Tim from Bedlam Spiral. The kids had a blast, and he dedicated ‘ Mystify' to Erin. Michael took the same limo back with the teenagers as the rest of the band was staying in San Diego and he had to be back in LA for an interview early the following morning. Erin remembers many clamoring fans after the show. It was a claustrophobic, terrifying, experience being shuffled with Michael from backstage to the car. Halfway back to Los Angeles, they were pulled over by the highway patrol for speeding. Even though he had downed a full bottle of wine in the back of the limo, Michael leapt out of the back seat and went to the driver's aid. He had a word with the officer and told him that it was his fault as he had instructed the driver to speed up to lose some persistent fans. The officer shone a light directly into Michael's eyes and asked to see who the other passengers were. At this point it got a little touchy, after all he had two sixteen-year old girls back there. Of course it was quite innocent, Erin and her friends were playing video games and no alcohol in sight as it had been put away by the time the officer put his head in the limo. His niece? Well, this took a lot more of Michael's smooth talk.
The following day I had a call from Michael who was in another limo the way to the airport. He had just heard that Nirvana lead vocalist/lyricist Kurt Cobain, had been found dead, the apparent victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Michael was shocked as he expressed his sadness and disappointment that such a talented man would take his own life. He could not understand how he could leave his little child. He also said that we had lost the poet laureate of our generation. He continued to discuss it obsessively all the way to the airport.
He invited me to meet him on tour in Portland, Oregon as I had recently broken my engagement with Richard and he wanted to cheer me up. Also he would have some free time between band obligations and Brent was now attending college there. Two days after his call from the limo, I checked into a room he had booked for me, next to his. I called him to let him know I had arrived and he came right over. The bell boy had flipped my television on to demonstrate the room features, and by the time Michael knocked on my door there was a reporter on the screen in front of the Cobain estate in Seattle interviewing grieving fans who were camping outside the gates. After hugging one another our attention was drawn to the television and Michael lamented about the pain Cobain must have been going through. Still, he could not understand or condone his actions, calling it stupid and senseless and selfish. He worried about copycat fans taking their lives.
Brent met us with some friends and we went with the band to the show where the reception this time was warm. There was a lot of joking around with the crew. The family atmosphere had resumed. When INXS went on stage, Brent headed out into the crowd and I sat in a little stairwell off to the side of the stage. I could see Brent push his way to the front and reach his hand out to Michael who was singing and laughing and slapping Brent's hand as he worked the audience. Just as soon as Brent could make his way to the front, the crowd would lift him up and move him back over their heads. He was crowd walking, having the time of his life, and meanwhile giving me heart failure. Seated at stage right, was a huge group of young people who had impaired hearing. I noticed that they had one person facing them who was signing the words to the songs as Michael sang. Michael spent a lot of time on this side of the stage, seeming to want to give this group more. In respect for Kurt Cobain, Michael sang a heart-wrenching rendition of 'By My Side' . He just said the song was for a very special friend who would be missed and asked that everybody take time to think of Kurt. In light of the fact that we were close to Seattle and every body was feeling sadness about the loss of the songwriter, it brought most of the audience to tears. Directly after this Michael switched to an up tempo number and made his way over to my side of the stage, lingering there as he sang to me which forced the spotlight to shine into my little hiding place. I was embarrassed but it was a sweet gesture and it took every body's thoughts back to the concert at hand. The whole exercise showed what a great performer Michael was.
Next day at breakfast Michael told me that he was exasperated with Kell as
he had tried to persuade Kell to retire several times but he insisted on
getting back into some new business scheme. He just wanted him to retire
and play golf. I had just heard that he was investigating the logistics of a car
wash business in Sydney. Michael rolled his eyes when I told him and said
that this was out . He decided that he needed a movie to escape this
conversation, so we went to an early show of ‘Sirens' , a movie starring
Michael's friend Elle Macpherson and several other Australian actors.
kind of brief sanity is evident in the exchange of the first of the notes
below, both written soon after Portland.
July 8, 1994, another fax from Michael after Erin had told him that she was going to attend the 25 th anniversary of Woodstock.
“Dear Tina and Erin, Hi, I got your fax, Woodstock sounds curiouser and curiouser, I'd love to drop by too. Last weekend Helena, some girlfriends and I went to a big outdoor festival called Roskilde in Denmark. We stayed overnight with a tent! Saw Henry Rollins, The Specials, said hello to Bjork and had a Real Viking Good Time!!
Did you get my postcard? I think you'll like it. I'm glad about the 'Cats' tickets. I called Mum on her birthday but she must have been out - sending Ross broke! (ha ha). Spring has sprung (at the villa ) -we have pears, apples, plums, lemons, pink grapefruit, cherrys, corn!! Its beautiful as you can imagine. When is Kells birthday? Love Mich
May 24, 1994.
It was good to 'feel' the relaxation in your voice last night. The view outside of your bedroom window(at the villa) must be a slice of heaven. I remember seeing photographs of the sun deck when it was covered in vines.....it must be getting that way now-I promised Brent and Erin that we would make a trip over there during spring or summer of next year. Erin and Linda have been getting serious about Bedlam Spiral; they have hooked up with a drummer named 'Fish'. They have been writing a lot lately also. Take care and keep in touch, Love Tina.
June 9th, 1994, a naughty postcard arrived from Michael; it displayed a Greek god with an enormous......
"Hi There, Hope all is well , hows this statue for culture! Am reading Socrates on the way to the Temple of Posiedon!! Sailing with some friends - its beautiful here - tour is over, and life has just begun - Love from the Ionic Sea + Me X MichaelX'
In early October, Michael flew to Nashville, Tennessee to perform without INXS in a special Elvis Presley tribute which had been organized by Priscilla and included a mass of talent. Michael sang a wonderful rendition of ‘Baby Let's Play House' pouring his usual special blend of sensuality into it. He was never confident, never knew how good his voice was nor how special his phrasing. He just did not allow himself to believe that he touched people with his voice the way we all know he did.
By mid 1994, Rhett was spending time on the Gold Coast with Mother and Ross when he decided that he desperately needed to go back into rehab. He had been maintaining early nights, he was eating well and sunning himself but whenever possible he was also drinking a little (which in his case is a little too much) and still found it impossible not to party when the opportunity arose. When he did present himself back to the rehab clinic and they laid down the rules to him, he changed his mind and decided that he did not want to do it their way, so they invited him to leave.
September 6, 1994. 'Dear Tina, Rhett 'phoned yesterday-he was still in Sydney. He said everything is definately O.K.-and has met someone, her name is Kate and she was in 'Sirens'. I can't remember her surname, XXXXX Mother.'
Not long after this a photograph of Rhett and a very pretty girl appeared in Australia's TV Week with the caption 'Latest hot couple seen at celebrity gatherings is Sirens star and model Kate Fischer and Rhett Hutchence, brother of INXS' Michael. Inside Info's cameras caught them smooching at a Johnny Walker promotional party in Sydney' . No serious romance was to develop however.
My brothers may not have had everything in common but they did share a reluctance to commit in relationships. Rhett had been out of rehab for some months and after a short dalliance in the film industry in Sydney, he was living contentedly in Byron Bay, on the northern coast of New South Wales. By late 1994 he seemed to be coping very well. I had never before heard him sound so clear- headed and I was both relieved and happy for him and admired him for having the courage to face his life without a chemical crutch for the first time. He was living in a household with three women, one of whom was an exceptional person named Mandy Nolan. There did not for once appear to be any big romance. She was a stand up comic and an artist. Michael said that she was just what Rhett needed, someone with a wonderful sense of humour. In November Rhett delighted and astonished us by writing:
'Dear Tina, Erin and Rio (our gigantic cat)
I'm fine, happy with my lot living life, and dealing with stuff as it comes up. I'm moving out of my place on the 14th Nov. when I get the phone on I'll call you collect and give you the new #. I've been doing bits and pieces, here and there. I designed and built a set for a local play which I was proud of, do the window of a shop in Byron every month, have an advice column - 'Just Add Vice ' in the local gig guide, and start a radio show Friday morning 6-9 on Bay FM. Anyway love to all, be good, howdy to Brent. Love Love Love, Rhett. xxxxx'
Rhett called in late December 1994, with the news that Mandy was pregnant and they were expecting in August. He asked me to relay the news to all. This was very exciting, so unexpected and we all hoped that it would be a turning point for him.
In the latter months of 1994 the Australian press had been reporting Helena and Michael's upcoming wedding plans. Speculation was that it would take place in Paris and that Helena had commissioned Gianni Versace to design the gown. Michael and Helena were of course friends with Versace, his villa was just minutes from Michael's in Roquefort Les Pins. And goodness knows Helena (and her mother Ilsa), had hinted plenty to get a marriage proposal out of Michael but it had always seemed that he was just not ready to commit himself to marriage yet. Helena had shown no signs of what he called 'serious nesting', meaning, I suppose, that if he was going to settle down he would want his partner to feel that way too, but, Helena was taking on more work than ever. The story about the Versace wedding dress was pure fantasy. Nevertheless Helena did buy a fabulous, full length, satin wedding gown. It was, however, an antique, yellowed, with age. She hung this on her side of the closet in the master bedroom of Michael's villa. I assumed it was to remind him of her wishes. It would remain in the closet for a long time.
END CHAPTER EIGHT