Most of these words are Suzanne Carbone’s, from her “Guess who came to dinner” article in The Age (online – I truly hope it didn’t make it to print). I also hope it is satirical or, at least, some sort of deranged fantasy. Unlike Sam Newman and his Footy Show pals, I don’t usually define “satire” as “I’m a talentless goon”, but in this case I am willing to make an exception as the alternative – that it’s for real and has been put in the paper – is too horrendous to consider.
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I NEVER thought I’d get to read a story called ”The night I met Oprah Winfrey”, but there it was, prominently displayed on the virtual front page of The Age.
Of course, it wasn’t actually called “The night I met Oprah Winfrey” because some enterprising sub decided to go with the headline “Guess who came to dinner in Toorak” to highlight the fact that we really are still stuck in the 60s here. And not the good 60s, either; the 60s where… well, where people of means are still stuck, which is to say the 50s. Or earlier.
Ten thousand people crammed into Federation Square yesterday to see the TV star for 12 minutes but last night Suzanne Carbone ended up at a private dinner for 20 in Toorak with her and then inflicted her breathless name-dropping recount on innocent newspaper readers some of whom [I wish I could say "most of whom" but I have no real confidence in that assessment] really couldn’t give a rat’s arse about the self-promotions of the rich and exploitative.
Suzanne’s friend Megan Castran always dreamt about Oprah visiting her in Australia – which is a specific and unnervingly limited ambition, when you really think about it – and Suzanne is so starstruck that she can report that “if there’s someone who can make dreams come true, it’s the Big O.”
Mrs Castran met Oprah in Hawaii in 2006 and sat in her Chicago audience the year later. After the show, she gave Oprah her business card and the TV star told her she would call if she was coming to Australia.
Oprah stuck to her word. She told Suzanne last night there was something special about Mrs Castran’s business card. ”There was something about her energy. I kept it in the right-hand side of my desk.”
Mrs Castran has held taco nights at her luxurious home for 20 years and when inviting Suzanne to last night’s dinner, she said it was to celebrate her birthday, which was on Wednesday. Oprah was the icing on the cake.
Mrs Castran, surrounded by devoted husband Paul and children Max and Zoe, had invited 20 close friends including golfer Stuart Appleby and his wife, Ashley Saleet, Natasha Stipanov, Ronnie Atlas, Sarah Walker and Meghan McGann, all people who Suzanne clearly thinks we have heard of and probably hopes we’ll be as breathlessly impressed by as she is.
The doorbell rang at 6pm and Mrs Castran screamed when she saw Oprah. They hugged and Oprah handed over two bottles of tequila, Porfidio and Parfida. Well, it was taco night and tequila shots were in order.
A beaming Mrs Castran, declared: ”This is one of life’s great moments.” [Suzanne doesn't report that her devoted husband, Paul, rolled his eyes here, but I'd hope he did.]
Dozens of cameramen, sound recordists, producers and PR people from Oprah’s Harpo Productions buzzed around [Dozens!]. Pearl restaurant staff took over the kitchen to prepare canapes and the tacos.
Oprah, wearing jeans and a shirt with her hair expertly blowdried, as usual, [I'm so happy that Fairfax, with it's recent cost-cutting, hasn't dispensed with the services of someone who can spot "expertly blowdried" hair] sat with us outside by the pool and picked up the taco shell with her hands – like the rest of them. Suzanne doesn’t report whether an “Old El Paso” commercial was then filmed, with people discussing the merits of hard shell tacos vs soft, but I can only assume – given the relentless name dropping so far in the article – that it didn’t happen. They learnt that she sleeps five hours a night. She reiterated that we Aussies are so ”darn friendly”, saying: ”There is a vibrance (sic) and confidence in Australia that I haven’t seen in other places.” [Suzanne omits to tell us that Oprah was saving her voice and communicating in poorly spelled notes. Either that, or she is also skilled at picking up spelling mistakes in speech.]
Then she made an announcement. ”Everyone here is coming to Sydney!” There was applause and cheers.
Pastry chef Christopher Montebello from South Melbourne speciality cake shop Let Them Eat Cake made a flourless chocolate cake of Uluru with Oprah sitting on top. Singer Paris Zachariou serenaded Oprah with his own ditty, cheekily called Billionaire.
Mr Castran, who has done well for himself in real estate, joked: ”Anyone who said money can’t buy happiness doesn’t know where to shop.”
Commenting on being wealthy, Oprah said: ”You should try it.”
Oprah asked about Australian values, our lifestyle and even mentioned ”sex”, curious how parents educated their children about the birds and the bees.
Ross Wilson, who came with wife Tania, performed his classic song Eagle Rock and Oprah danced around the pool. Wilson said: ”It can’t get better than that.”
At 7.30pm, Oprah departed with her Uluru cake, pausing on the tennis court to reflect: ”I got to meet real people in a real family setting. That was as good as it can ever get.”
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Sure, there are tongue-in-cheek elements – the “pausing on the tennis court” to reflect on real people part. But it all seems to be predicated on the basis that we will recognise the names dropped and will therefore be able to really place it as absurd. Or maybe that’s just my limited knowledge of a social set that the rest of Melbourne is familiar with…