‘If everyone chips in 10 bucks we can probably get some cocaine,’ says a long-haired businessman in an orange velvet suit, while a skinny woman in six-inch heels falls over the couch, spilling her champagne.
It’s 3am. I’m in the Sydney apartment of a well-known media personality, surrounded by C-list TV stars, fashion industry types, models and socialites. Everyone is wearing very expensive clothing, and everyone is extremely drunk. Including me.
‘Look, there’s 20 of us, if we each put in 10 bucks…’ Mr Orange Suit continues, eyes wild as he scans the room for supporters. ‘Honestly, I’ve got a guy, he can be here in 20 minutes. Who’s in?’
‘Hey!’ a woman shrieks at me. ‘Where the fuck is my golden vacuum cleaner?’
I have no idea what she’s talking about. Fortunately, she’s forgotten a minute later, and offers me another drink.
How did I end up here? I’m probably not beautiful enough to be here. I’m certainly not thin enough. There should be one of those signs like they have at amusement park rides at the front door: ‘You must be size eight or smaller to enter.’ I’m no style maven or party person, I’m just a blogger from Adelaide. Where I come from, people chip in a tenner at 3am to get a pizza, not class-A drugs.
Yet here I am: in the wee hours of a Wednesday morning, being offered drugs from celebrities searching for a golden vacuum cleaner. And it’s all because I started writing about a television show.
To understand exactly how I ended up in such a Hunter S. Thompson-inspired scene, we need to go back six years. Back to my one-bedroom flat in Adelaide, devoid of both drugs and cleaning devices made from precious metals.
I was 25, had just moved out on my own and had discovered that, along with having to do my own laundry and buy my own alcohol, one of the perils of leaving the nest was that I no longer had my mother to make witticisms with in front of the television.
‘Nicole Kidman’s had so much work done her blood type is Botox Positive,’ I’d jeer to the empty lounge room, now having to provide the laughter to my own joke.
‘Angela Bishop looks so awful, it’s like the day after the Logies has landed on her face,’ I’d cackle to myself. Cue tumbleweeds and a dog barking.
Annoyed that my hilarity was being wasted, I did what any normal 20-something girl would do – I started to blog about Australian Idol. Every week. Obsessively. For hours at a stretch.
My passion for taking the piss out of Australian Idol knew no bounds. Every Sunday I would record the show and write down jokes about it as I watched – how bad the contestants were, what they wore, the bizarre and incomprehensible critiques offered by the judges. Then I’d rewind the tape and take photos of the screen for visual comedy purposes, which usually revolved around Marcia Hines’s outfits and Mark Holden’s hair. And then I’d sit in front of my computer, turning it into an absurdly long but hilarious post for my blog Bland Canyon and its four followers. The whole process usually took about five hours. It was painstaking, it was pointless, it tore me away from social engagements and pissed off my boyfriend, but I loved it.
After blogging all of season four (winner Damien Leith, aka ‘The Irish Hobbit’, runner-up Jessica Mauboy, aka ‘The one that actually managed to get a music career in the end’) with little fanfare, save for the occasional email of praise from a mate, things got weird.
One day at work, my phone rang. ‘Hello Petra, it’s Dicko.’
What. The. Eff.
Australian Idol judge Ian ‘Dicko’ Dickson had somehow tracked me down to the community newspaper where I worked and called me to say how much he enjoyed me paying him out on the internet every week.
‘We all read your blog – the crew, the contestants, all the judges. Well, Marcia doesn’t. But we love it, it’s hilarious,’ he told me, as I flapped my arms around and silently mouthed ‘It’s Dicko’ to any of my work colleagues who looked vaguely interested. ‘Keep it up girl. Go hard.’
Dicko became my number one cheerleader – he told everyone he met about the blog. Every time he did a radio interview about Idol, he’d mention Bland Canyon. Visitor numbers went through the roof. Suddenly, I had thousands of people reading my stupid jokes, and leaving comments like ‘YOUR SO FUNY THIS BLOG MADE ME LOL’.
The fame, praise and misspelt compliments went straight to my head. Suddenly, the late nights of tapping away, trying to come up with similes for Mark Holden’s hairdo were all worth it. So when I spied another opportunity to ruin my social life for another four months of the year, I grabbed it with both hands – and in 2007 my Australia’s Next Top Model blog was born.
Based on the American show hosted by Tyra Banks, Top Model is an Australian reality television competition in which a bunch of tall, skinny girls of varying degrees of boganism complete absurd challenges and weekly photo shoots in front of a judging panel, vying to be crowned ‘Australia’s Next Top Model’.
Everything about the show was ripe for parody: stupid hairdos and outfits galore; even stupider modelling ‘challenges’ (like dressing up as a donkey and posing on a bale of hay – no, I didn’t make that up); judges camper than a Carry On film; and contestants who occasionally punch walls and frequently use the word ‘moll’. It was a blogger’s dream. There were so many jokes to make at the stars’ expense I was worried about getting sued.
Halfway through season three, the Dicko factor struck again. One day I opened up my email to discover one of the Top Model judges, Charlotte Dawson (who I referred to as ‘Identity Dawson’ based on the fact that she wasn’t one), had left a comment on my blog.
‘Love your wrap ups, keep ’em coming! ’ she’d written.
The compliment was a shock – I’d been rude about Dawson most weeks, making jokes about her apparent Botox addiction and dodgy fashion choices. I had once described a jacket she wore as looking like it had thrown up on her. Then fellow judge and fashion designer Alex Perry followed suit.
‘I’ve taken to wearing maxi Depends when I read this. Freaking hilarious!’ he wrote, even though I usually compared his bald, shining head to a doorknob.
Soon the models themselves were reading the blog and heaping praise, even the one I described as looking like the lovechild of Ronald McDonald and Skeletor. What is with these people, I wondered. Can’t they tell when they’re being paid out?
Then came the lightning bolt of realisation – I’d been worrying about lawsuits for nothing. Minor celebrities love to read about themselves. Good or bad, it doesn’t matter – as long as people are writing about them.
And so it was that I scored an invitation to Top Model’s live season finale show taping in Sydney. I got extremely drunk on free champagne at the after party, and nearly vomited on make-up king and fake-tan enthusiast Napoleon Perdis’s lime-green vinyl tuxedo. And so it was that I later found myself at an after after party at 3am, somewhere in Kings Cross, trying to shirk chipping in for drugs.
The next morning, I was back home with a giant hangover, some rather odd alcohol-related injuries and a stretch of at least four weeks before Idol started again.
‘Right,’ I thought, picking up the remote. ‘Let’s see what else is on.’