Known to Every Doorman.
Monday night last week found me in Sydney. The taxi took me to the Park Hyatt Hotel at the Rocks. I was not staying there. Patrick Swayze was.
As the doorman pulled the handle of the front door he inquired, “Mr Hunt?”
Pretty impressive, I thought. “That's me,” I confessed, pretending that the doormen of most hotels in the world automatically know my name as I arrive.
“Ms Russell is waiting for you down there in the bar.”
“What would you like to drink?” asked the waiter in the bar.
“Well, actually, I'd like a milk shake,” I said ingenuously, “but I don't suppose you can get that in the Park Hyatt bar.”
“I'm sure we can get whatever you want,” countered the waiter.
As I sucked on my milk shake (having discovered that it was on the Hoyts account), Kristi filled me in.
“They are very protective of Patrick. We don't know whether he'll make a speech. Or even if he'll turn up to the theatre.”
“Sounds like a bit of a Hollywood star,” I suggested, “doesn't he know this is Australia? We don't like tall poppies.”
“He's not the problem,” said Kristi, “but the minders are very careful. Someone has rung up suggesting There will be trouble tonight. So everyone's nervous.”
I thought I'd let Kristi be nervous for both of us. She seemed to be doing it all right.
Jake Eberts, the producer of City of Joy arrived and said, “You guys are doing a terrific job.”
I thanked him and tried to give the credit to Kristi.
“No, I meant in Calcutta!” said Jake.
Kristi's smile remained, but looked a little less genuine.
Limos have bad turning circles.
It was time to go to the cinema. There was still no sign of Patrick.
Tex arrived. Tex was six-foot-two. Around the biceps.
“Don't worry about me,” said Tex observing the extra worry lines appearing on my forehead, “I'm just a shadow.” Tex was Patrick's personal body guard.
Kristi, Margie and I rode in a Honda. The dearest Honda you can buy, mind you. A veritable Legend. It had leather seats. We only had it for 15 minutes. I thought Judy's Honda City (the cheapest Honda you can buy) cornered better, but it's hard to tell at 15 kays.
We led the motorcade. Four limos, each about as long as a Sydney city block, turned out to follow us.
“Oh-oh.” said our driver, “the last two didn't make it round.” Four limos cannot all turn on one cycle of Sydney traffic lights.
City of Joy is a real joy.
At the theatre was a red carpet surrounded by a crowd of people with cameras. A few took our picture by mistake.
In the cinema, 920 people had paid $15 a head to come to the premiere. Nearly all World Vision sponsors and donors.
I was escorted to the front to make a speech. Jake Eberts, Om Puri (the Indian star), and Patrick Swayze came along behind.
“Hello, Patrick,” I said, extending my hand, “I'm Philip Hunt from World Vision.”
“Pleased to meet you, sir.” said Patrick, shaking my hand. Sir? Made me feel instantly twenty years older.
As we sat and waited a fan crept over to Patrick. I saw Tex's leg muscles tense.
“Can I have your autograph, Patrick?”
“I'm sorry, honey.” said Patrick, “I'll shake your hand. But if I give you an autograph, I'll have to give one to everyone in the theatre.”
Undaunted, the fan said, “Can I have a kiss then?” Tex's leg muscles pushed his massive frame between Patrick and the fan and gently persuaded her to sit down. Now.
We made our speeches and Patrick spoke kindly about World Vision.
“I'm excited to find an organisation that has eliminated the word help from its vocabulary,” he said. “I think support, aid, helping the people to do it themselves. That's the way to go.”
As the movie began, I was directed to the back of the cinema where I found two rows of World Vision people.
“This hand shook the Swayze hand.” I announced, holding my right hand regally aloft. “A small charge to touch my hand.” Someone kissed my hand in the dark. I have a funny feeling it was Geoff Gregory.
We watched the movie. A roller coaster. Full of adventure, the violence of poverty and injustice, the inspiration of hope. It is a wonderful film. It could change the way people see the poor.
Mrs Hunt Meets Mr Swayze.
Wednesday night-Melbourne. Judy was thrilled (no she wasn't) to be in a motorcade. But at least the driver was pleasant. David Henry.
As we waited in the foyer for the stars to arrive a journalist from the Australian Women's Weekly said she wanted a photo of me and Judy with Patrick Swayze.
Oh sure, I thought, recalling the fan who wanted an autograph. And Tex.
As Patrick emerged from the laser tunnel we propped for the photo.
“The Australian Women's Weekly?” asked Patrick incredulously. Like no-one would really call a magazine the Australian Women's Weekly would they?
“The most important monthly in Australia,” I said.
Tex walked up my back and we were swept into the cinema.
Max Walker is a Great Bowler.
At the dinner afterwards, Judy and I found ourselves at the main table. Alone.
Someone from Hoyts came to rescue us. “We're having drinkies in a private room. Would you like to join us?”
We thought honesty the best policy. But also we had been told to sit here and that the Hoyts crowd would trickle in. Soon they did.
The place card next to Judy read Ted Shackleford. Seemed a familiar name to us, but we couldn't place it.
Ted turned out to be one of the stars of Knots Landing. Melanie said I should have asked how Val was.
Max Walker is a great guy, and like Normie Rowe, giving his time and talents free. But compering this night turned out to be a challenge. At World Vision we're spoiled by having Brian Tizzard.
“Who will speak?” asked Max.
“When will we know?”
“What'll they say?”
In the end, both Om Puri and Patrick Swayze came to the microphone and talked. And talked. We finally had dinner at 10.30 p.m. A bit sophisticated for our suburban habits.
Patrick even returned for an encore speech in which he spoke with passion, if little organisation, about his experiences in Calcutta. This was very moving.
He startled us at one point by suggesting Dan Quayle should be killed. I introduced him to Senator Michael Tate, the Minister for Justice in the Australian Government. “A politician quite unlike Dan Quayle,” I said. Michael Tate seemed reassured.
We showed our video of Calcutta using the photos taken by Palani Mohan from the Sydney Morning Herald. Wonderful images.
Finally, the program concluded around midnight. My Subaru had not turned into a pumpkin, though David Henry had already taken his up-market (and temporary) Honda home for the evening.
Tensions and Contrasts.
How did I feel about this amazing night? Ambivalent.
Probably we raised $50,000 for our slum work in Calcutta. A good result.
Also there was good media coverage surrounding the event. And we helped to promote an excellent and worthwhile film. The more people who see it, the more sensitive they will be to World Vision's work.
Yet there was much that was odd about the evening. And so much that speaks to the challenges of living with integrity in a complicated world.
Many enjoyed the thrill of being part of a special event. Of being at the Hyatt dinner. Of feeling special. City of Joy finishes with a wedding in which the bride and groom are special. The honour is undeserved in both cases. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy it.
The Melbourne event cost $120 a head (there were some complimentaries). For this you got to see the movie and eat a nice three course meal in the Grand Hyatt ball room. And you got to see Patrick and Om up close (as long as you didn't touch or ask for an autograph).
The incongruity that such affluence and privilege was the vehicle for helping World Vision's work in the slums of Calcutta was perhaps lost on some of those attending. Not on me, or others close to World Vision.
Yet here is the reality in which we live. Almost every aspect of our lives in Australia appears ostentatious, privileged and super-rich compared with the people in the City of Joy. Knox Shopping Town is a palace compared to much of the world. For us, it's just a place to shop.
This should make us feel a little uncomfortable. And thankful for the grace, privilege and benefits of living and working in Australia.
Let us enjoy the blessings we have. Let us always use all that we have for God's good purposes.