Gal Pals Have It Covered

Sydney Morning Herald

Saturday October 18, 2008

by Andrew Hornery ahornery@smh.com.au Phone 9282 2886

ON THE pop culture radar celesbians - girls who like girls almost as much as they like headlines - are the new "black". It was only a matter of time before an Aussie was leading the charge and taking her new gal pal with her, causing rumours and mirth backstage at the world's major fashion shows.

The Australian supermodel Catherine McNeil has been getting cosy with a fellow clothes horse, the Danish-born beauty Freja Beha Erichsen, over the past few months. And yes, they make a very pretty couple though they are yet to confirm it - well, publicly at least.

Nonetheless, in an era where celebrity couples, even the same-sex ones, are tagged with cheeky hybrid nicknames (Hollywood starlet Lindsay Lohan and DJ Samantha Ronson are known as Lesbohan, while newlyweds Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi got De Generossi) McNeil and her new gal pal have already been labelled McBeha.

McNeil's Sydney representatives at the modelling agency Chic declined to comment. McNeil's manager, Kathy Ward, would only say that McNeil was "in a very happy place right now".

As for her mystery absence from the catwalks of the recent Milan and Paris shows, PS understands it was ill health that kept the genetically blessed Queenslander away, not "personal issues" as reported elsewhere.

Fashion bloggers have been having a field day. The Sydney-based Frockwriter site has been abuzz with chatter about McNeil's supposed new relationship, gleefully pointing out what a lovely coincidence it was that McNeil was gracing the cover of the November Australian Vogue while her supposed girlfriend was on the cover of Vogue Nippon.

McNeil has shot to the top of the international modelling scene over the past year. She has far more pressing matters to address than gossip about her personal life, such as landing what would be her biggest career coup yet: the cover of US Vogue.

McNeil spent last week in Los Angeles shooting a 12-page spread with the photographer Mario Testino, featuring the hot US actor Jon Hamm. The shoot will be in the December issue of US Vogue and McNeil is shaping up as a major contender to grace the cover.

Reputation on the line

Take note Justin Hemmes, you have stiff competition for the title of Sydney's reigning nightlife baron-uber-playboy from a father-and-son duo with the backing of Colonel Sanders and support of Sydney's most enthusiastic circuit blondes.

Ashod Nassibian and his son Gerry Nass (he shortened his surname years ago) have reopened Darlinghurst's famed Beresford Hotel, giving it a $30-million makeover and transforming the old girl into Sydney's hottest new watering hole.

Regular PS readers will recall Nassibian, who made his multi-million-dollar fortune from the manufacture of KFC boxes, has featured in these pages regularly as the arm-candy of none other than Lizzie Buttrose, niece of Ita and purveyor of a seemingly endless array of belts cunningly disguised as skirts.

Leggy blonde Buttrose, who is 30 years Nassibian's junior, is also best friends with equally finger-lickin' good Sydney circuit blonde, Shari-Lea Hitchcock, mother of billionaire Richard Pratt's love child, Paula.

The girls were holding court at the Beresford on Wednesday, still enjoying a leisurely lunch with former footy star and latter-day raconteur "Back Door" Benny Elias at 4.45pm when PS called.

Meanwhile Gerry, who was involved in venues Mr Goodbar, L'otel and The White Horse, is best known around town for his dog Cleopatra, which he bought in 2004 for $7000. Cleopatra is a very "excl sive" breed called a Neapolitan mastiff, making her one of the most expensive bitches Nass knows.

JUDGE AND JURY

Friends of Australia's Next Top Model judge Charlotte Dawson say the beauty is devastated by Thursday morning's arrest of her latest boyfriend, Matthew Rhodin, who allegedly used a fake lease to convince the Commonwealth Bank to loan him $7.3 million in October last year so he could buy a commercial property in Darlinghurst. Dawson, who has been in Queensland auditioning for the next series of Top Model, had to be convinced by friends not to make an emergency dash to Sydney as "it would have just made the situation worse". Meanwhile, gossip within the corridors of the swish Altair apartment building in Darlinghurst had been well advanced in the weeks leading up to Thursday morning's arrest. Apart from sightings of Rhodin's girlfriend, residents had been in a tizz following two other separate incidents, one a mysterious police raid on an apartment and another involving a chair being flung over a balcony in the high-rise, which crashed onto a car.

JEFF GETS BURNED

He forced John Laws and Steve Price to eat their words after a 2003 on-air exchange about gay renovators Waz and Gav from TV show The Block. Now Sydney gay activist Gary Burns says he intends to launch court proceedings against Jeff Kennett over comments the former Victorian premier made comparing gay men with pedophiles. In July Kennett ruffled feathers when he said the Bonnie Doon Football Club was right to sack bisexual football trainer Ken Campagnolo over his sexuality. "The club felt that once this had been pointed out and you had this gentleman there who was obviously close to young men - massaging young men - it ran an unnecessary risk, and that's why it decided it was best that he not perform those duties again ... It's the same if you have a pedophile there as a masseur, right?" Kennett was quoted in Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper. Burns intends to take Kennett, who has denied making the comment, to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal.

ROCK THE BOAT

Billionaire Frank Lowy would be loath to cop the blame for impacting on a sailing club for people with disabilities at Rushcutter's Bay? Yesterday the Herald revealed it was Lowy's boat, Shirley Anne , which was temporarily moored off d'Albora Marina to demonstrate the likely impact the largest boat would have on the channel to support its application to extend the marina to allow a 36-metre long and eight-metre high vessel to dock there. D'Albora is not saying which yacht will eventually take up residence; however, back in June PS reported Lowy was coughing up big bucks to revamp the $30 million super yacht.

PSsst ...

Twenty years is a long time in any career. In the world of modelling it is unheard of. On Wednesday Anneliese Seubert ended her two-decade long association with the Chadwick modelling agency. Friends say she is keen to explore new avenues in her career and has signed up to the rival agency Chic. Born in Germany in 1973, she moved to Cooma with her family when she was nine. A finalist in the Dolly Covergirl competition, she began modelling when she was 15. Seubert won the 1990 Ford Supermodel of the World contest at 17, receiving a $US250,000 modelling contract with Ford Models. She eventually based herself in Paris, working for the big names of the international ragtrade including Christian Dior, Givenchy and John Galliano. While there have been many imposters, Seubert was a genuine Australian supermodel.

The son also rises for Paul Barry

The warts-and-all biographer Paul Barry has tackled the likes of Alan Bond, Kerry Packer and Shane Warne, making enemies of them all along the way. Now James Packer has landed in his sights. But Barry told PS this week that Packer, unlike his old man, was proving to be a somewhat less colourful character to research.

"It is many, many months away," Barry told PS, asked about the status of the book.

Barry dug up all sorts of tasty morsels in The Rise And Rise Of Kerry Packer, which he updated after the big fella departed this realm. The publisher, Random House, says the book has sold more than 300,000 copies, a big number for the Australian book market.

PS can imagine several saucy chapters covering James Packer's string of beautiful model/actor wives and girlfriends, ranging from Jennifer Flavin (now married to Sylvester Stallone) and Kate Fischer to his former wife, Jodhi Meares, and the current Mrs Packer, the former model and aspiring pop star Erica Baxter.

There would also be plenty of scope for a few scintillating stories about Packer's well-documented involvement with Scientology.

And of course there are all those prominent buddies, from his falling out with Lachlan Murdoch to his "bromance" with Tom Cruise.

But don't expect Packer to be buying a copy.

Last year, asked about the less-than-flattering Gerald Stone book Who Killed Channel 9?, Packer told one of his shareholders: "Unlike you, I haven't read the book. Lots of people write lots of books; lots of people like you write books. My personal experience tells me that with people like Gerald Stone and Paul Barry ... very often there's an agenda."

© 2008 Sydney Morning Herald

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