REBEKAH Elmaloglou was only 15 years old when she swapped high school for
soap stardom. As Home And Away's angst-ridden teen Sophie Simpson she was
beaten, abused and ended up becoming an unwed teenage mother.
And things weren't travelling too well off screen either. "I started having
anxiety attacks and getting sick - my body just couldn't handle it any more,"
says Rebekah, now 21, who looks back on the three and a half years she spent on
Home And Away as the most stressful and physically gruelling of her life. She
worked 12-hour days and her weekends were consumed by interstate publicity
appearances and photographic shoots.
After collapsing from exhaustion in 1991 and suffering a series of
debilitating panic attacks, Elmaloglou left the Channel 7 soap at the end of
1992, aged 18.
"I went in to Home And Away a child and came out an adult."
Taking advantage of her international fame, Elmaloglou quit the show and
spent the Christmas of 1992 in the UK working on a pantomime. Then she returned
to Australia and waited for the job offers to roll in. And waited. Waiting
eventually turned to worrying.
Elmaloglou wasn't prepared for the shock of going from feted international
soap siren to out-of-work actor.
"When I was working, I used to look at unemployed actors and think it must be
their fault that they're not working but now I understand their position 100
Occasionally she gets the odd guest role on TV, theatre work and bit parts in
films but admits: "Some days I get quite paranoid and think, 'I'll never work
again'. The thing that worries me is that I'm not skilled for any other job.
"I left school half way through Year 10 so I only have a very basic
education. I have nothing to fall back on. I'm not even qualified to get a
waitressing job because I have no experience."
So does she feel the soap industry took advantage of her at such a young age?
"They use you to sell their product basically," she said bluntly.
During those fleeting years when she was paid a hefty $1,000 to $1,500 a week
Elmaloglou's parents invested her earnings in a house in Sydney's eastern
suburbs and art work. "Those are great investments. I was lucky I never lost it
on the financial side." But for many of her former colleagues, the ending has
not been so happy. For every Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan or Craig McLachlan,
there are many former starlets and hearthrobs who end up on the scrap heap after
their contracts expire.
They go from magazine covers, glittering parties, international travel and
astronomical salaries to the whatever-happened-to? file or worse.
There have always been strong whispers in the industry about young actors
being given illegal stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines to get them
through the gruelling days and the nights although no-one associated with the
shows is willing to comment.
Three years ago Home And Away heart-throb Les Hill earned $2,000 a day for
personal appearances and $2,000 a week for a UK pantomime.
Earlier this year the 21-year-old, now back in Australia, admitted in a
magazine interview that he had blown every cent on alcohol and women in London's
After inquiring whether Hill would receive a fee for this article, a
spokeswoman for his agency said, "Les isn't really doing anything at the moment
he's, um, taking a break it might not be something he wants to talk about."
Meanwhile Melissa Tkautz, a former E Street starlet and pop diva, whose last
single, Is It My Body? sank without a trace, is now paying the rent with a
two-week guest spot on Echo Point. At just 21 she's already trading on former
Other former soap stars to disappear into the ether include Neighbours'
Blakeney twins Gillian and Gayle, now in London; Home And Away's Lisa Lackey,
who still pops up on commercials for feminine hygiene products and Mat
Stevenson, most recently seen in a guest role on Blue Heelers.
Just back from the brink is The Heartbreak Kid's Alex Dimitriades who quit
school to work on the spin-off TV drama, Heartbreak High. He announced his
resignation from the show last year only to suffer months of unemployment before
landing a role in the ABC's new drama, Blue Murder, expected to screen this
month or next.
Adrian Lee, an E Street sex symbol until the show's axing three years ago,
now has his highest profile in commercials for biscuits and deodorant.
So who can blame former Home And Away favourite Emily Symons for returning to
the Summer Bay fold after spending three years unsuccessfully launching her
career in the UK?
Even when unemployed, Symons still lived like a star, spending up to $6,000 a
week on beauty treatments, according to her former husband, English musician
Nick Lipscombe. He has claimed the actress ran up huge debts while in London
living the lifestyle she'd been accustomed to as a soapie star.
"They go from travelling the world, being treated like a star, having their
every whim catered for and being paid e"traordinary money - especially if they
do the pantomimes in the UK - to having no job and no prospects. It is quite
devastating for some of them," said Neighbours' casting director Jan Russ who
cast success stories such as Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Craig McLachlan, Guy
Pearce, Rachel Friend and Annie Jones. But their enduring stardom is very rare.
"It's pretty hard to warn a 16-year-old kid that this might not happen to
them because at that age they think of unemployment like they think about car
accidents - that sort of thing happens to other people, not me.
"Television can be this nasty creature which plucks people from obscurity,
eats them up, spits them out and doesn't care what happens to them afterwards,"
"That's the tragedy of this business." n
THE CURSE OF THE LOGIE
For one fabulous moment these Logie winners for Best New Talent were the most
popular actors in Australia, but look what happened to their careers
1989: Nicolle Dickson has done little acting work since leaving Home And Away
two years ago. These days she helps her husband James in his real estate
business and is expecting her first child. She was recently a ghost on Home And
1990: Georgie Parker has worked fairly consistently in TV and theatre since
leaving A Country Practice. She is not working at the moment but is understood
to be re-negotiating her role as Morgan "Mad Dog" Cartwright in the second
series of Fire.
1991: Richard Huggett won fame as E Street's psycho Sonny Bennett. He worked
on Neighbours, travelled overseas, returned to Australia in 1993 and won a role
on Paradise Beach which was promptly canned. He's been quiet since.
1992: Kym Wilson made her soapie debut on Channel 9's short-lived Family And
Friends before graduating to A Country Practice. Last year she juggled hosting
Video Smash Hits with playing a teacher on Heartbreak High; neither contract was
renewed. Recently she has concentrated on theatre work and has formed
production company with partner Jeremy Sims. She has also had a guest role in
the first Cody telemovie.
1993: Simon Baker-Denny E Street's executive producer Forrest Redlich saw
this beach bum dancing in the video clip for Melissa Tkautz's Read My Lips, He
followed up his role on E Street with a part in Home And Away and a guest role
in G.P. While he can be spotted on an airline commercial, his most recent role
was in the ABC's new drama series Naked which is yet to air.
1994: Melissa George, former roller-skating champion, became a household name
(among teenagers at least) as Home And Away's troubled teen Angel. She's
deciding whether to quit the show and gamble on taking her career overseas.
1995: Lisa McCune This Perth actor's first gig was a commercial for Coles.
Channel 7's hit drama, Blue Heelers, with its solid quality and high ratings,
has given her a good grounding. She has shown no sign of leaving the series.