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Sunday Age

Kylietown

Author: Guy Blackman
Date: 08/10/2006
Words: 1712
Source: SAG
          Publication: The Sunday Age
Section: M
Page: 8
As Melbourne's most famous export prepares for her on-stage homecoming, Guy Blackman visits the local places that helped put her on the map.

It is almost 20 years since Kylie Minogue left Melbourne to pursue international fame and fortune, and her presence lingers in this city as a nebulous web of associations, fading memories and fleeting paparazzi glimpses. From now-demolished buildings to a blank space in a high school yearbook, Kylie's Melbourne is a kind of ghost town, a map made of rumour as much as fact.

All this is a testament to the pop princess' love of privacy, and her home town's protective attitude towards its most famous export. Which is not to say we don't all love a Kylie story - almost every Melburnian has one, from the mundane to the scandalous, and whether second-, third- or fourth-hand, our stories are told with relish - and a certain amount of pride.

1 Camberwell High School

Prospect Hill Road, Canterbury

"I used to go to school with her," says someone called Andrew on an internet forum discussion about Babe Musicians. "We used to call her 'Car Park Kylie'." As if. Recollections of Minogue's student years by her schoolmates are many, various and often conflicting. Supposedly a shy student of average grades, Minogue attended the imposing 65-year-old campus from 1980 until '85, although she doesn't appear in her year 12 year-book photo, prevented due to commitments filming her first TV series, The Henderson Kids.

Melbourne music teacher Marion Wright says she was Kylie's best mate at the age of 13, and remembers innocent times collecting money for the Salvation Army after school. "After we had collected for the day we would go and have a meat pie at our favourite shop," she prosaically told the Fiji Times in May.

Claimant to the title of high-school sweetheart is one David Woods, who says they dated for about three years, breaking up in early 1986 just after Minogue started work on Neighbours. "Kylie told me she wanted our romance to end because she had pressure at work," Woods told British paper The Sun recently.

Then there's the tale from Dino Scatena's unauthorised 1997 biography, Kylie, in which an anonymous classmate alleges that Minogue lost her virginity in a Camberwell High School cupboard. Kylie scoffed at the story, the British media had a field day, and Scatena complained of being treated like Paul Burrell, Princess Diana's serve-and-tell butler.

2 Festival Hall

288 Rosslyn Street, West Melbourne

On August 3, 1986, a nervous 18-year-old Kylie performed in front of thousands of rabid Fitzroy Football Club members at their Giant Fightback Variety Night. With a backing band made up of other Neighbours cast members such as Stefan Dennis, Alan Dale and Jason Donovan, she sang I Got You Babe with actor John Waters, then a couple of other numbers before preparing to leave the stage. But the crowd roared for an encore, and the band launched into a semi-rehearsed version of Little Eva's 1962 chestnut The Locomotion.

"When she finished, silence fell. We looked at each other: we couldn't believe it," Dale said later. "Here was this tiny little girl who looked great, and was great, who could sing like an angel as well."

Minogue was soon ushered into Richmond's Sing Sing Studios by Young Talent Time producer Greg Petherick to record the song, and the demo landed on the desk of Mushroom Records' promotions manager, Amanda Pelman. "Listening to Locomotion as a demo the first time, the first thing that struck me was how great the song was, that to bring back a song like that was just genius," Pelman said in 2003. But the demo was too raw, and so the song was re-recorded, with only Kylie's vocals kept from the original version. After Pelman convinced her dubious boss, Michael Gudinski, Locomotion was released by Mushroom on July 27, 1987, and two weeks later reached number one in Australia.

3 Holy Trinity Church

106 Church Road, Doncaster

Harold and Madge were married there, as were Libby and Drew, but it was the wedding of tomboy mechanic Charlene Mitchell (Minogue) and her childhood sweetheart Scott Robinson (Donovan), aired by Channel Ten on July 1, 1987, that brought the highest ratings of any soap opera in Australian television history. Dreamt up by Neighbours producers to offset rising outrage from stuffier viewers at the fact that the young TV couple were proposing to move in together, the wedding was held in the old nave of Doncaster's 135-year-old Anglican church, all rough-hewn sandstone and glowing stained glass windows.

Liz Guiver was vicar's secretary and administrator at Holy Trinity when Scott and Charlene tied the knot, and though she was stuck in the office for most of the day, her memories are detailed. "The person who played the vicar, and wore the vicar's robe, he smoked cigarettes, so we had to be careful that they were dry-cleaned before services on Sunday," she recalls. "Then we waited for months until the episode was aired, and most parishioners were glued to the set."

Things have settled down in the intervening 19 years, but according to church staff, backpackers still regularly turn up asking to see the nave where Scott and Charlene were married. "We also got quite a few weddings from it, because people knew that Kylie had been married there, and they wanted to experience what she'd experienced, to walk down the aisle where she walked," says Guiver.

4 Cadillac Bar

536 Swanston Street, CBD

After making waves in Sydney, when she appeared at the Australian premiere of The Delinquents with new boyfriend Michael Hutchence, Kylie returned to Melbourne in December 1989 to spend a quiet Christmas with her family. She had just performed her first live concerts in Hong Kong, Japan and Britain, and wanted to prepare for Australian dates scheduled for February.

Hutchence's influence can be seen in the line-up of Kylie's first Australian band, which included outspoken '80s pop star James Freud (once of the Models) and former Hunters and Collectors percussionist Greg Perano, who later commented that Michael introduced Kylie to nightlife, and Kylie introduced Michael to daylight.

Hutchence may also have had something to do with the cheeky choice of pseudonym when Minogue played a secret show under the name the Singing Budgie on January 29 at the Cadillac Bar, a somewhat seedy fixture of Melbourne inner-city nightlife that was demolished in 2003.

"Good old Locomotion was the first song," wrote a reviewer in the Herald Sun the next day. "The dance troupe flown in from London were quite grand. Kylie showed a bit of dash in the hoofing stakes herself. She blew kisses and winked at Mike. The whole spectacle was particularly moving ... They trotted out My Girl, then Kylie did a brilliant version of Tears On My Pillow."

A year later the Cadillac Bar came under fire when a woman was pinned to the floor and assaulted by two men while onlookers cheered. The David Pennington Building, part of Melbourne University's Bio21 Institute, now stands on the site.

5 Kylie's mansion

Monomeath Avenue, Canterbury

Physically, Kylie's Melbourne is a quiet, tree-lined city, full of sturdy oaks pruned to avoid power lines, and four-wheel-drives bustling about on never-muddied wheels. Raised in equally leafy Surrey Hills, Kylie thanked her parents, Ron and Carol, in 2002 for her comfortable childhood by buying them a two-storey 1940s mansion in prestigious Monomeath Avenue. The house, which comes complete with heated swimming pool and tennis court, was valued two years ago at around $6 million.

Such was the media commotion outside the Minogue residence in May last year, when Kylie returned from Cabrini Hospital following surgery for breast cancer, that Premier Steve Bracks warned photographers and journalists to keep their distance. Somehow Kylie managed to slip into the house via a back entrance, avoiding the waiting hordes.

But this is just one of Kylie's investments around town. She and her family own houses, shops and apartments worth an estimated $12 million, all in Melbourne's eastern suburbs, including a heritage-listed cottage in Armadale, several units in Maling Road, Canterbury, and a house in Murray Street, Richmond. With sister Dannii, she also bought 20 hectares of picturesque French Island, 65 kilometres south-east of Melbourne and accessible only by ferry.

"I'd heard of her, but I didn't recognise her," said local tour operator Allan Chandler, who showed Kylie around the island last Christmas. "I just thought she was another tourist. She was a typical girl. No airs or graces."

6 Cabrini Hospital

183 Wattletree Road, Malvern

On May 17 last year, just two days before she was due to start her sell-out Showgirl Australian tour, Kylie announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. All engagements were cancelled and she checked into Victoria's largest private hospital, St Frances Xavier Cabrini in Malvern.

Kylie's brief stay at Cabrini was marked by numerous media-driven controversies, such as claims that rooms were repainted pink at her request; that ambulances were turned away from the emergency department; that critically ill patients were turfed out of wards to accommodate her; and that visitors were manhandled by suspicious security staff when trying to see less famous patients. Hospital CEO Roger Greenman issued a press statement in early June refuting the claims, protesting that these allegations represented "a disappointing attack on the integrity of our hospital and staff" and justifying the extra security measures because of "the intrusive attention of international media representatives, many of whom used underhand tactics to attempt to get access to the hospital during Ms Minogue's stay".

Kylie underwent a partial mastectomy on May 20, with surgeon Dr Jenny Senior announcing two days later she felt "confident that we caught the cancer in time and that she's now on the road to a complete recovery". She flew to Paris with boyfriend Olivier Martinez for six months of chemotherapy at Europe's premier cancer treatment centre, the Institute Gustave-Roussy, before returning to Melbourne for radiation therapy.

The future

Fans who bought tickets for the May 2005 Showgirl tour will finally get to see Kylie on stage at the retitled Showgirl Homecoming, which reaches Melbourne in December. She will play six shows in her home town, from December 10 to 17, before spending Christmas at the family home. Her image, of course, will loom large across billboards and mastheads throughout the month. And there are still some tickets left for the tour. But if you keep your eyes open, somewhere in the town's restaurants and bars and boutiques, you may have your very own Kylie sighting to add to the folklore. If you do, drop us a line.

Spy@theage.com.au

 
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