The truth is pretty awful this week.

Crikey, it’s a drag being a foreign correspondent – especially in a dump like New York.

Start the day with a slow jog as the sun rises over the Brooklyn Bridge. Grab a bite at the Barking Dog, where you run into Rudy Giulliani and latest girlfriend – or his wife. Or both. Then pop down to your Park Avenue specialist for a slice of plastic surgery. Now you’re looking good to head off to Broadway to watch our Great Dame Edna slay’em in her Down Under drag show. Then it’s off to the Mercury Lounge to catch Macy Gray and martinis till dawn. Maybe stumble through Satin Dolls for a quick Bloody Mary on the way to work.

“Sure, it sounds kinda cool,” we hear you ask. “But doesn’t all that heroic foreign correspondent work get in the way of your busy social life.”

Well, no worries, mate. We Aussies are a resourceful mob. Especially if you’re a News Ltd hack – you can just pick a hot yarn off the local paper, tweak it a bit – just a bit – and, Bingo!, a ready-made News Item for the folks back home. Works a treat.

We came across just such a case by accident last week.

A Cheeky Yarn

Trawling the open sewer that is the internet, in search of the original Old Testament lyrics to Psalm 116, we were drawn to an interesting sounding piece on the New York Post website (nypost.com), headlined: “I DIDN’T KNOW DOC BUST-ED MY RUMP”.

It sounded righteous, so we checked it out. And, boy, it was a pearler. Written by a reporter with a fabulous name – Dareh Gregorian – it had the best first par we’ve read ALL YEAR:

“A former go-go dancer testified yesterday that she didn’t realize her Park Avenue plastic surgeon had used breast implants for her butt-enhancement operation until the surgery was behind her.”

The court case, Justice Franklin Weissberg presiding, was a ripper, and so was the yarn, filled with all the earthy language and degenerate atmospherics we’ve come to expect from Rupert’s Trashy Tabloid.

Imagine our surprise then, when we read News Ltd New York-based hack Christine Jackman’s piece in the Murdoch tabloids on Saturday about the self-same court case.

Mediocrity Rules, Ok ?

We were expecting a great read. We were disappointed. Instead, we were treated to a cold, pale, bowdlerised, rancid version of what had been a hot yarn.

As with so many attempts at art forgery, Christine’s copy fell short of the original. She submitted a dreary facsimile, excising the witty puns and trailer-trash talk that makes the original sing. In a worse crime than plagiarism, she had dumbed-down the yarn, in keeping with Herald Sun and Telegraph Style which is, let’s face it, exceeeedingly dull.

Actually, it’s the kind of sneaky scam that reminds Crikey of our earlier days on the courts round, when we’d shuffle back to proceedings after a wet lunch and snooze off in the press stall. Why are courts always so stuffy and dull? Then we’d wind up back at the office, thanking the gods for AAP.

But, we digress. Both stories are reproduced below. You be the judge, o learned subscriber.

Here, for your righteous pleasure, is the original NY Post yarn, posted 7 June:

I DIDN’T KNOW DOC BUST-ED MY RUMP
By DAREH GREGORIAN

A former go-go dancer testified yesterday that she didn’t realize her Park Avenue plastic surgeon had used breast implants for her butt-enhancement operation until the surgery was behind her.

When Mary Gale finally saw the results a week after the surgery was completed, “I was horrified.

“They looked like two [breasts] on my butt,” she exclaimed, breaking down in tears on the witness stand in Manhattan Supreme Court.

“I didn’t want to show anyone my body. I was too ashamed.”

Gale, 43, is suing Dr. Elliot Jacobs, charging he made a derri-error and committed malpractice when he used silicon implants for the backside-broadening procedure in 1990.

Her claims were buttressed by photos taken shortly after the operation that showed what looked like two small breasts protruding from about halfway up her rear-end.

“I looked like a freak show,” the slim, tanned blonde said, adding she was in “extreme pain” for weeks and had problems sitting and lying down.

“I felt like I was on fire down there. It was burning,” she said.

At Gale’s insistence, Jacobs removed the implants three weeks later. The doctor’s lawyer, Paul Paley, said his client did nothing wrong and Gale should’ve given the implants “a chance to work.”

He said the implants would have “contoured” after about six months or a year – something Gale said she wasn’t told until after surgery.

“She rushed to judgment,” Paley said, adding the photos were “unfair” because they show “a work in progress.” He accused Gale, who works as a bartender in Florida, of being “obsessed with plastic surgery” and having “an insatiable need to alter her body.”

He insists she was told the doctor was using breast implants and that she still wanted the butt-enhancement operation “in the worst way possible.”

Gale’s lawyer, Cynthia Matheke, said her client turned to cosmetic surgery after she started dancing in the mid-’80s because she felt “she didn’t measure up well in two areas colloquially known as t- – – and a- -.”

The dancer, whose workplaces included the club Satin Dolls, which is in the hit HBO show “The Sopranos” as the Bada-Bing Club, got breast-enhancement surgery in 1987 to boost her career, and said she then wanted butt-enlargement because she was unhappy with her gluteus minimus.

“I have a small frame and had a small butt. I wanted more,” she said. “I thought I could make more money and be happier” with a bigger butt.

She said she tried building it through exercise, but “you can only do so much with what God gave you.”

Gale, who later returned to dancing but says she still has two “lumps” and scarring from the implants, is seeking an undetermined amount of damages.

The case, being heard by Justice Franklin Weissberg, is expected to conclude by Monday.

And here is the piece published by the Herald Sun on 10 June:


Go-go girl sues over bump deal

By Christine Jackman (Ed: shurely some mistake? hic.)

in New York

A former go-go dancer is suing a Manhattan plastic surgeon after he used breast implants to enhance the shape of her bottom.

Mary Gale, 43, wept as she told the Manhattan Supreme Court she did not realise the implants would be used until after the surgery.

“I was horrified – they looked like two (breasts) on my butt,” she said.

“I did not want to show anyone my body. I was too ashamed.”

Ms Gale is suing Park Avenue surgeon Elliot Jacobs for malpractice. She says she only gave him permission to insert buttock implants to make her bottom curvier.

Photos taken shortly after the 1990 operation showed bumps like small breasts protruding from her bottom.

“I looked like a freak show,” said Ms Gale, who works in a bar in Miami. “I felt like I was on fire down there. It was burning,” she said.

Ms Gale said she was so embarrassed by the operation that she had to give up her $850-a-night job dancing in New Jersey.

She insisted that Dr Jacobs should remove the implants three weeks later.

But his lawyer, Paul Paley, said that Ms Gale should have given the implants “a chance to work” after being warned they would take up to a year to be “contoured” into place.

“She rushed to judgment,” Mr Paley said. He also said that the photographs tendered in court were “unfair” because they only showed “a work in progress,” not the finished product.

Mr Paley accused Ms Gale of being a plastic surgery fanatic, who was filled with an insatiable need to alter her body.

Ms Gale had already admitted to operations on her face, including her lips and chin, and her breasts.

“This is a case about a caring, competent and careful doctor who performed a reasonable and recognised procedure on a woman who wanted it in the worst possible way,” he said.

There you have it. Not a sackable offence, to be sure. But, Christine, if you’re gonna do it again, at least add something to the mix.

Shanahan Family Values

The Australian is a family newspaper. We know this, because it employs both halves of the very productive Shanahan family – the Oz’s excellent and long-serving Canberra bureau chief, Dennis, and his lovely wife, Angela, who is identified in her frequent columns for the paper as “a Canberra-based writer.”

Dennis does his thing on the back page of the paper’s Saturday Focus section, quite often, touchingly, just over the page from his wife’s own column.

Today it’s time, with Angela’s help, for Crikey to fill in some blanks on the happy columnist couple.

Most recently, Angela filed a piece which features editor Deborah Jones saw fit to publish across the top of the op-ed page on Friday. That is, the paper felt this piece was the most important, instructive, erudite opinion fit for the nation’s consumption on the day, God help us.

Now, Angela’s one of those very personable columnists who tries to spin homely yarns, drawing moral conclusions from life in the suburbs – not altogether successfully. Kind of Aesop’s fables without the cute furry animals. Or the wit.

Friday’s piece begins in fine, homely style: “It has been my experience over many years as a mum that the sober adult assessment of silly behaviour and its dire consequences is not only resented but usually receives the ultimate frustrated adolescent insult – oldie!”

Then things start getting interesting. “It was this unfortunate puerile tone that Sian Power managed to convey in conjuring a vision of childishness that consisted of staggering from work to an eternal dizzy world of parties.” Pow! Cop, that!

She goes on: “Is this the same Powell who wrote about her desperate and dateless New Year’s Eve 2000?”

It certainly is the same Sian Powell who as a journalist at the Australian got her job, presumably, on merit – as opposed to being married to one of the paper’s senior journalists. But, we quibble. On with Mrs Shanahan’s rant.

Selfish Singles Are Destroying Families – Chicken Little

She goes on to have a whack at “a few childless commentators who resent what they term defensive mothers”. Don’t these people know there’s “a growing international realisation that the fall in the number of children will mean social and economic disaster”?

Angela doesn’t bother to substantiate – or source – this alarming development in global population trends. Maybe she plucked it out of Margaret Fulton’s latest book.

Undeterred by the facts, she claims single people have “wrongly interpreted” this “realisation” as “an attack on their “barren state.” An unlikely scenario, simple minded single folk somehow blithely swallowing her assertion that we’re facing some sort of global “baby bust”. And, she seems to think, these self same sorry singles are feeling mighty threatened by this impending calamity.

Huh?

Before we get bound up in Angela’s logical contortions, let’s inject a Shanahan family factoid: The good news for those living in fear of the global Baby Bust is that when not writing for hubby’s paper, Angela’s been busy on the home front. At last count, Dennis and Angela had seven kids (which, as Dennis is wont to point out, is only evidence of seven counts of sexual intercourse).

It’s The Feminists, By God!

So Angela knows first hand all about population politics. But back to the facts.

By now, Angela has found the culprit for all this anti-family trouble. (Drumroll, please maestro) Feminists! She writes: “despite years of earbashing us about women’s rights, feminists failed to recognised that mothers have problems and require support that other women simply don’t need.”

“And herein lies the source of most of the resentment. For it is not just children that some childless ideologues resent, but families”. One woman in Angela’s sights is Susan Mitchell, who apparently “sees the nuclear family as destructive, preferring a plastic notion of extended family…” Cop that, Susan. Ouch!

Then it’s into the field of social policy, for a poke at the stingy Government and its reluctance to fill the pockets of mums and dads with welfare dollars. (Ed: I thought that was already happening?) Angela reckons we need to learn from “the more enlightened and generous American approaches to family income support such as tax incentives for child rearing.”

More Welfare, Please

“There, family support is not based primarily on the welfare model as in this country, where families are unwillingly dependent on a hand-out administered by social security and exposed to incessant jibes about middle class welfare.” Oh! The Jibes, the Jibes. Spare us.

“Furthermore…” she writes (Ed: That’s enough!)

Her last par – the clincher – could have been taken verbatim from a Right To Life pamphlet. Probably was. Those practitioners of “libertarian hedonism have eroded the moral certainties that underpin the family,” whines Angela. “And it is this erosion at the heart of family life that is at the bottom of the baby bust,” she wails.

One final rhetorical flourish: “Children are an affirmation of love and hope. In an absence of those virtues they cannot flourish.” And she’s gone.

Angela stops short of declaring a Fatwa against the nasty “barren”, “misanthropic”, “childless brigade”. But those anti-family elements at the Oz have been warned. Our shrill, family-friendly harridan will burst into print to stand up for our precious kiddies, and protect her right to procreate and cash in on all available middle class welfare.

And if Dennis doesn’t turn up to all those after-work functions with the Oz’s puerile swinging singles, you’ll know where he is. Firmly – very firmly – back in the Family Bosum.

Keep trying Angela – I’m sure you’ll get plenty more opportunities to peddle your fundamentalist claptrap in the pages of the News Ltd Flagship.

All In The Family At The West

Talking of happy families. The West Australian, that well known tabloid lap-dog to certain of its board of directors, headed by Harold Clough, of Northbridge tunnel fame, springs to mind. Well there’s a well-regarded professional operation you’d never expect to see nepotism flourish.

On Tuesday May 30, the paper ran a large back page pic story featuring a happy picture of pretty 17 year-old Tory Vidler, who is preparing to compete in a whitewater paddling event known as the Avon Descent.

Isn’t that nice. Well, it turns out The West’s sports reporters didn’t just discover Tory on the street… she’s Harold’s darling granddaughter.

And, suprise suprise, one of the cadets on the reporting staff turns out to be the daughter of Harold’s right hand man, the managing director at Clough Engineering.

We will have to turn over a few rocks at the West again soon – perhaps time for a lightening visit over the Nullabor…

REITHY ON THE MAKE

The balding-lawyer-from-Melbourne-for-PM campaign moved up a gear last week, with Peter Reith’s office organising some excellent PM-in-waiting feature interviews in the nation’s opinion-leading publications, the (ahem) Bulletin and the, er, Herald Sun.

Well, they looked good to us at Crikey. Who cares if the acid wash jeans brigade in the ‘burbs who read the Hun don’t count for much in the Federal Liberal Party room, and the Bulletin’s dwindling circulation is down to, well, who actually reads it…?

First came a lengthy interview-profile by the Bully’s Fred Brenchley in which Pete acts all coy when asked about his prime ministerial ambitions, or potential strategies for the forthcoming general election, or, anything really. Brenchley portrays Reith as a reformer, a man with a record of putting in place conservative change and dreaming radical dreams. A fitting portrait for the most famous graduate of Brighton Grammar since Nick Cave.

All very well, but in his note at the front of the book, publisher Max Walsh put this rosy view in perspective by noting that Reith’s first major political win – the one that made his Liberal colleagues take note – was his carping, whingeing and ultimately successful “no” campaign against the very banal 1987 referendum proposals.

Harvey Pitches In

Later in the week, the man voted the press gallery’s most eligible bachelor for eight of the past 11 years, Herald Sun chief political reporter, Michael Harvey, was wheeled in to chat to Reith. Which makes a nice change, as Michael has been a prominent press cheerleader in the Costello-for-PM campaign.

He has good access to the Treasurer, courtesy of Costello’s media flak, Nikki Savva, who worked with him at the Hun. Michael had a particularly busy week in mid-April when he wrote a fluffy profile of Tanya Costello headed: “Inside look at a treasured family”, which revealed hard-hitting facts like: “There are no stars in my eyes,” and “…I had a wonderful conversation with the Queen…”

Then he followed up with a fairly solid 1500-word plug for Costello in another feature on 21 April: “Many Liberal MPs believe it should be Peter Costello steering this new-found compassionate shift – not John Howard.” He produced this super tidbit to underscore the grasping, cynical style of Reith: “Mr Reith reputedly remembers not just every political colleague’s birthday, but their spouse’s as well.”

These PM-in-waiting profile interviews are much the same. A journo is called in on the unstated premise of an open, candid discussion that will demonstrate clearly why candidate Peter is the best man to shaft Howard and parachute into the Lodge. Typically, of course, when the pertinent question is asked, the answer’s fudged.

Harvey’s Saturday profile consists of a solid backgrounder of Reith’s political career, its alleged origins in school sports and a few harmless anecdotes. There’s a fair bit of healthy brown-nosing from Reithy: “…my view is that John Howard is a great leader. He is also a very tenacious, determined, resilient person. He is enjoying the job to all intents and purposes, and I suspect he is going to be there for quite a while yet.” We come to praise Caesar…

We look forward to the next media manoeuvres of the Peters-in-waiting.

Bartho Vs The Fair Maiden

It’s not every day you see a decent scrap between columnists at the Age. Last week, we got a good one from Stephen (win-win) Bartholomeusz and Malcom (fair) Maiden.

It started last Saturday, when Bartho weighed in on the Victorian Auditor-General’s critical report on the float of internet domain name vendor, Melbourne IT. He rushed to the defence of everyone involved – particularly broker and underwriter to the deal, JB Were, and Melbourne Uni itself.

Now Bartho’s a nice bloke – and he tries very hard to be nice to almost everyone he writes about, particularly if they’re perched at the top end of town, like those Collins Street brokers. Trouble is, Bartho sees himself as such an insider – and writes accordingly – that it’s never quite clear who he’s speaking for. Although it’s often not too hard to guess.

Is he speaking on behalf of the punter out there in the market, trying to find a value investment against all the usual odds; corporate PR spinners, shifty operators and carpetbaggers, and their associates. Or is he speaking for his mates in Collins Street?

F*cking The Float

The Melbourne IT float defence is a case in point. Beneath the headline: “Melbourne IT review ignores commercial reality”, Bartho makes a string of unsubstantiated assertions that are either educated guesses based on market scuttlebutt, or inside info from people close to the action who have a particular axe to grind; an angle to pitch. Now, clearly the House of Were is not going to ‘fess up that it fucked up the float. It’s not going to tell Bartho: “OK, we admit it. We didn’t hit the instos with enough enthusiasm, and we ignored all the indications this hot boutique float would provide a great stag magnet. We undersold it. Sure we could have got $400 million for it, but our private clients would have made less after the float, mate!”

What they will tell him, is that there was minimal institutional interest – all the instos bar one were asleep at the wheel, but were all too willing to pick up shares at prices eight times the initial float price. Which is exactly what Bartho ran with – without attribution.

Branding the A-G’s review “shallow and commercially naive” Bartho declares: “It shows little understanding of finacial markets and processes.”

But Did He Read The Report ?

Now, Crikey has actually read the A-G’s report. And, filled with careful bureaucratically-couched terminology as it is, this is a compelling document. One of the A-G’s key criticisms is that Melbourne Uni (through its subsidiary, Melbourne Enterprises International Ltd – MEIL) failed to get an independent valuation of the business.

The A-G made the point: “It should be noted that the broker did not value Melbourne IT, but rather advised MEIL of the maximum extent to which they were prepared to underwrite the share issue.”

Or, in Bartho’s words, MEI obtained Were’s “initial view that the business could be floated for $90 million, a figure lifted to $110 million only after MEI pressured Were.”

Asks Bartho: “MEI could, of course, have commissioned more valuations. It could have consulted with Treasury and Treasury might have done its own valuation. But what does Treasury know about floating or valuing internet stocks?”

The A-G has the answer to this: “…because Melbourne IT was a public sector body, guidance should perhaps have been sought from the Department of Treasury and Finance which has had had wide experience with privatisations.” Of course, Treasury isn’t expert at valuing IT floats, but it has access to people who have participated in one of the world’s boldest and most extensive privatisation programs, courtesy of the previous Kennett administration. That is a very good start in valuing a soon-to-be-privatised public asset.

It’s an issue Bartho brushes aside, before making his blithe conclusion: “It is very difficult to be critical of an outcome that generated that much value-added for a university…If only there were more failures like it.”

Malcolm Takes The Bait

This was a red rag for an even vaguely independent thinker. Maiden hit back three days later with a piece that rebutted Bartho’s flimsy arguments, headed: “A-G on target with criticisms of Melbourne IT float.” He faced the issue straight-up:

“…while Auditor-General Wayne Campbell can be criticised for displaying wisdom in hindsight, his report highlights one important fact: floats are supposed to produce a reasonable valuation of the assets that are being sold, and the Melbourne IT sale failed to do so, and failed quite miserably.”

“The result was that the seller, Melbourne University, got much less for the sale than it should have. And those who bought float shares, including private clients of the main float broker, J.B.Were, received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stag their shares. Many of them took it.”

His recommendation: a bookbuild sale: “Bookbuilds are now the established method of valuing privatisation floats. They offer pricing flexibility that may well have attracted more institutional support at the front end.”

Bartho, however, rejected the notion of a bookbuild. “The AG’s suggestion that MEI could have used a book-build rather than an underwritten float underscores its lack of understanding of the markets.”

A bookbuild only works with strong insto and retail interest, creating a tension in the process, says Bartho. “Were had already established the institutions were lukewarm to the MEI float.”

Once again, Bartho’s commentary is reduced to a “Were says this” and “Were says that” mentality. If you predicate your analysis on the assumption that the guys who did the float were right – well it hardly leaves any room for deep analysis. Which is where Bartho ends up, snared in his own net of pin-striped sources.

Bartho To The Bone: Comfy Sinecures Rule

Out of touch with the changing investment community, unable to remove himself from the spell cast by the big end of town, Bartho risks sliding into irrelevancy as a business analyst. But, then, that was never a huge hindrance to a long and windy career as a commentator down at Spencer Street.

Were got it wrong for its client: Melbourne Uni. But the old money stockbroker got it so very right for its privileged list of private clients, who made millions on an under-priced, poorly conducted float. It is these people, the financial squattocracy, that Bartho seems to be batting for. And so far he’s got the numbers. Of the 50 million shares in Melbourne IT, just 8% went to members of the public. Istitutions got 43%, private investors and clients associated with the broker got 27% and Melbourne Uni retained 15%. Another victory for the insiders.

As Maiden points out, the retail investors were at the hot end of the float. “…in offices and in bars there was intense interest in Melbourne IT, which controlled the issue of dot.com.au addresses in this region and was in the process of building other dotcom licensing revenue streams.”

Maiden: “…private investors are playing an increasingly important role in floats in this country, which now boasts the heaviest concentration of individual investors in the world. Ways must be found to more accurately measure their interest in offers, and value it.” Bartho will not be the one to make this leap forward.

The One to Watch – NOT

There’s rumblings at Seven again. Yawn. All over the Melbourne papers. Even the usually sensible Wendy Tuohy had a breathless front page Age yarn about the pending changes down at Dorcas St.

Seems that after dumping two senior news execs last week Kerry Stokes’ hatchet men are now turning their attention to the David Johnston/Anne Fullwood newsreading team, consistently being beaten over the head by Nine, anchored by the very nice Peter Hitchener.

But then again, when did Seven last win the news? Back in the late fifties, before they axed Mal Walden, we guess.

According various media junkies, in line to take over is Peter Mitchell. And using the tried-and-tested Mike Moore Principle, the speculation appears spot-on. (This principle states that the newsroom pecking order is determined by who introduces those weekend wildlife docos).

Crikey was checking out the TV guide this week, and sure enough, what pops up at 6.30pm Saturday but: “The World Around Us With Peter Mitchell: Creatures of the black lagoon”. No, it’s not a doco about Kerry Stokes and his corporate downsizing team. But it’s a sure sign big things are in store for Dapper Peter.

And Pete brings perfect credentials to the job. He looks good on TV. He can read an autocue. He’s a nice chap. He’s been hanging around Melbourne TV doing various harmless jobs long enough for viewers to mistake him for someone who gives a damn about their town. And, most important, he’s not too bright. Crikey will not easily forget his rustic pronunciation of that big Brazillian biscuit, er, city, Sao Paolo, in a weekend bulletin some time ago: “In Sayo Paulo, a crime wave has…” Brilliant! He’ll bring a lovely touch of the burbs to the News.

Our Netballers Can’t Say No

Terry Plane, an intrepid sports writer for the Oz, has outed Australia’s netball party girls. They’re the girls who can’t say no. And there’s quite a few of them, six in all.

Beneath the tempting headline: Naked Netballers Attempt Late Cover-Up, Terry tells the tale of the photographic session that went sadly wrong. If you haven’t heard, the photographer – we’re guessing it was a bloke – from an outfit called Prime Publishing, was contracted to take some slick and saucy (but not too saucy) photos of the netball gals for a calendar. It wasn’t supposed to be “that” kind of calendar. They were meant to be wearing gym gear.

But you’d have thought the Netball gals would twig – Prime Publishing is the same mob that did the nude calendar for the Matildas soccer team last year.

So, during the course of the shoot our friendly photographer managed to persuade six of the eight gals out of their gym shorts. In the words of national netball captain, Kathryn Harby: “Some of the players have found it hard to say no to the photographs.”

Terry quotes coy Kathryn as saying the players were “put in an extremely difficult position.”

And he even names the players involved. Naturally, Crikey will protect their modesty and their anonymity..

Well, all right. They are: Rebecca Sanders, Peta Squire and Alex Hodge from Adelaide, Nicole Richardson and Sharelle McMahon from Melbourne and Sharon Finnegan from Brisbane. That’s them. The gals who can’t say no.

So if you happen to be in a bar when the team drops in, you’ll know who to chat to first.