Crikey found an old Labor mate to be
his handbag and we trotted on down to the Melbourne Convention Centre last night,
where security was very tight indeed and a rather pensive looking
promoter Max Markson was continuing his running battle with the press
which have given him hell over the past week.

Hacks who called Max during the day to
ask what Cherie was up to were told it was “none of your business” and
they weren’t invited so several of them either bought tickets to cover
the event or were luckly enough to be invited by corporates.

Tabcorp was one example which hosted Age super
sleuth John Silvester, who is an old mate of the gaming giant’s police
roundsman turned spinner Bruce Tobin. Tabcorp also had Victorian gaming
minister John Pandazopoulos on its table and he was nice and chatty to
Crikey even though we dobbed him into the press for being at a lap
dancing joint 10 years ago.

In some cases, invites from corporates did not stop Max’s crusade as his security goons ejected the Herald Sun’s
Craig Binnie after the first course and were attempting to remove
another jackal who was a guest of Lion Nathan, supplier of all the free

This stand-off only finished when the
Lion Nathan people threatened to turn off the beer if their
journalistic guest was not allowed to stay.

Others hacks were gob-smacked that a
“notorious web gossip like Crikey” was invited personally by Max,
whilst they were all being heavied to leave. Indeed, Max kept coming up
to chat to Crikey. He did fess up to having had a hellish week with old
English mates contacting him to express amazement at the huge volume of
publicity he was getting in the UK, not to mention Australia.

And whilst MC Kieran Perkins was
introducing the wonder woman Cherie Blair (“QC, human rights advocate,
prime minister’s wife, mother etc”), Max walked past our table
and added “Crikey subscriber” to her list of achievements. Sadly not.

The highlight of the night was
undoubtedly the comic work of Vince Sorrenti. At least he lived up to
the claims in the flyer to be “Australia’s funniest comedian”.

For poor old Cherie it was a hard act
to follow but she trotted through her slide show reasonably well and
promoted the bejeezers out of her book on all the spouses who’ve lived
at Number 10, which Crikey scored a signed copy of for $50. The speech
wasn’t scintillating stuff but she couldn’t exactly talk about British
politics and the various anecdotes were reasonably interesting for the
political junkies in the room. She didn’t make any obvious blunders
despite all this adverse press coverage and the intense tour schedule
which must have taken its toll.

Even though we were right at the back
in the free seats on table 53, Crikey did manage to get the first two
missives into Cherie last night when MC Kieran Perkins, another Markson
client, kindly asked our written questions about what she thought of
the big news from Charles and Camilla getting hitched.

“I haven’t been invited yet,” she replied, before adding, “that is fantastic.”

Crikey’s second question was on
juggling all her roles and which was the most important? You can
imagine the media feeding frenzy if she hadn’t said “being a mother”,
which she did.

With Max Markson to score a $100,000
fee on top of his expenses and Cherie set for a reported $250,000, it
wasn’t surprising there was an enormous amount of pushing for
donations, raffles, the auctions and the like.

However, the negative publicity
obviously put a dampener on the generosity because calls for final
$5000 donations to the Children’s Cancer Institute at the end of the
night only yielded two individual offerings of $1,000 despite Vince
Sorrenti and George Donekian both circling the room eye-balling guests.

The 14 lot main auction yielded about
$50,000 and Crikey put in a joke $225 bid for a signed framed picture
of Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins in the silent auction. Thankfully,
someone else thought it was worth $350 by the end of the night.

Suzanne Carbone had quite a good report on last night’s dinner in The Age which you can see here. And here is an example of the terrible press Cherie is still getting back home from The Guardian.