On a day that felt like the end of the world, it’s appropriate that I ended it in the company of Clare Werbeloff.

Clare became famous for five minutes as the “Chk, Chk, Boom” girl on You-Tube, and has since slid down the greasy pole of fame, pitching up with Leo Sayer, Glenn Shorrock, and a host of other celebs at the Westin Hotel last night, as Sydney recovered from the worst dust storm in 70 years.

We were all at “‘Comedy is King’: an Evening with Brian Doyle and Friends” in aid of Down Syndrome NSW. The packed event had been organised by local publicist Max Markson, so the room was divided into people with some personal connection to Down Syndrome, like MC Richard Wilkins and footballer Craig Wing, and the fabulous celebs in Max’s stable. Luckily, I took a Tele-reading friend with me, so he could identify the famous people at our table as Bessie Bardot and Johnny Raper.

Sadly, Jarryd Hayne and Nathan Cayless weren’t there (both playing in a rugby league final on Friday) and Alan Jones was sidelined by illness, but actor Roy Billing turned up. Like the rest of the cast of Underbelly (he plays Robert Trimbole) Billing strips off for a nude scene, but in his case it was a prostate examination.

I was totally thrown by the arrival of Brian Doyle because a (useless, Gen Y) mate had told me he was the other half of the comedy duo with John Clarke — when in fact that’s Bryan Dawe. So I spent the first five minutes wondering why he had aged so much since The 7.30 Report, and then the second five praying that he would still be alive at the end of the night. The entire act was like time travelling to Blackpool in the 1960s — I expected Frankie Howerd to appear in a toga.

For instance, “When you seduce a lady, never say to her, ‘what’s two minutes out of a lifetime?'” followed by “You know, you should only date a homeless chick, because at the end of the night, you can drop her off anywhere.”

The best performer was Vince Sorrenti who welcomed everyone to “another corporate tax write off” and said that the state government was building a new tunnel linking the Lakemba mosque to Cronulla Beach, named the Middle Eastern Distributor.

He was followed by an indescribably bad ventriloquist and the world’s unfunniest comedian, who had first met Brian Doyle 45 years ago at the Rockdale RSL. By then I was longing for Philip Nitschke to come and offer me a syringe.

Finally, the MC jumped up on stage to wind them up, prompting my companion to utter the words “Thank God for Richard Wilkins!” How often do you get to say that?

The best bits of the night involved the broadcast of the Tropfest-winning film Be My Brother, which stars Gerard O’Dwyer, an actor with Down Syndrome.

In the movie, he wins over a hesitant woman at a bus stop with a mix of Shakespeare and impressions. In a beautiful speech, Gerard said that he wanted to thank his Mum “…for bringing me into the world, thank you Mum for what you have done for me and I love you.”

The dilemma for charities, of course, is how to raise money in these straightened times, but do they really have to do it with Max Markson?

There was a string of limos waiting outside the Westin to transport Max’s “personalities” home at the end of the night — are the celebs paid to turn up; and who pays for the limos? I don’t want to pick on Bessie Bardot, who seemed very nice, but I don’t see how her presence boosted the final figure.

Max’s company, International Events, takes a percentage of the final proceeds, so why can’t the donors cut out Max, write out a cheque and stay at home with a good book? And if we’re going to have all of Max’s C-list celebs, where was Corey Worthington?

I did notice, however, that Clare and I both smiled at Brian Doyle’s best joke: “Scientists have produced a new Viagra for women, and it’s called jewellery.” Chk, chk, boom, boom.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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