Not everyone in this town is wild about Harry, but he can really pull a crowd, with Lindy Chamberlain, Stuart Diver, Michael Kirby, Marcia Hines, Stuart Wagstaff and many more turning up to a Kings Cross nightclub for the launch of his autobiography last night.
It was an extraordinary turnout for the launch of a book about a 75-year-old who brought Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey and the Rolling Stones to Australia in the 1960s and produced stage musicals Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar. He now manages the careers of the various “celebs” in his stable and along the way did 10 months porridge for fraud — detailed in the book — and got married several times.
If a gentleman never tells, then Harry is no gentleman, with kiss-and-tells littering almost every page of Confessions of a Not-So-Secret Agent. Book launcher Maggie Tabberer said firmly that she was not one of his conquests.
“Forty-two years ago we agreed it would be strictly a work relationship, thank you God. If you look around here, you would be hard pressed to find any female who had not been touched by Harry.”
Their business relationship of 42 years had “lasted longer than any of our private relationships including marriages, affairs, friendships and even feuds,” she said.
“About 29 years ago, my second husband ran off with a younger redhead, and things got nasty. Harry called me in and said, ‘you can’t go round there again and kick in his front door. If the press get onto it, it will be disastrous and anyway it’s not ladylike.’ He said, ‘I will handle it,’ and he did.”
Pixie Skase is not going to be pleased to read about herself as a “bubbly and s-xy woman” who was “receptive to the attentions doled out by me, Don Lane … and others, among them a few well-known Liberal Party players.” Pixie evidently dumped Harry because he didn’t know how to hold a knife and fork.
He does scotch the rumours, however, that he had an affair with Jill Hickson.
“That’s not to say that I didn’t fancy her, or never made a pass at her. I did. It just never went beyond that. In some ways, I think the reason it never happened was that she didn’t think I was good enough for her.”
The book is a mixture of first-person narrative, written by Harry, and the transcript of interviews conducted by writer Peter Holder. The most interesting interview is with his third wife Wendy Lapointe, to whom he was married when he went to jail for the Computicket fraud.
In it, she talks about his poor health, his work ethic and mental tenacity. But, “emotionally he is like a borderline sociopath. As far as relationships went, he did what he liked”.
Did he offer excuses? she was asked.
“He didn’t have an excuse. There was no need for excuses. That is the slightly sociopathic aspect of him. Growing up in an unloving environment, as he did, can be pretty damaging for people.”
Harry does credit his psychologist, Dr Ron Farmer, for making him a better person by introducing him to “universal spiritual teachings”.
Ron says in the book, “Perhaps Harry began to see himself as a spiritual seeker when I pointed out to him that he had done more than any other person in this country to awaken people to the potential in the spiritual path by bringing Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar to Australia — because of him, hundreds of thousands of people went around chanting or singing the Jesus Christ Superstar mantra, and suddenly Jesus was in again.” (Harry is Jewish).
But it was a fabulous turnout at the Kit and Caboodle nightclub, with Merrick and Rosso (aren’t they supposed to be in bed early?), David Leckie and Peter Meakin, Alan Jones, Jenny Kee and Deborah Hutton all there, although Miller client Judy Moran was inexplicably absent.
When we left at 10pm, the party was in full swing, with Harry at the centre of it. As one of the interviewees says in the book, “All the great impresarios have had highs and lows, a stint in prison and an ability to reinvent themselves — Harry fits that bill perfectly.”