Friday, December 30, 2005

How Kerry Packer will get through the Pearly Gates

Now that Australia's richest man, media and gambling magnate Kerry Packer, has died, there are many anecdotes about 'The Goanna' circulating. I'll add one more. It's from his lighter side, not the darker one.

I never met him, but through two unrelated chances I knew both his gardener and his caretaker, and also his pilot -- his plane pilot, not the helicopter pilot who famously donated his kidney to the tycoon. One of these gents showed me through Kezza's house when he wasn't home, but I won't divulge anything from his private domain.

However, one memorable anecdote one of Kezza's employees told me was that one night, the great man was being driven home and the enormous iron gates to his mansion wouldn't open automatically. The chauffeur fiddled with the remote control until Packer said "Drive through the bastards", which solved the problem.

Kerry Packer's hold on the media, enabled by the legion of politicians who revered and feared his money and power, is one of the reasons that Australia has one of the least free media in the OECD. This will remain even after he's gone to that opulent cesspit of disinformation and human misery in the sky.

Someone once expressed to me a sense of awe and surprise that Packer would bring a butler and two maids to his holiday house at Palm Beach, Sydney. I did a rough calculation on the back of a train ticket and decided that if he wanted to, he could employ a personal staff approximately equal in size to the population of Australian city of Newcastle.

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