I’d been meaning to read Dannii Minogue: My Story for quite some time, primarily because I’ve long been interested in the author’s tussles with Lady Sonia McMahon during her brief marriage to McMahon son and heir, Julian. (Who could forget the short-lived Australian version of the National Enquirer’s cover story entitled ‘Lady Sonia Pleads: ‘Don’t Wed Disco Dannii!’’?) When I was first eyeing off My Story, I noted that the back-cover copy dared the reader ‘to turn the first page!’ I did dare to turn the first page but found that the second page was actually only a continuation of an account of Dannii being required to whip up a veggie lasagna and a ‘hearty salad’. Nonetheless, I splashed out my hard-earned notes, which, frankly, I simply would not have done for a work by her older sister.
I was on Kylie Minogue’s side back in 1987 or so, when she launched her pop career, or had her pop career launched for her, and was being pilloried on all sides, as with Triple J demonstrating their habitual dick-o-rama approach and proudly proclaiming themselves on their promos to be ‘Minogue-free radio’, when it would have been a more exciting and radical step by these hipsters to be burning up the airwaves with ‘Hand on Your Heart’, which is a good song anyway. I have to be honest and say that while my benevolent attitude towards K Minogue was based partly on the fact that she seemed like a nice young woman who was being used as target practice by a whole load of massive prats scoring easier points than would be on offer in a game of Happy Families, it was based mostly on the fact that I would have assumed that nearly a quarter of a century later, she would have been, in the manner of Rowena Wallace, offering pleas to the Today Tonight audience to find her a roof to go over her head.
But then it became increasingly clear that not only was Kylie going to be strutting the world stage on an ongoing basis, she was going to continue to be given credit where I didn’t feel it was due and, thus, she began to pluck on my nerves like they were the strings of a banjo. Out of curiosity, I greedily snatched a free ticket to one of the Sydney concerts of her ‘Showgirl’ tour, and my attendance there didn’t exactly make me feel the need to reverse my opinion of her attainments. Suffice to say that the backing singers and dancers, and the elaborate costumes, were doing all the work. Incidentally, I recall the words of the late James Freud, who was in her band in the nineties, regarding the paltriness of the tour bonuses she offered, and his bitter addendum that even Iva Davies gave his musicians more handsome remuneration.
So, in short, it just never ceases to amaze me that so little is expected of someone who has been rich and famous for as long as has Kylie Minogue. If, for example, she does a great many tour dates, which, let’s face it, and good luck to her, she’s doing purely to line her own pocket, people act as though she should be receiving the highest possible decoration from the military, and there’s certainly no question that she should actually be required to sing and dance at a high level of competence in any of these many concerts. And this lowness of the bar will surely get only lower as she ages. Kylie is just extremely fortunate that there is no ‘cure’ for homosexuality; while Madonna, say, I am sure would have had a big career even without the pink dollar, were it not for the gay community’s mysterious worship of her, Kylie would, I hazard, now be filed alongside the flowery-hatted members of Girlfriend.
Now, even though I’m not a brunette, I’ve always liked dark-haired opposite numbers, such as Jeannie’s minxy sister in I Dream of Jeannie, or Samantha’s honking-voiced naughty cousin, Serena, in Bewitched, and I would give a lot, even now, for the glossy black mane that Dannii Minogue sported in the Home and Away days, so there’s a point in her favour as far as I’m concerned, anyway. Plus, Dannii had a role in 1988 miniseries All the Way, which concerned the fortunes of some Melbourne people in 1963, and which I remember fondly. Finally, she has traditionally got sympathy points ahoy from me merely for having so often been compared unfavourably with her older sister and generally being the lower-status sibling. I recall in the nineteen nineties watching a documentary about Kylie Minogue and what I remember best about it is not so much the customary annoying footage whereby you see a star saying, for instance, yea or nay to wearing a particular feather boa, and this being presented as compelling evidence of the creative control that they exercise over every aspect of their career, but the painful vision of Kylie heading patronisingly backstage to visit Dannii, who was then playing Rizzo in Grease: The Arena Spectacular.
Then, though, Dannii’s fortunes turned around, thanks mainly to her role as a judge on the British X Factor, and she started to get on my nerves as well. To start with, the only kind of celebrity news in which I simply cannot get interested is that concerning the birthing of babies: this is in large part because of my extreme revulsion at the terms ‘baby bump’ and ‘bub’. In fact, I really cannot read or hear the word ‘bub’ without wanting to lay waste to a small city. Therefore, the incessant coverage about Dannii Minogue becoming a mother marked the first time that I would see her face and want to shut down the browser in a rage, so she was all set to miss out on the few dollars she would have gained from my purchase of her memoir. But then the day came that there was a Borders gift card that I needed to use in a hurry and the rest is history.
As it happens, I was glad that I read My Story; I enjoyed it and it has several notable aspects: first, Johnny Young is described as ‘enigmatic’; second, Dannii, at fourteen, talked her way out of doing school sport, an act that I respect and admire; third, I was interested to read an anecdote about Paula Yates allegedly stealing items intended as prizes for competitions on The Big Breakfast; and, fourth, I was excited to see that Dannii covers her at-one-time-highly-documented friendship with fitness enthusiast High Voltage and, best of all, refers to her in places simply as ‘Voltage’.
The highlight, however, as was entirely expected, was those parts dealing with Dannii’s marriage to Julian McMahon and her accompanying problems with her mother-in-law, which are detailed mostly in the splendidly named chapter ‘A Lady in Name Only’. This contains the information that when Mrs Minogue suggested to Lady Sonia that she and her husband come up to Sydney to meet LS, the charming reply was ‘Don’t bother.’ Furthermore, Julian McMahon seems every bit the conceited bounder that he appeared when skulking about in a loud shirt, or running out of the surf wearing white trousers, in the video for Dannii’s long-ago single ‘This Is It’. It is appalling to read of how she used to have to sit in the car and wait for Julian when he was visiting the McMahon family pile, not to mention all the other ways that he behaved like a complete cock.
Entirely not by design, I followed up Dannii Minogue: My Story with Clive James’s The Blaze of Obscurity. This man never manages to harden entirely the soft spot that I have for him, but I was all set to go off my head if I had to read one more detail of another foreign language he’d learned and how he would then use this knowledge to read works of great literature in the original. What happened to James after the completely ripping Unreliable Memoirs to make him, tragically, decide that relentless depiction of himself as a total wanker is the only correct approach when writing a memoir? All up, it seems that Clive James’s ability to self-deprecate has shrunk in the last quarter century while Dannii Minogue’s has grown, which certainly makes her seem the smarter of the two of them.