The famous five do lunch LA style
15th May 1999 - New Idea
By Sue Russell
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Australia’s hottest quintet take time out to talk about their lives and loves
Australians Melissa George, Toni Pearen, Kym Wilson, Tammy MacIntosh and Gabrielle Fitzpatrick have many things in common, including a hectic new life in Los Angeles. Chatting with New Idea over lunch, the five stars agree there is good and bad to the City of Angels – but what is best is that they have each other.
“Los Angeles is home because of work, but it’s not home in my heart,” says Melissa George, who has spent six months in Hollywood. “But look at all these Australians! How can you be lonely here?”
“I’ve always said I’m here for five years to life,” laughs Gabrielle Fitzpatrick, who arrived two-and-a-half years ago.
“It’s like moving to another planet,” says newcomer Tammy MacIntosh, who has been here just seven weeks. “I’m not exactly in Antarctica but I still feel like an explorer.”
“I think LA would be fairly daunting if you didn’t know anyone,” admits Kym Wilson, who spent six months studying theatre at Harvard last year before switching American coasts. “It makes a big difference having Aussie pals here.”
“We’re such a tight social group,” Gabrielle says. “No one does something without the others hearing about it.”
“You know what’s nice about it?” Tammy adds, “It’s nice to know that everyone has jumped off the cliff and we’re all floating in mid-air together. It’s comforting.”
For Melissa, the move came after she landed a role in Wes Craven’s TV pilot Hollyweird. The show was cancelled but she went on to do the film The Limey with Peter Fonda, and like her mates, she is going great guns in Hollywood, especially now that she’s landed a role in the new HBO TV series based on the movie LA Confidential, playing the part that won Kim Basinger an Oscar. Filming starts in June.
“It’s great. I’ve got a beautiful house in Beverly Hills,” she says, “but it’s a working town and no one stops talking about work. It’s busy and it’s stressful.”
However, the jury’s still out on LA for Toni Pearen. “I don’t know about the future,” she says wistfully. “I do like it here, but I miss home a lot.”
“I dream of Australia. I’m flying home this month to see my family and replenish my spirit, but it’s such an adventure here, and for the most part, I love it. If opportunities continue to flourish, then I’ll stay. It’s really nice to have careers in two countries.”
All the girls have interesting projects brewing. Toni, for instance, has a writing and recording deal with Chrysalis Music.
Far from worrying about losing their career momentum in Australia, the five women are all hoping that absence will make Aussie hearts grow even fonder.
“You’re auditioning with big directors and stars here,” points out Gabrielle, who has just completed four episodes of the new TV series Legacy, set in 1880s Virginia. “You’re upping your bankability, and you don’t have to conquer Hollywood to be a success here. I could do two projects a year for the rest of my life and live comfortably.”
However, for most new arrivals in Los Angeles, comfort isn’t necessarily the first word that springs to mind. “It’s called the friend’s couch as opposed to the casting couch,” Gabrielle laughs.
“When you first arrive, that’s where you sleep – where your luggage goes – and that’s your whole life.”
“In that respect it’s hardgoing. You’ve got a suitcase and a wad of money that you’re going to go through very quickly on an apartment, a car, attorneys and a Green Card.”
Kym, for one, is finding that being unknown in a big pond is quite fun.
“Anonymity is kind of a gift,” she says. “I’m enjoying it, but I do miss my family and my friends back home. I still feel like I live in Sydney – I still have my house, my animals and my car waiting for me. I’m here until I really dislike it and then I’m going home.”
Melissa, who is happily entrenched in a relationship with businessman Claudio Dabed, 33, is the only one who’s attached.
“Oh, I think I’m rather an eligible bachelorette,” Gabrielle chuckles.
“I’m about to buy a house, so it’s a lucky man who gets me. I just can’t find him, though.”
“I’m a new girl in a big city! It’s great,” Kym agrees. “You can’t generalise about American or Australian men except to say that a sense of irony bonds the Aussies here together. We do love to tease.”
“There’s more of an honesty with the men back home,” Gabrielle admits. “But I don’t always like that honesty. I enjoy a little icing on the cake, like having a door opened for you and your dinners paid for.”
“American men are gentlemen. They don’t tend to have as good a sense of humour, though, so that’s a shame. I’d say that with a little personality implant they’d be almost perfect.”
Toni is fresh from a relationship, having broken up with her Australian boyfriend Andrew.
“Unfortunately, he didn’t feel the same way about LA,” she explains. “It’s very difficult. I was with my partner and now I’m alone, but it’s great being a single girl in LA. American men are very charming but, without sounding corny, I adore Australian men. I love their attitudes and how laid-back they can be.”
Tammy left her boyfriend in Australia, so strong was her need to give LA a try, but although she’s more interested in work, she has formed an impression of American men.
“I’m living in Malibu, so the men I’ve met have been university students with surfboards, and they’ve all been fairly wrapped up in their own bodies. It’s weird dealing with a man who’s got 10 times more vanity than I could ever imagine having.”
As you would expect, life in Hollywood has it’s highlights.
“Beverly Hills does have a mystique. You can be sitting at a table and Prince is in one corner and Jerry Seinfeld’s in the other,” Kym says.
“And I just love driving on the freeway and seeing all the palm trees.”
“But there’s definitely a superficial side to this place,” Kym insists.
“If you’re attracted to bright lights and parties, you can find that, but I’m here to work.”
So, has LA’s notorious casting couch ever been a problem for the girls?
“If it’s written all over your face and that’s what you deliver when you’re in a room, then of course they’re going to respond.”
“But I’m not really about that,” Melissa says.
And Toni’s on her side. “I’m not involved in that scene either,” she says. “I’m more of your clean-living pop star, but if Mick Jagger asked me out to a party I probably wouldn’t refuse!”
Gabrielle adds: “Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll are alive and well, but nobody I know has gone down that track, so we’re grateful for that.”
“However, I understand why people feel the need to escape, but we have a tight-knit group of Australians here, which keeps us afloat and keeps our morale up. We have a support group that keeps us sane.”
Melissa and Toni reveal that they have forged a particularly special bond since moving to LA.
“Melissa has been my angel,” Toni says. “She’s helped me in so many ways. We have all established careers in Australia and then we felt we had to take it to the next level and challenge ourselves here – if you don’t do it, you’ll regret it.”
“I know that my parents worry about me, but it’s something I have to do. Besides, fending for yourself is character building,” Toni says.
“You’ve got to stand your ground here. Sometimes I feel I’m too sensitive for a place like this, but I know at the very core of me that I have the stamina to do it.”
“And it’s just wonderful to have all the girls here.”