The Most Incredible Man I’ve Ever Met…

First published in Onya Magazine, on January 27th, 2012. 

A couple of years ago, I interviewed an incredible man – Siegmund Siegreich. Siegmund, or Sigi, was a Holocaust survivor. He was 15 years old when Germany invaded Poland – 15 when he was placed into a concentration camp. The next six years of his life were spent enduring endless humiliation, beatings, starvation, serous illness, not to mention seeing family members and friends killed, shot, and left for dead right in front of him. When I sat to talk with him, at 88 years of age, the pain of his ordeal – one that he managed to survive – was evident every time he spoke about it. He, along with his wife and two daughters, cried their way through the interview.

It was one of the hardest but most incredibly special moments of my life. Made more so by the fact that Sigi was probably the biggest gentleman I’ve ever met – he was so kind, graceful and intelligent. He was humble and proud and strong.

His book, The Thirty Six, written almost six decades after his time in war-torn Poland, changed my life. I read it almost entirely in one sitting. I cried, nearly threw up, felt rage, felt sadness and felt love. I often think of what I learnt from that book, and I often think of Sigi, and his gorgeous face, and the love he had for his family.

I thought of Sigi today. As a man who lived through every horror imaginable, I wondered what he’d think of the protests in Canberra yesterday, and the burning of our flag. I wonder what he’d think of so much hate being spouted – from protestors and commentators alike.

Sigi was a man, who was only a boy, when he saw his father die. And his mother. And uncles. And aunts. And cousins. And neighbours. He was a boy who had to sleep through the bitter cold, in a lavatory shed, in his own faeces, where the stench of urine penetrated his every pore. I won’t even go into the torture he was subjected to. To type it would make me sick. Of the Holocaust, he said, “People may think the world knows enough about it, but to understand the enormity of it all would shake humanity to the end of time.”

When I asked Sigi if he hated the Germans for what they did to him and his family, he replied and said, “No, I do not. You cannot hate an entire race of people, for the mistakes only a handful of people within that race have made…

“I have seen the devil in men, I have seen my family members shot, I have seen them smile, wave and walk off, never to return, I have been starving, frightened, frozen, petrified…but I have seen the beauty in people. I have felt love and I know there is good in the world…

“Hate is a waste. We just must never forget what has happened, so as to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

In 1971, Sigi migrated to Melbourne, with his wife and both daughters, sponsored and backed by a friend of his.

“We finally set down roots in a truly free and democratic country, where our family has prospered and multiplied.”

Now, I’ve got no doubt the Aboriginal community are in need of more assistance – more help, support and education.

And we’ve somehow wound up in a place where no one can offer a suggestion or a thought without being branded as a racist, or radical.

I’m not a racist. I’m not radical. I believe in equality, and fairness, and in doing what’s right.

Taking land off the Aborigines was not right. Stealing Aboriginal children was not right. There are so many things about our Australian history that are not right – I spent an entire year in Year 12 studying everything about Australia, and in many cases shaking my head.

But I also know that the actions taken by a minority in Canberra yesterday were not right. Nor was the action of burning the Australian flag. I am reminded of words I heard from Sigi, “You cannot hate an entire race of people, for the mistakes only a handful of people within that race have made…”

And I think how true that is.

I am sorry for what happened to every Aboriginal when white colonial men settled this country.

I am also sorry for Sigi, and everything he endured, and did for decades and decades afterwards. I am sorry for what his children endured, and continue to. And what his grandchildren endure, and will continue to.

I am also sorry for my parents, who migrated to Australia at such a young age and had to endure years and years of racism, bullying, misconceptions and harassment – all because of the sound of their surname and the contents of their lunch box.

My parents never gave up. They never gave in. They made something of their lives. They gave me and my brother and sister a life, and a very good one. They taught us to be equal and fair and to do what’s right.

Sigi never gave up. When every single thing in his life went against him, when everyone he loved was taken away from him, when he was buried face down in a dirt pit, hiding under the body of a dead Jew to avoid being shot himself, he did not give up. When he was made to dig his own grave, he did not give up. He fought and gripped onto life because he knew that life was worth living.

Australia – the country and its people – never offered any sympathy, or compensation, or assistance to my parents. They didn’t do so for Sigi and his family, either. And I’m not drawing comparisons between racism in a Richmond primary school and the Holocaust, I’m drawing a point; that maybe, perhaps, it’s time someIndigenous people got up, stood tall and proud and made a life for themselves. A life in a country that can offer them so much, a life in a truly free and democratic country.

I imagine that doing so will be difficult. Painful. Frightening. But there are many people who have done it before, including people from their own race. And I’m not suggesting some Indigenous people forget, or leave behind, or move on from the past; I’m suggesting they use it to spur them on to do great things and build the life they so very much deserve.

Australia Day – Not Just Another Day

First published in Onya Magazine, on January 25th, 2012. 

I’m in the business of celebrating Australia every day. Being Editor-In-Chief of this magazine means I see, do, taste and feel so much of this great land every day of the week. So when I sat down to think about the meaning of Australia Day, I was a little stuck. It’s just another day, after all.

Sure, there’ll be a lot of stereos beating to the sound of Triple J’s Hottest 100. There’ll be a lot of barbeques sizzling with snags and steaks, and tops being twisted off bottles, and corks being popped. There’ll be Australian flags emblazoned on windows and cars and tattooed on the shoulders and backs of the citizens of this country. But what about it should matter?

I’m not sure that I can offer a brilliant, all-inclusive answer. I know that many people baulk at the Australian flag and despise it as a symbol of celebration. That vegetarians don’t really care for Sam Kekovich or his lamb ads. That middle-class Australia loves to point the finger at bogans and tut. That we are not a Republic. That we have a history – a flawed, problematic history. I know all that. And I know many other people do too, and they refer to it, and laugh at it, and bring it up as a means to rip apart all the good things there are about this country, and the people that inhabit it.

And there are so many good things. So many beautiful places, and wonderful, lovely people, and talented artists, and creative ventures, and sporting achievements, and medical geniuses, and innovative educators – so many people so devoted to greatness.

And that it’s the people that tut and vomit opinions that really need to think about Australia Day and its meaning. Because it’s not just another day. It’s a day to celebrate and honour our country.

I’ve always admired Americans for their unabashed love for their country – the way they hold their hand to their heart and honour their flag. Perhaps there is something we can learn from them.

Australia is a young country. One that, might I add, considering its youth, has not only kept up with but surpassed most other countries in the world in most industries. There’s not that many of us and we’re really good at what we do – period.

Australia may have made wrongs, but it has also made many rights.

We may be jovial, and a country of larrikins, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be proud. It doesn’t mean we can’t be grateful. It doesn’t mean we can’t wave a flag in seriousness.

Our core – of mateship, and loyalty, of humour, and intelligence, of inclusion, and culture – should be a marker of solidarity and celebration – not separation.

The thing I’ve realised is that I may celebrate Australia every day, but not enough other people do. It’s their opinions and generalisations and complete ignorance that hold them back from seeing Australia clearly.

So, to be clear, we live in the best country in the world – one that values so many things that other countries do not, one that is caring and loving, one that is stunning and inspiring, one that we should be proud of. And, most definitely, one that we shouldn’t have to keep defending or defining.

Wave your flag proudly this Australia Day, turn the music up, eat your sausage in bread with sauce, feel the sand beneath your toes, rub red dust off your face, wear your bikini down the street with thongs on your feet, laugh, clink glasses with friends, soak in the views and say thank you; that not only can you do all of that freely, but that you can do it proudly.

Happy Australia Day.

Miranda Kerr – It’s Not Her, It’s Us

First published in Onya Magazine on December 1st, 2011. 

Over the past couple of days, Miranda Kerr’s image, and our perception of her, has been questioned online. An article published in New York Magazine has spurred on a couple of other articles, suggesting and finger-pointing accusations at Miranda Kerr.

So we’re clear, this is not one of those articles. I will not link to them – if you’d like to read them, may I suggest tracking them down yourself.

The general gist of them is that Miranda Kerr is a vacuous, hypocritical idiot, one that is deceiving us.

If Miranda Kerr is lying to us, it doesn’t faze me. Because even if she’s a ball of lies, her faux-message is better than so many true and honest ones presented by models and celebrities alike.

Miranda Kerr is a wife, mother, model and businesswoman advocating a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle. She’s a daughter and a sister, with a wholesome image.

My question is: what’s the problem with that?

I’ve not seen a photograph of Miranda Kerr falling out of a cab at 3am, high off her head. I’ve not seen one picture of her sans panties dancing on a podium at a nightclub with the remnants of coke lining her nostrils.

I’ve not seen her drunk behind the wheel of a car, or being abusive, or advocating bitchiness or sensationalist rubbish.

If the biggest problem we have with Miranda Kerr is that she is promoting self-love, a healthy body image and positive thinking, with some family values thrown in, then we really do have a problem.

To continue reading my article, click here

Banging On About Blogging…

First published at White Echo, on September 6th, 2011.

We’ve been banging on about the importance of blogging for quite some time now at White Echo. As our CEO Jeff White repeatedly says, “Content is King.” Whether you own a business, or are an individual looking to raise a profile, blogging is a wonderful avenue to open up a new conversation with your fans and customers, and to offer an insight into your business and yourself.

Blogging will raise your profile. It will drive more traffic to your website. It will deliver and provide, over time, trust in your brand, and yourself. It will result in more sales for your business.

To read more, click here

Foursquare – Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It

First published at White Echo on August 8th, 2011.

Foursquare, the location-based social networking site that allows users to check-in to places and unlock badges, will soon allow brands and business to create Pages for customers and fans to follow, just like those on Facebook.

To read more, click here.

What Your Business Can Learn From McDonald’s…

First published at White Echo on June 8th, 2011.

There is a lesson to be learnt for all businesses – small, medium or large – and that is; it’s not about your budget. It’s about implementing social media strategies with the assistance, advice or actual management from a professional company. At White Echo, that’s exactly what we do. People need to move beyond the idea that just because social media is relatively free to join and use, they should do it themselves. You’d never run a business without some form of advice from an accountant, or a bank manager, or a marketing manager, so you shouldn’t jump into social media without some sort direction. If you do, you’ll be likely to trip up. And if you’re lucky enough not to, that’ll be because your business is going entirely unnoticed.

Read more…

The Footy Show – Traditional Media, Embracing New Media

First published at White Echo on June 2nd, 2011. 

I should know by now that working in social media is full of surprises. Every time I read a new statistic, I’m blown away. Every time I see a new figure relating to social media growth, I’m gobsmacked. So last night, witnessing The Footy Show roll over 200,000 Facebook ‘likes’, I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was. Except I just couldn’t help it – I was stunned.

Read more…

MICF: The Bad Boys of Music Theatre

First published in Onya Magazine, on April 19th, 2011.

It’s hard keeping up with Andrew and John in The Bad Boys of Music Theatre. Not only because of their erratic movements across the stage (Andrew particularly so), but mainly because of their banter. It’s incessant. Continuous remarks are thrown back and forth throughout their cabaret show A Fine Bromance – with acidic comments peppering their conversations – where the humour isn’t always intended to be obvious.

Andrew and John are a modern day Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, except with less slapstick and more sharp wit. I spent the first fifteen minutes of their show entirely discombobulated – even now, I’m still unsure as to whether we, the audience, were being punk’d or not.

A Fine Bromace takes classic musical theatre songs and rewrites them with new lyrics that are sometimes inappropriate and most times hilarious. My personal favourite was their rendition of Agony from Into The Woods – partly because I loved their lyrics, partly because it’s a song from my favourite musical. And I do think that the better your knowledge of musical theatre is, the more you’ll enjoy A Fine Bromance – but it’s not a requirement.

The only thing you need to know is that Andrew and John’s show is clever, funny and sharp. Their performance is flawless – and I mean every word of that – they never miss a beat.

Brimming with talent and charm, The Bad Boys of Music Theatre won’t disappoint – and you’ll probably find that it takes a day or two for it to sink right in. Chances are, it might even linger in your thoughts for a few days. So if you find yourself having a quiet giggle, walking through the supermarket, or if the penny finally drops about something in A Fine Bromance, just understand that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Or at least I think so.

The Bad Boys of Music Theatre ‘A Fine Bromance’, Tues – Sat 10.15pm, Sun – Mon 10pm, at Chapel off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran until April 23rd. Tickets: Full $25, Tight Arse Tuesdays $17.50. For bookings phone 03 8290 7000 or book online.

MICF: Interview with Sean Patton

First published in Onya Magazine, on April 13th, 2011.

Welcome to Melbourne, Sean. How does it feel to be performing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival?

I am very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very excited to be performing in this festival. VERY excited. VERY VERY excited. I’m having trouble truly expressing how excited I am so let’s just say that I’m really excited!

How did you break into comedy? Was it something you worked towards, or did you just fall into it?

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to do something larger than life with my life. When I was a young pipsqueak, I thought I wanted to be a rock star, but I couldn’t play any instruments and while I do have a beautiful singing voice (fuck no I don’t!), I am completely tone deaf, so I’d just scream all the time. As a slightly older pipsqueak, I thought I wanted to be a movie star, but I hate talking about myself and I’m not beautiful, so there’s that. The one thing I could always do was make people laugh and I love doing that. So, when I was a 22 year old pipsqueak, I started doing stand up and never looked back.

You’re quite active on Twitter. What is it about the social networking site that you enjoy?

Seeing how seriously people take Twitter. It’s fucking ridiculous! It’s Twitter! It’s 140 characters of thought that you put out there for people to read when they have nothing better to do, or at least that’s what it should be. No, it’s a religion. People worship Twitter. There are people who’ve become Twitter celebrities. TWITTER! No one should give a flying fuck about twitter. But seriously, follow me on Twitter: @mrseanpatton

You recently made your TV debut on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Did you enjoy the television experience? Do you hope to do more TV in future?

I did. It was great. Sure, you have to boil your whole essence into 4 and a half minutes of clean material that millions of people see for a second or two while they’re flipping through channels looking for something to fall asleep to, but it’s a really cool thing to have under your belt. If you can make those people stop flipping through channels, watch your set, laugh at it before they zonk out and wake up the next day a little happier thus causing them to be a bit more productive at work, then maybe one day our economy will climb out of the shitter and you can feel good about contributing to that. I hope to do a lot more TV. I plan on it.

You live in New York. What’s that like?

New York is amazing. It’s a sensory overload every day. It’s so full of culture! There’s so many different cuisines and so much music and theatre and art and comedy and booze and homeless people and stupid rich arseholes shopping for things they don’t need and crazy people and dickhead cops and drunk college kids pissing in the street and bipolar weather and landlords that charge you an insulting amount of rent. And pizza! Best pizza in da world!

Is this your first time in Australia?

It is! Hopefully not my last.

What are your thoughts on Australia? Can you make any observations on Australia or Australian culture?

You’ll have to come to a show and see me perform to hear my thoughts on Australia. See you then!

Sean Patton is currently performing in Headliners at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. For show times and more information, please click here. To visit his website, please click here.

MICF: Interview with Paul Foot

First published in Onya Magazine, on April 8th, 2011.

Welcome to Melbourne, Paul. How does it feel to be performing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival?

It’s marvellous. I’m renting a lovely 15th-storey apartment with panoramic views of inherently lonely businessmen. I love ‘Letters and Numbers’, your down-trodden version of Countdown, and I like smiling at people on the tram every day; it’s like London in the 1880s really, but with more laughter and more obvious homosexuals.

How did you break into comedy? Was it something you worked towards, or did it just happen?

It all began when I was a student at Oxford, when I realised my maths degree probably wasn’t going to help me meet my idol Ella Fitzgerald. Sadly Ella died just a few weeks after I’d made the career change, but it was too late by that point, chances of a top job in the city had gone, so I pressed on in a bitter rage. ‘No time to muck about’, that was my Uncle’s motto.

You’ve appeared on numerous television shows in the UK. What’s it like working for TV?

It’s awful. You start doing a jigsaw in the dressing room and someone fiddles with it. You buy a cake and someone bins it. Theatricals everywhere padding you in make-up, men wearing hats, women walking around saying things, it’s a bit much really.

You’re quite active on Twitter. What is it about the social networking site that you enjoy?

I like Twittarse because I can look at who my connoisseurs are by gazing at miniature versions of their beautiful faces. It’s good for keeping in touch with showbizness people too, like my comedy wife Fearne Cotton. It also takes away the deep loneliness that is constantly charging through my veins.

You’ve worked with Russell Brand and he claims you’ve made quite the influence on his career. What’s Russell like? Do you like collaborating with other comedians?

Russell is a very talented and magnetic man, he was so ambitious and dedicated from the start that ’twas obvious he was going to be utterly famous one day. I do like collaborating with other comedians, of course. Noel Fielding, Brian Gittins, Dan Clark and Dionne Warwick are some of my favourites.

Is this your first time in Australia?

I think so, but what with the disgraceful mess of Britain’s train network these days, you never know.

What are your thoughts on Australia? Can you make any observations on Australian culture?

The people are much more relaxed here. In London everyone is out for themselves, they leave the fridge door open and rush out into the night screaming. Whereas in Australia people aren’t so bothered about welfare, politics, or financial security, they just slap a few meat shavings on the grill and GET ON WITH IT BABY.

From Mr Paul Foot, Life President of the Guild of Paul Foot Connoisseurs.

Paul Foot is currently performing his show ‘Ash In The Attic’ at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. For show times and further information, click here.