The annual Press Gallery Midwinter Ball was a Gatsby inspired party with plenty of sparkles, sequins, feathers – most on the stylishly dressed waiting staff - and art deco décor in a glittering display designed by the indefatigable Paul Donohoe and his team from BDW Special Events.
The early guests are the sponsors who attend the pre-ball cocktail party with a welcome from Press Gallery president David Speers acknowledging $320,000 raised and who this year’s recipients would be. The division of spoils is always a cross section of exemplary organisations with Soldier On the main one for 2014 receiving $100,000 and the Indigenous Reading Project, $50,000
Comedy is integral to the entertainment of this eclectic mix of journalists, politicians and all manner of others keen to be seen at the big finale before the midwinter break when anywhere but Canberra is an absolute though the idea of a couple of Clive Palmer dinosaurs on the ‘front lawn’ of Parliament House is anathema to all Canberrans, but Bill Shorten got a laugh with that suggestion. As did the self deprecating speech of Prime Minister Tony Abbott with his ‘serial winker’ explanation – with like minded besties caught on the wink, so to say, for a show reel of winking. Hilary Clinton will no doubt sue for the picture used for her effort. But the pressure was on for the PM and Leader of the Opposition to be funny, witty and clever as the bar was set high by Julia Gillard, a star performer at the last two balls and a hard act to follow but neither of these blokes, while definitely trying hard with good efforts, matched her clever repartee.
Gerry Connolly, the real entertainment, responded to an initial ‘cool’ response from this critical audience by returning in his favourite guise as HM the Queen making a very regal entrance with a velvet and ‘ermine’ train tweeting his way to the stage to a ‘Queen’ accompaniment for a right royal speech but must of changed his mind about slipping into red budgie smugglers before dubbing a few dames and knights around the room.
The serious side of the proceedings is an award made in memory of the late Paul Lyneham for Excellence in Journalism and supported by his family and the National Press Club of Australia with Lenore Taylor the Guardian Australia’s political editor being awarded this prestigious honour for the second time in 13 years of the award.
In the fashion stakes the fillies slipped into the starting gates with less pale ‘fluoro tanned’ flesh on display than on previous occasions, and plenty of black. When in doubt wear black is the mantra for safe fashion choices but a few brave Gatsbyesque frocks sashayed their dangly bits about. Erin Molan was elegant and sleek in a flesh coloured frock on the arm of her dad Jim Molan ( Major General retired) and the ever beautiful Susan Mostyn in best black with deco bling was on the arm of her handsome husband Mark Riley making their regular best couple entrance. I’ve promised them a brag book of photos from balls past as the best dressed over a decade.
But it’s not a shock frock kind of night better suited to accessory wives at sporting events or entertainment awards nights when tandoori tans and a competitive spirit is on the carpet for those who can and do give their opinions with relish. On this night the chance to put on a flash frock, grab your bloke and run the gauntlet of a small paparazzi pack then relax and enjoy the night is what it’s all about and if by chance a photo opportunity with the PM happens then go for it. I just hope on this freezing Canberra night Margy Abbott didn’t have to bunk in at the current Barton digs of the PM!