There’s something sad and pathetic about hangers on, who watch from the sidelines to see who in a group of artists will hit the big time, before rushing forward to claim some sort of relationship, some sort of ownership over that person. I was thinking about this as I released Triple R’s own Adam Elliott from a ten to fifteen second bear hug after he had walked into the studio with Oscar. After all, the Breakfasters had been there from the start. Well maybe not the absolute start (admittedly, we were a bit distant during the decade or so of writing, set building, clay modelling, shooting, casting, and post production on Harvie Krumpet), but we’d definitely done an interview by the AFI nomination. And by Oscar time, Harvie was more like a long lost cousin than a lump of clay with testicular cancer. By then it was a case of all aboard the Elliott Express. Destination: Hollywood.
When it chugged back into the Triple R studio on the 17th of March, it did so half an hour before the scheduled interview time. We were about to go to air with an interview on education funding, and suddenly, there was Adam, black felt laundry bag in hand, a bulge in the laundry bag that was either a gold statuette, or some very heavy Oscar shaped socks.
‘Is that it,’ Fee asked.
“Yep,’ Adam grinned. ‘I keep it in there so people don’t make a fuss.’ I stared at the laundry bag as an Iranian man might stare at a woman in a burkha. Not making a fuss, but interested. Definitely interested. Then, just as it seemed Oscar might be about to emerge, in the great traditions of Iranian dating, a snag.
‘Back on in ten seconds.’ Fee said. ‘You can wait outside if you like Adam.’
He left Oscar with us, still just a lump in a laundry bag. The interview was with Terry Howard from the Australian Principals’ Federation about allocation of funds in education, and throughout, I wondered whether he could tell from my voice that I was sitting next to Oscar. Pang seemed different too:
‘Can you tell me why it is that this government is committed to making the lives of the wealthier easier whilst systematically taking resources away from the less wealthy?’ Pang asked, clearly hoping that Oscar would be impressed by the quick Pilger-esque makeover to his personality.
I looked at the laundry bag. Oscar was unmoved. Quite clearly, in the car on the way over he had been listening to Pang’s four minute Lonhro soliloquy during the 7.30 sports bulletin and knew deep in his cold metal heart that a man who was so enamoured with a horse owned by a billionaire chicken king, couldn’t suddenly grow a faint tuft of a beard and start calling himself VI Lenin. Although now I think about it, at that point, Oscar hadn’t actually seen Pang’s beard. His burqua didn’t have eye holes.
Eventually, the Terry Howard interview reached its climax (‘well thanks for coming on Terry’) and Adam Elliott retuned to the studio. He stood over the laundry bag, and while Fee spoke casually about cummerbunds, Adam started to unwrap, and unwind, and unravel the cloth. Then, as our hearts beat in time with Spiderbait’s version of Black Betty, he appeared. It was Oscar. All straight backed and gold and noble. Just like an undersized version of the oversized version on display at the Jam Factory, only not so cheap looking. And with a nicer arse.
Pang had the first hold, while I dragged the camera out of the bag and started snapping. The light was poor, and so might I say was Pang’s holding technique, forgetting to cradle with the right hand and guide with the left. I took over, happy with my own holding technique, although with a rich history of breaking things, nobody in the studio was taking anything for granted.
I remember my exact thoughts as I held Oscar. ‘Gee, I bet most people who hold this comment on how heavy it is, but I’m so self absorbed that I’m thinking about how out of shape I am’. I didn’t tell anyone about my ego-centrism, although from my distant gaze and unwillingness to respond to the news theme, Fee knew.
At 8.02 I said, ‘Eight o’clock, Triple R news,’ because I didn’t want Oscar to think that ours was the sort of show that doesn’t run on time. During the bulletin, Fee snared her first hold of Oscar, and immediately began punching the air with him in mock, silent celebration. Her mime continued, and while I was stuck on Peter Costello and his current progess vis a vis becoming more interesting, Fee was already almost through her speech, thanking the Academy, thanking God.
Adam’s interview was memorable, as you would expect of a chat with someone who is practically a family member. We learnt exciting little tit bits. He was dressed by the Channel Nine Today show. He was charged by an excited Robin Williams shouting ‘I love animation!’ Two thirds of the audience in the Kodak Theatre are seat fillers getting paid $8 an hour while the A-list are out at the bar sucking back on a bit of ol’ grandpa’s cough mixture. And Jack Nicholson wasn’t there. We also learnt that when Adam isn’t moving clay a fraction of a centimetre at a time over three painstaking years, he can handle renegade hotel room sockets that spew fire and threaten all that is good and decent in this world.
Even after the show I never stopped taking photos. Fee kept apologising for me, saying that Adam and Oscar must be sick of it, but I could hear something in her tone. It wasn’t time to get off the Elliott Express yet. She still had air to punch with that statuette.
About thirteen hours later, Adam Elliott was allowed to leave. Throughout the ordeal, when by rights the happy snaps should have become slightly drawn snaps which in turn should have become give-me-back-my-fucking trophy snaps, he was patient and funny. The sorts of qualities that have made him our best friend, that have made us mutual best friends.
At the front desk, Adam dropped Oscar back into the laundry bag, and walked to the door, sleep deprived and arm sore from signing posters, DVDs and T-shirts.
‘What’s up for today?’ asked Pang (who himself is no stranger to awards, having won the under 11 Best Centreman trophy for ACYC in 1983)
‘Umm getting ready to go to Shepparton for a ticker tape parade,’ Adam replied.
‘Are you from there?’ Pang asked.
‘Nup. Never been there before in my life.’
We all laughed. Those people from Shepparton have some cheek. All out there trying to get their piece.