less Paper Giant, more spit ball

So you all watched Paper Giants right? OH what? Some of you don’t live here? Go here then and MAKE time.

1. You’ll get this awesome insight into Sydney in the early 70s – OMG I almost crapped myself at seeing the buses, the tollbooths, the 20cents to cross the bridge, the red rattlers (trains) – it’s all just too good.

2. You’ll see an actress take on one of Australia’s female media figurehead – lisp and all.

3. There is no three, just go and watch it.



While the series is the story of the birth of Cleo magazine, a cornerstone to the Australian Consolidated Press (the Packers) stable, the magazine was in fact initially slated as the Australian version of the US Cosmopolitan. Fairfax somehow trumped them on that front and launched it as the only competitor to Cleo – but by the time of my story both were part of ACP and ensconced in the Park Street offices of the company.

Somehow, my dreams of being a writer for National Geographic magazine morphed into wanting to be writer then back to being a journalist preferably covering crime and the courts and then there was the brief dalliance of wanting to write for magazines. With hindsight I realise just how indicative my career aspirations were to my mental state. Jumpy.

So there I was, three years into university life, my second year of a degree in journalism (and PR because I was lured by the promise of $$. What an idiot) and somehow I scored a work experience spot at Cosmopolitan magazine. I was beside myself.

Remember, this is the era when the Interweb was the domain of scientists and cost eleventy gagillion dollars a minute if you did have access to it. There were no mobiles, no Facebook, no – gasp – Twitter.

Magazines were the lifeblood of my generation. Dolly then Cosmo and Cleo. It was the time of the supermodel – think Elle, then Helena and Cindy. The time when the women’s magazine was about empowerment and celebration.

I mean, it was a sealed section in Cosmo that taught me how to masturbate for fuck’s sake.

What? Too much?

Anyway, there I was, the dowdy fat kid in the house of glamour. I ADORED IT. The office dogsbody was away on leave so I basically did her job for the week – there was some subbing, a hell of a lot of gophering and one time when I got to carry the latest cover artwork (all covered and top TOP secret) from the offices to the courier dock to go to the printers (or some such, the memory is now fuzzy – almost as fuzzy as the bottle green collared jumper I wore in there one day).

There was also a lot of fetching cups of tea for the editor, Pat Ingram, something I knew I was meant to be outraged at doing (I was at UNIVERSITY! Getting a DEGREE! The whole point of which was to bypass the TEA phase. Again, what an idiot) but secretly loved. Of course, it was destined to end in disaster. I break something at least once a week in this house, putting me in charge of the editor’s gorgeous Laura Ashley tea cup and saucer was like throwing a big thumping dog a teensy little bone in a really confined space piled high in glassware.

I broke her cup on Day Four.

Shattered it. And the saucer. On the manky floor of the manky teeny tiny tea room.

The look of horror on her face, the way she recoiled as I put a … m.u.g. … down in front of her during the editorial meeting, the collective gasp from all those around the table. OH GOD it was horrendous. She tried to deal with it with grace and good humour but I knew. I could TELL. She was pissed off and upset. The travel editor, Elisabeth, had bought it for her a lifetime ago on one of her trips to the UK.

Awesome. It had SENTIMENTAL value as well as being pretty.

There was only one thing for it. That lunch hour I went down to Pitt Street to the Laura Ashley store and asked them if they had any tea cups and saucers in the range I had noted down from the shards of fine bone china on the tea room floor. OH GOODNESS NO, that range was LONG retired. Gorgeous though.

So I chose another one I thought was lovely. It cost me nearly all of my fortnightly Austudy allowance.

Pat’s reaction made it well worth it. She was incredulous and may have even had watery eyes. I allowed one of my regular delusions of grandeur for quite a few years afterwards to be that she’d take her tea in the cup and regale people with stories about how the work experience girl had bought it for her.

I loved that week at Cosmo. I remember Pat walking in one morning and remarking how it felt like I’d been there for years and how amazing it was at how I had just slotted in.

Stupidly I never called them again for another session. Never went back. Despite my love of it, despite them clearly being thrilled with my efforts I felt like a total dowdy duck out of water. You know those scenes of Anne Hathaway in the beginning of The Devil Wears Prada? Well I was that but without the height. And there was no gay fashion director throwing free shit my way.

So there you have it. Not so much a Paper Giant as an origami crane. Or maybe more a spitball being fired from the casing of a biro.




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  • Mrs woog

    Fantastic fabulous wonderful post. Loved it. And laughed. Paper Giants was wonderful xx

    • Wasn’t it the best! The clothes, the stock footage from the 70s. Man, it hit all the right buttons.

  • Ah the gateway mag: Dolly! Dolly Doctor taught me so much about sex and periods and gross bodily fluids. Then Cosmo and Cleo. Wow. I woulda been so jealous of that experience. Except the cup breaking bit. But you handled it perfectly!
    Reemski recently posted..Quay Restaurant

    • I still KICK myself that I did not follow it up. I mean, they loved me, they really LOVED me.

  • Cellobella

    He he but she really should have paid you back for the cup.

    What I loved was that she spends the day at the office. She has the sewing machine on the kitchen table, she offers to make her lame partner dinner…

    The original super woman… And then her 2IC gets pregnant and chooses differently.
    Cellobella recently posted..At the races… For charity obviously

    • it only occurred to me when she asked Kerry for a clothing allowance that she was – up until then – making a lot of her own clothes. Ridiculous. I did meet her a few years back on an event I was working on. I was far from impressed. She came across as pompous and arrogant. But you know, after watching Paper Giants, I think maybe she was totally warranted to come across like that. She’s earned her stripes.

  • I loved it! Ita Buttrose, as portrayed by Asher was the kind of woman I always imagined I would be. Balls AND brain! Don’t quite know what happened?? Men? Mental illness? Both?
    Dorothy recently posted..Point and Shoot – Play

  • Paola

    The stories you have for us …

  • Love this post,Kim! I was desperate to work at 54 Park St and after much campaigning and flying down for interviews on a cadet’s wages, I got a job offer and stupidly turned it down. Long story.
    Nikki @ Styling You recently posted..The one where I scare the kids with a face mask

  • I spent many happy years writing for ACP magazines in Australia, NZ and the UK. Ah the memories. I thought that was lovely of you to buy another cup … especially as you had decided not to go back.
    bronnie recently posted..Easter bags- and other stories

    • I couldn’t NOT buy another cup and saucer, I was so mortified I had broken that one! And I don’t think it was a conscious decision not to go back – it was one of those incidents when bad brain won out against good brain. Dumb bad brain.