ELTON JOHN loves surprises. For his solo concert in south-east Queensland on Sunday night - the first of 10 - the pop icon walked on stage 15 minutes early and launched into Your Song while most people were still parking their cars.
The whispers had been circulating all week but it was only fitting that Sir Elton be the surprise guest at the glamorous cocktail soiree for another mock-royal, David Beckham. John and his husband, David Furnish, are good friends with the superstar footballer and his fashion plate wife, Victoria Beckham. Sir Elton John made a brief appearance in a private room with Beckham and other players. Since the Beckhams moved to Los Angeles, John and Furnish have been to visit and have also hosted the Beckhams at their London home.
Back in 1986 John was surprising Aussie audiences for very different reasons. According to a Herald review of his December 14 Sydney show with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the audience was flabbergasted by John's elaborate costumes and "pronounced sense of camp". But it wasn't just his onstage antics that attracted attention. During his visit Elton put hotels and bottleshops into a spin, demanding 72 bottles of Cristal champagne for his personal assistant's birthday bash at the Melbourne Hilton. A statewide search unearthed only 48 bottles, not nearly enough for the pop king. The Sydney Hilton was called in, scouring NSW for another 24 bottles, which were promptly flown south at an all-up cost $235.10 a bottle.
His luggage was another talking point. He reportedly brought 40 trunks of personal clothes, including two trunks of glasses and four of hats, from London. Another odd tag-along was his wife, Renate Blauel, whom he married in Sydney on Valentine's Day, 1984. To cap off his outrageous visit, he referred to the former prime minister Malcolm Fraser as a "lousy lay" before blowing more than $25,000 on Ken Done sketches.
Tomorrow a much mellower John will perform his Sydney show - at the ACER Arena - before heading to Canberra, the Hunter Valley, Townsville, Launceston and Werribee on Melbourne's outskirts.