Sunday, November 20, 2016

Molly Meldrum: 'Sunday Night Went Behind My Back'

ELTON John had a hit single called “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting”. But our biggest fight was caused by Sunday Night.

After my accident at the end of 2011, I did a couple of interviews for Channel Seven’s Sunday Night program. The first was with Katy Perry in LA, and then I flew to Germany to catch up with my old friend Elton John.

Elton was very kind to me. “You look great,” he said.

“Without making people dissolve into tears, you are the best thing that ever happened to Australian music. You’re a legend and you’re a friend and you’ve stuck by me through the good times and the bad and now the good times again. You’re an institution and it’s great to see you back ... a mental institution, but you’re an institution.”

I’d never seen Elton happier. He was a doting dad, showing me pictures and videos of his son, Zachary, on his iPad. Zachary had transformed Elton’s life, as mine had been transformed when I adopted Morgan.

“I thought I was too selfish, too set in my ways,” said Elton, “but that little boy was sent as a messenger to me — you can do this ... he is the light, I’m obsessed with him.”

Elton told me he wanted to be a better dad than his own father. “My dad never came to see me and it really hurt,” he confided. “Still does. I just wanted him to see that I was really good, but it never happened. When I see a father — son thing or a film, I’m a mess.”

I gave Elton a present for Zachary — a little piano. He played Waltzing Matilda and we sang together.

Elton reflected on his dark days. “I look back on those days with sheer horror. All you’re obsessed with is your next hit. You’re obsessed with yourself, you’re so self-obsessed and that’s how I became.”

I remembered those days well. “You saw me at the worst of my times,” Elton acknowledged. “And you tried to tell me about it and I wouldn’t listen.”

Getting sober and meeting David Furnish turned Elton’s life around. “He is the person I was looking for all my life, but tried too hard to find. And when I wasn’t looking, he walked into my life, and that’s another gift my sobriety has given me — the most incredible relationship with someone I completely love and adore.

“It helped me really improve myself as a person and come to terms with some of my own weaknesses.”

I asked Elton to nominate his favourite songs — an almost impossible task when you’ve had more than fifty Top 40 hits. He listed Your Song (“It started everything off”) and Someone Saved My Life Tonight (“It’s about me, it’s very personal”).

Elton also revealed that his life story was going to be turned into a film, written by Billy Elliot screenwriter Lee Hall.

It was a fantastic interview, and Elton was very generous and revealing. The story didn’t need anything “extra” but a Sunday Night producer went behind my back and decided to include some comments Elton made about Madonna.

This part of the interview was clearly a chat between two old friends and not intended for public broadcast. I guess I should have been more in control of the final edit and approved the story before it went to air, but I was not at the top of my game, still recovering from my fall.

I was shocked when the story was shown on Sunday Night on 5 August, 2012. The introduction declared that “what he’s about to say will sweep around the world”.
And that it did.

Elton was angry with Madonna because he said she had been “horrible” to Lady Gaga, Zachary’s godmother. “I love Gaga,” Elton told me. “She’s the real deal, she can actually sing.”

As for Madonna, well, Elton let fly: “She’s such a nightmare. Sorry. Her career’s over — I can tell you that. Her tour’s been a disaster and it couldn’t happen to be a bigger c***.

“If Madonna had any common sense, she’d have made a record like Ray of Light, stayed away from the dance stuff and just been a great pop singer and make great pop records, which she does brilliantly. But, no, she had to prove that she was like ... and she looks like a f**king fairground stripper.”

I was a little shocked by Elton’s comments, but I was more shocked when they went to air. In fact, I was furious. Elton and Madonna were also furious.

I agreed with a comment piece in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph: “The decision by the Seven Network to broadcast Elton John’s off-camera spray about Madonna smelled like a desperate act ... to this viewer’s mind [it] was an off-the-record conversation showing two old dames having a private chat ... Meldrum’s audience knows the entertainment reporter rarely criticises or sabotages his celebrity friends.”

When I called the Sunday Night office to complain, I was told: “But, Molly, the ratings were great!” That comment made me even angrier. I slammed the phone down. There are more important things than ratings.

Fortunately, I was in Thailand when the story went to air, and when the world’s media tried to track me down, my friend Angelica Cleverly said, “Molly has gone to Latvia and he can’t be contacted.”
Elton still thinks it was all my fault, and refused to talk to me when he toured Australia in 2015. I avoided his concert, going to see Taylor Swift instead.

It’s all a little silly, really. I’m tempted to quote a line from one of my favourite movies: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” But the truth is, I do give a damn. I love Elton.


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