One of the genuinely funny people in the legal profession writes in his regular SMH piece that he has been confronted by the shocking image of himself:
“Accustomed, as I am, to public speaking in court, I am unaccustomed to seeing my public speaking replayed on virtually live television. Little did I realise that sometimes when I go to speak, my whole mouth opens very wide, like a python where the mandible dislocation occurs in order to swallow the family dog whole, and my distended tongue comes out just before I speak, quickly retreating into my mouth, but not before a couple of licks of the lips. It’s little wonder I am not on the public-speaking circuit. The occasion was an appearance on The Observer Effect on SBS, safe from mass sightings.
Judges don’t tell you when you are speaking from the bar table that you are opening your mouth like a cobra, licking your lips like a cat, all without realising your lips have all but disappeared over the past few years. When people say about my son that he has my lips, it is now apparent that he literally does, because mine have disappeared. It makes kissing awkward, like one-handed clapping.
The hostess/interviewer, Ellen Fanning, is an excellent cross-examiner. Things got off to a bad start when I told her before the cameras rolled that I always admired her when I was growing up, and indeed had a bit of a schoolboy crush on her at boarding school. Women are sensitive about age, even when I am joking.
The vanity in me loves being taken to the SBS studio in a limo, driven by a Mr Khan, a Pakistani gentleman. He knew Imran Khan, a man I passed in many hotel corridors late at night in the 1980s.
The elegant Mr Khan opened the front door for me on Elizabeth Street, outside chambers, in full view of the footpath revellers and remnants from lunch at Bambini. I took my sweet time getting in, twisting the onlookers’ forearms in a gigantic Chinese burn of envy. We chatted about Pakistani politics, and as always, I turned the subject towards Jemima Khan.
On arrival at SBS, I was treated like royalty, powder was placed on my face and hands to cover, hopefully, all the leopard and liver spots that high living and sun have caused. However, on seeing the replay, I see that a leopard never changes his spots, even with an immense amount of make-up.
My hair was brushed by a professional dresser, devoted solely to the appearance of the hair of participants in the show. This is the way we should treat barristers before going into court. An attractive beautician would professionally squirt brown colouring on to the back of her hand and then dab it onto those parts of your anatomy that need camouflage and disguise, lest the real skin tones scare potential viewers.
The Bar Association should advocate for make-up rooms and beauticians before court appearances in jury trials. We should all look like Richard Wilkins in the morning. At least we wouldn’t need a hairdresser, as we would wear 17th-century horsehair wigs to cover mostly balding heads. The wig is a great equaliser in court, which is why I grow my own hair as long as I can, consistent with bar rules and avoiding any resemblance to Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. I have considered shorter hair since Jimmy Savile gave eccentric, erratic hair a bad name, but I persevere.
Live television also reveals the various attempts to get the hair colour right – it now looks like external tree ring-barking. And you should never cross your legs on TV if you are wearing spotted orange socks, bought from a skateboarding shop because they felt warm and looked, I thought, cool.
Fanning and her team at The Observer Effect did not believe in giving me any notice of the subject matters on the show. They hit me with a gigantic picture of Tony Abbott in full-frontal Lycra and bike, the morning after his election win, and described him as the Anti-Rake, which made me the Antichrist, I guessed. His obvious fitness was thrust down my cake-and-pie loving throat and I was asked to explain on the spot. Ad libbing requires rehearsals and questions without notice should remain in Parliament, where at least they are written down.
One thing that did strike me was the fact that ministers of state should declare all their financial interests, but Abbott seemed to have more sponsors on his Lycra than on MasterChef at its boom. I couldn’t make out his major sponsors. Bike riders are a weird bunch. They wear their lapels on their sleeves and bodies, all the better to advertise insidious products such as the energy drinks that propel fists of fury around George Street on weekend nights. Sometimes, Abbott teases advertisers by taking off his top, but thus far, no tattoos have appeared. This space is open, including for Bondi Ink. No better way to attract new business to Australia than have a big black sleeve on the Prime Minister’s arm and ”Which bank?” on his chest.”