Sunday, June 30, 2013

"Hanging In The Vatican"

Aussie media have joined the Billich Roadshow and headed off to California where colourful Sydney couple Charles & Christa Billich, owners of the Billich Gallery in The Rocks intend to take LA by storm. The town of make believe and the fabulous Billichs were always destined to collide.
The pair will launch themselves at their "good friend" Hugh Heffner's Playboy Mansion. Christa is no slouch in the publicity department and could teach Hef a few tricks. Occasionally a journalist, still wet behind the ears, trots out the Billich line like this chap in the Fairfax business publication BRW. The writer repeats the claim the Billichs have made for years : "His portrait of Pope John Paul II is hung at the Vatican."
Hung at the Vatican ?. Perhaps lying against a wall in dusty basement somewhere along with the thousands of other trinkets, bauble and gifts that flow into the Vatican, the White House ,Buckingham Palace and so on.
Billich fans (?) : Ian Thorpe and the late King of Tonga
It's one of the neatest publicity doddles in the book. Gifts are never sent back (postage !) and the sender often receives a polite, form 'thank you' letter.
Try it yourself and send Prince William and Kate Middleton a gift for their new baby to Kensington Palace.
Critics have been unkind to Charles calling his works anything but art. In 1995 the Sydney Morning Herald's art expert John McDonald labelled Billich’s painting as “a slippery form of graphic design backed with a high-powered marketing strategy"
The BRW scoffs at their stable mate's words but McDonald's most salient point was that amateur collectors may be buying Billich works in the belief they were an investment that would increase in value.
Charles & Christa are immensely likable. The Shuttle attended one Billich extravaganza in Surfers Paradise in 2002 (another natural home for the couple). While Christa and 2 girls posed nude on the ballroom stage at the luxury Sheraton Mirage resort, Charles sat at an easel wearing a beret & smock and painted the trio. Dozens of punters formed a queue to buy their 'investments' including White Shoe aficionado and property developer Keith Williams.
Charles vs Norman

Two years ago at the Lawson Menzies Auction house in Annandale where they sell second hand furniture (their prize art auctions are held in the city) a Billich print came up for auction. There are 2 Australian artists whose works bring groans from the regular bidders:  Norman Lindsay and Charles Billich. The Billich print fetched $1.

Some 1999 words still ring in the ears of the Shuttle. At a Sydney reception for the International Olympic Committee, President Juan Antonio Samaranch the crowd parted and a Charles Billich painting was revealed by a local minor IOC official who beamed proudly . Standing nearby was the high flying solicitor and Sydney Olympic's chief Rod McGeoch (husband of the respected publicist Deeta Colvin). A look of horror spread across his face as he exclaimed to the official : "Oh no ! you are not going to give him that are you ?" . He shook his head in disbelief.

Hef waiting to greet Charles & Christa !
Victor Lownes
The Billich action takes place at the PlayBoy Mansion home of Hugh Heffner. Hef hosts a lot of parties. Anyone can hire the Playboy Mansion for a party or event, a product launch, Barmitzvah or wedding and every now and then Hef may wander through a room to make the punters feel they are getting their money's worth.
James Hunt : Mark Hamill

The Shuttle has been to many Playboy parties in LA, New York and London. The US parties give tackiness a new meaning. The London parties at the old Park Lane Playboy Club were a tad better but the weekend parties thrown by Victor Lownes (the UK Playboy boss) at his Stocks Mansion in Herfordshire were sensational.
At one memorable party that lasted 3 days with a permanent Champagne and Dining Marquee, the Shuttle shared a hot tub with 3 Bunnies, racing car driver James Hunt (subject of the film Rush starring Chris Hemsworth ) and Star Wars actor Mark Hamill . Guests were bussed to and fro from London by helicopter and with each arrival a movie star or celebrity would alight-Joan Collins, Tony Curtis, or Rod Stewart.      Below : The Master at work :