Thursday, July 26, 2007

Kerry Packer : King Of The Whores

By Darryl Mason

So what does SONAP means?

Sex Only, No Appearances in Public.

Why does it matter? Read on.

Money can't buy you love, but it can buy you the influence of politicians, if you're prepared to lay out tens of thousands of dollars to import the finest prostitutes in the world to your private bordello.

Just ask Kerry Packer. Well, you can't of course, he's dead, but you could ask the politicians who were pleasured at his private bordello. If you knew who they were. You probably won't find out who they were, either, of course, until after they're dead.

This story discusses new information in the updated and rather extraordinary Paul Barry biography, The Rise And Rise Of Kerry Packer. One particular, and integral, story from Packer's life that was kept out earlier editions of the book concerns the media magnate's mistress, Carol Lopes. One of Packer's many mistresses.

Lopes' tale is a tragic one. She told her friends she was a SONAP. She was there for Sex Only, with No Appearances in Public. No doubt, Lopes lived a life of luxury, but there was enough sadness to drive her to thoughts of suicide. She tried to end her life at least three times during their years together. When Kerry Packer finally abandoned her, and locked her completely out of his life, she killed herself :

Packer put (Lopes) up in lavish apartments in Bellevue Hill, near his family residence, and she enjoyed brief public fame as a late-night B-grade movie hostess on Packer's Nine television network.

After their affair ended in the early 1980s Lopes began organising for Packer private bordellos each summer in expensive and secluded rented houses in Palm Beach.

Lopes travelled to New York, London and South America to find intelligent, well-educated and beautiful women who were paid about $10,000 a week at the bordello, the biography says.

Barry writes: "Carol confided to friends that Kerry ran this private bordello to thank men who had done him a good turn." He says politicians and business people attended the bordellos, but does not name any.

Packer supported Lopes financially until the late 1980s. When he cut off, she tried to kill herself three times. In 1991, she managed to carry through with her threat to take her own life.

She left a 16 page suicide note to Packer. Apparently it's still on file with the NSW coroner's office, but its contents have never been released.

But another letter Lopes left has been made public :

"Kerry Packer is the only family I know [Lopes had been raised by foster parents]. He has taken care of me for 12 years. I have been denied access to this man. For what reason, I don't understand. He is not aware of how distressed I am … I have no alternative but to end my life."

Barry's book reveals Kerry Packer spent a fortune on Lopes and a long stream of mistresses, while penny-pinching from his staff at Channel Nine and the employees of his racks of magazines. Staff were told to buy cheaper coffee for the canteen, while the mistresses got apartments and Packer blew tens of millions of dollars in Las Vegas casinos.

While his tabloid magazines raged and hissed over the slightest indiscretion by Australian actors and rock stars, and regularly sent photographers to destroy the lives of any who dared to have an affair (all the while generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for his empire), the details of Kerry Packer's stable of mistresses and his bordello for politicians and business leaders were kept under wraps until after his death. And any journalist, like Paul Barry, who even appeared to be digging too deep were threatened with legal action.

Most Australians were unaware that Packer even had one mistress, let alone many, and Packer's Hooker Palace was one of the best kept secrets of Australia's media, politics and business elite for more than a decade. Many of them knew about it of course, many of them frequented the bordello(s), but they never talked about. At least, they didn't talk about it outside of their own insulated little circles.

All the while Packer kept his bordello, and his stable of mistresses, his media empire gently portrayed him as a pillar of society and politicians lined up to praise him. The outpouring of emotion from the upper ranks of Australian politics and business at Packer's funeral can now be viewed as a mix of genuine grief and utter relief. Many secrets died with Packer, and once in the ground, Kerry Packer at least would never be able to tell tales on those who frequented his menagerie of whores.

How could such incredible secrets stay secret for so long? It certainly makes you wonder what sort of information, or images, were collected in that bordello to keep so many politicians and power brokers firmly in line and consistently under Kerry Packer's control.

Paul Barry's The Rise And Rise Of Kerry Packer is a remarkable book, if only for how much you can learn about the business and social worlds that Packer moved through, and the scandals he kept hidden by his power and money for so long.

Along with Neil Chenoweth's Packer's Lunch, you can discover some of the details of the very private worlds in which Australia's media, business and political elite existed through the 1980s and 1990s. No doubt, some of the same players in the books are still living lives not altogether different from those days, but with Kerry Packer dead, the lifestyle are presumably far more subdued.

Of course, as Rene Rivkin died knowing, the full story was/is even more debauched and shocking than either these two books will tell you. But they come close. As close as we're allowed to get to knowing what goes on behind the headlines, inside the boardrooms and beneath the sheets of the bordellos frequented by Australia's mega-rich and ultra-powerful.

Don't worry, they're not laughing at you.

They don't even know you exist.