Eating a bunch of beans and running laps around my block has sparked a bit of interest lately, which is nice. A dozen or so radio spots, and a few TV gigs have meant I’ve shared filtered air with familiar people I’ve never met.
I’ve often lumped famous people into good or not-so-good baskets. While my baskets are made with shoddy materials that would leak if I was to ever use them to pail water, they work most of the time for dividing up people, albeit rudely. But I’m often wrong. Two such clangers are recent encounters with Leo Sayer, singer, and Ronn Moss, soap star. At non-face value, from afar, I thought Leo was a jack-in-the box character mimicking his corkscrewed hair, saying high-energy things for the sake of being the bounciest bloke in the room. I didn’t know much about his music, but presumed it would be subject to much the same vibe. For Ronn Moss, there was a similar halo. My thinking was that Ronn was hard-core-fake, likely wearing around pre-cut designer label jeans worth more than my tractor, renouncing people for wearing jeans naturally for a few years in order to get genuine rips, to the point that his fakeness was a triple negative version of reality, thus making him the fakest bloke in the world. It makes no sense, but neither, I thought, do people like Ronn Moss.
Then I spent some fleeting but real time with them; 30 minutes waiting in an ABC hallway with Leo, before going on air with him for another 20 minutes, and 20 minutes with Ronn Moss for a TV segment, half on air, half off. Within a few minutes of each encounter I felt bad about the judgements I’d dragged in with me. Both were completely off. I was on the right track with Leo, he was a ball of energy, and had more bounce than anyone else in the building, but he was not acting. More than that, his energy rubbed off, raising the temperature of the corridor to be positively warm among horrible AC conditions. Unlike bad conversationalists, he balanced chit-chat beautifully, saying as many, or as few words, as anyone. He was interested, asking lots of questions, would look you in the eye, and divert back to you, or another, if he had said his piece. There wasn’t a single ounce of pretension. Ronn was surprisingly on the other end of the spectrum, a slow-burner holding onto his calories. My first question to him was ‘Ronn, I was watching you on that last segment (on a panel, in the studio), and it occurred to me that that you’ve spent more daylight hours in a studio for 30 years, than in any other environment. You’re studiofied’. ‘Yes, that’s right’ he said. Sitting on milk crates in a small green courtyard- perhaps rendering the hierarchical stakes between us null and void, we talked like two blokes at a tram stop. We covered his family, his newly adopted veganism, and his lifelong musical life. I told him I’d just eaten my bodyweight in beans, finishing off the experiment by running an ultra-marathon. Wanting as much background info as possible meant my questioning of him was over. He was utterly endearing, with impeccable fingernails. We both sported well-worn boots.
So there you go, I was dead wrong. Goodonya Leo and Ronn, I’ll name guinea pigs after you one day.
For Jon Faine’s conversation Podcast (the ABC panel conversation): 34th minute onwards