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 News Pop / Rock 16/01/2006

Australian Star Power Shines At Penfolds Icon Gala Dinner

LOS ANGELES, CA ( - Tourism Australia:


The Penfolds Icon Gala Dinner was a festive celebration of everything Aussie, kicking off G'day LA: Australia Week 2006. From exciting performances to heartfelt speeches to Neil Perry's Mod Oz menu, the evening highlighted the best Australia has to offer.

Bringing together more than 1,400 guests in celebration of Australia's achievements and to honor Olivia Newton-John, Hugh Jackman and INXS, highlights from the evening included rousing renditions of INXS favorites, Hugh Jackman joining the Qantas Girls Choir in singing "I Still Call Australia Home" and John Travolta welcoming Olivia Newton-John to the stage by singing the infamous lines from "Grease" - "I"ve got chills; they"re multiplying...".

Others in attendance included Eric Bana who presented Hugh Jackman's award, Kelly Preston, Jenna Elfman, Ron Livingston, Sara Wynter, Jesse Spencer, Dominic Purcell, Lorenzo Lamas, Melissa George, Steve Irwin, Casper Van Diem, Sophie Monk, Kimberley Joseph, Justine Clark, Jesse Clarke, Cameron Daddo, Kym Wilson, Discovery astronaut Andy Thomas and pro surfing star Layne Beachley. Joining the celebrities were top Australian dignitaries and business icons, including Consul-General John Olsen who chaired the evening, Rupert Murdoch, The Honorable Peter Costello, The Honorable Fran Bailey, The Honorable Tim Fischer, The Honorable Bob Gibbs, The Honorable Minister Haermeyer, His Excellency Dennis Richardson and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.



DETAILS: The Hollywood Palladium was filled with a sea of Australia and American faces. Accents of black and silver filled the space, which was outfitted in an elegant old Hollywood style.

Opening the gala ceremony was a performance from aboriginal dance group, Tjapukai, followed by the Australian national anthem, sung by the young ladies of the Qantas Girls Choir.

Australian television presenter Richard Wilkins served as MC for the evening and lent humorous moments to the event with his quick wit.

Consul-General John Olsen took the stage to welcome attending Australian dignitaries, ministers, astronaut Andy Thomas and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Mayor Villaraigosa, the first LA mayor to take part in Australia Week, then wished the room "G'day LA" and talked about the strong relationship between California and Australia due to shared traits and ideals.

The evening took a solemn note when Rupert Murdoch spoke about the goodwill between Australia and the United States and establishing a West Cost office of the American Australian Association. Some funds from the event will go to this fund to help expand a fellowship program designed to share knowledge and talent between the two counties. Mr. Murdoch then invited this year's fellowship recipient Dr. Mark Hutchinson to speak about his medical research.

Next, Scott Weiss, managing director of Foster Estates, surprised the audience by announcing that two tables would be selected to enjoy Grange all evening, one of Australia's most prestigious and expensive wines. Shouts of excitement filled the room as the tables were announced and the bottles were presented.

Renowned Australian chef Neil Perry greeted the audience via satellite to introduce his menu for the evening, which highlighted Australian favorites and included more than 600 lobsters, 1,400 portions of beef, and hundreds of servings of prawns, ocean trout and cheeses. In addition, winemaker Pete Gago shared notes on the four Penfolds varietals that were paired with each course.

INXS, who are gearing up to start their world tour with new lead singer J.D. Fortune, brought the audience to their feet with high-energy performances of "Mystified," "Never Tear Us Apart" and their new single, "Pretty Vegas." The crowed cheered for more and were granted an encore with "I Need You Tonight." Immediately following, the band accepted the Excellence in Music Award on the very stage that they had performed on at the beginning of their careers.

In accepting the award, bandmate Andrew Farriss said, "To many people around the world, America is a place where dreams come true. As a rock band from the pubs of Australia, six mates against all odds, we are truly fortunate to be embraced by so many people here in America and in many other countries and cultures across the earth."

Afterward, Eric Bana introduced his long-time friend Hugh Jackman and presented him with the Excellence in Entertainment Award. Mr. Jackman took his place at the podium and secured his first laugh from the audience by noting that there was an amazing collection Australian wealth and power in the room, an amount that had not been gathered since the last time Rupert Murdoch dined alone. During his acceptance speech, he reminisced about his long-standing crush on Olivia Newton-John, told the story of how he got his start in show business with working at a health club, and thanked America for welcoming him so warmly and helping him make his dreams a reality.

"To be here amongst my colleagues and compatriots, fellow Aussies and Americans, really this is something I will always treasure and remember," said Mr. Jackman.

The last presenter of the evening, John Travolta, bestowed the Lifetime Achievement Award upon his "Grease" co-star, Olivia Newton-John. Mr. Travolta's introduction included recounting his campaign to have the Aussie superstar star opposite him in the classic film and ended with him saying that she was "the kind of friend a friend would want." Ms. Newton-John graciously accepted her award, remarked that her career has been beyond her wildest expectations and thanked many people that were special to her, including her daughter Chloe, who she considers to be her lifetime achievement.

Ms. Newton-John remarked, "I"ve been reflecting a lot on what I"ve achieved to receive this award from my heartland of Australia, a country my father described as rugged, passionate and untamed, like its people. Australia that took my family in and gave me opportunities to learn and grow and taught me my never give up-ness, a sense of humor to laugh at myself and not to take anything too seriously, and here, America, the dreamland of opportunity who allowed me to experience and blossom and live a wonderful life. My two homes."

The evening's ceremony ended with the Qantas Girls Choir taking the stage once again to sing "America the Beautiful," joined by Hugh Jackman for a surprise performance of "I Still Call Australia Home."

EVENT SPONSORS: Australia Week 2006 Penfolds Icon Gala Dinner presented by Qantas and Tourism Australia


G'day LA: Australia Week 2006 is a festival from January 14 - January 20, 2006, showcasing all things Australian, including food and wine, travel, film, arts, culture, fashion and business, at a series of events across Los Angeles.

G'day LA is produced by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Austrade, Qantas Airways and Tourism Australia in conjunction with State Governments and key private sector sponsors.

For a list of events or more information, visit

NOTES TO MEDIA: Photos and b-roll of the red carpet and gala available upon request.

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