Bachelorette Sophie Monk exiles herself to Mexico to avoid spilling the beans

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Ratings winner: Sophie Monk mulls her decision on The Bachelorette.

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Who would have thought that going on one of those cringe-inducing dating shows would resurrect Sophie Monk’s career?

And yet right now, having spent years in the doldrums, the blonde media veteran is sitting pretty on the Australian showbiz radar thanks to the big ratings numbers being delivered by The Bachelorette.

Monk claimed this week she was departing Australia for three weeks in Mexico so she would not ruin any surprises for viewers by being caught with her chosen beau before the finale is aired.

But PS hears there might be another part to her Mexican hiatus, with word that her Queensland home has become “unlivable” thanks to a local paparazzo who has been staking out Monk for weeks, capturing all sorts of images that have been snapped up by various media outlets and generating a healthy income for the photographer.

This makes Monk’s move to Mexico even more peculiar, with previous Bachelors and Bachelorettes desperate for any attention they can get, most of them tip off photographers on their whereabouts hoping any shots will be published to help bolster their fleeting celebrity “currency”.

Before heading off to Mexico, Monk said on radio about her new beau: “I will definitely try to see him and mess it all up for everyone. So I have to remove myself.”

No doubt the producers are keen she does too, especially given the Bachelor Matty J and winner Laura Byrne were spotted returning to their homes with overnight baggage at the same time, before the finale aired.

Bertini’s island dream fading fast

Albert Bertini with his wife Renee Bertini in Sydney for treatment on her brain tumour. 13th March 2015. Photo: Steven Siewert

Trouble in their island paradise: Albert Bertini with his wife Renee in 2015. Photo: Steven Siewert

Just like the rusting ship that sits stranded on the beach outside the now desolate resort, flamboyant Sydney property developer Albert Bertini’s fantasy to create one of the world’s finest tropical retreats on Vatulele Island in Fiji appears to have hit a snag.

Even worse Bertini’s dream has become a nightmare according to some of the locals.

“We just want him gone, we want him to leave Vatulele … he is no longer welcome here,” Lepani Kaiwalu told PS from Vatulele this week. Kaiwalu said he was speaking on behalf of a collection of the island’s landowners. Bertini acquired the lease for the resort in 2012.

Kaiwalu and Co may soon have their wish granted, or at least part of it. Talk of Bertini selling the resort to an American operator has been sweeping Vatulele, though Bertini is expected to retain a large land holding adjacent to the property.

Bertini would not be drawn on the mooted sale but denied he had upset all the locals, he claimed he had poured millions of dollars into the resort but had not reopened it because he had “changed direction”. As for the offending shipwreck, he said it would soon be carted away.

“While there may possibly be a few dissatisfied landowners … I am not arrogant enough to think that 100 per cent of people in this world get on with me, I have documentation showing the landowners have no issue with me, are satisfied with the company’s tenure and have at all times been co-operative.”

According to Bertini the L’taukei Land Trust Board, which is the legal representative and trustee of the landowning group, has not brought forward any complaints. However, Kaiwalu said that was not the case and Bertini “knew the issues very well”.

Bertini claimed he had paid $FJ5 million to the landowners since he acquired the property, which included arrears owed by the former owner. Kaiwalu said this did not include a further $FJ1 million he claimed Bertini had racked up in late payment fees.

“He was meant to reopen the resort in one year, it has been five years. The economic cost to the island in lost tourism and employment is much greater,” Kaiwalu countered.

“He is not welcome here … there have been many incidents where he has disrespected the local community and our traditions, but more seriously we have accusations of threats and intimidation.”

Kaiwalu told PS a report outlining 17 specific claims made by locals against Bertini, including allegations he exposed his genitals and drew a knife on workers at the resort, had been provided to Fijian police in Suva, an hour-long boat ride away, to investigate. Bertini denied the claims but admitted he did “skinnydip” and carried two knives with him “for cutting cane”.

A fortnight ago PS reported Bertini pleaded not guilty to assault in a separate matter that is due back in court in Suva in December.

Bertini has been ruffling feathers around Vatulele since July 2011 when he “spontaneously” married former teenage surf competitor Renee Hyman, who is half his age, on the island.

It was not long after Bertini took possession of the Vatulele resort that PS began reporting on his South Pacific Escapades, with Kyle Sandilands named as an investor in the project in 2012, the radio announcer washing up on the idyllic beaches with his girlfriend Imogen Anthony.

PS revealed that Sandilands was one of a long line of celebrities of varying repute, including bad boy rocker Tommy Lee, who Bertini had courted to invest, the heavily bejewelled and tattooed property developer convincing the stars to drop some serious dough on the island, which had been billed as a paparazzi-proof enclave for the rich and famous to party on away from prying eyes.

Another potential investor was former luxury car salesman Nasser Elkordi, a regular around the Kings Cross haunts of John Ibrahim and a close mate of Sandilands. Elkordi’s home was raided in August in the same police operation that ensnared John Ibrahim’s two brothers, Michael and Fadi. Elkordi has not been charged with any offences.

Desperately seeking Susie: Elelman ‘rested Up’ over sexist claims

former 2GB presenter Susie Elelman.

“Sexist boys’ club”: former 2GB presenter Susie Elelman. Photo: Frank Chen

Where’s Susie?

It’s the question on many lips especially around the corridors of Channel Ten with regular panellist on Studio 10, Susie Elelman, absent from the show since she broke ranks and called out what she described as a “sexist boys club” in Australian commercial talkback radio.

Elelman declined to comment when PS called but various sources have confirmed that her comments, which were later picked up across the wider media and ruffled several senior media executive’s feathers, resulted in her being “rested up”.

For many years Elelman had worked various “graveyard shifts” on 2GB, part of the Macquarie Group which is majority owned by Fairfax Media.

One of her long-term supporters at 2GB has been Alan Jones. It was Jones who set off the debate about the lack of women in talkback radio when his comments were aired on Studio Ten.

Jones said: “I just don’t know. Because women are successful wherever they want to be, so I can only assume they don’t want that. They choose other roles in the media.”

“I don’t know why, the women primarily migrate to the newsroom, they’re sleuths, so we’ve got a lot of, well, there you are, I think we’ve got the best newsreader in the country,” the host of 2GB’s top-rating breakfast radio show said.

Er, not quite according to Elelman, who told the show a few days after Jones’ comments that she had spent years lobbying radio bosses for her own show.

“I can assure you I have tried, and tried and tried. I’ve been on air at 2GB since 1994, on and off, I had my own show in 2000 for a year before Singo [2GB’s previous majority owner John Singleton] moved the whole lot of us out and bought Alan and everyone else in,” she said.

“I’ve just finished six years on midnight to dawn, it is the most sexist boys’ club I have ever come across in my entire life. I can’t begin to tell you how sexist it is.”

Ashley’s panto may make Paulini cringe

Gus Murray and Trevor Ashley in poster for The Bodybag, new Christmas pantomime for PS please, pic supplied

Gus Murray and Trevor Ashley in The Bodybag, Ashley’s new Christmas pantomime.

He’s back, and Trevor Ashley promises his Christmas pantomime will be better than ever, though singer Paulini Curuenavuli might want to don a mask if she’s planning on seeing it.

Titled Bodybag, Ashley’s new show has him playing the lead role of “multi-award winning superstar Rachel Marinade”, who is is one of the most successful entertainers ever to have come runner-up on Australian Idol.

“But after a spate of creepy ‘fan mail’ it’s clear that Rachel needs protection. Not only that, after being charged in local court for holding a fake driver’s licence, she also needs transport,” reads the show’s blurb.

“Enter ex-ASIO officer, and current Uber driver Tank Charmer (Gus Murray). It’s not only his job to protect her –but to get her to her destination with five stars. Who knew they could fall in lust?”

Of course in real life we have witnessed Australian Idol runner up Paulini Curuenavuli in the headlines of late – not just for her starring role in The Bodyguard playing the lead character Rachel Marron, a role made famous by the late Whitney Houston – but also for pleading guilty to bribing a government official to unlawfully obtain a driver’s licence.

Paulini performs in The Bodyguard.

Paulini Curuenavuli performs in The Bodyguard. Photo: Tracey Nearmy

She is due to be sentenced in December, after her role in The Bodyguard is due to wrap.

As for Ashley, no such court appearances have featured in his 2017.

“My it has been pretty epic this year… between selling out the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall with Diamonds Are For Trevor and having it filmed as a Foxtel special, plus doing Liza in London, and playing Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar in Melbourne… it’s been busy!” the always modest cabaret star enthused to PS.

The Bodybag runs from December 6 to 16 at The Seymour Centre.

Courtside for Marcus v McCormack

Ben McCormack, right, with his lawyer Sam Macedone, speaking to the press outside court.

Ben McCormack, right, with his lawyer Sam Macedone, speaking to the press outside court on Tuesday. Caroline Marcus is to the left of McCormack’s lawyer. Photo: AAP

Interesting to see Sky News and Murdoch press columnist Caroline Marcus in the thick of the media scrum that surrounded disgraced Channel Nine’s A Current Affair reporter Ben McCormack during his court appearance this week.

McCormack pleaded guilty to two child pornography charges after engaging in what his lawyer described as “fantasy talk” about young boys with another man.

As he left the court, Marcus could be overheard asking McCormack if he felt he “had let his viewers down?”.

Marcus and McCormack have a bit of bad blood stemming from Marcus’ days working on ACA.

McCormack had been involved in an ongoing and heated exchange with Marcus over her weekly News Corp columns in which she wrote about her Jewish heritage and family ties to Israel.

He had also allegedly made a series of anti-Israel comments over many weeks targeting Marcus.

Nine’s human resources department became involved and McCormack was given an official warning over his behaviour.

Memories of a night with the Hef

Hugh Hefner and his wife, Crystal.

Hugh Hefner and his wife Crystal at the Playboy Mansion on July 4, 2013 in a photograph taken by Andrew Hornery.

The death of Hugh Hefner on Thursday (AEST), aged 91, brought back some fond memories for PS, including spending a fourth of July at the infamous Playboy Mansion in 2013, replete with mysterious poolside grottos, waterslides, hot dogs and barrels of cheap wine.

PS was on assignment for Good Weekend and Hefner extended the invitation to a posse of Aussies he had become fond of, namely swinging Sydney artist Charles Billich and his Bavarian sexpot wife Christa, the subject of my profile in the Good Weekend magazine.

It was an extraordinary day, with various Playboy bunnies representing various regions of the globe all sporting the same teeny-weeny bikinis and purring on cue whenever Hugh shuffled past.

However, pushing into his late 80s, Hugh seemed more interested in his plate of red, white and blue jelly for lunch rather than the quivering flesh that surrounded him.

He stayed up for the fireworks but was safely tucked up in bed soon after as the party kicked on.

Rest in peace Mr Hefner.

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