‘It seems everyone in Australia wanted to remember Bill Hunter this week,’ said Julie Rigg on the Movie Show yesterday. Well, for what it’s worth, here’s my 10 second encounter with him.
It was interval at the Nimrod Theatre, now the Stables, roughly 40 years ago. I was in my mid 20s, a nerd before the word – awkward, shy, and wretchedly lonely. (How glad I am not to be still in my mid 20s!) Enter Bill Hunter and two actor friends, all a little rowdy and more than a little tiddly. One of the trio was a reasonably well-known sexy comic actress. Somehow or other she and I found ourselves inclose proximity at the foot of the stairs leading up to the performance space. Seizing the moment for what was no doubt intended as a bit of good natured teasing, she turned her large mascara’d eyes on me and saying something like, ‘Hi there,’ moved very close, brushing against me with her fur coat in a parody of screen flirtation. I was mortified. And cornered. And it must have shown. She moved even closer. At that point Bill Hunter made me a fan for life by intervening. He took her by the arm. ‘Come on, Fifi,’ he said. ‘Leave him alone. You’ve had a few too many.” [He didn’t actually call her Fifi, because that’s not her real name.] And he led her firmly if a little unsteadily out into the night, leaving me with a story to tell and no harm done.