I’ve played at many birthday parties over the years. Playing at birthday parties is always fun. They tend to be very different compared to playing at weddings or corporate events. Typically, birthday parties tend to be a lot looser and much more informal. Because of this, I especially enjoy playing at birthday parties.
Bob Hawke’s 80th
Of all the birthday parties I have played at, the most memorable would have to be Bob Hawke’s 80th. The venue was the incomparable Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House. The guest list was a who’s who of the Australian Labor Party. There was one current Prime Minister, and two former Prime Ministers all together under one roof. The date was Wednesday, 9th December, 2009.
How We Got Booked
Like pretty much all of my bookings, the person booking us had seen us play somewhere. That someone (i.e. the person who booked us) was Bob Hawke’s wife, Blanche d’Alpuget. She had seen the band play at an event for an organisation called Inala, of which she is the patron. I simply received a phone call one day from her, and she asked, would we be available to play at Bob’s 80th? Dealing directly with Blanche was so easy as she is a very grounded person with absolutely no pretensions. She is famous for her relationship with Bob Hawke, but she is highly successful in her own right. She is a prolific writer with many books published. Blanche is an inspiring woman with an inspirational work ethic. She was very “hands-on” with organising Bob’s birthday party. There was no event person to liaise with. All of my dealing were directly with Blanche.
Saying as casual “hello” to the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd was a memorable moment. So to was hanging out at the bar with John “Singo” Singleton. Notwithstanding these two encounters, the most memorable moment would have to be watching the stripper. She came out in a suit and wearing a “John Howard” mask. The John Howard mask stayed on, but everything else came off! Blanche had organised this as a special surprise for Bob.
Meeting Bob Hawke
I wasn’t going to let the night pass without taking the opportunity to actually meet this iconic Australian. At the end of the night, Bob was standing at the bar finishing a conversation with a departing guest. I seized the moment. Being a member of the Musicians’ Union (which is part of the “Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance”), I felt I had my opening line. I actually had my union card on me, so I went up to Bob and said, “Hi Mr Hawke, I’m Slide McBride. I was playing in the band tonight. I just wanted to show you that I am a fully financial member of the union”, and I showed him my union card. To this he responded with, “Yeah, I knew a good looking feller like you would have to be a member of the union”! We shook hands, and I thought, “Wow! I just met Bob Hawke”.
My Final Word On Birthday Parties…
At the end of the night I chatted with Blanche and I joked with her about playing at Bob’s 90th birthday. Sadly, Bob didn’t make 90. Bob passed away a few months prior to what would have been his 90th birthday.
None of us know how much longer we have on this earth. My advice is to celebrate being alive while you still are fit and healthy! Have a party and enjoy the company of your family and friends. If your birthday is approaching, it doesn’t need to be a number ending in a zero to have a party. Why not celebrate you 55th, your 67th or your 34th? Take the opportunity just to celebrate still being alive, and book me to come along and make it totally memorable!