Keep them safe the call from community 

6 August 2020

Article from July 2020 edition of INPractice

“We’re all in it together’ is or was the COVID lockdown catchcry and this equally applied to some of our more colourful and celebrated personalities.

At the time of writing South Australia was just beginning to ease its pandemic restrictions. We spoke with a host of local celebrities during the height of lockdown measures to see how they were coping.

Tony Pilkington, of Bazz and Pilko fame and self-described “world’s worst cook”, was gorging on baked beans, Anne Wills was dishing up takeaway feasts for friends, while footy femmes Deni Varnhagen and Jade Robran were missing - surprise, surprise – the footy.

South Australian celebrities rallied to our call to back the ANMF (SA Branch)’s “#KeepThemSafe” campaign, sending messages of support to nurses and midwives working on the COVID-19 frontline.

5AA talkback host Jeremy Cordeaux, Adelaide’s No.1 evening presenter, had a positive take on the lockdown. He considers it an “exercise in appreciation”.

“I think the thing is initially you  feel this very uncomfortable sensation, being taken out of your routine, out of your comfort zone,’’ Cordeaux said.

“The interesting thing is that every once in a while you have to have what is normal, what is pleasurable, taken away from you so that you really do appreciate it when it comes back ... so it’s an exercise in appreciation.’’

Cordeaux, who is hosting his 5AA show from home during lockdown, says “phone traffic and email traffic have been vastly increased in the last  two to three weeks’’.

“There’s a sense of  we’re all in this together, I know it’s been said probably too many divide us,’’ he says.

Iconic former Adelaide television personality Anne Wills says she’s coped “fairly well’’ with lockdown.

“I’ve lived on my own for the last 25 years and I’ve loved it. I do love it, I must say, because I don’t have to be fussy with anything in the house. Not a lot has changed except that everything I’ve ever done requires an audience,’’ Willsy said.

Prior to lockdown Willsy was still in the entertainment game, hosting quiz nights around town and touring regional areas with a floor show co-starring ABC/Sunday Mail personality Peter Goers.

Willsy, a 19 times Logie winner, started her career as a Channel 9 weather girl in 1964, appeared on TV’s Adelaide Tonight and Wheel of Fortune, performed cabaret shows for Aussie troops during the Vietnam War, and also hosted her own movie shows, befriending quite a few Hollywood stars in the process (including a friends-with-benefits moment with William Shatner in a car at Windy Point).

During lockdown she is “cooking and delivering like a clandestine drug dealer’’.

“I deliver a packet of food for people who don’t really cook for themselves very much,’’ she says.

“They come to the gate and I deliver it to them on a pair of tongs, so that’s my social distancing.

“Every Wednesday night I cook a meal for Peter Goers who grabs it on his way home and sometimes we eat it together. He sits at one side of my table, I sit at the other side. So I’m practising social distancing. What I don’t like about is not being able to give people a hug and not being able to get my nails done.’’

As for Willsy’s good friend, popular 891 Adelaide evening presenter and Sunday Mail columnist Peter Goers, he said he loves “having dinner with Willsy weekly as I adore her and she’s one of the greatest cooks in the world.
“I’m watching a s@&# load of TV and I’m currently addicted to Better Call Saul. I’m also using the time to write a book and I’m a quarter the way in and not cleaning the house or exercising.

‘I’m very grateful to all those who help us all; health care workers and retail workers especially, and good on them.’’

5AA Saturday afternoon presenter Jade Robran comes from a legendary South Australian footy family, so naturally the thing she misses most during the  pandemic is sport.

“I miss taking the kids to sport on the weekends because it’s such a social part of our weekends, she says. “My husband’s heavily involved in the AFL industry (as a sports agent) so in the afternoons we would normally go to an AFL game on either day, so that’s a big void in a big way in our house.’’

Lockdown, however, is anything but boring. “I’ve got a 7 year old and an 8 year old so there’s never, ever a boring moment where they’re not wanting something or they’re hungry,’’ Jade says.

“We’ve been home schooling for the last five weeks so that’s obviously been a challenge and then I’ve got two very sporty kids. We truly are over at Unley Oval probably two or three times a day just trying to expel energy. To beat boredom we’ve actually been downloading docos … and watching nature docos and then trying to use them as an educational tool for the kids as well.’’

Lockdown hasn’t been a huge issue for Adelaide Crows AFLW footballer Deni Varnhagen. Being a registered nurse at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s ICU unit, means it’s “kind of been business as usual for me”.

“The only real difference is all my sport and that has stopped, so I’m missing going to the gym and getting around with teammates and football training and just generally socialising with friends,’’ Deni says.

I’ve just been going to work, walking my dogs a lot, trying to do some home exercise to maintain fitness, stay connected with friends via social media.

“Our season (AFLW), they cut it short, unfortunately there’s not a premier this season. But we should be on track to get back to the 2021 season next year, everything should be settled by then.

“It (the pandemic) has been quite surreal because we go to work and you’re hearing about it a lot. We’re doing lots of preparation for when we do get some (COVID-19) cases, if we get some cases.

“I’m definitely looking forward to that (the new AFLW season), we’ve started our preparation already. I’m rehabbing actually, I dislocated my knee at the start of the season so I’m still concentrating on my rehab comeback.

“We had a team meeting last night on the phone with all the girls. Everyone’s looking forward and trying to get positive about next season. I wish it would hurry up now.’’

Legendary 5AA afternoon presenter Tony Pilkington says living with lockdown has been difficult “at times’’.

“I’m living alone in Adelaide in a small flat, comfortable and all that it is. It’s just that with the social interaction with your partner, your wife or your husband, whatever the case might be, you sometimes take for granted.

“Suddenly they’re not there (his wife is interstate) and you are thinking, hang on a minute, I’ve got nobody to complain to, whinge to or laugh with,’’ Pilko says. “Watch the news and swap information, ‘what an idiot’ or ‘what did you think of that story?’.

“Suddenly they’re not there and you say ‘gee, they’re an important part of my life’.

“I’m fortunate to have work every day, but for those people who don’t have that and are living on their own, I can understand some mental health issues all of a sudden surfacing, that’s going to be an ongoing problem down the track.’’

Click here to read the July 2020 edition of INPractice.