Look who’s been chosen to represent us in LA and why they need our support

Christmas single 'If you want a Happy Christmas'

Christmas single ‘If you want a Happy Christmas’

I’ve got good news and bad news – but mostly good news.

So let’s start with the good news… The talented musical trio, THE PACIFIC BELLES, have been chosen to represent Australia in the upcoming World Championships of Performing Arts in LA. They’re a brilliant act who some of you may remember, also starred alongside Fletch in the making of a Christmas song last year, which proved a hit in the UK.


Now the bad news is there’s a chance The Pacific Belles might NOT be able to take up this opportunity of a lifetime – and it all comes down to sponsorship. Like athletes who need support to compete on the world stage, so too, do our most talented performers in the arts arena.

The official World Championships of Performing Arts celebrates its 18th year, in July this year and is universally cited as the one-and-only official global event for performers and entertainers both amateur and professional. It’s pretty much the Olympics of the Performing Arts.

A talented trio

A talented trio

Each year, more than 75 scouts and national directors scour the globe for outstanding talent to take part. More than 75,000 applicants from 50 countries auditioned to participate in this year’s event, which will be staged in West Hollywood.

But taking part is an expensive venture. I spoke with singer and PACIFIC BELLES manager Laura Monaghan about how they’re going about trying to raise money through a POZIBLE crowd-funding project. Jump on board and help if you can by going to this link:

Q: How did the Pacific Belles come to be chosen to represent Australia in the World Championships of Performing Arts?

LAURA: Last year we were very lucky enough to be asked to be the support act for Tyla Bertolli from The X Factor. We got to perform at her single launch for her song ‘Burn’ and she suggested that we apply to be contestants in The World Championships of Performing Arts. Tyla is also a scout for WCOPA, she took part last year and did really well from it. We thought it was a huge opportunity so we auditioned, 75,000 applicants from 50 countries later we got picked!

Q: How did the Belles form as a group and why the fascination for music from yesteryear?

LAURA: The Belles have been performing together for nearly a year now, we formed after I (Laura Monaghan, Manager and soprano singer) set it up and auditioned for other girls to sing with. I grew up with a love and fascination for the 1940‘s and old Hollywood. The Andrew Sisters and Doris Day are my all time favorite. The two other Belles are also obsessed with the fashion and the music of yesteryear and we love the glamour. We joke that we were all born in the wrong era!

Q: Why doesn’t the organisation that picked the performers fund the trip to LA? 

LAURA: Obviously we wish that whole trip was funded but I think that WCOPA rely on sponsors to keep the event going each year. We are currently looking for Aussie brands that would benefit with some international exposure to sponsor us. We would love to be sponsored by a make up or vintage clothing brand.

Q: How important is it to you and the Pacific Belles to go to LA?

LAURA: It would mean the world for The Pacific Belles to get to go to LA and perform in front of industry professionals. The whole experience to be apart of such a huge competition “The Performing Arts Olympics” as they call it will be amazing. I am extremely proud with how far The Pacific Belles have come in a year and to be asked to represent Australia doing something we love would be an honour.

Help the PACIFIC BELLES  savour the sweet taste of success

Help the PACIFIC BELLES savour the sweet taste of success

Q: What do you hope to achieve by competing?

LAURA: We obviously hope that we will do well from the competition and that we’ll bring back at least one gold medal for Australia. I think that would be an achievement enough. Although saying that we have our fingers crossed that our trip to the states could open a few career doors for us too.

Q: Why did you decide to go ahead with a ‘Pozible’ crowd-funding campaign?

LAURA: As well as a few main sponsors we need to raise some money for the expenses of the trip and crowd funding seemed like the way forward as we have a lot of support from our friends and family and also fans. Pozible is a really easy to use fund raising site and offers rewards for pledges. We have rewards from just $10 and every little bit helps but we can’t believe it – someone has already pledged $1000 to have us perform at their event!

Q: Is the fund-raising campaign a lot of work?

LAURA: Yes, it is a lot of work. We can only hope we reach our target of $10,000 on Pozible. We have decided that in return for your pledges we are going to give back to the community. When we reached $2000 we performed at an Age Care home. Next milestone $4000, we will go and perform for children at a children’s hospital. These are our most rewarding performances. The other day we met a lady who was 102 years old! We’re also planning a fund-raising event next month.

Q: What are your long-term goals for the Belles?

LAURA: Our long term goals for The Pacific Belles are to keep spreading our sound around Melbourne and to tour Australia. We also hope to record an album with a jazz band, perform our show on a larger scale and visit other countries – LA being one of them!

We wish the PACIFIC BELLES all the best with their fund-raising. Don’t forget, go to this link if you can help – every bit counts!



The real story behind the movie Lovelace

Making a movie about former porn star Linda Lovelace was always going to be fraught with controversy, but for producer Heidi Jo Markel (Eclectic Pictures) Linda’s story was too important to be ignored.

Lovelace poster

Lovelace poster

Lovelace is not a film that glorifies Linda’s life. Rather it sends an important message and warning about domestic violence, the subjugation of women and how making wrong decisions can have a lasting effect on the rest of your days.

Sharon Stone plays Linda's mother

Sharon Stone plays Linda’s mother

I’ve seen Lovelace twice and found it profoundly moving, at times entertaining and yes, absolutely confronting. Actor Amanda Seyfried puts in a brilliant performance as Lovelace, as does Sharon Stone, who plays her domineering mother.



And let’s not forget Peter Sarsgaard as Linda’s abusive husband Chuck Traynor. I can’t remember when I last saw so convincing a portrayal of such a manipulative and repugnant character.

One of the most startling facts revealed in the movie is that Linda Lovelace only spent SEVENTEEN DAYS working in the porn industry. The rest of her life, she campaigned against pornography and was an advocate for women’s rights.

Being in LA last week meant I had an opportunity to catch up with Heidi Jo Markel and learn more about why she was so committed to making this movie. We met for dinner at one of Hollywood’s most renowned establishments, Chateau Marmont, for a chat over dinner.

Heidi-Jo Markel

Heidi-Jo Markel

Markel first came across the concept for the Linda Lovelace story decades ago. ‘I was subconsciously tracking her story since the mid-eighties. I was too young to even really know what Deep Throat was, but I do remember Linda Lovelace speaking out against pornography and I remember thinking what an incredible juxtaposition. As it is, when anyone at the top of their field turns against it, therein lies a story,’ she said.



Many years later, Markel watched a documentary ‘Inside Deep Throat’ and learnt more about the abusive relationship between Linda and her then husband, Chuck Traynor. ‘That’s when I had a goose bump moment,’ said Markel.  ‘Linda was almost his prisoner, his property, his sex slave and that’s what I realised was the story.’

Markel first established Eclectic Pictures almost ten years ago and has well earned the respect of the industry, producing films garnering acclaim such as Trust, Solitary Man and Playing for Keeps. Markel also took on the role of Executive Producer for the recent blockbuster Olympus Has Fallen. Ideally, she’d like to focus on more movies with strong lead roles for women. Like Lovelace.

Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace

Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace

Choosing the right actress for the role of Linda Lovelace was crucial. ‘You have to remember, at the start of this movie, we were looking at a very vulnerable young lady,’ said Markel. ‘She was oppressed by her parents before her captor. She was a Catholic schoolgirl with the nickname “Miss Holy Holy”. She didn’t lose her virginity till she was almost twenty years old. Then she got pregnant and was a prisoner in her parent’s home for about two years. So you need an actor who can play that vulnerability.’ Actor Amanda Seyfried was the perfect choice.

But what about critics who believe making such a movie only serves to glorify pornography? How did Markel go about explaining what she was working on to her family and friends? She took her time to consider these questions. ‘I had a hard time with this movie early on in that I had a devout Christian upbringing and I went to church every Sunday. I ran with that crowd and am still close with my parents and their generation, so for me to explain what I was working on was a bit awkward,’ she said.

‘I was a little concerned with the establishment over 60 as to whether they would respect it or not. Early on in the development process, we brought on board consultants; Gloria Steinem and Catharine MacKinnon, who is one of the greatest female rights attorneys of all time who represented Linda during the Senate hearings) on board as consultants, then the literati, the glitterati and the feminist elite fell in line to support the picture.

With such a salacious topic, Markel was surprised that the eldest of her family group have been the most supportive. ‘Just recently I was at a funeral with a lot of my parent’s friends, folks in their 80s. I was surprised they were all super excited to see this film, which meant a lot. I didn’t expect that.’ This is when Markel’s face lit up. Acceptance and approval from one’s family and friends is always important, no matter how successful you are.

Peter Saarsgard and Amanda Seyfriend

Peter Saarsgard and Amanda Seyfriend

Without wanting to give too much away about the movie itself, I’ll give you the heads up – don’t be fooled by the film’s light-hearted beginning. Structurally, not far in, it does a sharp U-turn and the story takes a much darker direction. This unusual idea was pitched by directing phenomenons, Rob Epstein and Jeffery Friedman, then executed by wunderkind writer, Andy Bellin. ‘I feel so blessed to have worked with such outstanding talent,’ says Markel. In doing so, the film achieves a clever balance between flash forward and present moments to draw the threads of Linda’s story together.

Yet still, when it came to an end, I wanted to know more about Linda’s later years.

How did the filmmakers decide when to end Linda’s story? ‘It was a big struggle for all of us,’ said Markel. ‘I very much wanted to include more of Linda’s activist stance and it troubled me greatly to diminish it. However, when we tested it on audiences, the few scenes filmed that summed up Linda’s activism seemed to open a Pandora’s box of more unanswered questions.  Structurally, it made the most sense to end the story shortly after Linda escaped her abusive husband, our main antagonist.’

So was she happy with the final result? ‘I always want more. What I do think is that this film erred on the side of being a disciplined 92 minutes…. personally, I think the audiences could have handled more, but studios are more conservative, relying strictly on test scores.  But yes, I am proud of it.’

Markel is being a harsh critic, but it’s refreshing to hear a Hollywood producer speak with such honesty. Especially given the film has received wide critical acclaim. Even talkback TV host Larry King gave the film his stamp of approval, saying, ‘Both Amanda Seyfried and Sharon Stone should win Oscars,’  – a rare tick from a man who wields huge influence.

Markel almost seems happier with how the film has helped Lovelace’s two now adult children, Dominic and Lindsay, come to terms with their mother’s past.

The 'real' Linda Lovelace

The ‘real’ Linda Lovelace


‘They took a blind leap of faith to go with us based on the recommendation from their attorney. And they trusted us. These kids are the most wonderful, loving kids,’ she said.  ‘The only dark part of their life is that they felt their mother’s shame from the whole experience, how Deep Throat had left her. They were proud of her for speaking out but it caused them a lot of problems too because her activism put the family under the spotlight. They didn’t know how to explain their mother’s situation to a lot of people and it was a huge burden.’


Markel says the movie has liberated the whole family. ‘They can now tell their peers and co-workers about their mother and they can own her story. A lot of has evolved in the past few decades and there is no shame in having been a victim. Linda spoke out because she wanted her story to be told. She lived a horror story and she didn’t want it to happen to other people.’

It’s also very important to Markel that the film exerts an influence over women trapped in similar circumstances. ‘I promise you, there will be women out there who will see this film and will think twice about the situation they’re in. You might think things have changed in the porn industry, but they haven’t. There will always be young women caught up with scummy men.’

But it’s not just the porn industry Markel is referring to. ‘It might just be someone who is in a relationship where they are being controlled and told what to do and how to think all the time. That’s my biggest fear as a mother of my daughter. I don’t want some strange man to have a huge influence over my daughter so that she is subjugated to his opinions and thoughts and that he might take away her freedom to express herself.’

All good reasons to see Lovelace, but ultimately, it’s also a finely directed and produced and movie with a strong cast. Go see it on the big screen and let me know what you think.

Lovelace opens at Village Cinemas across the country this Thursday, September 26th.