Brushes with fame (or Never meet your heroes)

Ever been disappointed when one of your heroes is found to be something other than the image that you have formed (or he/she has allowed to be cultivated) – even worse, when you find this out first hand? Or pleasantly surprised when they turn out better than you had imagined?

My first brush with fame, outside of an encounter with a locally based Centrals player (and apart from Anthony Ingerson, weren’t they all locals ?), was an autograph signing for the newly opened branch of the Adelaide Permanent Building Society at the (Elizabeth Town) Centre in the mid-70’s by Ian Chappell. I went with my mate Glenn Bishop (yes, that Glenn Bishop) and Chappelli was pleasant, amiable and warmly signed two of the black-and-white classic-cover-drive A4 sized posters for both of us and chatted with us for as long as we wanted. This was despite the fact that he had probably never been any further north than Brown Terrace Salisbury before. Better than I had expected.

Contrast this with a surly Lester Piggott at a lunch for the Australasian Oaks in the early 80’s – he wasn’t really a hero of mine, but certainly lived up to his reputation as someone that would rather be anywhere other than in a room full of people in a lunch in Adelaide.

A few years later at an accounting software conference function in Fremantle, Rod Marsh regaled us with the obligatory oft-told tales that seemed to reinforce his place in the pantheon (is there an Australian equivalent ?) of great Aussie blokes. When I later asked him for two autographs he asked me “why two?” I gleefully retorted “So that I can swap them for one Glenn Bishop” (nb Bish was now by this stage an ex-Australian cricketer, but still a fixture at the top of the South Australian order). I expected a laugh from Bacchus, but all I got was a derisive snort as if I had just rubbed some dog-sh*t on his still-wide lapel, and I slunk away vowing never to be a smart-ar*e again. (That vow didn’t last long.)

But the biggest moment came at the Rundle Mall Virgin Megastore in the early 90’s. Dressed in my best Peter Shearer, this-is-what-a-financial-systems-consultant-wears-on-a-workday suit, I lined up with my assorted collection of CD’s to see my all time favourites, the Ramones. Well, if they weren’t the most disinterested, get-me-outta-here bunch of blokes I’d ever encountered etc … But then I reconciled myself with the thought that at least they were being themselves, and if that was their personality, perhaps that was the reason that they made the kind of noise that I liked then and still like now. And at least they signed my CD’s.

Fast forward to last year, I was back working in my home town, so snaffled a ticket in the upper reaches of the Adelaide Town Hall to see Billy Bragg.   To my surprise, he was doing after show meet-and-greets, so I lined up to get a warn handshake and posed for a photo, but his manager forced us through so quickly and stroppily that the stranger who I left my phone with was unable to cope with the technical complexities of my ageing HTC Legend and there is no record of this meeting having ever taken place. But Billy himself left with his reputation intact in my eyes, but it could have gone the other way if his ill-tempered minder had his way.

Anyone had similar experiences one way or the other ?

About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right


  1. Had the misfortune of trying to tackle Tony Liberatore in a Qld v Victoria Masters carnival in Sydney back in 2007. Saw him in the pool shortly after the game and waded over to remind him of my painful folly, expecting him to be every bit the despised character I had grown to hate in his halcyon days. Lo and behold, he shattered every pre-conception I had with a friendly 20 minute chat, even promising me an autograph for a Bullies friend of mine, that I never expected to collect on. On the contrary, he spied me at the closing dinner two nights later and stole away mid conversation to deliver on his promise. Damn you Libba, with no regards for my feelings whatsoever you made it impossible to hate you after that!

  2. mickey randall says

    I met AB at a function at The Holdy a few years back and he, although paid to be there, was good value as we talked about his take on the “Ball of the Century”- Heals told him it was a “fair seed” and his batting style which we agreed was “pugnacious.” It was great.

    This contrasted with the encounter I had with AB’s successor. I was at Adelaide Oval early one Sunday for a domestic one day final sitting by myself near the fence and in front of the Bradman Stand. Waiting for a few mates, I was playing with my phone when I looked up and saw Mark Taylor walking through the gate. I didn’t pester him, ask for an autograph, or even talk to him, but simply nodded acknowledgement as one would do with anyone, former Australian captains included. It is simply a courtesy. In response to my nod Taylor stared at me with contempt and venom as if I’d shagged his wife, run over his kids, and then stolen his truck.

  3. Met AB, Mark Taylor and Boonie at a function in London. AB was fantastic. I asked him if he wanted to talk cricket, he said yes and away we went. Covered a few of those gritty times in the West Indies in the mid 80’s. He out-talked me and kept going! M Taylor fairly cool, but not unfriendly and Boonie remained your friend as long as you kept up the cigarette supply. Actually Boonie was pretty good fun to have a chat with.

  4. Neil Belford says

    Nick Cave standing in front of me in an ANZ ATM queue in Acland St.
    So I say.
    “Wouldn’t have thought you needed money Nick, surely people just give you things.”
    Nick replies
    “You may find it hard to believe, but some people dont recognise me”
    I laughed, we chatted about parenthood, he was charming.

  5. Mark Duffett says

    Not a sportsman (though I understand he likes his martial arts and rugby), but I was hugely impressed with author John Birmingham. After an ‘evening with’ type show associated with a new book launch, he signed the crowd’s books until the cows came home, then invited me to kick on in the bar after I asked a couple of questions. Have always regretted begging off due to parental responsibilities – I reckon any consequences would have been worth it. As his subsequent TV appearances have shown, an erudite raconteur par excellence, yet a regular bloke as well.

  6. The most surprising met hero would be Henry Rollins. Up to the point of meeting him, his body of work indicated an angry/’difficult’ man. Turned out to be erudite and genuinely interested in humans of all types who were respectful of other humans. The only person who came across as up themselves was Dave Faulkner, whom I met after a Cronulla vs Canterbury game. But he might have been having an off day. ET was even more likeable than he is on tv.

  7. Met John Harms at an Almanac launch once. Don’t get me started!

  8. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Interesting Topic Swish I have found working in Cricket with ex Players you are welcomed in too the fold and treated differently than just a supporter or spectator
    I will say 1st time I met Doug Walters he lived up to everything and was V open and engaging and yes every story re his drinking ability is spot on .
    I also got roped in I no this will amaze you to sell Raffle Tickets and Merchandise for the
    Sa Shield Team in 78 Ian Chappell my hero has never forgotten and always greated me warmly and always by 1st name every time I have seen him since which may be several years apart still my hero
    A topic which always provokes debate and our each individual experience is different

  9. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Had the good fortune to unexpectedly make the acquaintance of Billy Baxter last week.

    Even though this was in his workplace, I appreciated the fact that he was able to stop for a brief chat and photo and indulged my middle-aged fanboyism.

    What a ripper bloke he was.

  10. Danny baker says

    I was on my way back to mt burr in the south east from Townsville via largs bay so I decided to have a look at the mighty magpies versus south at alberton early 2000’s, so I done what any country lad does and headed to the hill that sells cans and after a while (a few cans) recognized a 6 foot 2 bloke with broad shoulders and dressesd like a normal bloke (no hair bun or designer beard) drinking a bundy can and enjoying a smoke and the footy was martin leslie my favorite port player from the 80s-90s (grinder hodges, andy obst, wayne mahney etc not far behind) . As I was short of smokes and after a few of the same coloured cans martin was enjoying I hit him up for dart and introduced myself and then spent the rest of the arvo with this champion bloke and player and he even introduced to a few of his ex teamates in the club afterwards including bomber clifford who I had the pleasure of getting fairly turped up with at the beachport hotel with arlen Kennedy who had played with millicent when I had a year there and a mate who was currently playing for the bays at the time johny copping but thats another story not to mention a round of golf with daryl chyonweth, the late daryl growden and my old man brian bushy baker who is bit of a legend down here for his footy, cricket and fighting exploits at the millicent golf course but to cut a long story short martin leslie was the bloke I always pictured in my mind to be and that is a bloody down to earth bloke who never got ahead of himself.

Leave a Comment