Lyndall Hobbs, is a former journalist who like so many ambitious Australians in the ’70s, headed to London for career and life experience. It was heady time of great cultural change and Hobbs was part of it, mixing with the raffish arts and media crowd. She became a film director and producer and eventually settled in Los Angeles where she still lives.
Her memoir, A Girl from Oz, has just been published in hardback by Hardie Grant Books and in it she recounts her early years in Australia working on Mike Willesee’s A Current Affair, newspapers including Go-Set and her life in London and the US.
But all the publicity around Hobbs and her book has been about her long relationship with actor Al Pacino and partying with Babs and Jack and Madonna and Andy Warhol et al.
We asked Hobbs about writing the memoir and if fame was — or is — important to her.
Does writing a memoir force you to confront parts of your history you’d rather forget?
Yes, it definitely made me go back through my harrowing series of surgeries and hideous experiences with doctors here in LA and I would definitely have preferred not to ever think about any of that again but I absolutely kept some things private as I did not want to upset anyone with this book and was not intending to reveal any wildly salacious details!
Memoirs can also have unforeseen repercussions, with relatives in particular. How did you approach that possibility?
Well again, I didn’t write anything that would upset any relatives but I did show a couple of passages to friends to see what they thought about a couple of things I had written and I’d adjust those bits as I went. Perhaps in retrospect I was too careful!!
What was the main motivation for writing Girl from Oz?
I guess the main motivation was sharing my photos and writing about breaking down barriers in journalism back in the ’70s when I was the first female reporter on TV in both Australia and the UK. Although, it really happened because I had written a piece for British Vogue to accompany some of my photos from my many albums and then they decided to run more photos with just captions and so I had this substantial piece which formed the basis of the first two chapters of the book.
I had also been writing a blog during my cancer treatment called Bitter and Twisted, I used a lot of that content in the book as well. So you could say it started by accident and then I felt I had to keep going; it was very painful and arduous a lot of the time but, I’m glad I did it.
You’ve lived away from Australia for decades — do you think of yourself as more Australian or more American?
I definitely think of myself as Australian.
Were you fascinated by fame when you were a teenager and did you discover if the rich (and famous) are really different?
No, I was never fascinated by fame, just successful, hard working people. The rich and famous are not so different but the self-made ones have usually worked very hard, though I do feel some actors get lucky and success falls in their lap — but to keep it going they have to work hard and pay a huge amount of attention to their careers.
What’s the one truth about showbiz life than no one ever tells?
It’s a lot of fun but the pressure to keep it all going smoothly is huge and can lead some to depression.
What is your opinion of fame in the Kardashian era? If you were starting out now would you approach things differently?
The Kardashian era is clearly insane. But it is the reality; sex tapes and big butts can make you famous. Personally, I don’t think I would have approached things differently at all, although the photos I took would have been put on social media and I may have become a lot more famous.
You told the Daily Telegraph that when you partnered with Al Pacino you weren’t taken seriously as a director. Wouldn’t having access to that echelon of talent in LA help rather than hinder a career?
No, it wasn’t helpful in any way because of the rampant sexism that still exists. Your career and talent is swept to one side as the famous person gets all the attention and you are relegated to the ‘girlfriend’ category who must be there simply because of the fame. People just wanted to learn more about him and getting great contacts never led to a green light for me.
On the other hand it may have been just as hard if I’d never met Al — it’s just extraordinarily difficult as a female director in this town. Being a party thrower probably impacted on how seriously I was taken and looking back on it I probably did devote too much time to Al and his career rather than my own. It’s hard to work out what would have happened if we had not met.
You share an adopted son with him. Do you still consider him family?
No, just a friend.
You arrived in London and LA when things were only beginning to change for women. What were the challenges you experienced?
They are all in the book. As Sue Mengers, one of the most successful agents ever, told me a year or so after I arrived, “looking the way you do, you’ll never be taken seriously, get a wig and wear a sack or your career won’t go anywhere”. I was attractive back then and that was seen as a hindrance for a woman seeking a career.
Do you have any regrets?
A Girl From Oz is published by Hardie Grant
You can buy the book here