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Year of scandal and tragedy

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Year of scandal and tragedy

Crystal Ja and Jonathon Moran

December 15, 2006 12:30pm

Article from: AAP

Celebrity, success and tragedy came together in Australia in 2006 as never before.

Disbelief swept the country at the news in September that Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin had died not in a croc attack, but after being pierced through the heart by a stingray barb.

Just four days later, the motor racing industry was rocked by the death of the great Peter Brock, who lost his life, more predictably, in a racing car.

Two months later Home and Away star Belinda Emmett succumbed after a long battle with cancer. Rove McManus carried her coffin down the church aisle where a year earlier they had walked together as husband and wife.

There was a sad postscript too to actor Nicole Kidman and country singer Keith Urban's ``wedding of the year'' in Sydney, with Urban just months later booking himself into rehab after a shock relapse into alcoholism. The Kidman-Urban wedding and its aftermath proved a worldwide bonanza for celebrity magazines.

The magazines love celebrity weddings, and others saying ``I do'' this year were swimmer Matt Welsh and television personality Lauren Newton, while singer Pete Murray and actors Holly Brisley and Emilie de Ravin also tied the knot.

And in Britain, former Savage Garden frontman Darren Hayes wed his male partner in a civil ceremony, while Hayes' former bandmate Daniel Jones and wife, Hi-5's Kathleen de Leon, welcomed their first child, and upbeat Today presenter Jessica Rowe escaped being ``boned'' and announced she was pregnant.

Smiling again after a long period of uncertainty was Kylie Minogue, who made her long-awaited return to the stage after fighting cancer for 18 months. But there will be no comeback for Yellow Wiggle Greg Page, forced to quit the popular children's group The Wiggles with an incurable condition that means he can't jiggle and dance any more.

Another long relationship ended with Shane Warne divorcing his wife, Simone, only to dismiss rumours the two have reconciled, while Home and Away's Kate Ritchie came off her Logie-winning high to announce she had split with long-term boyfriend, NRL footballer Chris Walker.

The year wouldn't be complete without a touch of scandal.

Former Video Hits presenter Axle Whitehead was left red-faced after publicly flashing the crowd at a music awards ceremony. And senior political journalist Glenn Milne blamed alcohol and migraine medication after he stormed the podium at a televised national media awards ceremony and shoved Crikey founder Stephen Mayne off the stage.

Belinda Emmett

The darling of Australian television, Belinda Emmett, was farewelled by her husband Rove McManus and family after losing an eight-year battle with cancer. The popular soap star, 32, died at Sydney's St Vincent Hospital just after dawn on November 11, with her family by her side.

Emmett, who got her start on Home and Away in 1996, was diagnosed with breast cancer two years later, but fought it off with tumour-removing surgery and radiotherapy. While in remission, she met comedian and television presenter McManus at the opening of Fox Studios and the two fell in love.

But the fairytale wasn't to be, with doctors telling Emmett in 2001 that secondary bone cancer would take her life. The happy duo failed to let it overtake their lives, marrying on a glorious summer's day in 2004, one year before Emmett's death.

Steve Irwin

Some may scoff, but it's likely many will remember where they were when they heard the news Steve Irwin had been killed by a stingray. Many thought the irrepressible Crocodile Hunter had nine lives, after various run-ins with some of nature's more dangerous creatures failed to dent his enthusiasm for wildlife.

So it was a huge shock when the news filtered through that Irwin, 44, had died on the Great Barrier Reef, a stingray barb piercing his heart as he filmed footage for his daughter's TV show. Tributes flooded in from around the world and Irwin, an ambassador for Australia who was arguably more popular in the US than at home, was mourned in a televised service at his Australia Zoo. In a Princess Diana-like touch, the gates of the zoo were deluged with flowers.

But the Irwin names lives on, particularly through his daughter Bindi, who has pledged to continue his wildlife work, aided by her mother Terri.

Peter Brock

It's a cliche, but racing car driver Peter Brock really did die doing what he loved. The legendary race car driver slammed into a tree during a rally near Perth and died almost instantly. He was mourned by motor-racing fans and colleagues who had dubbed Brock ``king of the mountain'' for his nine Bathurst 1000 victories at Mount Panorama.

Brock, 61, was farewelled at a state funeral with honest tributes from his family and at which his former partner Bev and new girlfriend Julie Bamford stood, uneasily, within reach of each other. Nearby, fans stood dressed in Holden racing team colours.

Apart from his motor racing legacy, Brock also left behind a family feud over the contents of his will, and allegations by a former wife that the so-called ``Peter Perfect'' had beaten her during their brief marriage.

Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban

Sydney was ablaze with celebrity fever in June as eager fans counted down to one of the weddings of the year between Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban. The Australian actor and Nashville-based country singer tied the knot at a gothic-style sandstone church, Sydney's Cardinal Cerretti Memorial Chapel, in front of 230 guests on June 26.

Punters and well wishers waiting at the main gate of the church were rewarded with waves from celebrity guests including Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Rupert Murdoch and Baz Luhrmann.

Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer, who takes credit for introducing the couple at a function he hosted in 2005, was not on the guestlist.

The bride, dressed in a one-sleeved couture Balenciaga wedding dress, was serenaded by her country crooner husband at the reception.

But the celebrity union has since been tested, with Kidman vowing to stand by her man despite his shock relapse into alcoholism.

Axle Whitehead

Some people just don't know when to draw the line, as former Australian Idol contestant and television host Axle Whitehead proved. The energetic presenter shocked many when he undid his zipper and flashed the crowd at this year's ARIA Awards, while handing out one of the music gongs.

While the incident, which included Whitehead miming masturbation on one of the trophies, was not televised, it caused a furore and he was forced to give up his Video Hits hosting gig.

It isn't the first time a Video Hits host has been dumped from the show, with Whitehead's former co-host Kelly Cavuoto dropped after a drunken outburst at the 2004 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards.

Glenn Milne

Best ``oh my god what did I do last night'' moment goes to prominent Canberra journalist Glenn Milne, who charged rival hack and Crikey.com founder Stephen Mayne at a televised journalists' award night and shoved him off the stage.

In a scene played again and again the next day on TV, Milne loudly accused Mayne of being a ``disgrace'' before being manhandled away by security guards.

The incident appeared to confirm the public's preconceptions about journalists' drinking, but a contrite Milne, met by cameras at Canberra airport the next morning, blamed a mixture of booze and migraine pills for his outburst.

Kylie Minogue

It was a teary Kylie Minogue who took to the stage for the first concert of her Showgirl Homecoming tour, more than a year later than the pop singer had originally planned. She said she was just fashionably late, but everyone knew she was resuming a tour dramatically cut short last year when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Looking healthy and dripping in diamantes and feathers, Minogue wowed the crowd at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, but it was an emotional return to form by the singer, who tearily dedicated a song to her dad.

Kylie didn't waste her time away from the spotlight, releasing a children's book and her own perfume, called Darling, during her remission.

Greg Page

Younger pop fans also lost a star to illness, with Yellow Wiggle Greg Page forced to quit the multi-million dollar earning children's group The Wiggles.

After years battling a mystery illness Page, 34, finally discovered he has orthostatic intolerance, which in language kids can understand means that when he stands up his heart doesn't pump enough blood around his body.

Page says his condition means he won't be Hot Potato-ing on stage ever again. So, after 15 years of wiggling, Page handed his yellow skivvy to long-time understudy Sam Moran, and The Wiggles will go on.

Daniel Jones and Kathleen de Leon

There was happier news for rival children' entertainment group Hi-5, with Kathleen de Leon and her musician husband Daniel Jones welcoming their first child, daughter Mikayla, in July.

De Leon met Jones, formerly of band Savage Garden, at the Logies in 2000, and the couple married in a beachside ceremony five years later.

Unlike Page, de Leon will be back, although replacement Sun Park, 24, will fill her shoes in the group until her return from maternity leave.

Darren Hayes

Former Savage Garden frontman Darren Hayes wed his male partner, animator Richard Cullen, in a civil partnership ceremony in London in June. Hayes, 34, and his boyfriend of two years, Cullen, 36, celebrated with 50 friends and family at an emotional gathering at a country hotel in West Hampshire.

The clucky pair recently said they may soon follow in the footsteps of Hollywood stars such as Madonna and Angelina Jolie by adopting a child. Hayes was previously married to university sweetheart Colby Taylor, but they separated in 1999.

Matt Welsh and Lauren Newton

Olympic swimming star Matt Welsh and Lauren Newton made a splash in Australia's gossip mags, tying the knot at a romantic wedding ceremony in Melbourne in November.

Newton, 27, looked stunning in a Mariana Hardwick dress and her mother's veil as she stepped out of a million-dollar Rolls-Royce Phantom. Welsh relied on his breathing technique to ward off the tears as he watched Lauren, 27, walk down the aisle.

The couple had Newton's parents, Bert and Patti, to thank for the day - having set the two up on a blind date four years before. Bert, lovingly called "Moonface" by his fans, danced a jig as he walked out of the church.

Guests who partied at Melbourne's Crown Casino feasted on two cakes, one made up of Welsh's favourite Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Shane Warne and Simone Callahan

It may have been years in the making, but spin king Shane Warne and his ex, Simone Callahan, finalised their divorce this year, officially ending a turbulent 10-year marriage. Warne's high-profile cheating scandals have kept the British and Australian tabloids busy for years, and there were few who didn't feel for the embattled Mrs Warne.

Reports she was seeking a $10 million settlement seemed almost justified, as was her rise through the celebrity ranks to become a Dancing with the Stars contestant. But the pair, who met at a golfing event in the early 90s, have since been seen laughing and talking together at various events, fuelling rumours of a reconciliation.

There are even reports Warne and Callahan continue to sleep under the same roof, sharing a family home with their three kids in the Melbourne beachside suburbs of Brighton.

Jessica Rowe

The relentlessly grinning Today presenter Jessica Rowe had many reasons not to smile this year, after facing speculation Nine Network boss Eddie McGuire wanted to ``bone'' her from the show.

The embarrassing revelation emerged in an affidavit by a former Nine employee.

The former Network Ten presenter laughed off the row, as well as criticisms of her on-air style, and in July announced she was expecting a baby with journalist husband, Peter Overton. Underwear model and media tycoon Rupert Murdoch's daughter-in-law, Sarah Murdoch, took over the reins in early December when Rowe went on maternity leave.

It will be the first major television presenting role for Murdoch, a 34-year-old mother of two, and many predict it could lead to a more permanent position.

Kate Ritchie and Chris Walker

In a drama to rival those of Summer Bay, Home and Away's longest running actor Kate Ritchie broke up in August with her boyfriend of five years, rugby league player Chris Walker.

The popular soap star put on a brave face days after the split as she attended the finale of It Takes Two, while Walker escaped to the Gold Coast to nurse a broken heart.

Sources suggested Walker had upheld his reputation as the bad boy of league one too many times for Ritchie, after a confrontation with police outside a Melbourne hotel. The on-again, off-again couple had looked happy at this year's Logies, where Ritchie won her first award - a silver Logie for most popular actress.

Peter Murray and Amanda Coutts

Australian singer Pete Murray married his long-time sweetheart Amanda Coutts in a tin-roofed church at Eureka near Byron Bay in early October. Originally delayed due to a planned tour in Russia, the wedding was attended by 70 guests and the couple's two-year-old son, Charlie.

The bride, dressed in a romantic high-neck lace gown, left the church with her husband in typically laid-back fashion, heading off to the reception in a battered aqua-coloured Kombi van.

Emilie de Ravin and Josh Janowicz

Lost star Emilie de Ravin made it a low-key affair when the Australian actress tied the knot with her boyfriend of four years, fellow actor Josh Janowicz. The Los Angeles-based duo, both 24, kept it simple at the ceremony in the bride's home city of Melbourne, shunning the limelight and de Ravin's Lost co-stars, who didn't attend.

Janowicz designed his bride's diamond and platinum engagement ring and popped the question on a trip Down Under in early 2005 to visit de Ravin's family.

Holly Brisley and Paul Ford

Holly Brisley wept openly as she walked down the aisle to wed her beau of two years, marketing executive Paul Ford, in February. Ford, 36, had proposed to the Home and Away beauty, also known for her fancy footwork on Dancing with the Stars, on a romantic trip to Venice.

The pair continued with the water theme, marrying at the Cardinal Cerretti Memorial Chapel in Sydney. The glowing bride, looking stunning in Melbourne designer J'Aton Couture and with upswept hair, reportedly wore a T-shirt stating her to be ``Mrs Ford'' to bed the night before the wedding.

Around 160 guests enjoyed a Balinese-themed reception at Sydney Harbour's Fort Denison.


WOW alot has happened this year but hopefully things will be better in 2007!!

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