A first-timer to a UFC match? & what an extraordinary study in pop culture!

OPINION

I am being incredibly honest here.

To watch humans attempt to basically bash the crap out of each other, kick them in the head, then continue to bash them, all in an octagon-shaped cage isn’t exactly the idea of everyone’s viewing pleasure.

I am writing this as a first-timer to a live, pay-for-view sport whose popularity has risen exponentially, particularly since the arrival of dynamic, former US judo Olympic medalist, Ronda Rousey.

But hang on. The undefeated champion, who was expected to win the title, actually lost.

Ronda was expected to claim the bantamweight UFC (Universal Fighting Championships) title in a matter of minutes when she was up against Holly ‘daughter of a preacher man’ Holm.

But stats, odds, hearsay and form don’t always go to plan.

And how fortunate it was to be sitting right behind the Holm family — dad, brothers, best friends and cheer squad. Their excitement was akin to winning Powerball. They jumped, they clapped, they smiled, they went wild, they kissed even us, seated behind them before happily posing for snaps as soon as their ‘girl’ beat the champ.

No. There was no ‘tap-out’ to determine the fight’s outcome — that’s the UFC equivalent of saying ‘enough is enough’, ‘I’m done’ or ‘get the hell off me’ — but instead a TKO (technical knock out) that saw UFC star Ronda floored out of the match in the second round, out of a potential 5-round match.

The thing that initially aroused my interest in Rousey, in every interview I’d read and watched was her extreme and brilliant strength, her total dedication, her confidence and total domination.

Ronda wears that confidence and a seemingly 24/7 drive to be the best, just like a beacon. But tonight that confidence was dealt a severe slow. So much so, that she had to go to hospital after the match.

A UFC match is basically no-holds-barred — and by no-holds-barred, it is exactly that. One match has been known to last 14 seconds. With a broken bone or something in there somewhere.

And no matter about this loss, as far as poster women are for sport, Ronda Rousey is still at the top of that ladder, globally.

As far as a pop culture icon goes, there is no-one at the moment that has piqued the interest, respect and following Ronda Rousey commands. No matter how much damage is inflicted on themselves or on their opponents.

But now, there looks to be a new queen.

As soon as I mentioned I had been invited to watch Ronda Rousey contend her title with Holly Holm, the eyes of friends either lit up like beacons. Or stared at me with total and utter disbelief.

“You want to watch people bash the crap out of each other?” some of them said.

You know what? No, I don’t.

That was certainly not my rationale for going, when I was invited as a guest of Reebok, who sponsor Ronda and the global UFC.

(For a serious sports account of the match you will go elsewhere on our website for that) but as for me, this is purely a first hand, first time experience account, particularly for a person who has been vaguely dismissive and sceptical of what has become one of the world’s most in p-demand and hottest watched sports.

While wrestling may be a big choreographed stage show, a UFC match is a combo of judo, of wrestling, of boxing, and of kickboxing.

Basically, it encapsulates every form of martial arts with quite a lot of head bashing in between.

Watching a few matches Sunday afternoon, followed by the Rousey/Holm match was as riveting and exhilarating as it was nerve-racking. And it was mighty brutal.

It is watching-through-your-fingers stuff. It is not for the faint-hearted. In fact, it is NOT for everyone at all. I was hesitant about even going.

Etihad stadium in Melbourne was packed — over 60,000 people — a world record in UFC land with the entire stadium full of LED lights — the most any ‘gig’ has seen in Australia.

The entire day was full of matches but most were there for one thing only — to see the Ronda/Holly rumble.

The whole UFC thing is part of 21st Century pop culture. And pop culture encompasses a lot. The fan base, the followers, the groupies, the vibe in the room totally astounded me.

As the main ‘female’ match approached, it actually made me feel a bit stressed.

The vibe, the buzz and electricity in the room had my heart beating at double speed.

Sure, it was exhilarating, exciting and fascinating but boy, I don’t think I could ever go through watching a match every week.

The blood, the major cuts, the swollen eyes, the punches to the head, the potential of broken bones and the near, sheer beyond human-physicality of it makes you feel anxious. And man, that was just me as a mere audience member.

You have to hand it to them: UFC fighters are in a class of its own. Strong, confident, daring, proud.

I felt a mega touch of The Wrestler meets Rumble In The Jungle.

But here, there were no absolutely holds barred.

And that is the scary thing.

I can only reiterate, that UFC matches are not for everyone. But if you want to see sports people with strength like Samson and determination like (some) kids doing their end-of-year exams, this is the experience for you.

Even if you to watch it between gritted teeth, clenched fists and with your hands constantly over your eyes.

Continue the conversation on Twitter and Instagram @melissahoyer.

Melissa Hoyer was a guest of Reebok Australia to the UFC193 in Melbourne.

This post originally appeared on news.com.au


World's biggest short film festival, Tropfest, cancelled due to 'mismanaged funds'

THE world’s biggest short film festival, Tropfest has announced its December 6 event will not be taking place as scheduled.

Tropfest’s founder and director John Polson has announced he has started legal action against the management company, which was also responsible for raising funds, after a six-figure hole was found in its finances.

“It is devastating for me to announce today that Tropfest will not be taking place as scheduled in Centennial Park this year,” Mr Polson has said in a statement.

“In the past week or so, I have been made aware that the company contracted to raise the funding and administer the Tropfest event is unable to move forward for financial reasons.

“Despite a challenging sponsorship climate, Tropfest has done reasonably well in attracting support this year; however, to my great surprise, the management company has informed us that it is unable to proceed.”

Mr Polson has been at the helm of the mega successful event for 23 years and admits it is one of the most difficult decisions he has had to make.

“It goes without saying that this announcement is the most difficult one I’ve made in Tropfest’s 23 year history,” he adds.

“My heart goes out to this year’s 16 filmmaking finalists, to our incredible list of sponsors and partners, and of course to our loyal and beloved audience.

“It is too early to tell what has actually happened here, although it is hard to avoid concluding there has been a terrible and irresponsible mismanagement of Tropfest funds.

“I and others will be spending the coming weeks and months investigating what has transpired.”

Ever since Tropfest stated it in the Tropicana cafe in Sydney’s Darlinghurst 23 years ago, it has attracted the world biggest names in acting. They have included Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Naomi Watts, Cate Blanchett and visiting international actors, who happen to be in Australia at the time of the event.

Tropfest also has become an event that attracts tens of thousands of guests who set up, picnic-like positions – for many years in The Domain and in public places all over Australia, although this year’s main venue was Sydney’s Centennial Park.

“In the meantime, I ask all of Tropfest’s many supporters to bear with us while we figure out how we can rebound from this disaster,” adds Mr Polson.

“Now more than ever this unique Australian cultural event needs your patience and support.”

The film festival was heavily criticised in 2013 after awarding a ‘transphobic’ film, Bamboozled, the top prize.

The man behind Tropfest has reportedly launched legal action over the “irresponsible mismanagement” of funds that led to the cancellation of this year’s short film festival.

The annual festival in Sydney’s Centennial Park – scheduled for December 6 – won’t go ahead because of lack of money, Tropfest founder and director John Polson says.

“It is too early to tell what has actually happened here, although it is hard to avoid concluding there has been a terrible and irresponsible mismanagement of Tropfest funds,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

A discrepancy of six figures in the festival’s finances managed by a company contracted to run the event means it cannot go ahead, Mr Polson told Fairfax.

Mr Polson said he was surprised to learn the festival could not proceed.

Tropfest had done reasonably well to attract support this year despite challenges to sponsorship, he said.

Tropfest was due to celebrate its 24th year.

Since its inception in 1993 it has expanded to festivals in New Zealand, South East Asia, the United States, and the Middle East.

Follow the conversation in Instagram and Twitter @melissahoyer

This article was originally posted on news.com.au


Box office hit musical, Aladdin, heading to Australia . . .

DISNEY’S Aladdin, the cult musical comedy based on the classic Academy Award-winning animated film, will open in Australia in 2016.

Musical mogul and President and Producer of Disney Theatrical, Thomas Schumacher, flew in from New York to officially unveil plans of the musical that has been described by credible theatre critics as “awesome”, “jaw-dropping”, “fabulous and extravagant” and “Broadway magic”.

Having seen the musical in New York earlier this year, this writer thinks it is all this and much more. Aladdin is pure, A-grade entertainment and even better, proves that a night at the theatre is the perfect antidote to sitting on your smart phone around a restaurant table or on the lounge at home all night.

“You know, we are very excited to be partnering once again with the New South Wales Government and Destination NSW on Aladdin which is our third Disney production to premiere in Sydney,’’ said Mr Schumacher. (The other three successful Disney musicals that have done well in Australia include The Lion King, Beauty & The Beast and Mary Poppins.)

“Director Casey Nicholaw and his team have created an entertainment as full of heart as it is joy and I cannot wait until we get to play it in Sydney, one of the world’s great theatre cities.”

Mr Schumacher says Australians are a big musical going population and knows they are going to love the show here.

“It’s big and it’s colourful and it’s funny plus it is also very honest and heartfelt,’’ he told news.com.au

“Our job is now to find actors who can nails the role and who are hot and beautiful.

“These people are trained like athletes. There is no pre-recording and it is pure talent that shines and ultimately leaves totally satisfied.”

The New South Wales Government, through its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW, is the partner of the Disney box office smash.

“This is a real coup for NSW and we anticipate Aladdin will bring more than 120,000 visitors to Sydney, generating $39 million for the NSW economy,’’ says NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events Stuart Ayres.

“Disney Theatrical has a long and successful history of producing first-rate musical theatre productions here in Australia and we are thrilled to announce that Sydney’s magnificent Capitol Theatre will be the venue for the Australian premiere of this huge Broadway hit.”

Mr Schumacher says it is such a multicultural cast so there is great scope to have such a wide-range of performers.

“In an era where everyone’s head is stuck in their smart phone or on their tablets or on their computers, it just makes great sense to immerse yourself in pure theatre and entertainment,” he adds.

The show is produced by Disney Theatrical Productions and features music by Tony Award and eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, Sister Act, Little Shop of Horrors), lyrics by two-time Oscar winner Howard Ashman (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid), three-time Tony Award and three-time Oscar winner Tim Rice (Evita, Aida) and four-time Tony Award nominee Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer).

The musical is adapted from the hugely popular Disney film and centuries-old folktales including “One Thousand and One Nights,” and is has been celebrated for bringing fresh theatrical life into the idea of a musical.

Aladdin opened on Broadway to critical acclaim on March 20th in 2014 and quickly established itself as the biggest blockbuster in recent years with a million people seeing it and breaking eight New Amsterdam Theatre house records.

The animated film Aladdin was released by Disney in 1992 and was a critical and box office smash, grossing over $500 million worldwide (not adjusted for inflation) and becoming the highest-grossing film of the year.

“My happiest moments are sitting there and watching anything in the theatre and this job was always my dream job. I love what I do and do what I love,’’ adds Mr Schumacher.

“Then I go home and feed the cows and that just brings me way back down to earth!”

The film has won the Oscar for Best Original Score and introduced the hit song “A Whole New World,” which won the second of the film’s two Academy Awards as Best Original Song. The Peabo Bryson/Regina Belle recording of the tune soared to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

So, Australia, get out your Aladdin lamps and put the show on your bucket list.

This article was originally posted on news.com.au


Jerry Hall heading to Australia as Mrs Robinson in The Graduate

KNOWN for her magnificent long blonde mane, long legs and high profile marriage to Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger, the Texan model and actress Jerry Hall is heading back to Australia.

Ms Hall will reprise her role as Mrs Robinson in the well-known movie and now play, The Graduate.

Having once shared an apartment with Grace Jones, been engaged to Bryan Ferry and going on to have four children with Mick Jagger, the life of Ms Hall has certainly been an interesting one.

Jerry and Mick’s daughter, Georgia May Jagger, 23, has continued the famous route of her parents, having successfully established herself in the modelling world.

The 59-year-old celebrated model and actress will reprise her role as seductress Mrs Robinson for the very last time in the Sydney season of The Graduate, having come a very long way since being discovered on the beach in St Tropez in the 70s.

Impressing audiences in this iconic piece of American culture in the West End, Toronto, Broadway, North America, Perth and Melbourne, Jerry Hall will make her way to Sydney Lyric Theatre next year.

“I am so thrilled the stars have finally aligned and I am bringing the sultry Mrs Robinson to Sydney,’’ says Ms Hall.

“As this will be the last time I play this role it makes the Sydney season very special to me.

“I have always loved Sydney so I am very much looking forward to returning next year with this amazing production of The Graduate and to spend time in your glorious city.”

The NSW Government says it is delighted to have secured the farewell season of The Graduate through the tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW.

“We anticipate the production will deliver more than $1.6 million to the NSW economy,’’ said the NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events, Stuart Ayres.

“As Australia’s home of live performance, Sydney is the perfect location to farewell this iconic production and we look forward to welcoming Jerry Hall and The Graduate cast and crew to Sydney in 2016.”

Further to her role as Mrs. Robinson, Jerry Hall has numerous theatre credits to her name, including originating the role of Sugar in Bud Shrake’s Benchmark, directed by Michael Rudman at the New End Theatre in Hampstead.

She also has had roles in the U.S. and West End productions of Bus Stop, the West End productions of The Vagina Monologues and The Play What I Wrote. She was the guest star with the North American Tour of The Vagina Monologues in Austin, Texas, and toured England with Picasso’s Women, a 52-minute monologue. Jerry also performed in the West End hit production of Calendar Girls.

Sharing the stage with Ms Hall, who will turn 60 next year, and starring as the young, wide-eyed Benjamin Braddock is Tim Dashwood.

Tim has been working as an actor since graduating from University in 2005 and has performed extensively with the Queensland Theatre Company in productions including Managing Carmen, Romeo and Juliet, The Importance of Being Earnestand The Exception and The Rule.

The stage play of The Graduate is adapted from Charles Webb’s novel and the Oscar winning film, The Graduate about a coming of age story as well as being a dark comedy.

It is also set against a soundtrack of some of the most memorable songs of the sixties including Wouldn’t It Be Nice by The Beach Boys, Everybody’s Talkin’ by Harry Nilsson and of course, The Sound Of Silence and Mrs Robinson by Simon & Garfunkel.

The Graduate is adapted and originally directed by Terry Johnson, from the novel by Charles Webb and the screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry.

This production will be produced in Australia by Kay & McLean Productions, Michael Coppel Theatrical and Jerry Hall while it was originally commissioned and produced on the London and Broadway stage by impresario John Reid and Sacha Brooks and has been a huge success wherever it has played.

This article was originally posted on news.com.au


Chanel designs custom rugby balls – could they get any more chic?

To celebrate the Rugby World Cup, CHANEL has designed four leather rugby balls featuring the iconic quilting of the House.

Gabrielle Chanel, a keen sportswoman herself often referred to menswear in her designs. Today Karl Lagerfeld throws her the ball by creating a sporting accessory that is both collector and perfectly in tune with the zeitgeist. Exceptional quality, attention paid to every detail and artisanal savoir-faire, the CHANEL rugby ball comes in four colourways: white, burgundy, navy blue and black.

The CHANEL rugby ball is available on special order.