by Jeni Bone
Ita Buttrose was special guest speaker at the annual Boat Show Ladies’ Lunch, Friday 25 May at the 24th Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show. So what did the marine industry women learn from this pioneer, author, doyenne of the magazine and newspaper industries, corporate sector and tireless worker for charity?
Ita Buttrose guest speaker at Sanctuary Cove Boat Show Ladies Lunch 2012.
Well for starters, recounting her encounter with Dame Barbara Cartland, one of the most prolific authors of the 20th century, Ita revealed that this romance writer’s perfect complexion was the result of focusing solely on her skin, and letting her figure go.
'She also advised me not to drink Gin, she said ‘it makes your skin sag,' reported Ita. 'Dame Barbara said ‘You should only drink Brandy, it tightens you up, but don’t overdo it’.'
In an address sprinkled with gems from every facet of her life and experience, Ita inspired and informed the 180 women, who’d gathered from the boating industry and broader community for the occasion.
She told of her challenges, triumphs and experiences trailblazing as editor of the Women’s Weekly, Cleo and Daily and Sunday Telegraph – many of her achievements still unsurpassed by younger generations.
She left the audience aghast when she reminisced about an interview with Sixty Minutes with the then 30-something Tracey Curro, who said the folding of Ita's magazine, 'ITA' was a 'defeat' for Ita, then pronounced Ita 'old' and implied somehow she should make way for up and coming women.
'I don't consider that magazine a failure, or that I was 'defeated' in any way,' said Ita. 'I wasn't enjoying it any longer, and when I am not enjoying something, I move on.'
Referring to the label 'old', Ita responded: 'I didn’t feel old then, I don’t feel old now. In fact, I am excited that I have many years ahead of me, writing, launching a digital magazine, keeping up with my grandchildren and of course, my charity work. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been as busy. Maybe through Paper Giants I’ve been 'rediscovered'. And it’s funny, because I haven’t been anywhere. I’ve been around, just under the public radar.'
On another occasion, her second interview with the same program, the male host enquired as to whether she was 'getting any', implying that in her dotage she would have given up all that kind of thing. 'And of course, stupidly, I brushed it aside and said I didn't have time for men, and suddenly the headlines were splashed with: 'Ita declares celibacy!' I mean, really, it was quite ridiculous.'
A pioneer of women's magazines that dealt with the 'real issues' such as divorce, drugs, and yes, sex and its many variations, Ita said she is disappointed that today's clutch of women's titles prefers to cover 'cellulite, scandal, plastic surgery and diets, diets, diets'.
'I thought we had moved on from that,' she said, adding that such matters are certainly not progressing the cause of women. 'There are many more important issues for women in the work force, women and their families, women and society, and yet, magazines just don't deal with them at all.'
Ita is author of 10 books – from self-help, a finance guide, two autobiographies and two novels. She heads up a digital publishing company and is about to launch an entirely online magazine. A patron of several charities, Ita spreads the word about Alzheimers and the epidemic that faces society.
'Around 280,000 people have Alzheimers. In 10 years, numbers will double and by 2050, more than one million Australians will have this insidious disease. It’s not a natural part of ageing – it isn’t inevitable. The federal government has committed $200m over five years to research in to Alzheimers and discovering what causes it. We are getting there.'
During the lunch, two extraordinary models showcased more than $2.5m in diamond and pearl creations from Ann Middleton and there were prizes of holidays to Hayman Great Barrier Reef, cosmetics, accommodation at the Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove and a retreat at Gwinganna health resort. Boat Show head of international relations, Barry Jenkins tickled the ivories throughout the luncheon, revealing one more of his many talents.
The boat show Ladies’ Lunch is a fixture on the event calendar. In 2013, Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show will celebrate 25 years.