10 years in the morgue: ‘Masta Kis o husat?’
13 December 2017
A tale of mistaken identity from the PNG Attitude archives of 1 December 2007
SYDNEY - Each year the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust, through its chairman Rodney Cavalier AO, former NSW Education Minister, hosts a gathering of friends in the Members’ Pavilion overlooking the ‘sacred turf’, as Rodney calls it. Yesterday I was privileged to attend this event.
Over the last 20 years at various times I have been mistaken for various public figures who, like me, have wild hair, thick glasses, generous girth and roguish features.
After the 1983 election, where I had waged a vigorous but ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Labor interest, I had reason to visit Orange – some four hours’ drive west of Sydney - and was enjoying a pre-prandial beer when I engaged the attention of a group of women on the other side of the horseshoe-shaped bar.
They quizzed me on the election campaign and I marvelled at being recognised so far from home. Fame, I mused, spreads like honey.
When the conversation was over, the group said in unison “Thanks, Mr Combe’. And I realised I had been taken for David Combe, then Labor national secretary and the architect of Bob Hawke’s winning election campaign.
Then, some years ago, attending a function at the National Trust, I saw across the room my former opponent at the polls, Jim Carlton.
He signalled me to join the group he was with and proceeded to introduce me as Federal Minister Laurie Ferguson, to whom – on a murky night – I bear a passing resemblance.
My immediate dilemma, though, was whether to embarrass Jim before the group or to pretend to be Laurie. I chose the former, although the look on Jim’s face made me immediately regret the decision. I have been mistaken for Laurie many times since.
But yesterday, at the Sydney Cricket Ground, I was mistaken for Rodney Cavalier four times. A maiden Cavalier identity error and a standing record for a single day.
I must say that - on three of the four occasions where people robustly addressed me along the lines of “Good to see you, Rodney, how're you keeping?” - they were approaching me from behind (where, for all I know, there may be a passing similarity).
But in the fourth case, much to my surprise, the engagement was full frontal.
I quickly decided that the appropriate strategy – given that the poor chap had no proper excuse (like “well, you do share a cranial similarity to Cavalier”) – was to pretend to be Rodney, wish the fellow well and tell him to have a drink on me (that is to say, Rodney).
Whereupon he departed, appearing well satisfied with the encounter. God knows who he thought Rodney was when the great man got up to speak. An impostor, I presume.
Upon recounting this tale to Rodney later, he mildly observed that I clearly had the ability to walk backwards into any cricket ground in the land and get preferred treatment.
I thought that was a useful idea and will now consider my options.
Fr George Schibbe died in 2015 but this person may have not heard of his death.
Posted by: Jeffrey Yandeken | 25 September 2019 at 02:44 PM
Some years ago in a popular bar at Boroko I was mistaken through the dim but sparkling disco lights for one of Simbu's former top cop and had my table covered with drinks of all kinds.
Infact I never reached home but woke up at the Boroko Fire Station in the morning. Fortunate that crime rate in the city was not that bad as today.
Posted by: Arnold Mundua | 15 December 2017 at 06:11 PM
Posted by: Will Self | 13 December 2017 at 06:30 PM
Did someone mention Harpo Marx?
Posted by: Ed Brumby | 13 December 2017 at 04:52 PM
Several years ago when I was based at Rebiamul Mt. Hagen an Engan man approached me and quietly asked me if I would change the foreign currency he was holding. I told him that he could go to the bank and they would change it. I then asked him why he had come to me and he said “Ah, Fr. George, I knew I could trust you.” – He had mistaken me for Fr. George Schubbe who also had a long white beard like mine.
Posted by: Garry Roche | 13 December 2017 at 04:50 PM
Backward? Ability, yea. Practice, nay. Surely no such step since entering ASOPA and then TP&NG?
Posted by: Lindsay F Bond | 13 December 2017 at 03:22 PM
I used to have the same trouble with Robert Redford but he's got old and wrinkly.
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 13 December 2017 at 06:30 AM