Aussies rally for flood relief (and that hunky roo rescuer) at embassy fundraiser
Looking for some safe small talk? Avoid bringing up the weather if you're anywhere near the Australian embassy.
Ambassador Kim Beazley arrived in Washington a year ago -- days before Snowmageddon -- and promptly slipped on black ice in front of his residence. He seriously injured both knees, forcing him to present his credentials to President Obama in a wheelchair. A year later, he's still using a cane.
Last month, Australia was hit by record flooding -- enough that the embassy organized a "Mopping Up Down Under" fundraiser Friday to help with flood relief in Queensland, where 70 percent of the population has been impacted. The invitations had already gone out when the country was slammed last week by Yasi, bigger and stronger than Katrina and the largest cyclone to hit in almost a century.
The recovery is expected to take months, even years -- but the Aussies are not the brooding type. Beazley shared his two favorite quotes from the disaster:
"One was from this old lady who got picked up and brought her husband with her. She said, 'I had to make a choice between my husband or my teeth. And I'm not sure I made the right one.' There's another fellow who'd been completely wiped out. The TV cameras said, 'What do you think? What do you feel?' And he said, 'I think, for the first time in my life, I have water views.' "
The party was both earnest (a giant screen in the main hall projected images of the flood's destruction) and festive, with more than 500 people (mostly Americans) determined eat, drink and plunk down lots of money for relief. . .and raffle prizes.
Everyone pitched in: Aussie pop star Guy Sebastian (the first winner of Australian Idol in 2003) performed; the embassy chef hand-made 500 mini Pavlovas for dessert, and the evening raised $70,000.
Biggest winner: the image of hunky guys Down Under. The evening's most aww-inducing picture was a gorgeous man rescuing a baby kangaroo from the floodwaters.
"An American friend of mine said, 'Are all Australian men like that?' " said Lisa Millar, Washington correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "She was ready to pack her bags."
The Reliable Source
| February 7, 2011; 1:05 AM ET
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