The unknown

Sometimes it’s easy. You pass someone in the street, or see them on the tram, and they’re instantly recognisable. A soapie star, a reknowned actor, a government minister, or some other high-profile person.

But what about all those countless people who pass you by who are not recognisable? Who are they? How many movers and shakers go unnoticed on the street among the other passers-by? People you’d never recognise because they never appear on TV or get their photos in the gossip columns. Perhaps the woman opposite you on the train wrote the newspaper article that you and thousands of others are reading this morning, that will later today force a change of government policy. Perhaps the bloke next to you at the traffic lights decided that your gas bill won’t go up this year. That man sitting having a coffee on the street might have determined the cost of your mobile phone.

Sometimes you’ll get a clue – they’re having a conversation, or carrying a document whose cover you can read. But for the most part they are the Unrecognisable Somebodies, people who are anonymous yet have a influence on little aspects of our lives. Particularly in a big city, and especially in the bustling streets of the city centre, these people are everywhere. But we might never know who they are.

But enough of this thoughtful crap. Who’s the most famous person you’ve seen in the street?

Hmmm. Off the top of my head, Cathy Freeman, Hugo Weaving, Josephine Byrnes, Ernie Dingo, Alan Fels. The Doug Anthony All Stars in full uniform waiting for a cab outside Elsternwick Station. And I was once in the queue for pies at the footy with the then deputy PM, Brian Howe.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

22 replies on “The unknown”

It varies by location and time of year. For example during the last month you could sit outside the Town Hall for half an hour and see almost every performer involved in the Comedy Festival walk past. The funniest thing I heard outside the Town Hall was from Adam Richard – “Here look, a free photo of a homosexual!”
Another flyer person – “Oh Adam, we can’t compete with that!”

Where I worked in Kew they came in to shop, so basically you can call it on the street, ok here goes…..Tonia Todman, Cathy Freeman and then husband Sandy, Rob Gell, Gabriel Gate, Nathan Buckley and plastic fantastic wife, Karen Gauci former YTT gal Karen Dunkerton, Peter Hitchener. Thats off the top of my head oh and Anthony Koutefidis.

Not dropping names but thought I’d share it.
Out of the lot Rob Gell was the nicest, Gabriel gate was just a fake french poonce, and Tonia Todman away with the fairies.

I just saw a famous dwarf on a Segway…no, it’s true ! Here in south florida there’s a pair of twins who are both dwarfs, about three feet tall (without the dwarfish armour and battle axe, of course). They have a real-estate business and do motivational courses. My wife, friends and I went to a street festival last weekend and saw one of them rolling through the very dense crowds (shipped in from Republican Party HQ) on a segway.

Other than him, I’ve met the guys from The Church (my favourite band)…erm…and nobody else. Cripes. I really must get out more often.

Sadly, I literally ran into Simon O’Donnell (the cricket player who later went on to commentate, among other things I’m sure, horse racing events) in the ‘bool during the local racing carnival, many moons ago.
I’ve also seen more than my fair share of ‘Neighbours’ and ‘Secret Life of Us’ stars around Melbourne too. My most significantly embarrassing encounter with a star of these two shows saw me trying to indicate to a colleague that “the guy who owns the bar on Secret Life” was in the juice bar near our workplace. It became slightly embarrasing when “the guy who owns the bar on Secret Life” turned around and saw me pointing at him! Whoops, nothing like a little obviousness in spotting the famous ones.

Dave Strassmann, Merv Hughes, Teddy Whitten (or however you spelled his name…I know I’ll be crucified for that) though I was too young to know who that was until he died and I said to Dad, “I met him!”. Red Simons (lived down the road from me). Molly Meldrum & Jeff Kennett (they are next-door neighbours to each other). Who else… ? Can’t think of anyone else at the moment.. oh, the guy from the Dimmy’s commercials, the footballer.. whazzisname.. BIG guy… Dippa! Saw him at the casino.

And, just to make you all jealous – I knew the man in the Marty Monster suit on the Earlybird Show. *g*

Ha. I top you Trish. Daniel’s allegedly cool girlfriend once shrieked (loudly and publicly) “That’s Paul Kelly!” when Paul Kelly (the musician and singer, rather then the numerous other famous Paul Kellys) went past. Causing Mr Kelly to stop and turn around and stare at her and the party she was with (ie me). She has the courtesy to be embarrassed about this now.

Brian, (a) for the purposes of this exercise, you can’t count famous people you intended on seeing. So I know you’ve met The Church at concerts and soundchecks and stuff, but that doesn’t count.
And (b) as for the dwarf on the Segway, I think you’ve lived in Florida too long!

I once worked at a function that had John Elliott as guest of honour. He fully lived up to his image, he was loud and domineering, gave a speech that would have done Pauline Hanson proud and smoked in a non-smoking facility. Though being a smoker myself, I can sympathise with that…

What interesting well rounded people read your diary Daniel. They don’t just sit at home in front of their pcs, but get out and about. I did recently hear that people who are very active on the net have very active social lives. John Elliot smoking where he should not is always interesting. Shame about his finances. On topic, only old people will know, but had a nice chat with Reg Gorman………think Sullivans. And I have the newspaper clipping from my contact with Mary Adams, 3LO.

Most of mine involve public transport, actually. I saw Claudia Karvan on a tram once; I sat next to Miranda Otto on a train; I’ve seen numerous boring politicians at the station or in Spring Street; and I waited in a taxi queue outside the Princess theatre with Hugh Jackman (he was very nice, he let two old ladies take his cab and just waited like the rest of us). Oh, and I (literally) collided with the actress that plays Mona on Who’s the Boss (can’t remember her name) at an icecream stand in LA. I dropped my icecream, she apologised. Wow, what a brush with fame.

The most famous would have to be Arnold Schwartznegger (sp?) and his wife (Santa Monica Blvd) or Robert Redford maybe. We did run into RR at his resturant at Sundance so that wasn’t so unpredicted though.

One time I was on Bridge Road and these ppl would move from their table on the street at the cafe so practically had to climb over them to put my money in the metre then later my sister goes.. that was Chris Grant.. and I go.. who? and all day she went on about me sticking my bum in Chris Grant’s face. Still was better than getting a parking ticket.

Oh, and the Church.. I was drinking with some guys at the Espy one night and then about a year later a friend goes .. remember that night we were drinking with x and x and blah blah from The Church.. and I didn’t realise.

I am kinda oblivious to these things .. wouldn’t have recognised Arnie or Robert Redford without someone else there to point them out.

There are some others too but don’t want to mention them cos I don’t want to acknowledge that they are famous (it is one thing to be impressed cos you run into a famous person, another when you knew them before they were famous).

Aussie spottings: Tim Rogers from You Am I in a bar in L.A., Noah Taylor on Swanston Street, Radha Mitchell on my plane to the U.S., Geoffrey Rush on Bourke Street, Jacqui McKenzie in Fed Square, Tidy from “The Secret Life of Us” in North Fitzroy and Christian in (big surprise) St Kilda. And lots of other people I didn’t know were famous because I’m a yank (namely athletes), but whose celebrity was pointed out to me by friends at the time.

Also Fred Negro (ex. I Spit on Your Gravy, F***S F***S) every Thursday arvo when he does a comic strip at the George Public Bar. The “Pub Strip” from Inpress is done on Monday arvos in the Pint on Punt.


I held the door open at the Prince Charles’ Cinema on Leicester Square for Simon Pegg, star and co-write of Shaun of the Dead. (NO, not dawn) Just come out here in the UK, you’ve got to see it when it comes out in Oz!

I used to work for an airline so I saw/met quite a few people in my years there: Nic Cage, Joan Jett, Sinbad, Dave Thomas (of the Wendy’s hamburger place), and lots of others. Word would spread quickly if someone famous/important was traveling on our airlines or was spotted in the airport.

Alan Bond, John Kizon (“colourful Northbridge identity”), Barry Sheene, Alan Jones (the famous one). I was on a plane with Ernie Dingo once too.

I bumped into Paul Keating (when he was PM) in the mens room at the MCG during the Carlton/Collingwood Centenary in the early 90s.

I said to him, “Mr Keating, may I shake your hand?”, to which he replied “You might want to wait until I’ve washed it”.

What a thoughtful PM he was.

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