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Big Tony leads the westie celebrity pack


Tony Perich

We don’t have too many nationally known celebrities, but one may be the self confessed “humble dairy farmer from Leppington, Tony Perich. Big Tony was featured on the front page of the national daily The Australian a couple of weeks ago, and described as Sydney’s first “westie” billionaire. But if you met the big fella, you’d know that he’d even say he didn’t know what a celebrity was. Just like that time in the witness box in the sensational defamation case brought by the late solicitor John Marsden against Channel 7. Marsden’s legal team got Perich in court to give a character reference of the solicitor. Do you think John Marsden is promiscuous, Tony Perich was asked by the defence. His response, I don’t even know what promiscuous means, I am just a simple dairy farmer, made big headlines the next day and is remembered to this day.

The late John Marsden would certainly have qualified as a local celebrity, but there was one box he couldn’t tick because he lived in sulubrious Denham Court. Still, we always loved it when he stuck it up to the inner city emptyheads by telling their reporters: There are two great cities in the world: Rome and Campbelltown. And of course he may have been partly saying it tongue in cheek, but we know he was damn right.

Our elected counillors certainly don’t think they are celebrities. Discussing a proposal by Clinton Mead to record council meetings at Tuesday night’s November meeting, quite a few of his colleagues pointed to the mostly empty public gallery as evidence that there was little or no interest in the performance of our councillors once a month. To be fair, it was packed but emptied quickly when the vote was taken on the Campbelltown Animal Care facility, the issue they had come to hear debated.

Some of them more than others occasionaly forget they are not actors on stage, and all of a sudden the entertainment level goes up a notch or two. Paul Hawker can be fiery, Fred Borg cranky, Rudi Kolkman eloquent, George Greiss funny, Ted Rowell passionate and the mayor, Paul Lake, sometimes his booming voice reminds you of Luciano Pavarotti. Maybe he missed his true calling. But none of them can light a candle to the councillor I dubbed Rumpole of the Bailey, the late, great Brenton Banfield. A lawyer by trade, he would stand up slowly to deliver his argument, and no doubt would have been tempted to start with: Your Honour, and finish with: I rest my case, but never did. A big, gentle man with wit and grace, always worth watching on council, Brenton Banfield was.

Over at Liverpool Council, Tony Hadchiti is always good value with his forthright views and witty advice to the opposition, such as: if you don’t agree with us, if you’re not on the same page, get out of our way. Mazhar Hadid delivers powerfully passionate arguments, while former mayor Wendy Waller is almost the opposite, maintaining an even, calm tone as she speaks. As is the case at Campbelltown, the first term councillors tend to let the more experienced ones do the talking most of the time.

No doubt the biggest local celebrity in the hospitality industry around here is Enzo Leonie, the creator of such great Camden eating places as Enzo’s, Leonies Cafe, La Bella Vita and currently with his boys, Barenz. Another one who may not be as prolific as Enzo, but just as good on longevity is Tony Chan, who 30 years ago opened Chan’s Teahouse Chinese restaurant opposite Minto station. Chan’s is a local institution that has been serving great quality and value Chinese food for all those 30 years, and it’s no surprise to hear that a massive percentage of his customers have been going for many years. Congratulations Tony, we hope you go for another 30, at least.

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