I first met Robert Morley wallowing in a swimming pool in Alice Springs. .You may ask what was Robert Morley doing in Alice Springs?
The larger than life actor, director, writer, raconteur and ambassador for British Airways, famous for his sharp wit, bushy eyebrows and pompous character parts in dozens of films and on stage.
He had expressed an interest in seeing Ayers Rock, as it was known then, and to meet some of the people who lived around these “curiosities “ ( Ayers Rock was renamed and gazetted Uluru in 1995 ).
The Australian Tourist Commission picked up on his interest and brokered a contra deal with him. His expenses would be covered and he would write several articles on Australia for tourist promotion.
He was a big man and the chances of him climbing the Rock were non existent. He is reputed to have said of himself
“My only exercise was winding my watch, but that proved too exhausting, so now I have a self-winding watch”.
I was introduced to him while he was doing a slow breaststroke like a great seal beating off the fierce Territory sun
“Mr. Morley, this is Alan Jones the photographer who will be accompanying you for the next few days”
“How do y’do – we will see you tomorrow”.
A very subtle dismissal – leave me to wallow.
As I had been to Ayers Rock several times before, I was assigned to accompany him, his wife, daughter Anabel and son Sheridan as photographer.
That evening the Morleys received an invitation to a party organised by the local cognoscenti. I accompanied Annabel and Sheridan and arrived when the party was in full swing.
A little later in the evening a couple arrived holding hands and it was obvious that they were being ignored. I asked the hostess what was the problem?
She said “Oh, they are brother and sister”. It was Alice Springs after all.
The next day we ventured out to The Rock and put up at one of the two motels that were there at the time. This was long before Ayers Rock Resort so the accommodation was of a very basic standard with geckos climbing over the bed head.
As we arrived late morning, we were ushered into the dining area for lunch before check-in.
Lunch consisted of some dubious luncheon meat and salad. Probably not what Morley was used to as a well known food writer back in the U.K.
After the lunch the, the waitress hurried over and obsequiously said, “ Mr. Morley how did you enjoy your lunch?”
He took her hand and patting it said “ Let’s see if we can do better for dinner my dear.”
I believe he enjoyed himself in spite of the minimal services and creature comforts.
Later he said to me, “M’boy what on earth can I write?”
I said “ You can only write it as it is”
Unfortunately I never got to see any articles he wrote.