Late last year Todd McKenney was involved in something of a public feud with Pauline Hanson which resulted in compelling television viewing.
He was the tough-as-nails judge on the TV hit Dancing With The Stars, while she was the underdog competitor whose awkward moves and never-say-die attitude combined to make her a crowd favourite.
The star of stage hit The Boy From Oz showered the outspoken former-politician with low scores and barbed criticisms while she replied with heated tirades. Neither was prepared to admit defeat.
Now, in the best of showbiz traditions, the former foes have buried the hatchet and are preparing to take to the stage together for McKenney’s latest show, Todd McKenney Live.
The show, which opens at Star City on 9 June, will feature McKenney in his familiar territory of showtunes and dance numbers, with Hanson making her all-singing, all-dancing debut.
As for what his old sparring partner is like as a co-star, McKenney can’t help himself as he offers this opinion: Well, she sings as well as she dances, he quips, before adding, but I think she just might very well bring the house down.
She is going to be doing some disco numbers as well as a cha-cha and some rumba. I am thinking of getting her to do Peggy Lee’s Fever, and we will also have an onstage chat and she is sure to give me some stick as our relationship is fiery.
While Hanson’s politics divided the nation as few other politicians have done before, the openly gay McKenney says working with her on TV gave him new respect for the contentious redhead.
He also wonders whether she might have her own agenda for working with him in the show.
I actually have turned the corner on Pauline Hanson and I think she is a great lady, he says. I have a healthy respect for her, but I have to distance her from her politics as I have no desire to talk politics with her. But she gets up and has a go and has a sense of humour.
I am not sure what her attitude is towards gays, but I can tell you she is taking her role in my show really seriously, and I wonder if some of that is to do with how she is perceived in the gay world and an attempt to repair that. I am not sure about her motives, but I have wondered.
The second series of Dancing With The Stars reaches its grand finale this week with the final dance-off coming down to the gay former rugby league player Ian Roberts and The Great Outdoors host Tom Williams.
This season of the TV show has been even more successful than the first series, and has further introduced McKenney to a national audience.
While it was The Boy From Oz which made him a certified star, Dancing With The Stars has brought him into the country’s living rooms in ratings-busting numbers every week.
His blunt and brutal opinions earned him the title of Judge Nasty -“ or Todd McNasty as he was recently called in a city street -“ but the fame came with a cost this season when the attacks were turned on him.
Scoring Nikki Webster one point of out 10 became the nation’s talking point for a week, with claims McKenney was victimising the pint-sized Olympic pin-up girl.
Then came newspaper reports McKenney had once been romantically involved with one of the competing dancers, Mark Hodge.
I knew from day one that if I was going to sit up there and judge people, then I was going to be thrashed too -“ and I was this season.
The attacks were a little more personal. The thing that really shat me off about the Mark Hodge thing is that it was simply not true and that annoyed me. They didn’t get their facts right, but as soon as you want to make a fuss and stamp your feet, you know you are not going to win.
Nikki Webster thought some of my stuff was personal, and it so wasn’t personal. I am not into bashing her and I have nothing to gain by that. I actually had scored them well previously.
You really have to let it go and move on. The personal stuff part of it bugs me, but most of it hasn’t. But I am still loving this and don’t regret doing it.
The exposure has certainly had its benefits, which McKenney admits he’s now reaping. His Todd McKenney Live stage show will play 10 performances in Sydney before touring to the Gold Coast and Melbourne.
He’s also about to launch two new albums, one with the numbers from his new show and the other a collection of ballads.
Seriously, this is the busiest I have ever, ever been, he says. It [Dancing With The Stars] has worked for me. I didn’t mean to get such a big profile from it, but it was just the nature of my sense of humour which did that.
I was concerned about the angle I was taking on the TV show as I am a lot blunter than the others. I use my sense of humour and for the people who get it, it’s fine. The people who don’t think I am a complete arsehole.
As for reports The Boy From Oz is coming back for a return season in an arena presentation of the all-new Broadway version, McKenney says he’s ready to get up and shake Peter Allen’s maracas again.
I would love to do it again, but as long as the original director Gale Edwards came back to work on it. I am not sure where they are with that, but I already have my hand up, he laughs.
I would do it again in a heartbeat.