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Australia Invades the US

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It's been G'Day USA week here in L.A. - a time when Australians invade the city to school us about their Down Under culture. In celebration of the events, I attended a luncheon at the Consul's house, learned about places I need to visit (particularly South Australia - the food scene in Adelaide is not to be missed, I'm told), and chatted with golf legend Greg Norman about why he's proud to call Australia his home. Greg and I met at the week's big black-tie gala in Hollywood, with a bold-face list of attendees that included John Travolta, Cameron Diaz, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, Olivia Newton-John, Toni Collette, Sam Worthington, Simon Baker, Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland), LL Cool J, Rod Laver and singer Holly Valance. 2010-01-18-ToniandSimon.jpg
Here are a few memorable moments from the gala:
- Nicole Kidman (in pink Prada) and Keith Urban sang a tribute song to Simon Baker (one of the evening's honorees, right with Toni Collette) to the tune of Men at Work's "Land Down Under." (Watch it here.) It's a rare event to see Nicole let loose, and from the sound of this ditty, Keith's a happy, playful influence.
- The other two honorees were Greg Norman (presented by John Travolta) and Toni Collette (presented by Cameron Diaz). All speeches (presenting and receiving) were very fun - the celebs let down their guard a bit; after all, this isn't televised.
- The Aussie wine and food created by chefs Pete Evans and Curtis Stone (soon to be on Celebrity Apprentice) and also Wolfgang Puck. (I guess Austrian is close to Australian.) The menu included pies, smoked trout, tortellini, lobster with black truffle panna cotta, steamed Barramundi, Australian lamb and a bevy of desserts created by Wolfgang, accompanied by a yum yum yummy Shingleback sparkling Shiraz.
- When I asked Greg Norman why someone should visit Oz, he said: "Go for the culture, the people," he said. "It's a very clean, beautiful country - the flora, the fauna..." (He also said fellow golfer Tiger Woods should get back to the game: "It'd be the best medicine.")
- I was even surprised to see that some Aussies don't drink - I thought that was just part of life, but apparently some black sheep don't. But don't worry, I raised a glass or four...when in Rome...
- Just talking with people who have such pride in their country was really refreshing - hearing what they love (everything from eating in Bondi Beach to heading to the Gold Coast for some R&R) and their encouragement to go. And best of all, one of the heads of Qantas told me it's only $800 to fly roundtrip between L.A. and Sydney...so I say giddyup!