New to the world of 'Celebrity', Jane Caro is a strong, out-spoken figure in the Australian media. Her many accomplishments lend her a number of titles too great for this swift introduction. At the beginning of our exposure to Jane, we had no idea the influential role model she would become to many Australians, through her numerous stints on popular shows such as Sunrise, Mornings and the very popular Gruen series, as well as her many public speaking events. These were merely our form of exposure, it was her ability of ripping a killer sound-byte that turned up our ears and spoke to- or for- us which got Australians to sit up and take notice. Whilst we know a lot of Jane and her political views, I was humbled recently to be given the chance to further share with you all the woman behind the passionate voice- her thoughts and feelings on the wide world of pop-culture, and if she likes being a role model.
Aaron Ware: We’ll start off with young Jane, coming to
young, wide-eyed; can you tell us a bit more, any memories from then?
Jane Caro: My parents were really taking the risk there, and it was my Father who had been transferred with the company he had worked for… My mother was always game for an adventure so… we all came!
AW: You’ve confessed to having the ‘soul of an old gossip’, has that always been the case?
JC: Ah, yes, I do. I think so, I really enjoy people, they’re what interest me. And gossip is just a nasty way of putting down talk of people and their relationships and the way they live… Because it tends to be what women like to talk about, and that’s often despised. But I actually think, gossip, talk about people and how they live, what they do, is the soul of what it is to be human.
AW: Always gives me a bit of satisfaction. You work and meet a lot of interesting and famous people; does that make the gossip just that little bit more interesting?
JC: Oh, I supposed it does, except I’m a bit on the outside of that, its not like- yes, I meet lots of well known people, but I don’t have lots of friends that are particularly well known, and so often they’ll be gossiping about things and I’ll feel totally naïve. “Oh I didn’t know that!” “Are they really doing that?!” Because I’m a bit of a newcomer to this celebrity circuit, so I actually prefer the kind of gossip that’s about why people are doing what they’re doing, who they are…
AW: People you know personally?
JC: Yeah. Like talking to my friends about an event, and who was at it, and somebody who did something a little surprising, and why that might be, and how we feel about it, and… I find that kind of stuff fascinating.
AW: I find that helps with writing, building characters and their reactions to moments in the plot.
JC: Yeah, and also I like to understand, I like to get underneath…I like to… speculate about what’s the motivation, to be honest, I think that… My Grandmother used to say, to know everything is to understand everything, in other words, if you knew the whole story of a person, you understand why they did that seemingly inexplicable thing. I’m always interested in motivations, why did they do that? What caused them to feel about the world that way.
AW: Then you would have made a good lawyer.
JC: (laughs) If only I could have borne all that study…. Which I couldn’t.
AW: Tell me about it. You’ve described your teen years as quite rebellious; can you share some gossip from those days? Shaved head? Piercings?
JC: No, it was a little bit before that… I was just a terrible flirt. I loved flirting, I loved… I wasn’t actually a very brave teenager, I didn’t actually like to do anything illegal, but I was pretty good at pretending I might actually like to do something illegal without actually doing anything.
AW: Talking the talk.
JC: Exactly, and that fine like between being naughty and nice to be accepted by your peers as kind of cool and not a goodie-two-shoes, but not so naughty that I upset my parents and teachers.
AW: (laughs) that’s probably what I should have done instead of upsetting everybody. Do you have any gossip on former school mate, current
host, David Koch?
JC: Oh, Well, David and I went to school together, we were in the same year and um, we weren’t exactly friends because we hung out in different groups, but we certainly knew each other. It’s funny because he was the tallest boy in school, and I was the shortest girl, so that was a bit difficult in terms of just standing there talking to each other was always a bit awkward. But he was a really nice guy; he was exactly like he is now…
AW: A big dag?
JC: Yeah! The Big Dag. That’s what he was like, and I think that's a real compliment to him that he hasn’t changed.
AW: What would you say are the personality traits that have been cemented in you from your high school days?
JC: Very important thing from my high school days was when I was in primary school; I was a bit of a pain in the neck. I was, um, I used to read big books and adult books and use long words and I was one of those precocious, you know Manny in Modern Family? That kind of irritatingly, unnaturally ‘adult’ kind of child. And I was very unpopular with my peers as a result. I didn’t mean to be, but I was, so when I was moving from PS to HS, I consciously thought “how could I not be so irritating to my peers?” And I kind of worked out I needed to not use long words, I could still read big books, still be into what I was into, I just didn’t have to talk about it to my friends…
AW: You learned self control?
JC: Exactly, But I also learned how to pitch what I wanted to say in a way that the people I was talking to could hear it. I learned that… You can’t just go and say things the way you do in this environment and that environment and just except everybody to catch on, So I had to learn how to ‘pitch it’. So I swore and I hitched my skirt up, and I smoked cigarettes, I was a bit of a naughty girl – But I was still at home reading my Victorian social novels, and still interested in politics and all that kind of stuff, but I just learned who to talk about it with, and how to talk about it… And how to… How to have my own ideas but not threaten everybody with them. I really think that was… Some people might now call that “dumbing down”, I don’t see it as that, I think that was an incredibly important lesson.
AW: I see that as “Knowing your audience”.
JC: Yeah, and sort of a lesson in humility, if you want to talk to people you have to
think about how they’re going to respond to it, what their lives are like and you know, where they’re coming from, instead of just poncing around imposing your own style on everyone.
AW: Which a surprising amount of people do nowadays, unfortunately… Moving on, you went into University slightly on the “Right Wing” of politics…
JC: Oh, yes, you see my parents were in business, both stood for pre-selection for the Liberal party, fortunately neither of them won, but they got quite close, so you know, free enterprise, capitalism that kind of thing was very much a part of my family’s political background. I guess you could describe them at that time as being ‘Socially-Wet” my mother was a mad feminist, and economically dry. So that’s the way I went to university. I did English Literature, because that’s what I was interested in, but I didn’t want to teach, I had no interest in being a teacher, so people said what are you going to do? I said “oh I might get into advertising” and in the ‘70s, that was like saying you wanted to have babies. So yeah, that was an interesting experience.
AW: Was it then getting into advertising what swung you over to the “Left Wing”?
JC: To be honest, I don’t think that my political views have changed so much, I actually think that I’m pretty much where I was then. I think if you were to describe my political views, I’m a classic, old fashioned John Stuart Mills liberal. I’m still economically on the dry side, socially-wet. But what I’ve seen is the world march past me to the right, so that I’ve basically stood still, when I was young, the world was much more left wing than it is now, and now the world is much more right. I’m considered radical left wing I’m practically a Marxist, purely and simply because I support public education.
When I was at school that wasn’t a particular left wing point of view, that was pretty mainstream, so, that would be my argument; that I haven’t changed much.
AW: Well, there you go! You said once that you had wanted to be an actor… What would have been your ultimate roles?
JC: (Thinks about it) Elizabeth I, I would have loved to play her… Jane Eyre… That sort of thing… Miriam Margolyes, she has the sort of career I would have loved.
AW: How about someone like Buffy or Wonder Women, even Ripley? Someone “Kick-Ass”? Would you have…
JC: No, no, I can’t see myself as an action hero, too much punching and hitting, sticking your leg high in the air, too exhausting for me. I’m much more your mental athlete not your physical one.
AW: Did you ever do the amateur theatre circuit?
JC: I did, I was in one production, I was in quite a few university revues. Being fairly well endowed I always played the bosom-y females, had a lot of fun doing that.
AW: What show did you do?
JC: Oh, I can’t even remember, it was some British farce, I played the maid, it wasn’t particularly exciting. It cured me, I gave it away after that.
AW: (laughs) Where do you think you’d be today if you followed that path?
JC: Probably starving in a garage and very disappointed!
AW: I was expecting waiting tables.
JC: Exactly, I think being an actor in
particularly being a woman and an actor in Oz, unless you’re incredibly
beautiful, is unbelievably hard. Because… there’s just not the parts.
AW: Unfortunately so… What are some of your favourite films?
JC: Somebody else asked this the other day… Cabaret’s one of my all-time favourite films, I must admit. Now Voyager, which I absolutely love, Bette Davis. Paul Henreid… Oh I loved Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy… I see lots of films that I really, really enjoy, but I particularly think I enjoy films that allow you the audience to interpret them where they expect you to keep up rather than constantly telling you stuff. And I’m also not crazy about films that just want to entertain you, there needs to be something else. And I think that’s one of the things I like about Cabaret, it does it so well. Apart from the great songs, there’s a darkness to it, an underbelly, that I really like.
AW: It’s even gloomier on stage.
JC: I bet, and
Chicago, I really liked Chicago actually.
AW: A pop-culture advertising curve-ball Question, if you could have controlled the promotional campaign for the Blair Witch Project, what do you think you would have done differently?
JC: I don’t think I would have done anything differently, as an advertising campaign it was superbly successful, but it suffered from so many things that great ad campaigns suffer from- the campaign was just way better than what it was advertising.
AW: It’s held up somewhat, that baby crying gives me the willies.
JC: Oh well, I don’t think I would have done anything differently, they took a tiny low budget film and made it apart of popular culture, people still know about it, talk about it, quote it. And I think, yeah, well done.
AW: Do you think with that “found footage” fad it’s created, audiences have maybe grown a bit too weary of that sort of thing? With so many Paranormal Activities, has the gimmick maybe worn off?
JC: Well, I think if something’s a gimmick it’ll only last for a short time, so if it’s probably only one or two films then it’s done, but I think you can take just about any subject and create a fantastic piece of communication around it and there’s no reason these Paranormal stuff can’t make a great film– but it needs to be more than just scaring you,, making you feel uneasy. There needs to be some other element, some more serious reasons for making the movie and then why couldn’t it work? Anything can work if done well.
AW: There are no bad ideas, just bad films?
JC: Yeah, there are no bad… Well, there are bad ideas, but there are no bad subjects.
AW: Uh-huh, much better way to put it. We’ll move onto advertising properly, I believe you got your start in advertising with Australian author Bryce Courtney?
JC: No, Bryce Courtney just helped me to get a job by encouraging me and forcing me to write ads, but he didn’t hire me.
AW: He sort of opened a window/door for you?
JC: Yeah, he certainly encouraged and was a mentor, helped me to get my first job. So yeah, I got in when it was really hard for women to get in. I was lucky because people knew who my father was so that certainly helped and it still does. You’ll get a hearing when some other poor kid wouldn’t. I was really pleased and creative seemed to suit me because I had spent a long time being bad at a series of other jobs.
AW: I know that feeling. Still on Courtney, did you ever come full circle and write any campaigns for any of his books?
JC: No, to be honest with you I really, really enjoyed his book April Fool’s Day which was about his Son who had acquired AIDS but I haven’t yet been able to read any his other books.
AW: Which of some of your own previous advertising projects have you really enjoyed working on?
JC: I used to work for New South Wales Police, and I really like an ad campaign I did there to combat domestic violence, I was really proud of that. I worked with the NRMA and did a few ads that I’m very proud of, a television commercial that I think is very terrific. Some print ads as well that I’m very proud of.
AW: What would be your biggest advertising blunders?
JC: Oh, I’ve done so many I can’t even think of them. I’ve done really bad ads, I’ve put forward terrible briefs.
AW: So no spectacular disasters?
JC: No, no.
AW: Are you like me and talk sassily back to the really patronizing commercials that speak at us, not to us?
JC: Oh yeah, I can’t bare them and there’s so many like that now. Everybody’s gotten really frighten and they won’t trust the audience to understand. So there’s all these people yabbering at us and you know, save your money, none of those ads are working. I always tell my students not to start an ad with a rhetorical question, you know “Sick? Of looking for Cold solutions?” because everybody’s going to go “No”.
AW: What long or longish running campaign, Coles’ ‘Down Down’ aside, would you love to erase from Earth’s history?
JC: So many, anything by Real Funerals or Real Insurance, and all infomercials.
AW: (laughs) That lady telling us not to tell her age bugs me!
JC: That’s right… And that guy who’s like (puts on Aussie ‘ocker’ voice) “LOSE WEIGHT TODAY!” B\No, just can’t bare it.
AW: I’ve noticed you have an interesting taste in music, not unlike a lot of my own, what songs would be on your ultimate Road Trip Mix-CD?
JC: Well... Eyes of Lucy Jordan by Marianne Faithful, in fact anything by her… Any Rolling Stones song ever… Bobby Gentry- the Ballad of Bobby Joe- one of my all time favourites, love it. Anything by Lou Reed; Shiny; Walk on the Wild Side is probably my least favourite, Perfect Day, oh you, just anything by Lou Reed,
Berlin. Who else do I
love? Bowie, just about anything by Bowie; definitely starting with Heroes which is my
all-time favourite Bowie
song, I’m stuck in the 70s a bit, my youth.
AW: I’m stuck in decades I wasn’t even alive in… You love “story songs”, what would be the title of the Jane Caro “story song” be?
JC: Oh, crikey! Um, I’m not sure… (thinks)… I did give my Sister-in-law a book once; Getting In-Touch With Your Inner Bitch, I quite like that, she needed it, she was so nice… Something like ‘Straight-Talking Woman’, I think I do, say what I think!
AW: That’s the way I see it. Would this imply also that you dig show-tunes for that story-in-song element, the exposition compositions?
JC: I do like some show-tunes, Cabaret obviously, because they do tend to tell a tale, which I really do enjoy; Porgy and Bess- I love all that. I’m not such a fan of the really big… I love
because that also tells a real story and I love the darkness of it. I think I
like Country and Western a bit more.
When I was young I hated it, it was the daggiest stuff in the world but now I
actually love it, the whole telling a
tale and just… I love that lovely old, I think it was Tammy Wynette with My
D-I-V-O-R-C-E Came Final Today, I just
AW: What would be in your top 3 musicals?
JC: Cabaret would definitely be there, and I suppose ‘
would be one of the others… I do really, really like ‘ Oklahoma’, I think because of ‘the dark’
that whole Pore Jud Is Daid- I really do love the darkness of all that.
AW: I have seen the movie of
100 times but never the stage production.
JC: Never seen it on stage either.
AW: You’ll should look out for the one with Hugh Jackman on DVD.
JC: Hugh Jackman just doesn’t do it for me, sorry to say, I like Mrs Partridge and Howard Keel, the old Hollywood run.
AW: You’re one of the directors of Bell Shakespeare Company, that’s quite a brilliant position to be in, is there any plays you are hankering for them to produce?
JC: That’s a very interesting question… They have already produced a lot of the plays I would hanker… I would like them to run ‘The Merchant of Venice’ again, because Portia is such a fascinating character, and Shylock, he takes a lot of stereotypes and deals with them in interesting ways. ‘As You Like It’ would be another interesting one, but they produced that quite recently, and this year I have to say I completely loved their production of ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ which not a lot of people saw but absolutely fantastic John Webster play.
AW: You’re great at selling an idea, any desire to dip your toes into Directing?
JC: I would love to, but I don’t think I have the skills to do something like that so I’ll put my creative energies and continue to do so into writing novels... Because in a way that’s what you’re doing in a novel.
AW: What about plays?
JC: I’ve got an idea for a play. I don’t know, maybe! I’ve got a few books to write first. I think what I really like about writing books, having worked in advertising all my life is the novelist controls the novel, nobody comes in and re-interprets it, the reader does. But it’s a direct conversation between the author and the reader. Whereas when you direct a play, there are actors and all sorts of things between you and the audience and it’s the same with writing them. As with advertising as a writer you really don’t have a lot of control, it all gets moved away, and I think that’s what makes writing a novel so dreamy for an old copywriter is that it’s Me and the Reader, and I love that.
AW: You’ve said that you despise the word Aspire…
JC: I hate it.
AW: Does it make you laugh that people aspire to follow in your footsteps?
JC: (laughs) Oh, yes! (laughs) And I think; No, no, follow in your own, that’s all I ever I did. It’s really very lovely and quite surprising and I really appreciate some of the wonderful things people say to me, it’s really nice. Though I do think everyone should follow their own footsteps- Sometimes people come say “Can I have a coffee and pick your brain about ‘I wanna change my life’” and I ask “What is your plan?” - “I never had a plan”…
JC: I just talked about what I believed in and used my skills as best I could to promote the things I thought were important and needed someone getting in behind them and lo and behold, it kind of worked. It may not have worked terribly well for the causes yet but it kind of worked in getting attention. So my view is always to follow your own starter, don’t aspire to be anything other than who you are.
AW: Awesome advice, What fictional role-models would you say are great for present day Women and Children.
JC: What a wonderful opportunity to plug my book about Queen Elizabeth the First.
AW: She’s not fictional!
JC: No, no, she’s not a fictional character but I’ve made her into one, because it’s written in her voice. Talking about her life and her experiences, how she survived and all of that so it qualifies… Also I’ve never met the woman she’s been dead for 500 years. So I’d say that ‘s one, but there’s so many fictional characters that women and girls can really relate to. Simple ones like ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and Jo in ‘Little Women’ and I’ve always loved Mary Lennox in ‘the
She’s sour faced and stamps her feet and I’ve always loved kids like that.
She’s not perfect- ‘Jane Eyre’, always just wonderful, Maggie Tulliver from
‘the Mill on the Floss’, just so many women girls that are strong, feisty but
vulnerable and not perfect. Secret Garden
AW: How about modern day fictional role models?
JC: (thinks… for a while) … (and some more) See, I don’t really read books in that same way any more so there’s none that really stick out in my mind… Uh, any in particular I think… In a novel… No, I’m stuck on that one… I don’t really look at characters as role models any more just as interesting characters.
AW: How about Hermione Granger?
JC: Nyeh, I’m not really into the Harry Potters, it’s Ok…
AW: (looks at himself) I’m obsessed.
JC: Hermione’s ok, but she’s a bit of a smarty pants… And Emma Watson can’t act… She’s a bit wooden. I’m sure she can now she’s grown up but it was just a bit… Oh she’s smarter than the boys but she’s still not the hero, I get a bit bored of that, marketing, it’s all marketing. She (JK Rowling) did it because if you’ve got a female hero, boys won’t buy the book.
AW: I guess that’s the same as the circumstance with Joanne Rowling’s initials.
JC: Exactly, so the whole thing annoys me really.
AW: Is there any fictional characters/real people that you personally relate to?
JC: Well there’s plenty of characters and people that I relate to and I feel that I understand, not comparing myself to them, that they inspire me; Florence Nightingale, who has been utterly trivialized but was in fact just an extraordinary powerhouse, and revolutionized sanitation which nobody really knows about but that’s what she did… Mary Wollstonecraft, obviously, and Mary Shelley, her daughter. (thinks) Oh, Hilary Clinton who I’ve always admired. Ever since she came out in the early days and said about Bill Clinton, when she said; “Well I’m no Tammy Wynette” who stands by her man. Mind you she ended up, that she was, but I just loved it when she said that, was just feisty and fierce, uncompromising thing to say.
AW: What other projects have you got in the works?
JC: Well, I’m just finishing a book written with three other authors which is called ‘For God’s Sake’; an Atheist -that’s me, a Christian, a Muslim and Jew battle it out. And we’ll be looking at different philosophical perspectives from our own world view and discussing with one another why we see it the way we see it. That’ll be out next year through Pan MacMillan. Then I’ve got a contract to write a sequel to ‘Just A Girl’, called Just A Queen. Which will be
Elizabeth I and the day
she found out she was the head of Mary Queen of Scots, and she has a kind of
walking nervous breakdown which is historically accurate. And it’s looking back
on how she ended up doing the things she said she’d never do.
AW: There’s not yet an audio book version of Just A Girl, who would be your ultimate three choices to read the audio versions?
JC: I’ll start with myself, for the frustrated actor in me- I think I’d do a good job; otherwise Cate Blanchett, obviously, but for a young – it would be nice to get a young person, a 25 year old to do it… Mia Wasikowska.
AW: Would you want to write the screenplay for JAG if it ever happens?
JC: I would love for that to happen.
AW: Let’s put it out in the universe.
JC: There’s been so many movies of
so it’s pretty unlikely. I would love to write it, happily, having written so
many commercials I’m ballsy enough to think I can do it myself.
AW: Awesome, go for it! As an out-spoken Atheist, if you could create a holiday for the Christmas period, how would it be?
JC: Well, it would involve copious amounts of food and alcohol and Men would do all the work.
AW: Hey! One last question; What would your drag name be?
JC: What would my drag name be? I don’t know! My daughter has a friend who’s a drag queen; Kitty Litter… (thinks about it) Lucy Girdle.
AW: Perfect. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me today.
JC: My pleasure, thanks!
(I know that it was all mine- AW)
You can find Jane's books at Amazon.com HERE
Jane herself can be found on Twitter HERE
Interviewed by Aaron Ware.