Photos: GQ Man of the Year Awards in Sydney

Last night Hollywood action hero and former Home and Away star Chris Hemsworth was named GQ Australia’s man of the year, the grand prix of an annual gong show for the nation’s prime cuts of manhood. But what made Hemsworth an intriguing recipient was that he took the gong, as voted by the magazine’s readers, after beating Keith Urban, Hugh Jackman, Matthew Cowdrey, Michael Clarke, Guy Sebastian, and most interestingly, his kid brother Liam Hemsworth.
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Not that Liam has much time to worry, he is reportedly busy planning three weddings with his US pop star fiancee Miley Cyrus. Neither of the Hemsworths made it back for last night’s event at the Ivy, with Chris filming Thor 2 in Iceland and Liam up to his eyeballs in baby’s breath at the Cyrus ranch, leaving it to proud parents Craig and Leonie to accept their son’s trophy.

Chris has truly hit the big time since quitting Summer Bay for Hollywood and landing the blockbuster Thor films, which saw him grow his hair out, bleach it blond and develop the sort of pectorals that would do Dolly Parton proud (and Melissa George thinks she has problems).

In Thor his nemesis is his brother, Loki, a fraught fraternal relationship of which Chris recently told the British press: ”But it was different than your normal good guy, bad guy scenario. They’re brothers, you know? Anyone with siblings understands that. ‘That’s it, I’m never talking to you again … want to play football?’ ”

Meanwhile, it wasn’t all about the Hemsworths last night. GQ anointed a few other deserving chaps, including Cowdrey, who was named sportsman of the year. Emerging actor Callan McAuliffe was ”breakthrough” of the year, Hamish MacDonald was named media personality of the year, Richard Roxburgh was given actor of the year and Matthew Mitcham was bestowed with the curious honour of being named something called ”the social force of the year”.

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Sugar daddy, meet your sugar baby

Ulterior motive … Emmanuelle Beart plays an escort in film, ‘Nathalie’.Meet Ashley*. She’s “tall, sweet, smart, caring and non-judgmental”, lives in Sydney and is 24-years-old. She’s also in the market for a new car and breast implants – and is not alone in going to some lengths to get them.
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The ‘sugar baby’ joined Seeking Arrangement 6 months ago after hearing that a friend was having her rent paid by an older man. Nervous to sign up to the “Number One Sugar Daddy Dating Site” at first, the ex-retail manager was also pragmatic. “I wanted a car and breast implants,” she says.

She is one of a growing number of girls who hook their hopes on meeting an older man who will take care of them in a “mutually beneficial relationship.” But, what it considered  “mutually beneficial” by many is not exactly what romantic dreams are made of.

For $300 a pop, Ashley provides “favours” for the men she meets – aged up to their mid-70s.

“You’d expect the guys to be businessmen – clean-cut professionals,” she says. “But, they’re not. They’re overweight, slobby, fat men and a lot older [than I expected]. I’ve been on a few sites – they’re all the same and all just after the same thing. They all say ‘my wife doesn’t give me affection.’ They’re not desirable, so I act like I’m interested in them.”

Despite her feigned interest she has not yet found anyone who will “invest” in her chest. But, she did get a car out of one “arrangement”. It was only second hand, but given she couldn’t afford a car, let alone the registration, “it was a dream come true.”

Ashley is open about her pursuit of material gain – but she was also open to finding something more. “I fell for one guy,” she says. “He ended up in jail – that paints a picture of the sort of guys [on there].”

“I’ve been on worse dates [outside the site], ended up paying for the whole thing and woken up with only a hangover [to show for it]. It’s better to wake up with a hangover and some money,” she says. Plus “some of the guys want more of a girlfriend experience. I make it interesting. It’s not just getting into bed.”

As resigned and hardened as she may seem, the young woman is not impervious to the emotional impact of the ‘arrangements’. “I was so shocked,” she says, her voice shaking. “I had a sheltered childhood and thought I’d be getting married. I’m anti-relationships after what I’ve discovered. I’ve pretty much lost all hope in having a marriage.”

And the more experiences she has of this sort, the more her fears are affirmed. With roughly 40 per cent of subscribers to Seeking Arrangement married men, her fears aren’t unfounded.

It’s not quite the vision CEO and so-called ‘e-pimp’, Brandon Wade had in mind when he started the company in the US in 2006.

A shy software engineer who didn’t have his first kiss until he was 21, Wade says he was never the type to go to a nightclub to pick up. So, in response to his own dating struggles and in search of love, he started the social site, which now has an annual turnover of over $10 million.

“My mother said if you study hard and are successful, you can use generosity as a way to turn the dating game around for you,” the affable 42-year-old explains.

He has since started the site in Canada and, earlier this year, in the UK and Australia. In Australia alone, it has up to 100,000 users and roughly one sugar daddy to every eight sugar babes, Wade says.

While Wade, who married his 26-year-old employee, Tanya, earlier this year, questions why married men might use his site, he asks, “who am I to make moral judgements?” Besides, he points out, “the truth is they’re on regular dating websites too.”

Aside from questions about married men, Wade is well versed in answering other questions of moral judgement, such as whether the site simply facilitates prostitution.

“It’s a pragmatic way of dating,” he says. “There is a negative association with the sugar daddy stereotype. But, if you ask [a woman] are you willing to date a guy who is successful and willing to pamper you the answer is usually ‘yes, why not?'”

As well as this, the “arrangements tend to be much longer-term,” he says. “Escorts have no choice as to who their client is and [on Seeking Arrangement] there has to be chemistry involved.”

Ashley agrees that she has choice about who she sees. In fact, that independence is part of the appeal. “I would do it with an escort agency, but you have to be involved with a third party, you’re under management,” she says.

Wade is adamant that her experience is not typical of the site and that people get back what they seek. “If her goal is to go into it and get a quick buck – she’ll find that kind of guy.”

For his part, he still believes in love and is unfazed about money changing hands.

“People have different languages of love and giving is an important component of any relationship,” he says. “The man is willing to pamper and spoil [the sugar baby] within the context of the relationship.

“Dating in our society today is a very superficial thing… It used to be about whether you were a good hunter, now it’s how big of a wallet you have. Love comes later – after getting to know them and having a deeper knowledge about them.”

But, a survey of 1000 of Seeking Arrangement’s male subscribers found 55 per cent of the polled men joined because they were interested in having sex.

It looks like love – for most – may come a lot later.

“I’m not going to sugar-coat it,” he says. “A survey like this gives us a good idea of who our customers are and what’s important to them.”

Not that the results may surprise Ashley, of course.

Promiscuous cities

To gain insight into their users sexual habits, Seeking Arrangement recently conducted a survey of 1000 male subscribers from around Australia. The respondents were aged between 32 and 59, all earning (according to them) over $250,000 a year.

Perth topped the list of promiscuity with 79 per cent of respondents having seven or more partners annually. Melbourne came a close second at 76 per cent, followed by Sydney at 74 per cent.

You’d be forgiven for not guessing the city with the lowest rate of promiscuity among wealthy men. Based on all the figurative and literal political bed hopping, it seems unlikely, but 84 per cent of the Canberra contingent claim to have less than three sexual partners per year. This is followed by Adelaide at 81 per cent and Hobart at 79 per cent.

*Not her real name.

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Clouds could get in way of Cairns’ solar extravaganza

Smithfield State High School students Annie Vestergaard and David Migdale with a Solarscope their school will use to view the eclipse.THE city of Cairns has been preparing for today’s total solar eclipse for three years.
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Close to 60,000 tourists, scientists and amateur astronomers – including travellers from Japan, Germany and the United States – have all but booked out the city’s hotels, hire cars and beachside vantage points.

But there is no guarantee eclipse enthusiasts will witness the moon’s disc swallow the sun this morning – a few pesky clouds may ruin the big moment.

As of 4.30pm Tuesday, the Bureau of Meteorology’s Cairns forecast predicted ”light showers [and] cloudy periods about the coast” for this morning.

Patches of fluffy cloud, typical during the onset of the region’s wet season, teased eclipse watchers all day Tuesday and created a nuisance for astronomers setting up their telescopes.

Brisbane amateur astronomer Jonathan Bradshaw was prepared to stay up through the night to ensure his equipment, which will live-stream the celestial dance to the world, was ready.

”For our set-up to be really good for tomorrow we need to get it accurately aligned. We can’t do it because there is no sun today so hopefully tonight we’re going to finish the job off with the stars,” he said.

A fellow eclipse lover, or umbraphile, Terry Cuttle, was hopeful the clouds would part for his 12th total solar eclipse. ”Terry’s an eclipse-chasing legend,” Mr Bradshaw said.

Local high school student Annie Vestergaard, 13, and her parents will wake at 5am today to make their way to a nearby beach for the eclipse. If cloud obscures her view it will be disappointing, ”but I’ll still get to experience it going dark”, she said.

Ms Vestergaard and peers at Smithfield State High School built home-made pinhole cameras from long cardboard cylinders to watch the moon block the sun.

From a clear sky, a total solar eclipse will be visible between Innisfail and Port Douglas after sunrise. Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane will experience a partial eclipse.

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Looking ‘near death’: Hathaway reveals drastic diet for Les Miserables

Physical deprivation: Anne Hathaway as Fantine in Les Miserables. Physical deprivation: Anne Hathaway as Fantine in Les Miserables.
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Hollywood starlet Anne Hathaway credits a strict diet of dried oatmeal paste for helping her shed some 11 kilograms for her role in the forthcoming big screen musical Les Miserables.

“I had to be obsessive about it – the idea was to look near death,” Hathaway told Vogue about preparing for her role as the consumptive prostitute Fantine in the musical version of Victor Hugo’s classic 19th century French novel.

Hathaway, 30, told the December edition of the magazine, that she first lost five kilograms to begin filming and then later dropped another seven kilograms by eating nothing but two thin pieces of oatmeal paste a day.

“Looking back on the whole experience – and I don’t judge it in any way – it was definitely a little nuts,” said The Dark Knight Rises actress.

“It was definitely a break with reality, but I think that’s who Fantine is anyway.”

Extreme body changes have become part of Hollywood lore, even factoring into the marketing of films. Natalie Portman received much publicity for dropping some nine kilograms for her Oscar-winning role as a ballerina in 2010’s Black Swan.

Jennifer Lawrence, who plays the famished star of the life-or-death thriller The Hunger Games, made waves last week vowing never to diet for a role.

Hathaway said it was a rocky transition back into everyday life after filming.

“I was in such a state of deprivation – physical and emotional,” she said.

“When I got home, I couldn’t react to the chaos of the world without being overwhelmed. It took me weeks till I felt like myself again.”

Directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), Les Miserables is scheduled to be released on Boxing Day in Australia and is seen as a strong contender for Oscar nominations.

The film version of the stage musical also stars Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe.


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Wallabies bet on Barnes to spark attack

Berrick Barnes will be key to sparking the Wallabies attack when he is named in the starting line up to take on England at Twickenham this weekend.
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Barnes ran at fullback during Australia’s first full training session in London on Tuesday and appears to be coach Robbie Deans’s preferred option over Mike Harris for Saturday’s Test match.

The hope is his presence on the pitch and connection with five-eighth Kurtley Beale and centre Pat McCabe will help the Wallabies attack click into gear after a stilted showing against France.

There is less certainty about Digby Ioane, who declared himself fit to start but ran in opposition for the majority of training, with Nick Cummins continuing on the wing with Adam Ashley-Cooper.

The pair swapped over towards the end of the session and Ioane spent extra time practising under the high ball and chasing grubber kicks before finishing in deep conversation with Deans.

Ben Alexander appears to be in line for the starting tight head position in the front row after recovering from a wrist injury, sending Sekope Kepu back to the bench alongside James Slipper. Loose head Benn Robinson pulled out of training early after appearing to hurt his knee, but

it’s believed he’s not in danger of missing the match.

Imposing lock Sitaleki Timani also ran with the team and appears to be in line to regain the starting second row spot beside Wallabies captain Nathan Sharpe, while flanker Michael Hooper has been assured of starting in the absence of David Pocock, who is nursing a calf strain.

The make up of the rest of the back row and bench is in limbo after the loss of lock Kane Douglas to a knee complaint and Rob Simmons’s upcoming appearance before the citing commissioner for a lifting tackle on France flanker Yannick Nyanga.

Simmons’s case will be heard via video conference very early on Thursday morning, Australian eastern time.

Likely team: Berrick Barnes, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Ben Tapuai, Pat McCabe, Nick Cummins/Digby Ioane, Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis, Nathan Sharpe (c), Sitaleki Timani, Ben Alexander, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson.

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