Early each year the National Archives in Canberra releases Cabinet papers from past governments. In accord with provisions of Cabinet confidentiality, this is done only after a designated amount of time has passed. Last January, for example, records from the Hawke Cabinet of 1988–89 were made public. In the same spirit of disclosure, it is time to reveal some secrets about our annual Big Quiz, the latest of which appears in this edition. It began, as do so many things, with an accident. In July 2011 the planned cover story – I have forgotten what it was going to be – fell through. This left us with a hole in the body of the magazine and nothing on the cover. Not a good situation to confront with a deadline looming. So we came up with the idea of a quiz, with all questions drawn from magazines published that year. Giving a clear and deserved advantage to regular readers of The Big Issue. On the cover we had Elle Macpherson. Why? Because a vendor once suggested her as an ideal subject. He also made a case for Pamela Anderson, which made me think he knew what he liked when it came to covers. (Pammy, incidentally, is still waiting for her day in the sun.) Anyway, that first quiz edition – born out of a measure of desperation – proved to be popular with both readers and vendors. Last year, we unashamedly hitched our wagon to the Game of Thrones juggernaut, with actor Peter Dinklage on the cover and, inside, an illustration depicting Lorde seated on the GOT throne of swords. I guess you really had to see it…
The figurehead for our latest quiz is the Australian-born actor, writer and comedian Rebel Wilson. Question: Why? Answer: Because she’s talented, topical and (again, in the interest of candour) a welcome change of gender after Messrs Bowie and Schwarzenegger and a dinosaur or two. Our accompanying story (see p14), by Big Issue stalwart Clem Bastow, reflects upon Wilson’s achievements partly in the context of an extraordinary statement made recently by Michael Eisner, a former CEO of the Disney corporation: “The hardest artist to find is a beautiful, funny woman.” Perhaps he is unfamiliar with the work of Kristen Wiig, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Wilson herself and many other funny women. Or Amy Schumer, whom we also feature in this edition (p32). So… Question: Should Eisner have been considered as an alternative to T-Rex for our dinosaur cover of Ed#486? Answer: Definitely.
Clem’s story also touches on a rather silly storm-on-a-screen centring on Rebel’s age. Question: How old is Rebel Wilson? Answer: Probably a little older than she might have suggested. Supplementary Question I: Does this matter? Answer: No. Supplementary Question II: Is someone in showbiz fudging their age a less serious issue than, say, senior politicians regularly serving up misleading and/or carefully calibrated responses to every enquiry? Answer: Absolutely. This is showbiz. Rebel Wilson is not even her real name – just as Cary Grant was first Archibald Leach and Tony Curtis was Bernie Schwartz. The original Funny Girl, the star of the 1968 movie of that name, is an intriguing case study. Question: Is Barbra Streisand her real name? Answer: Not quite. She was ‘Barbara’ before becoming ‘Barbra’. Question: What happened to that missing ‘a’? Answer: I don’t know. (Perhaps it was a space-saving measure, or an ‘a’ was donated to Alan Arkin, who needed several. Or Aaron Sorkin.)
Looking ahead – to mid-August – here’s one last question. What is the significance of the number 403? Answer: That’s how many submissions we received for our annual fiction edition. The best of these, plus a handful of stories from some well-known authors, will be showcased in Ed#491. You don’t even have to wait for the National Archives to release them.
Alan Attwood, Editor
This article first appeared in Ed#489 of The Big Issue.