CELEBRITY

EXCLUSIVE: Molly Meldrum ‘I’m thankful to be alive’

A decade on from his near-fatal fall, the Aussie icon reflects on life lessons he’s learnt
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Entering Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum’s home, the first thing you notice is the wealth of Egyptian memorabilia – towering mummy cases jostle for space with gaudy, golden images of King Tut.

A self-confessed “Egypt nut”, Molly’s Egyptian-themed house, called ‘Luxor’, in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond, is a personal shrine to his lifelong love affair with the country and its history.

Watch: Molly Meldrum makes a comeback after his stay in hospital

It’s a passion that extends to his backyard, where a 10-metre pool is flanked by more statues harking back to ancient Egypt. It’s chaotic, colourful and camp. In short, it’s classic Molly.

“There’s always something going on at the house,” the Aussie showbiz legend tells New Idea as we set up for our shoot – his signature Stetson hat firmly in place and faithful white dog, Ziggy, by his side.

“I have an open-door policy. I love hosting parties and spending time with family and friends. It’s always lovely to have the house filled with people and music.”

As much as Luxor is packed to the rafters with happy, cherished memories, it also holds some painful ones. Most notably, it was here that Molly fell three metres from a ladder in December 2011 while putting up Christmas lights on his roof. He suffered a fractured skull, swelling to the brain, a broken shoulder and ribs, and cracked vertebrae.

Molly Meldrum
Entering Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum’s home, the first thing you notice is the wealth of Egyptian memorabilia – towering mummy cases jostle for space with gaudy, golden images of King Tut. (Credit: New Idea)

Left fighting for his life in intensive care, the TV veteran spent five weeks in a coma before making a miraculous recovery.

As the 10th anniversary of his fall nears, Molly says the accident shifted how he lived his life and made him realise that he wasn’t “bulletproof”.

“You realise that life is short,” he says, frankly. “I was very lucky that I had many wonderful people caring for me at the time of the accident and afterwards, which was a real godsend. I also learnt a lot from the patients in the hospital. Hearing their stories, the hardships they’ve had to go through … it was humbling.”

While Molly has long held national-treasure status, the extent of Australia’s love for the music mogul was truly revealed after his accident.

“I was overwhelmed by the public support,” the Countdown host remembers.

Molly Meldrum
As the 10th anniversary of his fall nears, Molly says the accident shifted how he lived his life and made him realise that he wasn’t “bulletproof”. (Credit: New Idea)

“My goodness, the mail I received – the thousands of beautiful cards … it was very touching for me and so inspiring. It definitely helped in my recovery.”

However, the mantle of celebrity isn’t one Molly wears easily or lightly.

“I get so embarrassed about that,” he says. “I’m not really comfortable with the word, ‘famous’. Believe it or not, I’m really a shy person!”

Everyone has their own COVID-19 war wounds to share and, for staunch Melburnian Molly, the city’s succession of hard lockdowns was trying. Yet, regular phone chats helped him through it.

“Without those friends, it would have been very hard. I’m lucky that I’ve had great friends that have stuck by me my entire life – and have had to put up with all my bulls–t! They’ve been amazing. Plus, my dog, Ziggy, has offered me great comfort.”

Molly Meldrum
However, the mantle of celebrity isn’t one Molly wears easily or lightly. “I get so embarrassed about that,” he says. (Credit: New Idea)

Given his previous health woes and age, you might assume that Molly would be concerned with the potential implications of COVID-19, but he says he hasn’t been overly worried.

“I felt safe at home, and now I’ve had my first jab. I’m fine, very well and in good health.”

Indeed, Molly is focusing on his health more than ever before. Case in point: he’s off the booze and feeling proud.

“I’m up to my fourth week of no alcohol whatsoever! No champagne, no vodka, no beer … nothing! I feel healthy. I’m definitely sick of the hangovers, but I just thought I had to do it. Sometimes it’s good to take a break from having a drink for general wellbeing and good health. I am getting older and am determined to look after my health as best as I can.”

While his health hasn’t been impacted by COVID-19, Molly’s love life has certainly suffered. Due to ongoing closed borders, Molly has been apart from his partner, Yan Wongngam – who runs a courier business in Thailand – for more than a year.

“It has been very hard,” Molly admits. “We’ve been together for 30 or so years. I have a lot of other friends and family in Thailand, too – it’s my second home. As soon as the borders open and we can travel, we’ll be together.”

Molly Meldrum
While his health hasn’t been impacted by COVID-19, Molly’s love life has certainly suffered. (Credit: New Idea)

Our talk turns reflective as we discuss Molly’s heady days as the host of Countdown – a small-screen sensation that became one of the most-loved and most-watched programs on Australian television during its 13-year run. The show is set to hit its 50th anniversary in 2024. Despite the highlights, Molly doesn’t live in his past.

“I tend to live for the present,” he says. “Yes, they were great times and sometimes I really did push the envelope. But times have changed, the world’s changed and I look forward to the future. These days, life is slower and a little more predictable, and I’m not as agile as I used to be, but I still have my passion for music.”

Speaking of big milestones, at the age of 78, Molly is very aware a milestone birthday is approaching.

“I’m not a fan of birthdays!” the TV star says, chuckling. “I don’t like being the centre of attention – I tend to shy away from it. I have no plans at the moment for my 80th, but I suspect some of my close friends will cook up some typeof celebration.”

While Molly acknowledges that he’s “comfortable” with the ageing process, there is one con: “Losing too many friends” – including fellow music industry giant, Michael Gudinski, who died in March.

“Michael was like my brother,” he says of his mate of more than 50 years.“Losing him really threw me. It has taken some time to realise that Michael is no longer here. I’ve had a really hard time getting through that.”

It was with Michael that Molly had been working on a brand-new music label 
– a label that is still keeping him busy professionally.

“It’s early days,” he says. “But I’m very excited. We’re working with amazing artists – one girl is only 12 and she’s amazing. And my grandson, Jason, is playing piano and violin on some stuff, too.

“Music keeps me going, I’ll never stop being passionate about the music industry. It’s still exciting and always has been.”

When it comes to his legacy, a characteristically down-to-earth Molly wants to keep it simple: “It may sound boring, but just to be remembered as a nice guy – that’s the most important thing for me.”

Read more in this week’s New Idea, on sale now. 

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