EXCLUSIVE: Meet Molly Meldrum’s secret former fiancé Joy Antonie

"I truly loved him."
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Music guru Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum was visibly moved meeting his ex-fiancée’s daughter for the very first time. Cuddling up to both women at a crowded gig, Australia’s favourite mumbler was almost lost for words.

“It was such a lovely moment,” Joy Antonie tells New Idea.

The Melbourne-based designer and tattoo artist was engaged to the Countdown host for two crazy, tender years in the early 1980s.

WATCH NOW: Molly Meldrum makes a comeback after his stay in hospital. Article continues after video.

“Ian just looked at my daughter Maggie and said, ‘You could have been mine!’ That was awesome. Her sister Bella was a little bit jealous,” Joy recalls.

Joy is speaking tous at her Cheltenham tattoo studio, Joy of Ink. Taking pride of place in the colourful parlour is a portrait Joy once painted of Molly, which by mysterious coincidence has just been returned to her on loan.

“I wanted to give it to Ian while we were still together but ended up donating it to charity almost 40 years ago,” Joy explains. “It’s so cool to see it again. What is the universe trying to do here?”

In 1985, Molly took Joy on a romantic trip to his favourite place on earth, Egypt… (Credit: New Idea)

It’s clear Joy still cares very deeply for Molly.

“I think when you’ve had a love with someone, there’s always love there,” the glamorous 62-year-old tells us. “That’s my perspective on relationships. There’s always a little bit of love there.”

Joy worried terribly when Molly almost killed himself tumbling three metres from a ladder in December 2011 – and remains concerned for his welfare today.

“I think he’s still got the mind of a 25-year-old, but his body’s not quite there anymore,” she says, sighing. “At 80, he really needs to look after himself, that’s for sure.”

But not long after they called off their engagement. (Credit: New Idea)

Joy first met Molly at one of his legendary parties. She lived down the street from him in inner-city Richmond, and recalls him being “the sweetest, most generous and gentlemanly boyfriend” she ever had.

“Highly intelligent but mad, you know, eccentric. Ian – I never called him Molly because that was his public persona – was hysterically funny, always up for a laugh.”

“He would have been about 40 when we were dating, he was 17 or 18 years older than me, but he’s always been a big kid.”

Joy with her daughters – who Molly once joked could have been his! (Credit: New Idea)

“Remember, I was only 23 and at that age you don’t want to be with some boring businessman!”

“It was pretty funny because I grew up in a very strict household and was never allowed to watch Countdown, that was taboo. So I was quite gleeful when Ian asked me out, because it was giving my stepfather the bird, well and truly.”

Molly showered Joy with gifts and dedicated a Stevie Wonder song to her on national TV. But even then, there were questions about his sexuality.

“Basically, Ian assured me that he loves people and that whoever he’s in love with at the time, be they male or female, then that’s the person he wants to be with. That’s how it was explained to me,” she says.

‘Molly said to my daughter, “You could have been mine!”’ (Credit: New Idea)

After a year together they got engaged, in a madcap Molly kind of way.

“He never actually proposed and there was never a ring,” Joy admits. “But he would say, ‘Joy, when we get married we will do this or that, or go there,’ and I just happily went along with it.”

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Eventually, however, they drifted apart. Holidaying together in Egypt, their roads started to diverge. Not long afterwards, Joy set out on a long-planned backpacking trip with a girlfriend, living in London for two years.

Joy Antonie doesn’t regret not becoming Mrs Meldrum. (Credit: New Idea)

“I really needed to get out and do my own thing, discover my own identity,” she says. “When you’re with somebody famous, you can just be put under the umbrella of that person, you know.”

“We stayed in touch and it was extremely amicable. I think our relationship was something really special.”

“I truly loved him.”

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