Lisa’s fiery clash over nude photos
Lisa Wilkinson opened up about a tense encounter with late media giant Kerry Packer during the latest episode of Anh's Brush With Fame.
During a candid interview and portrait sitting, Project star Wilkinson spoke to host Anh Do about her upbringing, the death of her beloved father and her prolific media career to date.
One make-or-break moment came when she took over as editor of Cleo magazine at the age of just 25 - and "followed her instincts" to get rid of the mag's long-running nude centrefolds, a move she hadn't cleared with the magazine's famously hot-tempered owner Packer.
"I announced it on Ray Martin's Midday show, on the day of my first issue going on sale. I thought Kerry was still overseas," she recalled of the bold move.
Off-air and back in the green room, a producer approached Wilkinson holding a phone and looking ashen. Kerry Packer was on the line.
She said, 'He's never called the green room before.' I just thought, 'Oh. I think this is going to be OK …'
"I breezily grab the phone and said 'Hi Kerry!' He said 'What the [blank] are you doing to my magazine? I'm back. I just saw you on the Midday show. What the [blank] are you doing to my magazine?"
Wilkinson said she knew she'd only have "one crack" at making her vision for the magazine work.
"If I'm not strong in my belief that this is the right thing for the magazine, and that I'm not going to falter on this … So I put on my big girl pants and I said, 'Kerry. Anyone who thinks that this magazine needs to languish in the '70s any longer shouldn't be working in magazines. The centrefold has got to go. It's a very strong statement, and if you have a problem with it, I'll come and see you right now," she recalled.
"I thought, I'm either about to be sacked, or he's going to figure I know what I'm talking about. He said to me: 'Well you'd better know what you're effing doing,' and hung up on me."
Wilkinson said the warning from Packer was "pressure I'd never felt before … but I was so strong in my belief that it was time for it to go. I heard from Ita not long afterwards and she said, 'Thank heavens someone's had the courage to get rid of the centrefold.'
The biggest vindication? A centrefold-free Cleo became an even bigger success than before.
"In the 10 years we were there we became the number one women's lifestyle mag per capita in the world. We just moved it forward - you've gotta keep moving!"
Originally published as Lisa's fiery clash over nude photos