Chaos, magic and flying phones in Breakfast TV Land

I have just concluded five years inside the bewildering world of breakfast television, a place where secrets are held tight, where inhibitions are lost, reputations are built and an astounding amount of work is drawn from a group of extremely talented people.

I’m the first person to say that this blog is just a way to process my experiences. It’s not seeking to blow the lid on some outrageous work culture. (That’s not to say that the Sunrise lifestyle isn’t outrageous. It is mildly insane. And if it weren’t so ridiculous in both its personalities and pace, it’s unlikely I would’ve stayed for five years – twice as long as I’ve spent in any previous job).

Inside the Sunrise bubble, you’ve got to like the frantic pace. In fact, you’d better fall for it and wish your weekends had the same wham-bam. Otherwise, your nay-saying and drawn looks will soon stand out like a typo in a headline.

Each day at Sunrise starts as soon as the show finishes. For me, the production meetings (a half hour conference call) were the most hilarious part of my day. Whether I was running for the train or doing ablutions in my pyjamas, I never missed one.  The jokes come fast, the wit is often as crude as it is sharp, and somewhere in between people are pitching ideas and a show takes shape. Staff in the office already could attend the meeting in person, and they’d often leave the room crying with laughter. How many jobs can start you off on that note each day?

For most staff, the hours are long. For me, the hours were also flexible, allowing me to work around the clock and my family which worked well to help the show lead in the social media sphere.

Working at Sunrise bled into my regular life in other ways. At least once a week I had the question ‘What are Kochie and Mel really like?’ It came up on Facebook, at cafes, at dinner parties, even at the doctor’s. Unfortunately for this blog, the truth is that they are just like on TV. Mel is really into family. Kochie is really into finance. Both are professional and efficient. Last time I saw them, Mel asked about my kids and Kochie said, “Do you realise ten per cent of household electricity bills are due to appliances left on standby? Ten per cent!”

The personalities of those behind the camera are a little more extreme. Imagine the most extroverted person you went to school with, and combine them with the most creative and driven manager you have had in your career and you are approaching the kind of person it takes to deliver three hours of live television every day.

(As a quick sidenote.. few people seem to understand the importance of this — Sunrise represents about a quarter of the television programming for each day (that is, inside waking hours). So it’s worth a huge amount, it’s taken very seriously at some upper executive level and it takes an enormous amount of effort to get right.)

I believe that part of the reason the show works is because people there care greatly about the minutiae. You may have noticed the length of segments but have you considered the size or speed of the ticker scrolling along the screen, the length of banter between segments, or the order of the cities cycling through the weather on the screen. (I once received about ten complaints via Twitter when these cities got out of order, proving some viewers do notice.)

Producers are trained to think about even the smallest things. What’s in the background behind your talent? What headline works best if someone has the TV turned down? Someone is thinking about the number of seconds any sponsor’s logo appears. Other conversations revolve around the suitability of guests to hosts, couches vs. desks, whether we throw to the break with a tease, banter, a chat or just go straight to the break?

Producers consider such points for every show. Then you watch it play out… and… it’s seamless. If it’s not, producers all definitely hear about it – but only briefly. There’s no time to dwell.

If you’re not in TV land and you don’t care for any of the breakfast TV presenters, I still suggest you watch it one day and ponder how, less than 24 hours earlier, the program may have had no rundown, no script, and, perhaps not even a single interviewee lined up. It should not be possible.

recent video I made on my iPhone made light of the difference between the new HBO drama The Newsroom and the production team of Sunrise. This video was obviously in-jest and the silent shots of the Sunrise team at work belie the times it can turn furious. The banter is less witty and it takes place more often on email, which, I suppose, wouldn’t make a great show about a show.

As in most TV units, some days are quiet while some are frantic – and it’s these ones which can turn rather silly. People swear a lot and make obscene jokes but no one gets offended. Again ,there’s simply no time.

The way to cope with such pressure in breakfast TV is to let loose – have a good yell, burn off stress being a gym junkie or binge on junk food (this was usually me), break into a public song or dance (usually the management), or dress up as a cow… that sort of thing.

There was one time former EP Adam Boland threw his Blackberry across his small office during a production meeting. It wasn’t intentional, as I recall, but the mistake became suddenly more serious when the phone flew out a small gap between the glass wall and ceiling then descended down a level, landing among the 7 News desks. (“Damn! Missed!”, someone said.)

The response of Sunrise producers, typically, was bellows of laughter.

It is as if a mild eccentricity filters down to the troops, perhaps from the VERY top. Sure, you’re spending heaps of money chasing great TV and super ratings, but shouldn’t working inside the magic of TV be enjoyable?

Even when it’s stressful, it’s still thrilling.

(L-R) Mel, Justin, David.

When police canceled Justin Bieber’s concert in 2010 due to safety concerns, Adam called me at 4 in the morning.

He was completely calm as he told me to tweet the thousands of crazed and crying teenage girls that there would be no concert.

There was no suggestion of a back-up plan. This was the wildest moment in my time at Sunrise. Twitter, teenage obsession and a frustrated hormonal climax came together in a genuine social media storm, and all before the actual sunrise.

The emotion soon turned very real as literally thousands of girls marched aggressively toward the Sunrise studio where the glass is thick … but only so thick.

Adam then pulled a Bieber-sized rabbit out of his hat to salvage the PR disaster, somehow ushering the star safely into the studio where he performed behind the glass.

I will never know if it was always plan B but at 4am, then again at 6am, there was still no mention of a plan B, not even to staff. Yet, by 9am, the months of planning, enormous build up and costs had completely paid off.

We felt like heroes.

And it wasn’t just that 5,000 screaming girls were going home happy. Professionalism, with just enough secrecy, had carried the show, the day.

This must be how Sunrise stays on top year after year. I’m not entirely sure. I guess I wasn’t there long enough to find out all the secrets.

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Go on, invade my privacy. I give up protecting it.

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I have a confused approach to personal security online. I have never used my real name as my Facebook or Twitter handle. Yet, here I am updating a blog, I post photos daily on instagram and my employment details are searchable on Linked In etc..

I tend to think we can’t really win against the data-hungry technology that we need to use if we want to stay connected to others in the this age.

We all keep some things closer than others but it’s ultimately not up to us if some pieces of personal info get out.

I will conceal my children’s identity (there you go, apparently I have kids) but when they start to sign up for things themselves – hopefully not until they are teenagers – I am certain their online ‘privacy’ will all but disappear.

Anonymity is over.

As I drove around Sydney’s inner west this last week, doing what I regularly do, just taking photos of the best and most typical architecture for a Facebook album I keep, I came across a home that I really wanted to know more about. It’s mudbrick, largely concealed from the street, and, from what I have learned from books, from watching Grand Designs, and from living in the Blue Mountains, I could tell it was designed with passive solar principles.

So I googled the address and within two clicks I had found the name of the homeowner and his wife. Plus, I recognised the name from a local shopfront and so I also knew his profession.

(He had attended a local council meeting some years ago and those who spoke were listed in the meeting minutes, which in turn where uploaded to the council website. I’ll bet the council didn’t check that with anyone.)

My inquisitiveness may seem a little extreme.

I guess I have developed quite a fascination for homes and developments that are not just appropriate to their surroundings but actually enhance their communities, the kind of structures that are provocative, thoughtful or advanced and do the trailblazing for districts full of the tired sixties and seventies pragmatism that defines much of Sydney.

I am one of those people who read the small DA notices attached to buildings that are about to undergo some change. And, coincidentally, I read one recently that the owner of this mysterious mudbrick home was involved with.

So, thanks to one quick Google search, I knew the homeowner’s name, home, profession, his wife’s name, his business and a recent investment purchase he made.

It’s not information I can do anything with, but it will certainly make it awkward when I approach him to tell him how much I love his house.

A friend of mine has just started a new Facebook account, this time under a pseudonym as he says he was the victim of identity fraud.

That’s a frightening scenario but I wonder if there is hypocrisy in hiding your own details but benefitting when others don’t hide theirs.

If everyone had silent numbers there’d be no White Pages. Or, in modern terms, if everyone used pseudonyms there’d be no Google Plus.

In the name of fairness, I am hereby changing my Facebook name to my actual moniker.

Who knows what may come of such recklessness?

My grandfather’s hands and what they taught me

I took photos of my grandfather’s hands the last time I saw him.

I knew it might be the last time I’d see him, despite finding him in reasonably good shape for a 98-year-old recovering from pneumonia.

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The clock was ticking on the energy in his body right down to his lung strength and the nerves in his fingers. (He had just burned them on a cup of tea.)

In the 98 years prior to this day, this man’s hands had achieved a lot.

His role at family events was often as videographer. In fact, he was obsessed with filming life. He even took a very early video camera across the Himalayas. It was shoulder-mounted, so, lucky for him, the Sherpa carried it.

He enjoyed finding new tasks and interests in a way I never have. I tell people that apart from the internet, I have no hobbies. But I have become obsessive about posting everyday moments on the iPhone app Instagram.

So, I think that following my grandfather’s death, looking for moments to capture may be one way my grandpa has changed me.

During one of the final walks I took with him around his endlessly intriguing Japanese rock garden, he told me that he had started creating dioramas. They were slightly kitsch but elaborate and often complicated scenes which involved plaster, paint, cement and miniature homes and residents often engaged in a cultural activity. Some were skiing in the alps, others were Chinamen fishing or even Japanese Geishas at a tea ceremony.

I asked him why he made them.

To pass the time, he said gruffly. “What else am I going to do?”

Collage of garden

My grandfather's garden

“I’ve got to do something with my hands.”

And so he created a Mount Fuji, replete with miniature skiers, a village, a main street and a contemplation room for the locals.

I knew it to be a contemplation room – for traditional tea ceremonies – because he also created a full size one for himself in another part of the backyard.

I guess he also gardened to take up the time and to keep his fidgety hands busy.

It was his garden, with its countless bonsai plants, handcrafted waterfalls and ponds was a land of wonder for all his grandkids.

It has levels, layers, from skyscraping elm trees to crafted rock platforms and meditative corners.

The centerpiece was a red, hand-made wooden bridge over a fish pond into which a fountain cascaded from further up the yard.

We used to beg my grandfather to turn on the pump to get the fountain going. It travelled about five metres through crevices, under rocky tunnels and around shrubs.

Maybe my childhood fascination with this water feature explains why I spent two years getting a fountain in place at my home. It’s a pitiful replica of his remarkable creation but I got a sense of the satisfaction that you get when your own hands created something.

Grand Designs host Kevin McCloud has a special way of describing this feeling.

Kevin says that most people pursue ‘Dopamine’ hits. It’s a cerebral sensation that comes when you buy something and it feeds materialism’s hold on our lives. It’s immediate but it is temporary.

He prefers the joy of serotonin, that feeling you get when you complete a task you have worked at, it could be a house or a puzzle, the fulfillment of finding a new route or presenting a meal.

I think my grandfather understood this and devoted a majority of his time to seeking it out in new and increasingly creative ways.

I am going to take that lesson and apply it to my life – with the knowledge that creating with your hands can reach beyond personal satisfaction and, through family and relationships you nurture, it can even benefit others in a kind of shared, serendipitous joy.

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The Myles Lambert Experience – Part 4 Sociopath

Part 1 – Colleague

Part 2 – Friend

Part 3 – Conman Part a & Part b

Part 4 – Sociopath – The final, frightening instalment

If you’re going to be a liar, you need to have a very good memory.

Myles had managed to live off his mythical lives for a month or so but he had either mismanaged his stories, miscalculated his genius or just forgotten that Mike and I were friends and would eventually talk.

We were in the middle of our own Usual Suspects and I would spend the next week making calls confirming the horrible truth.

Myles had not told us the name of his employer, of course. But he did tell me, gladly and obliviously, when I rang him.

“Caltron” he said. Yes, that sounds any large IT firm, with a bizarre interest in oil refineries.

Nothing showed up in the phone book. Actually, one place did, in an unrelated industry, but the owner who answered had never heard of Myles Lambert.

Snap. You are so going down.

I was fired up. Myles was demented – I had proof! – but then again, I was a dumbass if I could be screwed over by someone demented. So now it was as much about my pride as it was exposing a smooth criminal and getting back $6000 for the Celica, getting back Mike’s hundreds for computers, getting back a slick black Mercedes.

I called Toyota and tracked down the Celica’s last owner – a dealership in Penrith.

You want to steal a car? Do what Myles does. Buy it on the dealer’s finance, make one repayment, ignore the bills, then, if you are not just stupid but also cocky, sell the car to someone else.

I called the hire car place where we rented the Mercedes. They themselves were dodgy and had tried to deduct five grand from my credit card when they decided their Kompressor wasn’t ever coming back.

This scam, again with me as the helpless imbecile as its target, is as simple as it is extravagant.

Hire a desirable convertible sports car for just two weeks, get a buddy to sign off on it – should anything go wrong – then,
a) keep the car as long as you want. By the time I called, the car had been gone two full months.
b) Drive it as far as you want. The papers said I would pay a premium for every kilometre he drove beyond 500km. If I was him – a nutcase with no self-doubt or sense of right and wrong – I’d have driven to Melbourne or Adelaide by now.

Understandably, I was fuming. I was documenting my rage, but it was still rage and my new wife was none too pleased with my choice of ‘friends’.

Next stop, Myles’s parents’ house. I found two modest pensioners living in a humble home in the lower Blue Mountains, seemingly without their one surviving son. It was hard to keep up the anger.

And they’d had visits like mine before.

They said Myles came and went and they couldn’t control him. They said they could do nothing to help me as they held up a wad of papers three inches thick. I flicked through the bills, fines, court orders…. all of them ignored.

Apparently you can just live like this, no one ever arrests you or chases you apart from sending a debt collector to your postal address. Someone would eventually catch up with him, I thought.

But they were already thinking the same thing. “He wouldn’t survive in prison,” his mother said. I didn’t reply.

I don’t know how much they know but they claimed he gives out their address, never pays for anything, they get the bills and fend off debt collectors, sheriffs and people like me.

It was totally pathetic. He was using them even more than he was using me.

Later on, Toyota called me back to say the car I had bought was to be repossessed. I explained my (now rather fantastical) story to Toyota Finance, who sais when they got the car back it would go to auction and I could buy it again for the reserve price. Excellent. I could get a car I didn’t really want, that I had spent $2000 repairing, a car that stunk of a greasy sociopath’s cigarettes, if I would just pay for it twice. Done. (I eventually sold it again and made some of this money back.)

A trip to the police offered little hope that they would assist us. One jaded detective came down to the counter to give us a speech I would like to title “The world is full of bastards”. A range of other cops gave us excuses including, “you need more evidence”, “that’s probably a civil matter”, or my favourite, “we have murders going on, and you lost $10,000 to some prick?”.

I wasn’t jaded. I was pissed off and my friends were buying baseball bats to settle their scores with Myles their own way.

But where was the prick, with his dyed black curls, tight jeans and his blessed Merc? And what was his life of charades? Did he have a gambling addiction? Was he paying off loan-sharks? Was it all a game of wit and chance that might end but it might keep going and that thrill gave his life meaning? All these ideas crossed my frenzied mind as I regularly drove past his parents’ driveway, just checking to see if he was home. I didn’t know what I would do if I found him.

One day, a week or two later, the Merc was there. Oh, and I noticed the bumper was scratched AND dented. And Myles had put over 3000km on the speedo. I called a lawyer (ok, I called a friend studying to be a lawyer) and we arranged to show up bright and early.

Next day, at 7am, we stormed in. I was nearly shouting as his worried parents showed us to Myles asleep in his room (which included a large TV and new stereo – some things never change).

We pulled him out into the driveway and I laid it all out, everything I knew. His scam was up. Myles began smoking ferociously. Marlboro after Marlboro, both hands quivering.

We know you have no job. We know you don’t own the car you sold me. We know you dented the Merc that you should have returned by now and that I am paying for and there are people larger than me who know all this and, when they find you, they deliberately WON’T bring a lawyer.

Wide-eyed, Myles took it all in. He tried to deny it, at times, but he also had no idea of how to concoct an explanation. I demanded the keys. I wanted the TV. Anything. I demanded he come to the police station. He tried desperately to promise he would return the car and that he would repay me and everyone and that he was sorry.

But, oddly, in the same twenty minutes we spent there, he conceded he couldn’t repay me. Or anyone for that matter.

In fact, Myles’s story switched to admitting he was so far in debt he would never get out. He admitted he had banks chasing him for over $100,000. I said I didn’t believe him so he showed me his bank balance on his mobile phone. It said, and I am not joking, -$28,297.

He, a man who had multiple agencies chasing him, a weedy 22-year-old who must have the worst possible credit rating of anyone I will ever meet, had overdrawn his account $30,000 and he wasn’t even finished. He probably wasn’t lying when he said he had pulled this at more than one bank. Unlike Mike and I, banks don’t seem to talk.

We left a spineless, shaking mess of a man in his driveway as I drove the Mercedes, the car I had effectively rented for two months, for the first time. Sad thing is, I couldn’t enjoy the drive one bit as I was too aware each additional kilometre costed me more and I was petrified at what the total cost might be. (The bill totalled about $3500).

With annoying predictability, Myles disappeared again. I have not seen him since.

The police have Myles on a list of people “Wanted for Questioning” and say if he gets picked up by traffic cops this alert will show up. That is, if the cops care enough. And let’s be honest, Myles could sweet talk the badge off a commissioner.

—————–

In the years since this happened, I have had calls from other housemates of Myles who tracked me down to say he ripped them off too. I have changed into someone who trusts fewer people and whose suspicions are raised much more easily. I have learnt many lessons, from being content with what I have to also being more careful with money and valuing real friends.

Myles has been spotted in Katoomba, NSW, and in Sydney CBD, although I wouldn’t be surprised if he has moved states. Contact me if you see him or meet him. And don’t lend him any money.

At the time of writing, nothing shows up for “Myles Lambert” on a Google search, so I thought I would write this to confirm anyone’s suspicions or to warn others who might have met him. I have an old photo of Myles which I will post when I find it.

About two years ago, my brother-in-law was in a conversation with a group of strangers at a pub. One girl was saying how much she liked a guy called “Myles” but a bloke chimed in to say, “Yeah, nice guy but he owes me a fair bit of money.” “Really? Me too,” said another. They soon realised they had all lent Myles various amounts of cash, all for different, plausible reasons. It turned out Myles had promised to pay each one of them back, but to no avail. And strangely, no one had heard from him in weeks.

The Myles Lambert Experience – Part 3b Conman

Part 1 – Colleague

Part 2 – Friend

Part 3 – Conman a & b (see below)

Part 4 – Sociopath (next week)

At this point, the situation was somehow strangely thrilling and edging toward the bizarre.

My former housemate Myles was flush with cash, was offering us discounts on some pretty expensive computer gear and he  had a black $200,000 Mercedes Kompressor coupe out on hire as part of his new IT job, but actually, we hadn’t seen him in weeks. None of this seemed too odd because he was the master of the aloof.  He’s coming, he’s going, he’s committed, he’s disinterested… You coulnd’t pin him down but he you had no doubt he was always in control. Being calm under pressure was Myles’s M.O. Nothing defined him better, whether he was charming a 15-year-old, blagging a payrise or hiring a $100,000 Mercedes.

Six weeks after I had seen him when he hired out the Merc, I got a call from Myles about this time with another proposition Of course, that’s not how the conversation began but before long he was telling me that he may as well get rid of his Celica. He had no need for it now as his own Mercedes – a company car – was just days away from arriving on a shipment so, not really needing the cash, he was going to just take it to any car yard on Parramatta Road and take what they gave him.

“Are you mental?” I said. “They won’t give you anything for it. They give terrible trade-in prices, it’s what they do.  That’s like throwing it away! What’s it worth?”

Haha, he laughed. “It cost me about fifteen grand a few months ago.” And what would you accept for it? “Oh, I dunno.” He was completely nonchalant telling me he would probably get just six or seven thousand for it at a car yard.

“Well, we’d give you that,” I said, out of nowhere. And after I got off the phone, it wasn’t too hard to convince my wife that  Myles had gone bonkers and because he was earning so much he was happy to ditch his ‘old’ sports car on anyone who will give him six thousand dollars.

It was a 1992 Celica, sooth lines, pop-up headlights. I always considered it the best shape. It was a hairdresser’s car but hey, we were driving an ’86 Mitsubishi Cordia, non-turbo.

Within a day or two Myles had turned up to swap his car for cash and we sold our Cordia a week later for about $1000, not really caring because we had just scored a massive bargain.

It was about this time I caught up with my friend Mike. Mike is a tradesman who had hit it off with Myles while Myles lived with me. I guess they liked each other because they were both into hifi equipment and loved getting a good price. On anything. However, their methods could not be more different. Mike would play hard ball to get his way, Myles would lay on the grease and slide his way into a bargain.

While driving around in the inner west, Mike mentioned he had heard from Myles lately. He had turned up, just out of the blue like he did with me, only thing is, Mike had a few different experiences to me.

We were still driving when we started the conversation but I had to pull over when it got weird.

As we sat in my car in Glebe, Mike recounted how Myles had rung him up more than once saying that he had a new job and he was getting paid heaps. He added that he could help Mike get some great gear if he wanted. I assumed he meant computer gear. It all sounded very familiar.

Yes, I said, I knew IT jobs were well paid but his seemed to be really well paid. “I just can’t work out why he still lives in the mountains, now that he works in North Sydney.”

Mike: North Sydney? No, Parramatta.
Me: No, I am pretty sure he said North Sydney. That’s where all the big IT firms are anyway.
Mike: No, he’s not in IT. He’s working in some hifi job playing with hi-end audio equipment.
Me: What! No, no….. Is that what he said to you?
Mike: Yes, totally, That’s how he gets his hands on cheap hifi gear. And how he can afford that Mercedes.
Me: Err, no, he doesn’t own that. That’s hired. I was there.
Mike: Oh fuck.

We looked at each other as if we had stepped into another dimension. Was this a frickin’ film? How could this be? It was kind of funny. But mostly horrifying. We spent another hour going through every detail like young detectives.

From what we could work out between us, assuming that we were both being fed lies, Myles probably had no income, no job, no prospects, no access to cheap gear of any sort, and he probably had no actual friends. His life was a complete and utter fabrication. On top of that, we realised, his family was a mystery. His past, also, was a complete unknown. he had never revealed anything of himself. But we had bought into it up to about twenty thousand dollars between us.

We were all pawns in an enormous, clever game that saw him driving around on my credit card, spending money Michael and I had given him for hifi or computer equipment he didn’t have.

And a car. I had a Celica out the front of my house he sold to me. Was it really his? My heart was sinking very fast. It was looking like the most foolish thing I had ever done and I had talked my wife into joining me in my stupidity.

It now made complete sense why we had not yet seen the rego papers. We’d been badgering Myles for the rego papers for weeks after he had ‘forgotten’ them on the night we paid him for the car.

Seriously, I know this sounds flacid of me, but if your mate sold you his car, would you call REVs on the spot to check him out, especially if you had known him for two years, having worked with him and lived with him?

I didn’t really want to know the status of the car right now. I had many other things worrying me. Like where was Myles?

We wanted to find him, and rearrange him.

The Myles Lambert Experience – Part 3a Conman

Part 1 – Colleague

Part 2 – Friend

Part 3 – Conman a (see below) & b

Part 4 – Sociopath

Conman
My brother and I left that Petersham sharehouse before Myles eventually did. We had attracted one disastrous flatmate who nearly got everyone killed when a neighbour tried to set fire to the house as retaliation for the poisoning of their rooster. Yes, it really did get more interesting after she arrived. This person also wouldn’t let anyone watch her TV, which was conveniently located in the primary living room. And so on. So it was no surprise that we heard through another friend that Myles had left. No word on where he had gone.

It was around the year 2000. I had left my casual job at Grace Bros – where I first met Myles – and now had a fulltime job as a website copywriter. I was soon to be married to my childhood sweetheart.

I got married in November 2000 but remained living in Sydney’s inner west, just down the road from Petersham at the leafy little village of Summer Hill. We rented the cheapest house in the suburb – it was 3-metres wide and had a dodgy toilet a ten metre walk from the back door. (You do what you can to stay in Summer Hill.)

It was while we were in this house, in mid 2001, that Myles called us up. I hadn’t heard from him in about a year so it was ‘out of the blue’.

After some small talk, I recall the phone call went something like this:
LB: How you doing, man?
ML: Really good man, really good.
LB: Where have you been?
ML: Well, I got this fantastic job working in IT and it is soooo sweet.
LB: Oh yeah, do they pay you well?
MB: It’s insane what you can get, you know how it is.

I did know IT staff could demand huge salaries – it was the middle of the dot-com boom, and Myles had the skills. He had often fixed the PCs in our house and reconfigured them at Grace Bros. (Hell, I was earning good money at lastminute.com, a site that didn’t exist a year before but was booming just because people couldn’t believe they could book a flight online.)
Now I think about it, Myles could well have just been a good hacker, a PC enthusiast who taught himself about hardware and software, but I didn’t know the difference. It was entirely believable he would find a cushy job.

The phone call worked its way around to the finer points of his package. He had been given a spot at the top of a small firm which meant he now had a huge salary, a great laptop, and a car. The car was a soft-top Mercedes, at least it would be when the hire company delivered it.

Anna was in the room listening excitedly. I was gob-smacked. Myles asked if we would like to come pick it up with him. YES! First ride in a new Mercedes convertible? I wasn’t just calling ‘shotgun’ I was planning on pashing those leather seats and finding reasons we should drive to Terrigal.

I think it was just a few days later when Myles called – it was the same day he was due to pick us up in his now superseded Celica. There had been some kind of problem at the office and the car was yet to arrive. As aback-up plan, the boss had told Myles he could hire a car, as long as it was the same model, and charge it back to the company.

Keep in mind I was only 23 but this is certainly the part in the story where I begin to feel sick.

We met at he car yard of a sports car hire car place on Parramatta Road. It had Porsches, Ferraris, Aston Martins and a 2-seater Mercedes Kompressor.

They were expecting Myles.

We checked out the car like thrilled teenagers who stumbled across it on a deserted road with the keys still inside. But once inside the office, Myles was all charm and sounding like the young professional he now was. Signing papers and showing his ID, I had nothing to suspect when the final signature was needed and Myles asked if I could do it.

“What’s this for?” I said. “Oh, said Myles calmly, “just because they need a credit card – not as a deposit, I’ve got that in cash. It’s just in case, you know, a security thing. I just don’t have mine on me. Can you do it man?”

I can’t recall how long I thought about this, but he was two minutes away from driving that car out of there and I had never even sat in anything like it. The two large men behind the counter were officious and showed no doubt in Myles’s entitlement to the car or my helping him out. (I feel it worth pointing out that their car hire company is now gone.)

We drove it out and headed straight for the city where my family happened to be meeting for dinner. It was a phenomenal experience driving up to the open-air restaurant and so my extended family fawned over Myles and his new car.

After that amazing night we probably heard from Myles, oh, zero times over the next month. He was gone. He still had the car, he still lived with his parents back in the mountains, but the old friendship had not sparked up again. I was most surprised that he never dropped in as he now worked over the bridge, but on the phone he would simply blame his long hours, saying “you know how it is, man!” blah blah blah.

The Myles Lambert Experience – Part 2 Colleague

Flatmate.
>> Read Part 1 – Colleague
I had moved into a house in Petersham with some pals, both guys and girls, all of us from the mountains, in early 1999.

My brother and I had a great time, day in, day out. But like in most sharehouses, people’s plans change and within months we needed a new housemate.

My brother delivered the first replacement, Randall, a top guy with whom I am still friends. Later on, when we needed another replacement, I suggested my workmate Myles as he had been commuting to the city from Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains and he seemed fun to be around.

Years later, we wouldn’t be friends, but instead, I would be exhausted from searching for him, he would have many flatmates around the state chasing him and the police would have him listed as “wanted for questioning”.

You see, Myles was superb at making friends. At 21, his voice already sounded deep and mature. He had encyclopedic knowledge of random topics like astronomy and indie rock (including an obsession with The Pixies). He feigned interest in subjects like astro-physics and brought academic books into the house as if to prove it.

In hindsight, a few things seemed odd about Myles’s paired-downed lifestyle but none were so strange or threatening that they warranted real concern.

I’ll list a few examples…
– Myles wanted to debate God and Christianity often but he but while asking many personal questions of us along the way, Myles actually revealed very little of his own beliefs, influences or his past. After months, with every night filled with deep and meaningfuls, all we really knew of Myles was where his parents lived and that he had left school early. He had worked in retail ever since. He carried only or two long-term friends. There was talk of a brother but no sign of him.
– Every night, without fail, Myles headed out for a drive that he had to take alone. He drove an aging Toyota with a terrible paintjob as he had once tried to respray it. He wouldn’t say where he drove, he “just liked to drive”. Only, he had to be alone. Never discussed where he went, wouldn’t let anyone come with him, but he was religious about it.
– In our sharehouse, we usually shared the cooking around and ate at the same time but Myles always refused to share anything. He wouldn’t even share his utensils. As i recall, he survived on one frypan and one set of cutlery.
– He had obscure/inappropriate sexual preferences. He once voiced a love of Natalie Portman especially pointing out her beauty in The Assassin – a film where she was about 8 years old. He said he would ‘do her’ and failed to see any problem with this. Later, when a housemate’s two female 16-year-old cousins came to visit, Myles took them under his wing and showed them the city night after night until it got so out of control my housemate had to confront the 16-year-olds about going out alone with a relatively unknown 21-year-old, especially one who had started talking about moving to the distant state where the girls lived.

Should all that have been enough to make us wary?

I can only think we let it all go because Myles would dodge any question confidently with a likable nervous laugh and he was such a good conversationalist, always interested in others, that you never thought he was hiding something.

Oh, and another significant piece of strangeness.

Myles had lots of cool stuff. His car was shite, he ate poorly and wore the same clothes to Grace Bros every day, and yet, he regularly came home with new hifi equipment, digital cameras, speakers and CDs.

This alone could be enough to arouse suspicion, but, imagine if he then sold you the stuff at a sensational discount! This occurred multiple times. I am typing this blog in front of two $500 Sony speakers he suddenly gave me one day for the ridiculous price of $50. They were brand new.

Overall, Myles was sensational to have around. Never caused any fuss. Everyone liked him. He was always happy.

The sad thing is, we were being buttered up.

Next….

Part 3 – Conman

Part 4 – Sociopath

The Myles Lambert Experience – Part 1

The name Myles is forever tainted in my family. Ever since a flatmate with that name ripped me off to the tune of $10,000 a few years back, it has been difficult hearing the name Myles without wanting to damage something irreparably.

Myles Lambert is a con man and this blog post is intended not just as a memoir but a cautionary tale of what a sociopath can do to others, and a warning to anyone who comes across this charming Australian – last seen in Katoomba, NSW. He’s out there and doing this to someone else right now. He can’t help himself.

Part 1 – Colleague
I first met Myles on level 6 of Myer – then, Grace Bros – where we were both retail workers. I bludged terribly in that job. I had a philosophy that I couldn’t convince anyone to buy anything they didn’t already plan to get. Not a good philosophy to go far in retail, but then, I didn’t want to. I wanted to interview rock bands, so that is what I did during my regular coffee breaks. It was all on the phone so no-one noticed.

Myles didn’t want to go far in retail either, but the most interesting part about him was that this charming, deep-voiced chain-smoker had the job totally nailed.

Myles was in cameras. And he did such a good job of selling cameras that he totally outclassed the elderly gentleman who had been there for decades and is still there to this day.

I started talking to Myles whenever I got the chance because he laughed at my sarcasm as if it was outrageously funny, and yet he had confidence in spades. He clearly respected people and could talk anyone’s language.

One day while on a break at Grace Bros, Myles told me he was negotiating a better salary package. He worked full-time so this was conceivable but the package he was asking for was not. Myles wanted $75,000/year.

Now, I had seen Myles at work. He could get a middle-class mum or dad to buy a better model camera than they wanted and they’d end up getting several extras they didn’t plan on buying. He was clever, not sleazy, just very savvy.

It didn’t surprise me that management loved Myles for his sales figures but his methods were, at best, odd. Typically, Myles would get customers over the line by giving them hefty discounts.

This was something we all did at times – mark downs were to be used at staff’s discretion – but his were extravagant. Cost price plus a few bucks.

(Before long, I was trying this method out too and sure enough it was never questioned until I reduced a HiFi system by about $300. Yes, we still made a profit, I reasoned. No wonder no one offered this casual any fancy salary package.)

Anyway, Myles had promised the Electrical manager that he could double their budget in six months and he said he had already spent the first month proving he could do it. He was on track and it was phenomenal.

Achieving that target would see his salary nudged to $50,000 – a 30% pay rise, at least. When that figure was agreed to, Myles waited a month then promised more and pushed for $75,000. The manager agreed and I was sworn to secrecy. If anyone else on our level knew that kind of salary was being handed out to a 21-year-old selling first-generation digital cameras and SLRs, not products known to draw millions, there would be a walk out.

It was astounding. He was cracking jokes with the manager who, despite the agreement, looked like he had found a goose laying golden eggs. And he had.

Myles could do any deal he wanted. It was the year 1999 and an early Sony Digital camera allowed you to put a 3.5inch floppy disc straight in the side. The shots were 640×480 pixels and grainy as hell but it was awesome and worth about $950.

One day, not long out from Christmas, Myles made his move. He had waited for the right time in the product cycle, hidden the box and the charger and then talked to the older camera salesman into selling it to him. Look, it’s the last one, it’s missing everything and I have cash. He got it for $90.

How do I know? He later sold it to me and late one day after the store shut he got me the charger.

But that’s not the weirdest thing. What happened to his $75,000? The manager agreed, he said, but then Myles had suddenly changed his mind. Myles was no longer interested. The thrill had gone.

Part 2 – Flatmate
Next week…

Part 3 – Conman

Part 4 – Sociopath

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