300 die-hard fans gathered high above Melbourne yesterday afternoon for a once-in-a-lifetime reunion of former Prisoner stars.
The event, staged by star Val Lehman at Level 17 at the RACV City Club, was a sell-out at $300 a head with with fans visiting from around Australia, Europe and the USA. 40 years after it first aired, Prisoner remains a show etched in their hearts -their detail for storylines and characters prompting Jane Clifton to concede “You all know the show better than we do.”
It was veteran stars they were there for, and they were thrilled to see 88 year old Patsy King, 80 year old Betty Bobbitt, 70 year old Anne Phelan plus Colette Mann, Fiona Spence, Amanda Muggleton, Paula Duncan, Maxine Klibingaitis, Jacqui Gordon, Jentah Sobott and Annie Lucas. Composer Alan Caswell sang On the Inside (twice) and several former crew were in attendance for the 4 hour event.
There was a toast to deceased cast members, and some devoted fans spoke about still maintaining the gravesite of Sheila Florance. During a lengthy Q&A Betty Bobbitt acknowledged her character’s pioneering gay portrayal, Colette Mann recalled shooting an elaborate escape scene in a tunnel, Patsy King revealed the trick to her governor’s hairdo and Anne Phelan paid tribute to Wentworth.
Queen Bea held court for most of the afternoon thanking fans for their enduring support and highlighting merchandise, recalling various run-ins with producers, network and Logies organisers -at one point asking if there were any reps from Fremantle in the room. “Yes me!” Neighbours‘ Colette Mann interjected. Fremantle was also treating the cast to a post-reunion dinner.
A “no selfies” rule was quickly abandoned when the cast took to the floor to meet fans, which they appeared to enjoy the most, before a memorabilia auction with some items topping the $2000 mark.
Lehman even auctioned a Wentworth costume she had worn, explaining little but teasing “Keep watching….”
Wednesday marks 40 years since the show’s premiere, with the National Film & Sound Archive also conducting an event in Canberra.