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Australian Media on Paganism

Fiona, the screen-age witch

The Age, October 19th 2000

RARELY pausing for breath, Fiona Horne is talking about her witchcraft, third book, website, radio spots, Sunday afternoon performances at a St Kilda bar, public speaking engagements. Oh, and there's also her role as host of reality TV series, Party!

Horne, 34, is clearly a woman on the move. She claims it is her witchcraft that enables her to get so much out of life, but her ability to promote herself in the most charming of ways ought not be underestimated.

Purportedly talking about Party!, Horne manages to plug - and spell out - her upcoming Wikid Witch Kit for teenagers and new book, Life as a Witch.

Talking about how to cast a spell, she refers to her Wednesday morning radio gigs on TTFM and website fionahorne.com, and in regard to her musical career she mentions that her management also oversees Kylie Minogue in London.

But the vivacious Horne doesn't come across as a celebrity on the make. Rather, she seems to be enjoying making the most of the opportunities that have propelled her from the alternative rock band DEF FX to Channel Nine ``personality" status.

And so she's unabashed about her role in the latest TV craze.

``I thought the concept of it sounded kinda cool, I mean I like reality TV - if it's well done - I enjoy it," Horne says.

For its genre, Party! is well done. The series follows Australians preparing for and indulging in different sorts of parties. It's a good-time theme, focusing on people at play as they share big occasions, lots of alcohol, romance or all of the above.

The first two episodes feature an extended family of about 70 people preparing for their own slightly raunchy Olympic Games; teenagers throwing a drunken housewarming; and a groovy young couple preparing for the 10th birthday celebration of a swingers' club.

The swingers segment includes a tour of the club, which boasts a Kamasutra room and tables with strategically placed holes for the party-goers to position themselves on. The mind boggles.

``I'd love to one day do a director's cut of Party!, all the stuff we couldn't put on screen because we were going for a 9pm timeslot," Horne hoots.

Sex seems to be the undercurrent of all of the parties, a truth that Horne says carries over into life.

``Sex is one of the driving forces of being human, really, and there certainly is that element (to the show)," she says.

``The sex side of things is there, sure, but we've got things like the bar mitzvah. But even then, that's the awakening of the journey of childhood into manhood for a Jewish boy, which has certain sexual connotations too, I guess - it is a theme in everything, obviously."

Predictably the program captures people getting progressively drunker as their parties unfold, doing things they might feel more than a little embarrassed about the next day.

The housewarming Party!, for example, includes some cheeky getting-to-know-you games.

Is Horne concerned the show exploits those who overindulge?

``That (the housewarming) was one of the first stories we did and I was like `ohhhh God', but that's just what happens," she says.

``The thing is we didn't go to ridicule anyone - we just captured what happened, and everyone knew that this was what would be going on. To pretend that stuff like that doesn't go on would be just as hypercritical as overemphasising it.

``I like to think that as far as this show goes at least, we captured what was actually happening: we didn't set anyone up, we didn't spike anyone's drinks, it was actually what went on. With those kids, that was the whole purpose of the housewarming, to get pissed."

The format is a tad cheesy: Horne has a glass of champagne by her side in the studio as she introduces the various segments. But, ever the diplomat, she airily dismisses the criticism.

``Hey, it's not too far from the truth, I tend to have a glass of bubbly by my side most of the time," she laughs.

``They wanted it to be a bit more formal and a bit more `This is what we're presenting', contrasting with the mayhem that goes on when we actually start showing the stories."

This latest incarnation as host and roving interviewer is a long way from the alternative rock act DEF FX in which Horne first burst to fame as the lead singer.

But she bridles at the suggestion some of her rock`n'roll mates might turn their noses up at her television work: ``I don't reckon (they would) and if they do, stuff 'em," she says emphatically.

In the lead-up to scoring the Party! job, Horne and a good friend, singer Debra Byrne, had been working towards a production of the musical Godspell, then, on the day she was told the production was off, another Debra Byrne, an executive producer, rang to offer her a job hosting Party!

``It was a strange coincidence, but with my witchcraft and stuff I don't look at anything as a coincidence," she says.

Party! screens on Wednesday on Channel 9 at 9.10pm.

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