The photo taken on January 31, 1988 is very recognisable. A blushing English princess on holiday came face to face with Australia’s most iconic symbol -the handsome, bronzed Aussie lifesaver. Not just one but six, all paraded in front of her wearing nothing more than a tiny pair of nylon cossies and a cheeky smile that said ‘Welcome to Australia!’
‘I’ve been waiting all day for this,’ Diana flirtatiously said. This was no ordinary surf carnival – it was a Royal Command Performance that tour organisers had laid on especially for Diana at Terrigal on the NSW Central Coast. ‘New Idea’ 2007
In 2007, one of the lifeguards present that day related his story below:
‘SHE WAS THE PRINCESS OF TIDES . . .’
BRETT HOOEY remembers like it was yesterday when he stood proudly before the most famous woman in the world in his budgie smugglers.
The father of three from Newcastle, dressed only in his brief Speedos, was the first lifesaver the late Princess Diana met after she asked to be introduced to one during a royal visit in 1988.
Photographs of the Princess of Wales with six lifesavers from Sydney’s Freshwater Beach – including a then 23-year-old Mr Hooey – were splashed in newspapers around the world.
One picture appeared on the front page of The New York Times under the headline “Lady Di with Australia’s six fittest men”.
“I still get ribbed about it by my mates, which I think is funny because I think they’re a bit jealous about it,” Mr Hooey, now 42, said last week.
“She flirted with us. She commented on how tight our bodies were. She kept saying, ‘Jeez, you look fit. Jeez, you look fit.’ But she was very, very shy. She got all red and flushed in the cheeks.”
Mr Hooey’s story and cossies are part of the Australians Meet Diana exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum from December 15.
The former champion paddle boarder donated to the museum the Speedos he wore during a surf-lifesaving competition for a special Princess of Wales trophy at Terrigal.
The display includes the personal recollections of Australians who met the princess during royal tours in 1983 and 1988, and her last visit here in 1996, in which she was guest of honour at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute Dinner.
In 1988 the lifesavers were surprised when the princess arrived at the beach to present their trophy.
Mr Hooey said it was the princess’s idea to have the photograph taken, after asking the men politely.
“Being a young bloke, I always thought she was beautiful,” he said. “I still remember her teeth were bright white, she had rosy cheeks and she was very, very tall.
“For one of our photos, she cheekily said, ‘I had better crouch down to you’,” he said.
“I tend to tell people she was bowled over by me. That was the highlight of my lifesaving career, meeting her.”
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