Book Talk: The Swinging 60s, as told by a Cher-lookalike

Pauline Askin
Reuters Middle East

SYDNEY, Nov 22 (Reuters) - It is the 1960s and rock

journalist Lola Bensky finds herself deep in the heart of the

music scene in London and New York, interviewing emerging stars

like Mick Jagger and Jimi Hendrix.

But the 19-year-old Melbourne-born Lola of the eponymous

"Lola Bensky," by Lily Bent, is no ordinary rock journalist. The

Jewish child of two Holocaust survivors, she prefers to ask

interviewees how they got on with their mother and wins praise

from Cher, who tells her they look alike.

Bent, who like her heroine originally hails from Australia

and in fact still bears a strong resemblance to Cher, spoke with

Reuters on a recent visit from New York, her home of 23 years,

about her semi-autobiographical novel.

Q: For a young reporter, you were very comfortable around

these rock stars. Why?

A: "If you've had two parents who have been imprisoned in

ghettos and Nazi death camps, idolizing rock stars almost seemed

absurd. My life was not centred around being alone with Mick

Jagger in his apartment, it was to make sure my reel to reel

tape recorder wasn't screwing up."

Q: Born to survivors of the Auschwitz death camp, Lola was

fixated with losing weight, and as a teenager your ambition in

life was to lose weight? Why is weight such an issue?

A: "This is a very complicated issue (and) there are many

aspects of it. However, in the ghettos and the camps anyone who

had any excess weight was doing something at someone else's

expense, aiding the destruction of other people. My mother

admired slimness above all, you could have won the Nobel prize

for nuclear physics and if you were fat, she would have said

'what a fatty'!

"I think my act of rebellion which I thought would upset my

Mother was in the end destructive to me. Rebellion is the need

to dement your parents and it worked."

Q: There is a strong Jewish theme throughout your book and

it's as if you almost make fun of it. Is that risky?"

A: "I think it's very important not to hold any culture or

religious belief as sacrosanct, as something that can't be

talked about, something that you can't find something funny

about. If you ask a Jew how they are they would never say

'excellent' because who knows what could happen two seconds

later. When people ask you, I want to say, 'well I don't know

because there are so many things that have to function in your

body simultaneously, how do you know they're all working.' It's

such a very complicated question."

Q: At the 1967 Monterey Festival you were surrounded by

people taking drugs of some sort, in fact throughout your

career, yet you always declined. Why?

A: "I had to explain - my parents are really really upset

that I didn't become a lawyer so I can't become a junkie. I was

always saying no thank you to drugs at the Monterey Pop

Festival. I was so relieved when someone passed carrots along

the row (instead of drugs)".

Q: Death surrounds Lola, when the ghosts of the past merge

with names like Jim Morrison, Mama Cass, Brian Jones, Janis

Joplin and Keith Moon, who all die during her time as a

reporter. Does Lola Bensky/Lily Brett finally find out what it

means to be human?

A: "That's one of life's really really complex questions. I

think that maybe it means to care about other people and not

just the people around you. To have compassion."

(Reporting by Pauline Askin, editing by Elaine Lies)

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