‘They think they’re something special’
The young man stood on the rail's edge, the sparkling waters of Sydney Harbour dancing beneath him.
With the Harbour Bridge's famous arch above as witness, he took a step into the void just as a man reached out to grab the back of his shirt.
"Let me go", he told the man holding tight to the thin slip of material, "I just want to go".
"No mate", Paul Hogan answered quietly, "I'm not going to do that".
And for the next 20 or so minutes, Hogan, then a rigger on the bridge, risked his own life to save someone else's.
The never-before told story of how Hogan - pre-television and Crocodile Dundee fame - prevented what would have been another suicide off the landmark, is told in the pages of Hogan's soon-to-be released autobiography The Tap Dancing Knife Thrower - My Life Without the Boring Bits.
As Hoges recalls in the book, the young man, a 20-year-old, troubled university student, had asked him to take his hand during their conversation, meaning that at any stage both of their lives could have ended.
"What happened was a bit of a blur, but we talked and he ended up walking down off the bridge with me," Hogan, now 80, recounts.
"I remember as we walked down the arch he grabbed hold of my shoulder and said: 'You shouldn't have done that (taken his hand)' he said, 'I could have taken you over the ledge with me'."
Hoges also reveals in his book he received a bravery award for saving the young man's life, but says he should instead have received an award for being "fearless and stupid".
Candid as always, Hogan says bravery is something people do when they are afraid, but do the right thing anyway, but his own actions on that day were not born of such lofty ideals.
"I never had the fear," he writes, "the Harbour Bridge was my home. It never fully occurred to me that I could fall 400 feet to my death."
In all, Hoges would spend about 10 years clambering over the Coathanger, before fame - and eventually fortune - brought him back to earth again.
The story of how Hogan became a star after appearing on the television variety show New Faces before being talent spotted, then managed, by his best friend John Cornell is also told in the book. Without Cornell, Hogan cheerfully admits, "I'd have stayed up on that bridge forever".
Instead, Hogan became a star in his early 30s, and was 46 when he played the man in the black hat, Mick "Crocodile" Dundee.
On the podcast Evenin' Viewers, celebrating the release of his autobiography, Hogan says he's "very grateful" fame did not come to him, too early or too fast.
"These kids today who are famous around the world at 19, well, they can't help but think they're something special, or different to everyone else, because they've never known anything else. We sort of earned our way, so we appreciate it. You can't get egotistical, you can't think you deserve it, you can't think you're especially talented.
"But today a lot of people in the entertainment industry think they do deserve it unfortunately, particularly the ones who haven't got that much talent … the Real Housewives of Rooty Hill or contestants on Big Brother. They think they're something special, and it's sort of funny."
The success of Crocodile Dundee - still the most successful independent movie in history, made for just $8.8m and earning $US328m - didn't take Hogan entirely by surprise.
"We knew it would do well in Australia, and we had an inkling it would do well in America." The reason for that inkling is told in a hilarious recounting of Hogan, his then partner Linda Kozlowski, Dundee director Peter Faiman and his wife Jenny, sneaking into movie theatres all over Los Angeles the night of Crocodile Dundee's premiere in 1986.
"We drove around in a stretch limo and we'd stop at various cinemas, all packed, we'd get out of the car in the middle of the movie and ask the usher if we could just stand at the back," Faiman recalls on Evenin'Viewers.
"They would be like 'Well, who are you?', and I'd say 'Well, it's Paul Hogan'," Faiman chuckles, adding that what they heard in the back of that darkened cinema was the sound of howling laughter.
"That's when we knew," Hogan says, "that the Yanks got it, and we had a hit on our hands."
Hogan's new-found, international fame also scored him the co-hosting role at the 1987 Oscars where he charmed the audience with his off-the cuff, unscripted comments.
"They couldn't believe I didn't use a teleprompter," Hogan chuckles on the phone from LA, adding he very nearly lost the gig.
"They were on the verge of cancelling me, the director and the stage manager were having a fit when I said I didn't use a script, but the producer of that show that year was Samuel Goldwyn Junior and when he found out I had no script, he told them: 'No, No, leave him alone, it's Hoe-gers (Goldwyn Jr mispronounced the Aussie nickname), let him go, that's his thing, it will be funny, Hoe-gers will make it funny'."
Hoges - or Hoe-gers laughs, and footage from that particular Oscars night shows that Goldwyn Junior was right - Hogan was funny, strolling casually out on to the stage as if he was just wandering into a mate's place or a barbecue.
As Hollywood bigwigs like Dustin Hoffman look on, Hogan - also a nominee - tells them "I've flown 13,000 miles to be here tonight, and frankly if I don't win, it's not going to be pretty."
While Dundee made him a star, America had already fallen a little bit in love with Hogan as the Aussie larrikin who had invited them to "Come and say g'day, I'll slip another shrimp on the barbie for you".
The America, You Need a Holiday tourism campaign, fronted by Hoges, was one of the most successful in history. The ad's impact had Australia shooting from 78th to seventh place as the most desired holiday destination for Americans. But for Hoges, it wasn't "rocket science". "It's not a hard sell, Australia, is it?" "But up until then, it was just koalas and kangaroos on every ad you saw. I remember thinking, surely we can do better than that - we're not a bloody zoo."
- Join Hoges and his celebrity friends at new podcast Evenin' Viewers With Paul Hogan, hosted by Frances Whiting, wherever you get your podcasts.
- The Tap-Dancing Knife Thrower: My Life Without The Boring Bits, (HarperCollins Australia) is out tomorrow.
- Pre-order today at Booktopia - enter code HOGAN at checkout for a 30 per cent discount off the RRP of $45.00.
Originally published as 'They think they're something special'