There was a decidedly odd fellow on the flight from Melbourne to Perth who insisted on greeting every
traveler on the check-in line. He would give smiles, handshakes, thumbs-up, and to the ladies who would
stand still, kisses. Eventually he was tugged away by a plump woman with white hair, who seemed amiably
resigned to the whole thing. "David," she called, "come on, David," and he would trail after her, chatting
As I was thinking how he reminded me of Geoffrey Rush playing the disordered pianist David Helfgott in the
movie "Shine", I suddenly realized that this was David Helfgott.
When we got to Perth, David finally latched on to me, and we talked of this and that, mostly with his arm
hung loosely around my neck. When I told him my Christian name might be Hebrew in origin, he babbled
away in Yiddish. He would wander off to greet other arrivals when he was supposed to be minding Gillian's
bag, so I minded Gillian's bag. I did not ask him if he is still playing the Rach 3.
He mostly plays in small jazz clubs, and I imagine is regarded more as a curiosity than a performer (he said
he never learned to play jazz.) There was talk years ago that David Helfgott is being "exploited", so I asked
him if he were happy. Yes, he is happy, mostly. His compulsive disorder requires him to say many things
twice, as in "All is planned. All is planned," or "Enjoy it. Enjoy it."
A week later, as I swam for nine hours across the Rottnest Channel, I repeated these phrases, and they
brought me more than a small measure of comfort.