Three Minute Squiz With… Amanda Blair

Confession time: we have a bit of a crush on Amanda Blair. She’s an ace woman who conquered radio, writes for the Woman’s Weekly, got her Tarago painted to resemble a Hot Wheels car, enters her baked goods in the Adelaide Show and rates compassion above all else. And she likes The Squiz. Yep, we’re in deep Please welcome Amanda to the Three Minute Squiz.

When, where and how do you Squiz?
In bed in the morning usually in a nanna flannel nightie. You do a great job. Keep the jokes coming.

What was the first concert you went to – and what did you wear?
David Cassidy from The Partridge Family, MCG in Melbourne 1974. Gosh I’m so old. I wore a long dress with long sleeves and a ruffled collar. It was bright green and printed with a brown, black and red mushroom pattern. For a 6yo, I looked bloody hot.

What was the first car you ever owned? And what do you drive now?
First car was a 1968 Toyota Corona, vinyl bench seats front and back, column shift gears, AM radio and cassette deck. Now a white Tarago, column shift gears, bench seats in the back only slightly more advanced sound system. Recently my kids were complaining our car wasn’t “very good” and “boring” so I fancied it up by taking it to a panel beater and had giant red and orange flames painted down the side like a hot rod. They now want to ride their bikes everywhere and don’t want me anywhere near the school. This is a win for me on many levels.

For many years you were Adelaide’s top-rating radio presenter. Why did you give it away? Do you miss it? And what did the experience teach you?
I don’t miss it at all. So many people ask me when/if I’m going back on radio and I always tell them I’d rather stick a fork in my eye. I enjoyed parts of it at the time, loved meeting interesting people, the window I had into other peoples lives, the intimacy you create with the audience on radio, the friendships I formed with the listeners and loved the many excellent opportunities it provided me. But I looked out the window of my studio one day onto the streets of Adelaide and decided that I wanted to be in the world, not in a glass box talking about other people being in the world. I needed to connect with people again on a normal level, not as a radio presenter, my soul was dying. Nobody quits radio, usually we’re sacked, so nobody really knew what to do.

As well as juggling four quirky kids, you manage to serve on various boards and volunteer your time for numerous South Australia charities .. which ones and what motivates you?
When I had “an audience” I had this big Jimmy Cricket on my shoulder telling me to use my voice for good not evil. So rather than talk endlessly about celebrities and participate in shitty radio stunts like “whirl-till-you-hurl” I fought against the commercial radio programmers and delivered a show that had real heart. We highlighted charities and got behind their causes, we raised lots of money and did good things with it, we connected with real people and I think we changed the way the audience thought about disadvantage, disability, homelessness. Then we’d play a Shania Twain song and head into news, traffic and weather….

So when I wasn’t doing that on radio anymore, I wanted it to continue because I still had a big voice. So my pet issues are homelessness, mental illness, prisoners and child abuse. I’m the person you don’t want to sit next to at a dinner party, I’m so boring and dark and depressing. Sometimes I wish I could just lighten up a bit and talk about spring fashion.

Speaking of dinner parties, who would be the five people, living or dead, you would host at your dream dinner party?
I’m a Libran, I can’t make these decisions quickly. I have to weigh up who I like most then analyse why I like them more than the others. Then I have to think about that for a while and make sure I’m being totally honest with myself. Then I have to work out if they will like each other because if they don’t I’ll get in a tizz, so then I’ll have to rethink the whole thing and make sure I get the balance just right. So I’ll come back to you in about five years. But I’m pretty sure 2017 Brownlow Medalist Dustin Martin will make the cut…

And what would you cook them?
Again, I’d have to think about it, but I once cooked Sausage Casserole for Maggie Beer and Stephanie Alexander. They ate it. They’ve also never come back to my house for dinner.

Rumour has it you are a regular entrant in the Adelaide Show cake-baking competition. What is your signature baked good? What ribbons has it won? And how tough are those CWA women as competition?
I started competitively cooking at the Royal Adelaide Show in 2003 as a bit of a joke, I needed something to write about so I figured I’d whip up a batch of Anzacs and give these show ladies a run for their cardigans. I got nowhere that first year but it sparked a real interest and tapped into my competitive spirit. I got my first Blue Ribbon for Slices in 2010. Never been happier in my whole life. I’ve backed it up with a Blue Ribbon for Pavlova (unfilled), Marble Cake (iced, no more than 23 cms) and Fruit and Nut Loaf (in a roll tin). I’ve got a few red ribbons too, but the Holy Grail, the one I want to win more than anything, is Banana Cake (iced, oblong). I’ve been going in it for 15 years and my oblong offering hasn’t even made it to the judging table once. Next year I tell you… next year…

In 200 words or less, tell us about the time you went to get your hair “set”.
My grandma used to get her hair set once a week at “the salon”.They’d wash her hair, put it in curlers and she’d sit under a giant hair bonnet to dry. They’d tease and back comb and not even gale force winds would upset her glamorous bouffant. I hunted down a hairdresser who had been “setting” hair for 53 years because I wanted one. I adored my “do” and proudly went to pick the kids up from school. My son burst into tears because he said I looked like “a grandma”. I told him this was the point. He screamed “Why can’t you be like all the other Mums? Just normal – why do you have to be SO WEIRD? This took something away from the Elizabeth Taylor Stockard Channing in Grease moment I was having. But who cares? I loved it and strangely felt closer to my Nan.

We don’t hear nearly enough about the great state of South Australia and its capital Rad-elaide. Two questions: what do you love about them?
I love SA so much, it’s quite pathetic. We are such a beautiful state, filled with natural wonder. Outback, four hours away, best beaches in Australia (actually, yes, according to Lonely Planet), wineries 15 minutes from CBD, world-class arts events, great weather, a bar where everybody knows your name… hang on…that’s Cheers, but you get my point.

We are called the City of Churches and everybody thinks that’s because we’re all some weird conservative religious freak-a-zoids, but it’s actually because we were the first state to allow all religions to be practised freely. We were also the first state to decriminalise homosexuality, the first state to have a female politician, the first state to allow women to vote, and we had the first designated Arts Centre. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it. Come visit us, I’m happy to show you around #havetaragowithflames #8seatsavailable #mykidsgiveme5stars

What would you say is the most overrated virtue?
Chastity. Sometimes you’ve just got to give it a good crack.

You write a monthly column for the Australian Women’s Weekly. Where do you get your inspiration?
My friends, family and dog Eric. I like him more than any of them.

Adelaide Crows or Port Adelaide?
Oh we’re from Tigerland, a fighting fury, we’re from Tigerland – yellow and black… Go Richmond.

McLaren Vale, Clare Valley or Barossa?
Can do all three in a day, why choose? (Tarago offer still there if you need).

What is the quality you most treasure in a friend?
Need to pick more than one, Libran thing again. Humour, kindness and bravery.

In your humble opinion, what’s the most overlooked news story of the moment?
Why governments don’t use the C word more when making decisions – compassion. I’m ashamed about the way we treat refugees, indigenous Australians and prisoners. See, I said you don’t want to sit next to me at a dinner party….

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