Eighties legend Brian Mannix may be a newcomer to the world of dancing, but Goya Dmytryshchak discovers he’s quick on his feet.
WESTERN suburbs boy Brian Mannix isn’t taking to heart the harsh words levelled at him on Dancing with the Stars.
‘‘I was ‘Rod Stewart’s pygmy love child’ and I’m a ‘terrible dancer’ and then I was ‘awfully good’ and I’m ‘like a dog that’s chasing after a Schmackos’ and ‘I’ve got to loosen up’ but ‘Don’t loosen up too much or it will all unravel.’
‘‘I suppose they’re being kind,’’ adds the ’80s rock legend, speaking at an Airport West studio around the corner from his family home.
But the married father-of-two, who shot to fame as the frontman for Uncanny X-Men, has attracted a surprisingly good response from the public.
‘‘When I walk around people are saying, ‘Good on ya, having a good go,’ whereas I kind of expected to be walking down the street and have people going, ‘Ah, you suck’!’’
Born and raised in Oak Park, Mannix was schooled in the Catholic system, fi rst at St Francis De Sales primary in Oak Park and then St Bernard’s College in Essendon.
He orginally wanted to be a fi lm director but was rejected by Swinburne Film and Television School when he fi nished his HSC (now VCE).
‘‘So I had a year to kill before I could try again, so then I just got some normal jobs and then the band started taking off. So I never got to fi lm and television school.’’
Uncanny X-Men shot to fame in the ’80s with hits like Everybody Wants to Work, 50 Years and How Do You Get Your Kicks.
Mannix was hit with a $90,000 tax bill, so he sold his Fitzroy house and moved to the ‘‘affordable’’ suburb of Airport West in 1992, paying about $125,000 for his home.
‘‘You’d probably pay 600 grand for it now,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s a really nice house — it’s big. My son’s only just fi nished school so we’ve sort of been a bit stuck here because of his school commitments.
‘‘Now the kids are growing up, I dunno, I’d like to live in Docklands or somewhere like that myself. But I dunno if I’ll get the missus to cross the line on that one. But you know, we’ll try.’’
His daughter Casey, 22, is a dancer, while son Max Elvis, 19, has followed in his dad’s footsteps and plays in a band. Are there any mistakes Mannix would warn his son not to repeat?
‘‘He’s a smart kid,’’ he replies. ‘‘I don’t own my children. I trust that he’ll make the right decisions for himself and I can’t protect him from life.
‘‘He’s been given all the tools to make good decisions so I’m sure he’ll cope quite well.’’
Seemingly one of the most down-to-earth blokes you could ever meet, has Mannix always been like this — even at the height of his fame?
‘‘My friends keep me down to earth pretty much. I think at the height of our fame, yeah, we all had our moments where we were overtired and got ‘cranky’.
‘‘But at the end of the day, we’re just doing our best, like the bloke that’s driving a truck or the electrician or plumber. Our trade is to sing and entertain.
‘‘It’s no better than somebody that can wire your house up or anything like that. It’s just a job, really.
‘‘Except if you do it well, people clap and I don’t think that happens if you drive your truck well.’’
Mannix still belts out the X-Men’s hits in his Absolutely 80s show, teaming up with Scott Carne from Kids In The Kitchen and Eve von Bibra of Chantoozies fame. His next gig is at Williamstown’s Customs House on Friday.
So how does a 50-year-old ’80s legend wind up getting his kicks doing the cha-cha on a Seven Network TV show?
‘‘They just rang me up and said, ‘Do you want to do Dancing with the Stars?’ and I said, ‘I can’t dance’ and they said, ‘That doesn’t matter’. I think it does.
‘‘So then I rang my wife and she said, ‘No, you can’t dance, you’ll make a fool of yourself’. I said, ‘Ah well’. I didn’t want to be the fi rst to get kicked off, so I’ve achieved that.
‘‘Wasn’t even the second to get kicked off, so that’s great. And look, you know, I think it’s like anything. If you practice and you listen and you try you can learn’’.
Mannix has been putting in up to fi ve hours a day at the Airport West dance studio where he rehearses with dance teacher Melanie Hooper.
‘‘But then on some days I’ll go home and do another couple of hours myself just to get it,’’ he says, ‘‘because you sort of learn it in your head but then you gotta teach your body to do it.’’
The dancing prowess of dumped AFL footballer Brendan Fevola surprised him.
‘‘Fev’s really good with his feet. His feet are really fast and he picks up steps really quickly.
‘‘[X-Factor contestant] Johnny Ruffo’s a really good dancer. He’s a bit of a Michael Jackson Moonwalker sort of guy; he’s a hip-hop sort of dancer.
‘‘And [singer-songwriter and Russell Crowe’s wife] Danielle [Spencer] and [Packed to the Rafters star] Zoe [Cramond] both had some sort of training, so for them, they probably don’t need to put in as much as me.
‘‘But I sort of start from scratch and it doesn’t come naturally to me at all, so I have to put in the hours just to sort of keep up with some of the others.’’
While he’s the fi rst to laugh at himself, there’s a serious side to Mannix’s performance. He is dancing for the Prostate Cancer Foundation Of Australia.
‘‘My dad died from prostate cancer. And then about two years ago, another mate of mine who I used to record with a lot — he was kind of a mentor to me when I was recording and that sort of thing — he died of it too.
‘‘It was a real no-brainer for me when they said pick a charity. My dad was from the old school where [they’re] like, ‘Ah, I don’t go to the doctor,’ and you could have your arm chopped off [and they’re like], ‘Oh, it’ll grow back’.
‘‘I found out later he had signs there was something wrong and he just didn’t do anything about it.
‘‘Probably if he had’ve gone straight away they might’ve been able to do something. That’s the main reason people should go and get checked, because if my dad had gone to the doctor earlier, he’d probably be alive.
‘‘It’s nice to think that something positive might come out of learning the tango and the cha-cha and the rumba.’’
Brian Mannix, Scott Carne and Eve von Bibra play Customs House Hotel in Williamstown on Friday. Tickets: 9397 8888 or customshousehotel.com.au mba.