MAGIC ACT

SHE’S LONG BEEN THE FACE OF MOD­ERN AUS­TRALIAN WITCH­CRAFT. AND NOW ME­DIA PER­SON­AL­ITY FIONA HORNE IS REIN­VENT­ING HER­SELF AGAIN

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Words by SHEL­LEY SEDDON

Singer and white witch Fiona Horne on her lat­est in­car­na­tion.

It’s said that witches pos­sess a whole host of strange abil­i­ties.among them is a tal­ent for shapeshift­ing. Which, if noth­ing else, is a con­stant when it comes to Fiona Horne. To many Aus­tralians, she is the woman who turned them on to mod­ern witch­craft. But her many pub­lic in­car­na­tions have also in­cluded singer, me­dia per­son­al­ity, free diver, sky­diver, scuba diver, fire dancer and yo­gini. She’s now rein­vent­ing her­self once more.

Th­ese days, 51-year-old Horne is based in the US Vir­gin Is­lands, work­ing as a com­mer­cial pi­lot who pri­mar­ily flies hu­man­i­tar­ian aid mis­sions. On the day she speaks with Stel­lar, she has shifted course, though only slightly: she is co­or­di­nat­ing a trip for two large dogs from a lo­cal an­i­mal shel­ter. Their owner – a war vet­eran in his 30s who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan – re­cently passed away. Horne is ar­rang­ing for the dogs to be trans­ported back to New Jersey, where they will be united with his par­ents. “I’m the pi­lot every­one calls to do this stuff be­cause I do an­i­mal res­cue,” Horne tells Stel­lar. “The re­spon­si­bil­ity is not just about op­er­at­ing a ma­chine. It’s got so much heart and soul in it – and that’s where it res­onates re­ally strongly with me.”

THE PATH THAT led to Horne’s cur­rent is­land par­adise was full of twists, paved with bumps and stud­ded with more than a few un­be­liev­able pit stops. She grew up in Syd­ney, an adopted child who felt iso­lated and mis­un­der­stood. Horne never felt like she fit in, was

re­lent­lessly bul­lied at school and even­tu­ally de­cided that it was all too un­bear­able. She didn’t fin­ish Year 10 and left home with just a tooth­brush and the clothes on her back. On her own at the age of 15, she scram­bled to sur­vive – mov­ing from place to place, job to job.

Horne be­gan hang­ing out with the wrong crowd and she started to take drugs. At one point, her bed­room was a toilet block in Syd­ney’s Kings Cross. Root­less and rest­less, she be­gan to fol­low bands around as she fell into a chaotic mu­sic scene. Even­tu­ally that ex­po­sure – cou­pled with her nat­u­ral artis­tic lean­ings – led her to form her own group, the techno-rock out­fit Def FX, in 1990.

For the next seven years, Def FX toured Aus­tralia, the United States and Japan along­side the likes of Nine Inch Nails, No Doubt and Smash­ing Pump­kins. Horne was a fully-fledged, crowd-surf­ing rock god­dess.

“I felt like a big dag – some­one who was con­vinc­ing every­one that she was a rock star,” she re­veals. “I didn’t feel on the same level with those peo­ple. I put them on such a pedestal.”

Among them was Chris Cor­nell, the Soundgar­den front­man whose band hit its peak in that era; just a cou­ple of weeks be­fore Horne spoke with Stel­lar, Cor­nell was found dead in his Detroit ho­tel room, hav­ing taken his own life. Horne looks back fondly on time spent with Cor­nell dur­ing a tour stop in Auck­land. The pair, she says, “ended up hang­ing out and talk­ing a lot. He was just a guy do­ing the best he can, like every­one. But he was a mas­sive rock star and had all that pres­sure on him. It broke my heart to read what hap­pened.”

Adop­tion laws changed in Aus­tralia while Horne was on the road with Def FX; when she found out in­for­ma­tion about birth par­ents had be­come avail­able, Horne de­cided to track down her bi­o­log­i­cal mother and try to make some sense of her un­happy child­hood.

On her birth doc­u­ments, Horne’s fa­ther was listed as a “used car sales­man”. How­ever, when she met her birth mother, Erika, Horne learnt his ac­tual iden­tity. Her dad was Ge­orge Korner, founder of the Madame Korner beauty em­pire. It turns out his iden­tity had been con­cealed – to pro­tect him.

Korner died 15 years ago, says Horne. “I met him twice. I en­joy a very pleas­ant re­la­tion­ship with his wife Ju­dit. My three half-sis­ters [Olivia, Re­becca and Jessica] are amaz­ing girls.” Stranger as he was, Horne recog­nises some­thing of Korner in her­self.

“I in­her­ited my fa­ther’s and my mother’s sur­vival in­stinct,” she adds. “For all the things I haven’t done well, there’s one thing I have done re­ally well – and that’s sur­vive.”

She was forced to do it again after Def FX abruptly split in 1997, leav­ing Horne not just un­em­ployed but also broke once more. True to form, she di­ver­si­fied by fall­ing back on a skill she had been qui­etly cul­ti­vat­ing dur­ing down­time on tour. When a friend in­tro­duced Horne to a pub­lisher, she pitched an idea about “a rock star writ­ing about witch­craft”. The fol­low­ing year, Witch: A Per­sonal Jour­ney be­came a best­seller. Horne would go on to write nine more books about the sub­ject, and be­came Aus­tralia’s go-to witch­craft ex­pert in the process.

Tele­vi­sion and ra­dio ap­pear­ances piled up; she would host shows and seg­ments on Triple M, Net­work Ten and the Nine Net­work. Dur­ing this time, she in­ter­viewed Tom Jones, who was pro­mot­ing his come­back hit ‘Sex Bomb’ and per­form­ing sold-out shows around the coun­try. A few weeks after they met, Horne was in­vited back­stage at his Mel­bourne con­cert. For two weeks after, she says, “we were phys­i­cally shar­ing a bed­room”.

She says they re­main friendly and re­calls a meet-up in Las Ve­gas years later. “Tom was in the same res­tau­rant. It’s funny – peo­ple you have a con­nec­tion with, you just end up bump­ing into them without even try­ing. I said, ‘God, you’re look­ing re­ally good,’ and he said, ‘I haven’t had a drink for over a year!’ He looked great.”

Horne is some­thing of a rock-star mag­net. Grow­ing up, she was a mas­sive KISS fan; as with Jones, she met the band back­stage at one of their Mel­bourne gigs. Gene Sim­mons in­vited her to travel with them to Bris­bane and she soon found her­self kiss­ing the band’s gui­tarist and vo­cal­ist Paul Stan­ley – and not for the first time. “I kissed a poster of Paul

“For all the things I haven’t done well, there’s a thing I’ve done re­ally well, and that’s sur­vive”

good­night re­li­giously from when I was 10 un­til I left home,” Horne mar­vels. “Ev­ery night, I would tell him I loved him.” The dream proved bet­ter than the re­al­ity – iron­i­cally, she now refers to him as “the worst kiss I ever had”.

AT LEAST ONE good thing came of their meet­ing. Gene Sim­mons be­came a men­tor and con­vinced Horne to move to Los An­ge­les, where she started over once more. She was up for a role on the hit TV se­ries Charmed, but it never even­tu­ated. A stint on a re­al­ity show led to an­other book deal, and at age 39 she de­cided to pose again for Play­boy, hav­ing al­ready fronted the Aus­tralian ver­sion in 1998, when she needed the cash.

Horne re­grets none of it. “Nu­dity was a sell­ing tool,” she ex­plains. “I said yes to ev­ery­thing to try to sur­vive. It was a way to pay off the mount­ing credit card bill I was in­cur­ring while try­ing to keep up ap­pear­ances in a cut­throat, flaky town.”

She even­tu­ally took a job as live-in house man­ager at Jerry Se­in­feld’s for­mer man­sion, which the star had since sold to a banker. Horne lived in the fa­mous home for four years, and she claims it was haunted.

She took up sky­div­ing, which piqued her in­ter­est in flight – high above Earth, she found a kind of seren­ity. To­day she has more than 500 jumps un­der her belt, once held the world record for head-down for­ma­tion fly­ing and keeps that pi­lot’s li­cence close. There is pride in her voice as she talks about the achieve­ment: “I worked three jobs for three-and-a-half years, saved all my money and did my flight train­ing in the LA basin, which is one of the most con­gested and chal­leng­ing airspaces in the world.”

Dannii Minogue, who has been one of Horne’s clos­est friends for nearly 20 years, says this ac­com­plish­ment comes as no sur­prise. “Fiona is gen­tle and kind, but strong and brave,” she tells Stel­lar. “I ad­mire her de­ter­mi­na­tion to al­ways rise above any­thing that tries to drag her down. Her re­silience is an in­spi­ra­tion, and her big­gest thrill is help­ing oth­ers.”

TO­DAY, HORNE’S LIFE is a world away from the ex­cesses of her past. When she moved to the Caribbean, she ar­rived with three duf­fel bags. She rarely wears make-up and doesn’t watch TV. The aid mis­sions Horne flies are on do­nated time – she has al­ready gone on two to Haiti this year.

“A day of fly­ing in the is­lands can in­volve trans­port­ing doc­tors, bee keep­ers, seeds, and even 350 baby chicks! Also, an­i­mal res­cue flights, hu­man re­mains [re­unit­ing fam­i­lies for is­land fu­ner­als], as well as peo­ple on their Caribbean hol­i­day of a life­time and busi­ness peo­ple get­ting to their is­land of­fices,” Horne says.

A few years back, she was star­ing down the bar­rel of her 50th birth­day. Asked by her for­mer pub­lisher if she had an­other book in her, Horne fig­ured it was time for a proper mem­oir. She wrote much of The Naked Witch on the road, in places as far-flung as South Africa and Puerto Rico. In sort­ing out her life, she re­alised how much more value she places in the woman that all of those mo­ments, lush or louche, com­bined to cre­ate.

“I didn’t like who I was be­fore,” Horne says. “I like who I am now. I know I’m the best ver­sion of my­self I’ve ever been, and I for­give my­self for all the times I got it wrong. I’m just happy to be here now – and grate­ful.”

“Nu­dity was a sell­ing tool. I said yes to ev­ery­thing to pay the mount­ing bills”

FLY­ING HIGH (clock­wise from top left) Fiona Horne cud­dles up to KISS’S Paul Stan­ley; as a pi­lot in St Kitts; with her bi­o­log­i­cal mother Erika (left) and aunt Magda; her long-time friend Dannii Minogue; on­stage in her Def FX hey­day.

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