What I know about men: Rebecca Gibney Actor, 52, married.
My father Austin was one of 11 children. He was dragged out of school too soon and never got to be who he wanted to be. He became an alcoholic. He had violent episodes, but when he was sober he could be quite funny and a kind human.
Dad died at the age of 52. He had a blood-clotting disorder and lost a leg as a result. When I was 16, I spent five months taking care of him at home. I had quit school at 15 and stopped working to be at home while Mum worked. Just before Dad died he turned to me, hugged me and said, “I love you.” He never had said it up to that point.
My mum Shirley is 82. She was abused by her father until she was 15, and at 19 married my dad, who physically abused her another 20 years. She has the most amazing capacity to forgive. Seeing my father treat Mum so poorly taught me no matter what is thrown at you in life, you have to find the right tools to get through it.
I am the youngest of six children and have two older brothers. They are sensitive men who always showed me kindness. I never grew up thinking all men are bastards because of what my father did to Mum.
Growing up in Wellington, New Zealand, I was naturally on the outer as I was so much younger than my brothers. I remember sitting at the kitchen table on a Sunday and seeing the roast arrive. I had to inhale my share or I’d miss out. I’m still a fast eater because of that.
I took dance classes with my brother Patrick when I was 14. He is one of the most optimistic men I know. He was diagnosed with a brain tumour at 24 when his wife Annie was pregnant with their first child. The doctors told us his prognosis wasn’t good, but instead of us saying our goodbyes he had this innate faith and belief in himself. Patrick is proof you can get strong and get through. It was a miracle he survived.
My first kiss was with a boy called Lars when I was about seven, but it wasn’t a proper kiss. He was beautiful, blond and gorgeous and it happened at our primary school.
I was a late bloomer when it came to boys and my mum was worried about it because I was a tomboy. My father wanted another son after three girls. He even had the name picked out – I was going to be Joseph. I lived in flannelette shirts, jeans and sneakers, and Mum sent me to a deportment class at 13.
I loved running, camping and I didn’t discover boys until I was 15. I went to Wellington Girls’ College and everyone became boy-mad. I was a rebellious teenager. Mum did the best she could, but I needed male attention and Dad was always drunk and asleep on the couch when I got home from school.
I had a crush on Jon English when I was 15. I went to his concert and stood in the front row. Ten years later I was cast opposite him in a sitcom. I did tell him and he loved it.
Before I moved to Australia, at 19, I dated a guy called Blaine – he was a radio announcer. He was the first boy who was truly kind to me and we were together for a year. He was the first boyfriend who treated me like a princess.
In my 20s I probably sabotaged a few relationships because I was searching for someone to validate and take care of me as a woman. Therapists told me I was always looking for a father figure. I would have saved men a lot of hurt if I had understood this earlier in life.
Producers Roger Le Mesurier and Roger Simpson were both my mentors. Le Mesurier was also my lifeline. I developed agoraphobia and had a mental collapse in my early 30s – my career was going amazingly but my personal life was a mess after the collapse of my first marriage to singer Jack Jones.
We were on our way back to Australia from the south of France for work and I was nursing an oxygen tank on the plane because I couldn’t breathe. Roger gave me a card for a woman who could help me once we landed. She became my therapist. I don’t know what would have happened to me if he hadn’t stepped in.
I met my second husband, Richard Bell, when I was 35. I had dealt with my past and in walks this beautiful, tall New Zealander who happened to live on the same street as me when I was five. We met in 1999, got together in 2000 and married in 2001 and have been happy ever since. We have one son, Zachary, 13.
When my son was born, there was a moment in hospital when we locked eyes and I saw my father. I still see him in him sometimes, and I am like, “Oh my god, it’s my dad.” Zachary is confident, strong and secure and knows we love him. I promised to give him the life my father never had.
Rebecca Gibney stars in Wanted on Channel 7 on Mondays at 8.40pm
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