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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 24 November 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 24 NOVEMBER 2018 15 FEATURE Chantal (R) in Snap (1976) with Lynn Rainbow and Faye Donaldson. Chantal’s glorious acting days. Glorious Chantal in Cannes. PHOTO: STEVEN MAGEDOFF the age of seven. "It was cute at seven but not at 15," recalls the award-winning actress. After leaving home, she started working as a dancer and rose through the ranks to the top of the tree as a resident go-go girl at Big Daddy's nightclub in Gawler Place; a memory she now looks back on fondly. But even while dancing, Chantal wanted to act. At 16 she left Adelaide for Melbourne, after being bullied and called hideous names by a Greek woman on the street. She walked onto the pop music television show Kommotion, which featured live dancers, and danced her way through most of The Supreme’s songs. From there, she relocated to London where she met Olivia Newton-John, who would eventually become one of her closest friends. Those watching television in the 1970s would remember the Australian hit show Number 96, whose mad and raunchy plot lines included the dreaded pantyhose strangler, nurse Tracy Wilson played by Chantal. Young and ethereal, the exotic actress featured in a series of movies and comedies including Alvin Rides Again (1974) as Boobs La Touche, Bazza Holds His Own (1974) with Barry Humphries and Barry McKenzie, Snapshot (1979) and the cult horror movie Thirst (1979). Upon her return to Australia, Chantal got her most significant role, playing Melina Tsangarakis, Tom Sullivan's first wife, on the wholesome Australian family drama television series The Sullivans from 1976 until 1983, when the character dies at the Chantal loves Greece, particularly her little village Agios Georgios in Lakonia. hands of a Nazi officer. That was Chantal's favourite role, but most are unaware that she was initially refused to even audition for it. "Eventually, with the help of a dear friend of mine, I got my hands on came some recognition from her parents and also members of the Greek community who had previously slammed their doors in her face. Contouri continued to work in Sydney and moved to LA after attending Olivia A glamouros Chantel in 1980. PHOTO: JUSTIN HARRIS “Are you crazy? You can’t be an actress. You are Greek!” said Chantal’s father when he heard his daughter’s announcement. the script, I learnt my lines in two hours and became Melina Tsangarakis - a role that will stay with me forever," she says. In 1979, Contouri won a Logie Award for best supporting actress for her role as Melina. Following the Logie win Newton-John's marriage to Matt Lattanzi where she remained to work on the daytime megasoap General Hospital. In her 40s, she returned to Sydney briefly before heading overseas again, this time to Greece, for an extended period of relaxation and self-reflection in the family's home. Upon her return to Australia, Contouri accepted a few more roles before deciding to semi-retire from acting in 1998 following her mother's failing health. This led her to begin the next era of her life at the 'Barbecue Inn', a Mediterranean grill restaurant, which Konstantinos and Fotini had bought and turned into a focal point for Hindley Street's nightlife by the late 1990s. "My sisters Voula, Gill and Elizabeth had worked with my parents for years, so I told them it was my turn after roaming the world and doing what I wanted, to repay my moral debt to our parents," she says. Contouri slowly worked the business back to its former glory until the family decided to close its doors once and for all in 2014. Last year Chantal featured in the film Hotel Mumbai directed by Adelaide-born, Greek Australian Anthony Maras and also took part in the movie Storm Boy with Geoffrey Rush. She also featured in the short film Unfinished Thoughts for which she received a Sassa Award for Best Performance. Today, more graceful than ever, Contouri is semiretired and resides alone in Torrensville, a multicultural suburb she loves. She enjoys gardening, spending time with her family and close friends, and is in the process of writing her own memoir. "I had a beautiful childhood in every way in my darling Greece and in a tolerant, kind, benevolent and accepting Australia," she says. "I couldn't be more grateful for my wonderful life."
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