Book Talk: The Swinging 60s, as told by a Cher-lookalike

SYDNEY Thu Nov 22, 2012 2:01am EST

SYDNEY (Reuters) - It is the 1960s and rock journalist Lola Bensky finds herself deep in the heart of the music scene in London and New York, interviewing emerging stars like Mick Jagger and Jimi Hendrix.

But the 19-year-old Melbourne-born Lola of the eponymous "Lola Bensky," by Lily Bent, is no ordinary rock journalist. The Jewish child of two Holocaust survivors, she prefers to ask interviewees how they got on with their mother and wins praise from Cher, who tells her they look alike.

Bent, who like her heroine originally hails from Australia and in fact still bears a strong resemblance to Cher, spoke with Reuters on a recent visit from New York, her home of 23 years, about her semi-autobiographical novel.

Q: For a young reporter, you were very comfortable around these rock stars. Why?

A: "If you've had two parents who have been imprisoned in ghettos and Nazi death camps, idolizing rock stars almost seemed absurd. My life was not centered around being alone with Mick Jagger in his apartment, it was to make sure my reel to reel tape recorder wasn't screwing up."

Q: Born to survivors of the Auschwitz death camp, Lola was fixated with losing weight, and as a teenager your ambition in life was to lose weight? Why is weight such an issue?

A: "This is a very complicated issue (and) there are many aspects of it. However, in the ghettos and the camps anyone who had any excess weight was doing something at someone else's expense, aiding the destruction of other people. My mother admired slimness above all, you could have won the Nobel prize for nuclear physics and if you were fat, she would have said ‘what a fatty'!

"I think my act of rebellion which I thought would upset my Mother was in the end destructive to me. Rebellion is the need to dement your parents and it worked."

Q: There is a strong Jewish theme throughout your book and it's as if you almost make fun of it. Is that risky?"

A: "I think it's very important not to hold any culture or religious belief as sacrosanct, as something that can't be talked about, something that you can't find something funny about. If you ask a Jew how they are they would never say ‘excellent' because who knows what could happen two seconds later. When people ask you, I want to say, ‘well I don't know because there are so many things that have to function in your body simultaneously, how do you know they're all working.' It's such a very complicated question."

Q: At the 1967 Monterey Festival you were surrounded by people taking drugs of some sort, in fact throughout your career, yet you always declined. Why?

A: "I had to explain - my parents are really really upset that I didn't become a lawyer so I can't become a junkie. I was always saying no thank you to drugs at the Monterey Pop Festival. I was so relieved when someone passed carrots along the row (instead of drugs)".

Q: Death surrounds Lola, when the ghosts of the past merge with names like Jim Morrison, Mama Cass, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin and Keith Moon, who all die during her time as a reporter. Does Lola Bensky/Lily Brett finally find out what it means to be human?

A: "That's one of life's really really complex questions. I think that maybe it means to care about other people and not just the people around you. To have compassion."

(Reporting by Pauline Askin, editing by Elaine Lies)

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