Jack Thompson, actor and movie star and Australia's first male centrefold has always spoken open and honestly about his twelve year unconventional romantic relationship with two sisters, Leona and Bunkie King. Now, for the first time, Bunkie King shares her side of the story in Somebody That I Used to Know.
In 1984, after 15 years as one of -Jack's girls', I chose to leave. I wanted to live a normal life in a regular relationship away from the spotlight, although that too remained elusive. I have stayed silent for three decades to protect the privacy of my family, but when, in 2003 my then 17-year old son blurted out, -I'm not proud of the fact that my mother had sex with her sister!' I realised it was time to set the record straight. He had evidently heard people discussing their misinformed understanding of how Jack Thompson, who was married to his aunt, had lived with the two of us in a ménage a trois. There is general unfounded belief that the three of us engaged in an orgy of sexual abandon, a misconception reinforced by the ABC TV production Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo. - Bunkie King
In 1969, when Bunkie King was a wide-eyed Sydney schoolgirl from a broken family, she met Jack Thompson, struggling actor, soon to be Australia's biggest screen star. He was also romantically involved with Bunkie's older sister, Leona. So began one of the most whispered about relationships in Australian entertainment history, an unconventional arrangement which Jack publicly spoke about but -his' girls never did.
Bunkie's story, whilst high profile is sadly reminiscent of a lot of relationships during the -70s; despite Germaine Greer and the feminist movement and the invention of the contraceptive pill, men largely still held the balance of power in relationships and were able to make them work on their terms with the women left in their wake. Many women naively believed they had to follow the man and his career and that it was ok for him to have an affair but not ok for them. This type of thinking added to Bunkie King's lack of self-love and self-respect, born from a lonely childhood, and saw her take fifteen years of living in a three way relationship before she finally found the strength to leave.
The book provides an insight into her unusual childhood growing up in the 50s and 60s the youngest of six children in a broken family, as well as insight into the entertainment industry during the 70s and 80s. At 14, Bunkie's mother wasn't interested in any of Bunkie's on goings as she was exploring her newfound freedom of sexuality following a divorce.
Bittersweet, laced with all-too-real experiences and insights into life behind the silver screen – and beyond – Bunkie's story is an inspiration for anyone who has had to overcome not just their own demons but society's misconceptions.
Somebody That I Used to Know
Five Mile Press
Author: Bunkie King
Question: What inspired you to write Somebody That I Used to Know?
Bunkie King: I had seen many articles and interviews done by JT over the past three decades and he rarely mentioned the compromise or love that was given during the years that we were together. He never spoke of my sister and I as individual or interesting people. Then, when my son and daughter became aware that I had lived in the public eye for all those years, I decided that it was time for my voice to be heard. It was time for my story to be put into the public arena for posterity.
Question: What did you find most difficult about Somebody That I Used to Know?
Bunkie King: Going back over those years and seeing that I was not appreciated or truly cared for was very difficult. Coming to the realisation that I had not really enjoyed a sharing, caring relationship with either my sister nor JT during that time. Also, seeing the silly mistakes I made and the choices I took when I was younger. Exposing my flaws and failures was embarrassing and it made me quite sad but I wanted my story to be the truth, for better and worse.
Question: Can you talk about how this book has been received by your family and friends?
Bunkie King: My friends have been very supportive and full of praise for my bravery in exposing myself and that time so truthfully. I only have two sisters who remain in contact with me and they have also been very supportive and praised the standard of the writing and the story. My eldest sister was full of praise for the fact that it was well rounded and not pointing the finger at any individual as being the villain. That I had attempted to show the 'why' of the situations that occurred and not just the 'what' that occurred. My children have always been very supportive of me.
Question: What did you learn about yourself whilst writing?
Bunkie King: I learnt to not be so harsh on myself. To accept that I made mistakes but that I have learnt from those mistakes and, hopefully, become a better person in the long run. I learnt that all I ever really wanted was to be loved and appreciated. I also consolidated the understanding that everyone has 'baggage' and this formulates who they are and how they behave.
Question: What's next for you?
Bunkie King: I really have no idea. I have not been in a relationship since my marriage ended and I don't think I ever will be again. It is not something that I aspire to these days. I work very hard all year and then I take an overseas holiday. This is what I work towards and enjoy in my life at this time. I look forward to the future and whatever it may bring knowing that I am stronger and totally independent. I enjoy the quiet life, out of the spot light and not being judged, so I don't think I will seek out fame and fortune in the public arena. I have thought that I would be quite good at writing romance novels (laugh). Perhaps a book about self respect and loving oneself?
Interview by Brooke Hunter