Top Gun star Kelly McGillis' visit to The Grand Hotel Newcastle

Visitor: Kelly McGillis, pictured with Tom Cruise, is now an acting teacher in North Carolina.

Visitor: Kelly McGillis, pictured with Tom Cruise, is now an acting teacher in North Carolina.

IT’S not too long before a Hunter newcomer realises the traditional six degrees of separation is more like two or three degrees when connecting dots across the region.

But we’re betting even some long-term patrons of The Grand Hotel Newcastle didn’t realise their tenuous link to American actress Kelly McGillis, who played Charlie Blackwood in Top Gun.

Hotel owner Mike Angus, who was previously married to McGillis’ sister Karen, said his former-sister-in-law stayed at the historic hotel under a false name for a few nights in the late 1990s. “I can’t remember what it was, but I’m sure it was some bloody cartoon character,” Mr Angus said laughing.

Mr Angus met his former wife Karen when she was working for his sister in Los Angeles in the late 1980s. Her sister, McGillis, had been thrust into the global spotlight in Top Gun and was making The Accused, in which she played a lawyer who supports Jodie Foster's character.

“The day I first met her [McGillis] at her parents house in Newport Beach I didn’t even recognise her – I walked right past her,” he said. “I was walking out and she was walking in and she said ‘You must be Mike’.”

McGillis was a bridesmaid at Mike and Karen’s wedding on an island in Newport Harbor in 1988.

“There were no iPhones those days but we had to sign an agreement that the photos would only be used for our own purposes.

“She was just normal, she had a good time just like everyone else. You didn’t really think about it [her fame] when you were just sitting there at the dinner table.”

However his connection to McGillis did not go unnoticed by one friend.

“I was doing flying lessons and I asked if she had any posters to sign for my flying instructor,” he said.

“He thought it was Christmas.”

Mr Angus said he has kept in touch with his former mother-in-law after his relationship ended amicably and has seen McGillis occasionally, including when she was working in Australia.

“She called me when she came to Sydney and we met for lunch and she later stayed up here for a few nights,” he said. “She made a movie [The Monkey’s Mask] with Susie Porter – whose sister used to work here for me!”

A Pavarotti in a pear tree

CONSUMER group Choice has issued advice to help shoppers avoid a “financial hangover” in the new year, including comparing products and prices and avoiding shopping centre “traps”.

Luciano Pavarotti was one of the most commercially successful tenors of all time.

Luciano Pavarotti was one of the most commercially successful tenors of all time.

While jostling with increasingly flustered shoppers in a centre blasting carols can make it easy to feel overwhelmed and unnecessarily splash cash, browsing online from home should be quick, easy and distraction-free. Unless you’re a Pavarotti fan.

Universal Music has sent an email promoting its Christmas with Pavarotti album complete with a link to play endless Pavarotti online pinball and count down using a Pavarotti online advent calendar.

Book lover opens library

SCIENTIST Heather Stevens has turned her love of literature into a community service. The Tighes Hill mother of two has transformed a bar fridge into a street library that stands outside her Henry Street home.

The street library includes books and magazines of all genres for all ages.

The street library includes books and magazines of all genres for all ages.

Passers-by are invited to visit the library, peruse the titles (and the occasional home-made biscuits) and take one home, with no obligation to return it. “Every book I put in there I’ve read – they’ve either come from my own collection or I’ve picked them up from op-shops,” she said. “But a lot of neighbours have been putting theirs in there too. Reading is a testing ground for life – you don’t need to climb Mt Everest, you can read about someone who did and learn the things they learned. You can live many lives and have many experiences.”

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