John Denver, who died 20 years ago, left a big mark on a Cardiff man

Cardiff’s Paul Stocker has long loved the music of John Denver.

“He’s been a comfort to me through hard times,” Paul, 78, said.

“I just love his music and lyrics.

“I’m not talking about the songs that everybody knows. I’m talking about the songs that hardly anybody knows.”

To mark the 20th anniversary of Denver’s death, which falls on Thursday, Paul told us a story about the time he met the famous singer at a Sydney hotel in 1983.

“I knew he was in Australia, but I didn’t know where he was staying,” Paul said.

“I said to my family, as soon as I heard he was in Australia, ‘I’m going to meet John Denver, I’m absolutely certain of that’.”

Paul drove to Sydney Airport to drop his daughter off for a flight.

He, his wife and two sons then drove back to The Rocks in the city.

Paul’s family wasn’t too keen to participate in his mission to find John Denver.

“I said, ‘I want to walk down through the Regent Hotel. I think that’s where I’m going to meet John Denver’.”

Paul had a hunch that the singer was staying there.

“When we got to the Regent, the doorman recognised us as ‘hicks from the sticks’.

“He was smiley and friendly. He gave me a big bow and I bowed back to him.

“We walked into the foyer and I was absolutely awestruck. I’d never been in a space like that before in my life.”

At this point, Paul had a thought about walking up to the front desk, asking if Denver was staying there and declaring that he’d like to meet him.

“It was pretty naive stuff,” Paul said.

“We were standing there like stunned plovers.”

The family headed for the door. 

“We went through the process again of the doorman bowing to me and me bowing to him. Then I went to walk through the door and I ran smack bang into John Denver.

“He was standing there smiling at the doorman and me.”

Paul said Denver’s smile “made it easy to say gidday”.

“I said ‘gidday, you’re the man I need to see’.”

“He said ‘really’.”

They had a chat and Paul introduced him to his wife and two sons.

“He asked us where we were from and we told him we had tickets to his concert.”

Paul was mindful of not taking up too much of the star’s time.

“I thought I better not push my luck here, he’s been absolutely charming.”

As the family left the hotel, there was a stunned silence.

“Eventually one of my sons broke the silence, saying ‘far out’.”

For those who don’t know, “far out” was Denver’s signature saying.

So what about this hunch that Paul had about Denver staying at the Regent Hotel?

Paul attributed it to “the power of positive thinking”.

“I was absolutely determined to meet him. I said to my children and my wife, ‘I know I’m going to meet him when we’re down here in Sydney, I don’t know how it will be, but I know I’m going to meet him’.

“That’s how it happened.”

Paul will always remember his meeting with Denver.

“He was very pleasant. He spoke to us in a way that you could only dream of.

“He not only used our names, including the boys, but he remembered them during the course of the conversation.

“He was what I wanted him to be. I’d been comforted by his music for a big part of my life. His concerts were near unbelievable.”

This included, we hear, his two gigs at Newcastle Entertainment Centre.

A Twist of Fate

Speaking of fateful encounters, a reader named Steve told us that he’s recently been going out with a new woman.

They’ve been together for 13 weeks.

“How did you meet?”, we asked.

“I drive a truck and she’s a traffic controller. I regularly drive past her at work, so we struck up a conversation.”

That’s quite an unusual way to meet someone, we said.

Steve replied that this was the second traffic controller he had dated.

He also met the first one by striking up a conversation while being stopped in traffic.

How did you meet your beloved? Let us know at topics@theherald.com.au.

Reptile Theme 

Topics reported on Tuesday about Central Coast Mariners fans creating a cartoon banner that depicted Jets striker Roy O’Donovan [a former Mariner] as a snake.

Jets fan Ross Greig, of New Lambton, said there appears to be a reptile theme on the Central Coast.

He noted that the Mariners home ground used to be called Bluetongue Stadium, a bar overlooking Brisbane Water was once known as Iguana Joe’s and there’s also the Australian Reptile Park at Somersby.

“Is there something in the water down there?” Ross said.