I'm So Proud of My Boy

Jimmy Barnes is in fine form.

His trademark expletives turn the air as blue as the water as he wisecracks and splashes his way around the swimming pool.

Until recently, the rock icon lived in the NSW Southern Highlands after returning from France in late 1996, but he now boasts a prestigious address in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

A gentle hush hangs over all but one of the neighbourhood's gracious harbourside mansions as Barnesy's throaty rasp lets rip.

Wicked laughter and 100-miles-per- hour repartee shatter the silence as David Campbell, Jimmy's first child from a youthful fling 28 years ago, eggs his father on.

David, who is receiving rave reviews for his portrayal of Johnny O'Keefe in the musical Shout!, has been staying with his dad, his step-mother Jane and his four half-siblings Mahalia, 18, Eliza-Jane, 15, Jackie, 14, and Elly-May, 11, while his fiancee Natalie Mendoza is performing in London.

Jane raises her eyebrows and utters a mock sigh. Having her husband and stepson under the same roof is quite a handful, she jokes.

Jimmy, Jane and David are close, but it took Jane to convince the Cold Chisel star that he should reveal his true identity to his young son.

'It was on her instigation that David and I became close,' admits Jimmy, 44. 'I'd been trying to stay back so I wouldn't mess with his mind.

'I didn't tell Jane I had a child until after we got married,' Jimmy continues. 'When she found out, the first thing she said was: "What the hell are you doing here? You should be getting to know him."

David, 28, was raised in Adelaide by his maternal grandmother Joan, who led him to believe his mother Kim was his sister and Jimmy was just a close family friend.

Trying to shield David from the truth about his parents' teenage union, everyone had his best interests at heart - but the result was confronting and confusing for the 12-year-old David.

'Early on I remember thinking: "This guy's been sleeping with my grandmother,"' says David, looking down and staring at his hands.

The two men have never spoken together publicly about their relationship and it's obvious David is uncomfortable and guarded.

He offers the minimum of information about his formative years, 'I'm sure he must have wondered: "Who is this guy who keeps turning up?" says Jimmy.

'It was pretty weird,' says David. 'I always knew he was safe and loved,' continues Jimmy. 'He was a good boy - and you don't get manners like that unless you're being well looked after.'

When the truth finally came out it was traumatic for everyone involved.

'His grandmother wanted to make sure we weren't just going along to throw money at him before leaving him again. She was very protective.'

'I had no idea,' David interjects. 'He's like me, a nervous person, so he was very wary,' Jimmy adds as he tussles his son's hair and playfully arrests him in a headlock.

The 16-year age difference is hardly noticeable as the two cavort and joke like kids.

'We're both pretty obsessive-compulsive,' they yell in unison. 'It's hysterical because they're so similar,' laughs Jane, 44.

'And it gets freakier,' says Jimmy, his Scottish accent becoming broader as his amusement builds.

'They both go to sit or lie in the same place at the same time,' says Jane.

'We drive Jane nuts. And when we're on stage together...'

'We go for the same notes at the same time,' says David, finishing his father's sentence.

Despite the hilarity, the two stars admit they've been on quite a journey together, and the scars are still there, although even these are healing.

Jimmy talks with paternal pride about watching David on stage.

'I get emotional every time I hear him sing,' he says.

'Really?' responds David, turning to look at his father, obviously touched by the comment.

Jimmy and Jane's new home is at once tranquil and chaotic. 'Jane meditates every day, but I find it hard because I can't sit still long enough,' says Jimmy, who is a friend of US meditation guru Deepak Chopra.

Jimrny, Jane and David attended one of Deepak's workshop retreats during a particularly difficult time in their relationship.

'Some amazing things came out of it,' Jimmy reveals. 'The night after the retreat, Jane and I sat up talking about our deepest, darkest fears. Things that you never tell anybody! 'The next morning, David came in and said: 'Last night I was thinking about all my fears. It was bizarre!" 'We discovered we have the exact same phobias!' David exclaims. 'Confined spaces...'

'And open spaces,' offers Jimmy. 'People...' continues David. 'No people...' laughs Jimmy. 'Crowds, heights...' says David. Jimmy pauses. 'Deepak loved that we were there as a family. He gets a kick out of observing our relationship,' Jimmy says.

'And discovering how we survive it!' says Jane, her brown eyes dancing with mischief.

David stars in Shout! at The Capitol Theatre, Sydney - the show will later tour nationally. Jimmy's single Land of 1000 Dances (frorn the alburn Soul Deeper) is available on Warner Music.

New Idea April 2001 By Jill Fraser Pictures: Sean Watson