Brutal remark that made Cass Thorburn join DWTS
SHE has been criticised, pilloried and trolled to within an inch of her life during the past two years so what makes a smart, media-savvy woman like Cassandra Thorburn - jilted ex-wife of Karl Stefanovic - accept an invitation to compete on reality series Dancing With The Stars?
A withering assessment from a teenage son, that's what.
Sitting down with this columnist on Friday the 47-year-old mother-of-three said it was
a throwaway comment from her oldest son Jackson, 19, that made her sign up for Ten's dancing show after an approach from producers of the series, Warner Bros.
"I went to Jackson, my eldest, and I said, 'I think I'm going to do DWTS' and he turned and said 'No, you're not - you can't f … ing dance" and right then and there I decided it was time I learnt to dance. so I signed up," Thorburn explains. "If Jackson - who did 10 years of ballet - thinks I can't dance then I'm going to learn to dance."
Some would consider a physically and emotionally demanding reality show a strange move for a woman who has been repeatedly burnt by the media, been subjected to years of surveillance from paparazzi and has had to contend with hundreds of articles devoted to one devastating personal fact - that her famous husband left her, moving on with a younger woman.
But upon meeting Thorburn for the first time, it is plain to see the tough ex-journalist and ABC producer gets up every day looking for a new challenge.
"I love a challenge, love a challenge, am quite sprightly about challenges," she says.
She chooses, as the location for our first meeting, Headlands Park at Mosman - a former military lookout and the site of a World War I military hospital for recovering war vets.
It seems appropriate.
During her first week on the Ten dancing show she was subjected to some harsh social media comments and an open attack on Triple M radio by Melbourne comedian and radio personality Lawrence Mooney - a regular guest on Ten's Have You Been Paying Attention - who called Thorburn a "nightmare" and turned on her after she refused to unload on his program about her ex.
"I gotta say Cass, we're going to watch you (on DWTS) because you were Mrs
Stefanovic and you're a woman scorned and (during the interview) she was all about, 'No, I'm a woman in my own right, and I was a journalist', but it's like, no one gives two hoots," Mooney said, drawing plenty of fire himself.
It was the low point of Thorburn's week, she admits - a tough call given she also finished bottom of the table on Dancing With The Stars and expects to be eliminated from the show tomorrow night.
"I did have a bit of a cry the other day with Marco (dance partner, Marco de Angelis) and the producer but at the end of the day I did put myself in this position and I knew that this would be the case and I'm trying to show people that when life throws you a curve ball don't think that's it. Things can change, things can look up, just keep putting one foot in front of the other - fake it until you make it and one day you wake up and you're really happy. It actually becomes a reality," she says.
Despite Mooney's public put down, which included a question as to whether her ex-husband Stefanovic has had hair plugs - the need for which this writer drew attention to in 2006 after he took to the ice on Torvill And
Dean's Dancing On Ice with a shiny pate, something I confess to during our interview - Thorburn maintains she actually did sign up for Dancing in the hope of "reclaiming" her identity.
"If other women or men from separated families - if they get inspiration from that, fantastic. I'm doing it because that's what I need to do for my family. A lot of women are in the same position as me - they've raised children and are trying to get back into the workforce - that's what this is," she said.
As part of her deal with Ten she will appear on the morning show Studio 10 for one year - something the 47-year-old hopes will lead to a job.
It's something she didn't aggressively pursue initially post divorce while her youngest child was still in primary school but now that River, 12, is in Year 7 she is doubling her efforts.
Asked if she would leave Sydney - uproot her three children Jackson, Ava, 13, and River - escape the paps and hightail it back to Mildura, where she's from, or perhaps move north to sunny Queensland, Thorburn said she felt she owed it to the kids to remain in Sydney, the only home they have ever known.
And what of love, I ask.
There have been plenty of celebrities who have found love while competing on Dancing With The Stars - model Rachael Finch and dance partner Michael Miziner, Kym Johnson and Tom Williams, Adam Brand and Jade Hatcher, Kym Johnson and Robert Herjavec to name a few.
Thorburn said her partner, Marco de Angelis, is a little young for her:
"I already have children," she quipped, brushing off any suggestion of romance, for now.