Air Supply Feted for 'Excellence in Music' at Aussie Gala

8:51 PM PST 01/15/2012 by Charlie Amter
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The once chart-topping soft rockers, whose songs have generated more than $60 million in publishing, were honored at the annual G'Day USA event, then performed to a crowd that included Guy Pearce, Kate Winslett and John Travolta.

When it comes to Australia's multi-platinum musical elders, most Americans likely conjure names such as AC/DC, INXS, Olivia Newton-John or Men At Work. But Saturday night in Hollywood, down under's beloved, sometimes mocked, often forgotten Air Supply was feted with the Excellence In Music award at the 9th annual G'Day USA black tie gala.

And deservedly so. The soft rock duo of Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell were arguably the kings of adult contemporary radio in the early 1980s. Since then, Air Supply's songs have generated more than $60 million in publishing revenues -- that's according to their manager of 30 years Barry Siegel, who told the Hollywood Reporter, "It's a real honor to be working with them.”

Hitchcock and Russell were presented with the award by Priscilla Presley, who recalled: "I met them when Russell was on his second wife, and Graham was with Jodie. I think Russell is on his eighth girl since then.” 

It was an awkward moment for audience members, yet Hitchcock took it all in stride upon taking to the podium to accept the award. “There’s so many people [here] this evening that I used to watch on TV and in movies that it’s overwhelming for me,” said the singer from the stage (several actors were in attendance Saturday, including John Travolta, Jon Voight and, naturally, Crocodile Dundee star Paul Hogan). "We thank you so much for your support and love."

Added chief songwriter Russell: “It’s a real honor to be here and especially [an honor] to represent Australia, which we have represented for 37 years."

The pair, now based in the U.S. (Hitchcock in Orange County and Russell in Utah), still tour extensively in America and abroad and have a 15-year-long Vegas residency of sorts at the Orleans in Las Vegas every Memorial Day weekend.

After Air Supply performed a few of their best-known songs at the gala (among them: the epic “All Out Of Love”), James Gosnell, the duo’s longtime booking agent and the president and CEO of APA, said the act was still overlooked.

“As their agent, I’m amazed at the phone calls we get from places like Vietnam and India,” said Gosnell, whose agency represents a diverse roster that includes Herb Alpert and Paul Oakenfold. “We represent a lot of artists in our music division, but they are one of the very few that get asked to play places most of us have never heard of.”

The Melbourne-formed band is still a money earner, despite a prolonged absence from the pop charts in the U.S., with their songs often heard in movies -- among their prominent placements: 1998's Happiness and 2002's Van Wilder, but who could forget a shivering Seth Green crooning "All Out of Love" while in the arms of a gorilla in the ads for 2009's Old Dogs? Asked why the film world is drawn to their music, Russell said, "I don’t know why, exactly, but I think there is resurgence in real music and real songs.”

Young Australian pop singers Cody Simpson and Jack Vidgen also performed Saturday at the event, which was held in Hollywood & Highland’s Grand Ballroom. Aussies Guy Pearce and Luc Longley were in attendance as well -- Pearce was awarded for Excellence In Film & Television by Kate Winslet and Longley for Excellence In Sports, presented by ex-Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

The G'Day USA gala serves as an annual high-profile tourism and media showcase for the best Australian talents making an impact abroad.

Twitter: @THRMusic

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