Chapter 1Why every 15-year-old boy needs a Karen Pini in his life

Any teenage boy who grew up in the ‘80s will remember Karen Pini. Karen was a Miss World finalist, a Playboy model, an actress and the Lotto lady on Channel Nine. She was also my neighbour (I know — some kids have all the luck). She wasn't just my neighbour, though. She was my friend and became one of the most influential figures in my life.

Karen ran the Cottage Point Kiosk, a general store for the local community living in and around the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, 30 kilometres north of Sydney. The kiosk overlooked the Hawkesbury River and was the fulcrum around which the local boating community congregated. You could say the kiosk was a ‘mixed business’. It was a convenience store, a coffee shop and a wharf; it offered boat hire, boat repairs, boat cleaning and much more. During the day it was a one-stop shop for sailors and their crews, and at night it came alive with music, food and lots of partying.

My big break

When I was 15, just prior to Dad losing the house, Karen offered me a part-time job helping out behind the counter and serving customers. It was a good arrangement for both of us. The kiosk was located just up the street from where I lived, so I could walk to work after school each day and Karen could call on me at short notice if she needed help.

The job suited me on a range of levels. Mum was busy looking after my younger brother and sister. Dad was always working, his business was faltering ...

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