Woman’s extraordinary meeting with Neil Armstrong

 

A GOLD Coast woman who ended up sharing a glass of scotch with Neil Armstrong in 1972 says he was "gorgeous" - and even better looking than Ryan Gosling.

Marilynne Dornan was a junior reporter in South Africa when she covered the astronaut's first appearance at Durban in December 1972 for a charity event, three years after Armstrong, who commanded Apollo 11, became the first person to walk on the moon.

Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin landed the module Eagle on the moon at an area known as the Sea of Tranquillity on July 20. Six hours and 39 minutes later, Armstrong stepped on the moon and uttered the famous words: "That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.''

Marilynne Dornan (nee Holloway) was a junior reporter when she scored a casual interview with Neil Armstrong in South Africa. Picture Glenn Hampson
Marilynne Dornan (nee Holloway) was a junior reporter when she scored a casual interview with Neil Armstrong in South Africa. Picture Glenn Hampson


Although her interview with the world's most famous man was so long ago, Ms Dornan still remembers the experience like it was yesterday.

"He'd always been a reclusive person," she said, adding the interviews he gave out were few and far between.

"I was a very junior reporter and seemingly inoffensive. But I got a lift with the Armstrong cars (to the function).

Ms Dornan still has her clippings of Neil Armstrong to this day. Picture Glenn Hampson
Ms Dornan still has her clippings of Neil Armstrong to this day. Picture Glenn Hampson


"We all ended up in the lift together and he was gorgeous. Ryan Gosling just doesn't do him any justice. He was like a younger Brad Pitt. He was just so charming.

"I said to him, 'You must be used to being squashed in your job'. He laughed, said they could probably fit a few more in floating."

But Ms Dornan's chance to find out a little more about the man himself came when a steward mixed their drinks up. He received Ms Dornan's apple juice while she was given his scotch.

Ms Dornan (nee Holloway) in the 1970s when she was an ‘inoffensive’ junior reporter. Picture Glenn Hampson
Ms Dornan (nee Holloway) in the 1970s when she was an ‘inoffensive’ junior reporter. Picture Glenn Hampson

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"I actually started to choke on my drink," she said.

"He looked puzzled. The waiter had given me his scotch, he had my apple juice.

"But I asked him all the questions I wanted to. I asked him what Earth looked like, he said it was bright blue. He was very self-deprecating."

Ms Dornan said Armstrong was so polite and calm she understood how he had survived in space.

She found out that he played a lot tennis and loved golf, although his sons always beat him.

When another man approached him to ask if he was part of the Turtle Club, a club for astronauts, he said he had been kicked out "for his language".

"He was like the guy next door," Ms Dornan said.

"I was very happy to share a glass of scotch with the first man on the moon."

Soon after, Ms Dornan managed to ask for an autograph, to which he replied he would give her 15 of them to swap for famous South African golfer Gary Player.

Despite few reporters being given a byline on their stories in the daily newspapers back then, Ms Dornan received one under her maiden name of Holloway and kept a copy of the story, which she still has to this day.