Mel Gibson barman’s surprise customer at The George Hotel

Brush with fame: The George Hotel barman Lochlainn Whitaker with Mel Gibson in Ballarat on Tuesday.

Brush with fame: The George Hotel barman Lochlainn Whitaker with Mel Gibson in Ballarat on Tuesday.

SO WHEN Mel Gibson came to Ballarat on Tuesday was he looking for a place to film his next blockbuster, a berserk biker with a sawn-off shotgun or some freedom?

Or was he simply looking for a pot of black tea? 

When the 59-year-old Hollywood star and director arrived at The George Hotel, he did so with the minimum of fanfare. 

No giant claymore sword, no flag of American independence, not even a jet black Ford Falcon Interceptor. 

Just an entourage of about six people.

And, apart from a phone call to alert staff that someone was coming, barman Lochlainn Whitaker would not have known he was about to have a brush with fame. 

In fact, Mr Whitaker did not twig something was up until it was pointed out to him.

“Not until he sat down,” he said. “I took the original booking on the phone and set up a table, and didn’t know even when they arrived. 

“Someone said ‘Mel Gibson is here’. 

“I said: ‘Whatever. No he’s not’. The guy said ‘yes, it was’ and, when I looked over I could tell.”

The George Hotel’s entertainment co-ordinator, Steve Kelava, said the Gibson party sat quietly and calmly – in stark contrast to the staff who he said were “running around like chooks with their heads cut off”.

There was no shortage of speculation about Gibson’s visit.

The most plausible was he might be scouting locations for a forthcoming World War II drama movie. 

But perhaps he was merely on his way back to Clunes, the town which was terrorised by the Toecutter’s gang in the original Mad Max film. 

Parts of it don’t look that much different to how they did in the movie.

Mel Gibson is easily the most famous person Mr Whitaker has served, edging out AFL premiership footballers Adam Goodes and Luke Hodge.

And as for Mel Gibson’s ‘poison’? “Just black tea,” Mr Whitaker said.