Mel TormeZara Lang and Hal Todd did the breakfast show in Studio 2. Zara and I hit it off wonderfully. Lots in common. Cars and Mel Torme records! I was smitten. Madly in love.....
Then Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Torme arrived in Australia. We did a two camera OB recording at Embers Night Club in South Yarra with both these artists. For some reason Zara was there and she introduced me to Mel !.. little did I know she’d already been spending time with him! Poor young Bill, high dry and heart broken. As the song goes.....’Some sweet talking lover boy took her away, I think to play!’
Anyway some week or so later, according to the Melbourne Herald, the LA Times reported Mel Torme seeks police protection from his wife. To do with something that happened while on tour. Justice was done I thought a little unkindly! The only OB I didn’t look back on too kindly for a year or so.
But that was 60 years ago and now another wonderful memory.
I didn't get to work the concert but I was on the OB at the Southern Cross Hotel for the city welcome to the Beatles. Lots of cables dragged through the kitchens and out on to the solid 'awning' above the footpath where the 'reveal' of the Beatles took place in front of many thousands of screaming fans, mostly teenage girls but a good mix of gender and age. I was a camera minder, cable wrangler and microphone handler passing the mike to the Beatles as they came out onto the deck. Big thrill I can tell you, one of them even thanked me!
As a teenager myself with a CH9 white coat I drew some attention when on the footpath with a portable VHF. Another of the techos, from the UK with a broad Northern accent (can't remember his name) and I, shammed a call to the Beatles with him acting the part of Ringo within earshot of the crowd - we were mobbed!! Way to go.
I don't think I told that story to Jack Young.
September, 2020 ------------------
Pat BoonePat Boone was about my age, around 19 or 20 when he was rushed to GTV at 22 Bendigo Street by his Australian agent, in a large Cadillac. In addition to his concerts he was to do some recorded television appearances. So a couple of quick songs were to be recorded on our only Ampex VR1000 Video Recorder. The PYE Image orthicon black and white cameras had been carefully aligned for optimum resolution and grey scale. With each camera painstakingly matched, I carefully filled in the TD’s log with all camera’s details for future reference. Pat’s lighting was expertly done by John Fowler with assistance, I think, by Mirrorback Mac (John MacDowell). There was an issue with the sound balance between the orchestra level and Pat’s voice. It seemed his voice was so soft and the boom mic couldn’t get in close enough. The close proximity of the orchestra was often a problem in such situations.
No doubt Des Ford or John Cannon can recall these challenges! So after a few takes of ‘Bernadine‘ and ‘Love letters in the sand’ it was a wrap! Pat insisted he come up to the VTR and watch the replay a couple of times while his agent panicked they’d miss the plane to Sydney. Pat, the enthusiastic young teenager, told him not to worry as he was sure the ‘Big Caddie’ would get them to the airport quickly. He enjoyed talking to us standing around the VTR machine. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind putting a note in my TD log. Which he did gladly, citing good lighting, fine resolution, etc. We still have a copy of that page today! And, yes, Pat Boone made it to the Essendon airport in good time!
Just one of my memories of those wonderful days.
Nancy WilsonIn the early IMT days, it wasn’t uncommon for a bunch of us to go out after the show for supper. On this particular night, I recall Graham, Bert and eight or ten of us from the IMT crew went to a nightclub in Ackland Street StKilda. In the early sixties, it was probably one of a few places still open at 1130pm. But to me this was a special night. A young African American singer, Nancy Wilson, who had performed that evening on IMT was invited to join us. I believe by Bert. Her performance on air was superb. Here was this new, virtually unknown singer being heard for the first time in Australia. Little did we realise how successful she would become over the following five decades, recording over 70 albums, winning three Grammy Awards for rhythm and blues plus best Jazz vocal. She also had her own award winning Nancy Wilson Show on NBC TV.
While we were sitting around a large table on that night, I could hear one of our group almost begging Nancy to sing us a song. Good luck with that I thought, no band, not even a microphone, and a few noisy people at other tables! Suddenly she stood up, stood away from the table to face us all. There was immediate silence. And without microphone or backing sang in the clearest voice....
“In this world of ordinary people
I’m glad there is you
In this world of overrated pleasures
And underrated treasures
I’m glad there is you
I live to love, I love to live
With you beside me
This role so new I’ll muddle through
With you to guide me
In this world....”
A truly amazing goose bump performance. And I might be wrong (again!), but Nancy seemed to be singing it to Bert. Hope you all enjoyed this memory of our early days.
October, 2020 ------------------------------
Sir Francis ChichesterI have read all the emails with great interest and thought of a couple of memories. The first being sent out on an ob as td to do a live cross on Sir Francis Chichester sailing through The heads into port Philip bay. We just sent the pictures back to the studio and were told to go to the heads on the other side of the bay but no one would say why, we stopped to fill up the ob van and the attendant Said I guess you are going to cover the Prime Ministers disappearance. And that's where we spent the next few days living on KFC which Russ Sefton Picked up.
Another thing that comes to mind is the first colour tv show was made in studio nine for british tv it was Opportunity Knocks goes worldwide. The cameras were a 4 tube emi which came from emi on loan a Philips ldk3 From tcn and a RCA we borrowed from channel 1 (10) I was on ccu with Richard Berriman and Alan Leslie as Td Rupert Mc Caw as tech advisor. The old grassvalley mixer had to be doctored by bob Henson to pass the colour signal And also some tinkering in vt to record it . those were the days when nine wanted to be first.
Good one Bob
I was on Master Control that Sunday afternoon/evening. Chaos! Then dispatched the next day to Portsea to help on the OB. Slept in '901' that night.
It's fair to say that Alan Kleeburg and the maintenance lads were not impressed when they had to dis-assemble the Pye Mk III rotating lense turrents to clean out all the Portsea sand when the cameras returned - beach buckets and spades required.
October, 2020 -----------------------------
The GatekeeperBendigo Street, Richmond was a quiet street except at the hour when the Heinz soup factory set the workers free. The red brick factory of three storeys stood at number 22, detached from its neighbours in a large square ground. The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces.
The former tenant of the factory, a piano manufacturer, closed for business in 1935 and the building was sold that same year to the Heinz soup company. Musty from having been long enclosed, and littered with old useless vats and machines, the building was again sold in 1955, to a consortium of newspaper publishers, radio stations and theatre companies.
A chimney stood in the centre of the factory grounds and for 50 years it belched smoke, soot and ash over the neighbourhood. Of no architectural significance its only appeal was that from the very top, and on a clear day, the recently built GTV transmitter tower could be seen atop Mount Dandenong 35Km to the East, providing a line-of-sight path for a microwave link.
Jago Street, which defined the northern boundary, led to a side entrance and the gatehouse where Bert had spent most of his working life as the gatekeeper, all the other Heinz workers having long since gone. He witnessed the steady stream of celebrities, the toing and froing of the early days of television from 1956 onwards. Bert was everyone's friend, with a welcoming smile to help us start a long and tedious day. For some strange reason he took a liking to me and often invited me to visit his house nearby for lunch, where he lived with his wife Mary, on the pretext of adjusting his new TV set.
They lived in a modest weatherboard cottage, a short walk from the television station. The living room had that cozy lived-in feeling, yet there was an air of sadness amid the warmth and hospitality. A shiny new Astor SJ 17inch TV sat in one corner and a fireplace with a mantelpiece above in another.
Mary would prepare a nourishing meal of crumbed fish, mashed potatoes and vegetables. The table was set with her finest cutlery and crockery, and the meal was brought to the table where the three of us sat. They did not eat, but just sat there quietly watching me as I enjoyed the meal. Afterwards I would checkover their TV, adjust the fine-tuning, set the brightness and contrast and generally make a fuss over nothing, as the set was in perfect order. On a subsequent visit I noticed that on the mantelpiece there was one solitary framed photograph, of a young man in military uniform, he would have been around my age at the time.
Bert and Mary would always accompany me to their front gate and see me off on the short walk back to the studio, to the mayhem and chaos of the afternoon rehearsal for the Tarax Happy Show.
September, 2020 -------------------------------
The Audience EntranceThe audience entered from the southern side of the building, a short flight of well trodden stairs led to a hastily constructed rectangular annexe that straddled the two studios. Immediately to the right of the stairway entrance was a rarely used doorway that opened into studio two. At the far end a set of double doors opened into the much larger studio one. Framed photographs of the stars hung along each wall. Hardly a grand entrance hall, it was the first impression that many visitors had of the GTV9 studios.
The smell of freshly painted walls still hung in the air when the first of many celebrities arrived, Bob Dyer and his wife Dolly. They posed for the photographers in the cramped annexe, somehow I managed to squeeze in too. They had just arrived, in great style, having driven down from the Gold Coast in a brand new left-hand-drive, gull-winged De Soto convertible, in an obscene pink. It stood proudly in the middle of the car park and announced to all and sundry that Bob Dyer and Pick-A-Box were here.
Many were to follow, including Norma Ann Sykes, better known as Sabrina, a 1950s English glamour model who progressed to a minor film career. She was best known for her hourglass figure of 42.5-inch breasts coupled with a tiny 19-inch waist and 36-inch hips. Who I observed strategically and in great detail, from the top of the stairs leading to the control rooms, as she ascended like the Queen of Sheba visiting King Solomon.
September, 2020 -------------------
The Astor SJ TV SetI remember visiting the Astor Radio Corporation of Australia Ltd factory, at South Melbourne, I think Tom took me there to meet with Alf Garraway, their Chief Design Engineer. We needed video monitors for the studio control rooms and Alf built a number of stripped down chassis only sets for us. The factory was a hectic place in 1956, the demand for the SJ model was far greater than they could produce.
Being a part of Electronic Industries, a shareholder in General Television Corporation, paved the way for Rod Biddle to obtain a small quota of the Astor 17 inch SJ TV sets, many of which were donated to various celebrities, and one was presented to Bert the gatekeeper. I remember visiting Ron Blaskett's house and installing their set. Another set was given to Dorothy Baker, who to my parents' great surprise arrived one day at our house in a sports car driven by her then boyfriend. Amid much fluttering of the neighbourhood venetian blinds the boyfriend carried the set into our living room. Dorothy needed me to explain how to tune the set and adjust all the controls.
With a lot of help from Tom and Rod Biddle I managed to scrounge enough parts from the Astor factory to build a working SJ chassis. However the CRT tubes were in very short supply and I had to improvise by using an ex-wartime radar tube. The tube had two phospors, a short persistence blue and a long persistence yellow, it worked, but any movement was followed by a yellow streak. That was in October 1956 before regular broadcasts, just dreary test transmissions of documentaries.
October, 2020 ----------------------
The Car PoolIt was 1959, and Graham Kennedy had just taken delivery of a brand new white Holden FC station wagon. He had traded in his beloved Vauxhall and was looking forward to driving the Holden to Geelong for an OB of IMT. We often deployed the entire crew to various locations on a Friday night and this was a long planned event. Being close to Melbourne it was decided to create a car pool and a notice usually appeared in the main passageway outside the maintenance department the day before, on the Thursday.
There was much chatter and jostling as to who would travel with Graham, the most extroverted and popular person at the station. Who would it be? There was room for at least two passengers, surely it will be Panda, and Tom Miller the producer. What a dilemma for the person preparing the list! Eventually they had the perfect solution, we will choose the second most popular person, and someone totally unknown, the most introverted person at the station.
On the Thursday there was much toing and froing around the noticeboard, and with great anticipation the drawing pins were finally affixed and the list was there for all to see.
G. Kennedy, J. Allen, A. McKean
I didn't sleep that night, and next morning, the day of the OB, I waited pensively in the maintenance department. In walked Graham, with a great smile on his face "Where's Andy?", I peeped out from behind a camera I was repairing and introduced myself, "Come with me." he beckoned and I followed him out to the carpark, conscious of the envious eyes that followed us, to where his shiny new FC Holden was parked. To my great surprise he walked around to the passenger side front door, opened it and beckoned me to take a seat. Shortly afterwards Joff Allen arrived and sat in the rear seat, and we then very sedately proceeded on our journey, Graham driving carefully as the engine was barely run in, being brand new.
We drove through the heart of Melbourne in busy traffic and happened to stop at the traffic lights at the corner of Swanston Street and Bourke Street. "Look, isn't that Graham? ... and that's Joffa! Who is that young guy in the front seat?". The traffic came to a stop, the pedestrians gawked and pointed, and finally the lights changed to green and cheekily I smiled and tried a royal wave as we glided past.
Along the way to Geelong I listened in awe to the stories that Graham and Joffa told, they never stopped talking and laughing the whole journey, and I barely said a word. Arriving at Geelong, Graham located the OB van and dropped me off there with a handshake, ever courteous and smiling, as did Joffa. I disappeared into the bowels of the OB van, and squeezed into the CCU bench, just in time for the rehearsal.
Graham had impeccable manners and the unique ability to put people at ease. A true gentleman who we all admired and respected, and the nicest person I have ever met.
June, 2019 -------------------
Norm SpencerHe was a big, gruff man with a gravelly voice, but endearing in many ways. The high colour of his cheeks pushed upwards even to his forehead, where it scattered itself in a few formless patches of pale red. His glossy black hair was neatly parted on his left side and brushed in a long curve behind his ears in a timeless style, accompanied by a heavy dose of Brylcreem to ensure both shine and hold.
Norm was an astute fellow who could see further than most of his contemporaries, and had that innate ability to find and encourage talent, and then to bring that talent to the public. IMT was the brainchild of Norm Spencer, program manager at Melbourne’s new channel GTV9. He had produced a popular variety show, The Happy Gang, on radio for a number of years and was keen to adapt the format, a mix of spontaneous humour, musical performances and lighthearted commercials, to the new medium of television.
Spencer happened to see a young radio sidekick called Graham Kennedy make his TV debut in May 1957, in an appearance on an early GTV9 telethon for Red Cross. Kennedy, then 23 years old, made his second TV appearance in a soup commercial wearing a long pair of floppy rabbit ears. Many of us, including me, remember that commercial, made in Studio Two.
During IMT I often sat next to Norm, as Technical Director, totally out of my depth socially, as I was only 17 at the time. The requirement then was that there be a person present at all times whilst the station was "On Air", who possessed the Television Operators Certificate of Proficiency. The TVOCP was a technical written examination conducted by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, few people at the time had that qualification and I frequently found myself sitting alongside either Rod Kinnear, Denzil Howson, Ron Davis, or Ian Holmes, in a smoke-filled noisy control room.
Norm tolerated me for a while, but it wasn't long before I got on his nerves and was banished downstairs to the maintenance department. Apparently Norm resigned about the time that GTV9 was taken over by Sir Frank Packer, who had a reputation for being an extremely tough, unrelenting business man. Spencer and he did not see eye to eye. HSV7 had offered Norm a good deal to join, and there was a sentimental reason as well, in that Norm's radio days had been with 3DB, then owned by HSV7. Maybe that connection was enough to sway him.
Norm Spencer left HSV-7 in 1968 and founded a new radio station 3MP.
September, 2020 ---------------------------------
The KlystronA Klystron is an insignificant looking device, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. However, without it GTV9 would never have existed. Invented in 1937 by American electrical engineers Russell and Sigurd Varian, it was further developed during the war years, and later used by Raytheon in their microwave links.
Rod Biddle had the foresight to purchase a number of the Raytheon links, they proved to be extremely reliable and were brilliantly engineered to be lightweight, yet robust enough to survive being hoisted up the side of a building or tower. The GTV9 links were meticulously maintained by Jack Young and his team of OB engineers, including Ken Bell, Bruce MacAndrews, Graeme Lyons and Lyndsay Sage.
Ken Bell, recently returned from the horrors of the Korean War, always volunteered for the most hazardous tasks, such as climbing to the top of the chimney to place a heavy tripod in place, and then hoisting the Raytheon link, with not much to hold on to. Finally, with a supreme physical effort, the four foot diameter parabolic dish had to be dragged up the outside of the chimney using ropes and pulleys, a heart stopping event to witness, but just another day at the office for Ken.
1973Gee there are a lot of familiar names on this e-mail. Hello to all. To all my mates in Melbourne I feel for you in lockdown and wish you well. Please all stay safe. We have it a little easier here in Sydney, well at present anyway, but still being very careful. What a wonderful forum and may I say how privilege I am to have been a small part of GTV. Television City, what a magic place. I was of course, a late comer in 1973, after being on my P plates at HSV 7 for 3 years! I learnt so much from all of you, things that I still employ to this very day.
Des, Wow I am intrigued by your story of Festival Hall as I spent every Monday night there for 2 years during TV Ringside, first as an audio assistant and then as the audio op. So I know the limitation of the house PA system, and although we were only doing boxing, in 1970, I doubt nothing had change since 1964 and the Beatles! What a challenge you faced. I noticed the same house supplied microphones were used, the Sennheiser (white) MD421 with those awful tuchel connector. Well at least they were dynamic and cardioid.
I am fascinated, so a couple of questions, if I may? Easy to do today, but in 1964, God! So back then I doubt any Audio Mixing Console had auxiliary sends, so I guess to get a feed of their vocal microphones and the mics being dynamic, it was a case of employing the trust Y cord, which would also have been before the XLR connectors were invented!! I see that Frank “Fuffa” Tuner was on the gig with you. Pray tell what did you use as foldback speakers and more importantly where were you able to position then on that wide open stage. As looking at the photos and the footage of the show, that would have been a challenge. And how did you manage to get enough level or volume in those foldback speakers without feedback, to get over the top of those screaming girls, so John, Paul and George could hear themselves? Gee an ideal job for “In Ear Monitors”, just 30 years to early. So Des, to pull that off, Brian Epstein must have thought you guys were the 2nd coming (Great name for a Band)! Well done. I hope you were thanked?
BTW, Talking about IEM I will never forget the look of wonder on one of the main performers of Harry M Miller’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar at the first sound check of the 1991 Australasian tour in Auckland with the legendary Wyn Milsom of Jands, when we first introduced IEM to a theatre production. Or the day in a rehearsal studio in Warrandyte when I introduced John Farnham to IEM. The whole band had them and were playing and John was singing, so I took him by the hand and walked him out into the back paddock and 150 metres away, the look of bewilderment on his face, the penny dropped as he shouted the magic word, as he was free of his foldback speaker wedges forever, The only thing he uses the foldback wedges for now, is to hide his Autocue, another item I introduced and supply to him.
Hi Des, Thanks for your reply. Great to hear from you too. I have shared this with all on the original e-mail, as I am sure others will be interested as I was in your story, and as I love this forum that you have all got going and I wish to be a part of it please. Yes, agreed a few year have passed by, they do fly by the older we get. I thought that was just a saying, but it is certainly true, I judge now, by the age of my kids, not my the number of wives that I have had! Danie, my daughter is now 43, and young Tom is 25, and the number 1 Real Estate salesman in Melbourne’s docklands, at Lucas, if anybody is looking for an apartment. No, I am not on commission, but there is an idea! Des, I was just thinking, that last time we saw each other was Wally Ritter’s funeral in March 2011. How I remembered that, is within a few months in May, I was at NAB in Las Vegas and I ran into John Bowring from Lemac, we would always run into each other, mainly in airport lounges, we promised to catch up for a long lunch in Sydney, the next week he passed away in Hong Kong. Another great loss to the industry, I still miss him and think of him often. Also it demonstrates the importance of keeping in touch with people.
So the importance of sharing these stories like your Des, is paramount, I feel in the history of our industry. As it is important to pass on this information to the current generation of how it all started and evolved. Yes how our industry has change and we were all part of the Television Golden Era and as you said Des what a hoot! I personally have to give thanks to the mentoring I received for hundreds of people like you but especially, in my early career, to people like, Bruce Adderly at HSV, who took me under his wing and taught me so much, and then of course to the legendary (and grand mentor to all us audio blokes) Col Stevenson, and the guys I worked closely with, Peter Evans, at GTV and later freelance, he taught me technically again so much, Frank Turner, Dave Ritter, Chris Eichler, Mike Smith, Chris Doyle, Andy Gersh and Lindsay Wray and many other audio guys. And how could I ever forget the men that also changed my life, Ernie Carroll, who at 91, does not look a day older than when I first met him 45 years ago, and there is that other guy, Daryl somebody and of course my partner in crime Mr. Blackman! What amazing times. But as I said, all of those experiences, and the knowledge learnt, I have endeavoured to pass onto my past and present employees and freelancers that I have employed over the last 40 years.
So, Des thanks again to you and all on list for sparking the memories. And then in 1996 Sydney, Rugby League and Rugby Union would change my life again. I wish everybody love and good luck. Stay safe. Stay in touch.
October, 2020 -------------------
Tom's NotesMike in talking with Peter Dare recently I was conscious that I had never supplied any info Either on self or any anecdotes relating to GTV. My lovely wife Helen said that I should & consequently I sent on to Peter those three pieces about the Adelaide Cricket Relay ,the Echo Chamber, & the Darrods Wheel . This time I am feeding in another Three & will get you to distribute because I do not have the data base
Ps There are more !
1. The day that Gary Day wanted to show Clyde Packer the "New" 3AK which had been relocated to Eltham i.e. new buildings ,transmitters with Directional Antennae . GD & CP took off from GTV / 3AK Richmond & toured almost all of Eltham taking many hours Could not find the 3AK transmitting site ! Huge embarrassment for Gary but a huge joke for Clyde ( and for all of us back at Richmond)
2. A Kevin Lo achievement
Kevin's development of a Darlington Pair concept for the GTV PYE camera head amp to provide better picture results . Kevin submitted a paper on this subject to our esteemed institute the" Institute of Radio & Electrical Engineers " . That submission was accepted .
3. An RJB snippet .
In the early days of setting up the GTV Studios in Richmond it was an instruction to Rod Biddle that the cost of doing so had to fit a budget .That was the reason for a package deal with PYE/ Radio Corp ( Astor). Note Radio Corp was our major shareholder. However Rod had neglected to include the essential intercom between control rooms & Telecine etc. We as the installing group had approval to purchase cable, connectors, hardware etc . but could not purchase capital equipment. When RJB was notified of our problem ,the order issued from the Office of the Chief Engineer was that we were to install Voice Tubes ! Note RJB had been the Chief Radar Officer on the HMAS Hobart . T'was very difficult to convince our boss that he was a bit out of date . However Rod capitulated & that is how we managed to acquire a whole batch of Philliphones which were not supplied through Sir Arthur Warner's Radio Corp ! I often wondered how Rod dealt with his budget oversight.
Tom O'Donohue, June, 2020 ------------------
AMPEX storiesOne thing that didn't help Ampex towards the end of their life was that they had a tendency to ship products before the design was finished. Field service was then required to install updates when they became available. Customers were heard to say "Sony machines work straight out of the box" That sort of customer feeling didn't help Ampex. The VR660 you added to the slow motion write up was a 525 60HZ machine. The VR650 was the 625 50Hz model. It had a larger scanner amongst other things. Not one of the best products that came out of Redwood City.
Dick McEwen, June 2020
Now to the Slo Motion VTR..for some reason we had an Ampex VR -600, in the facility, it was a 2 inch helical scan industrial recorder. After fooling around with it we discovered we could do slo motion replay, I think using the spooling knob, or may be by hand. Anyhow Tom O’D got to hear about this capability. He went off and told us a few minutes later your on for the Melbourne cup replay. In the next couple of days was the Melbourne cup, GTV was televising the race although it had to be a delayed via VTR. SO for the cup we rigged up this Ampex VTR and put it into the slo mo mode to show the finish of the Melborne cup in slo motion, just a minute or so after the race. The time base stability was horrible, it would never meet the control board specs. The EMI Rx picture in Master control just wobbled all over the place.. For some reason I have a feeling that Al Bowley (Kine Recording) was involved, it could have been that we also Kined the slo mo replay.?? What I do recall is that we were given a lecture the next day by ?????? that we should never had done this for whatever reason. This was a very unusal stance for GTV. Normally GTV would do anything to be first. SO Kevin that is all I recall.
Peter Dare. june, 2020 ---------------------------------
Mike Mc Coll Jones - storiesAll of these stories will be at random (ie....as I think of them.). Some not necessarily GTV, but television in general).
The first is one of my favourites........it concerns the ballet Dancer at NWS-9 in the 1960s who played Humphrey B. Bear. His name was Ted, and he was a ballet dancer on “Adelaide Tonight”. Humphrey was so big in those days that there were dozens of “Humphreys” all around Australia.....making public appearances, doing TV spots, telethons etc. Well, Ted used to go to parties and when people asked him what he did for a living, he said “I’m Humphrey Bear”, to which they would say “Oh Yeah”, and never believe him. Over a period of time, this started to get to Ted, and it became quite a psychologiocal problem. One day Ted (Humphrey) was booked to appear at a brand new shopping centre in Adelaide. It was pre-Christmas and there was a crowd of 20/30,000 present. It was a huge event. The ballet started and then it was the MC’s turn to introduce the star.....”And, now here’s Humphrey”......... Humphrey bounced out.....he hopped across the stage when he “snapped”. He pulled his head off......bounced it on the stage and yelled “Fuck Humphrey Bear”. Imagine the audience’s reaction......children were bawling....parents were being comforted by grand parents..... Everyone was in a state of shock. It was as if someone had said “There’s No Santa”. Ted is no longer with us, but people like Anne Wills remember it well.
One of my favourite GTV stories occurred one IMT night. As often happened with a big “buy” by a sponsor, executives from the company would be taken out to dinner.....back to see the live commercial on IMT, and then to the board room for drinks. On this night, we did the commercial......had some fun with it....and the clients went back to the board room for drinks........on this night, Graham, Rod Kinnear and I went back for a few quick drinks, and then we went back to the caravan for a “real” drink. One of the clients said to GTV’s Sales Manager “Gee, I’m hungry. Any food?”. GTV’s Sales Manager went into the General Manager’s office (Nigel Dick) and got the master key. He proceeded to the canteen......opened one of the fridges and grabbed a few cold cooked chickens. He’d started ripping the chickens apart when he was stopped by a (new) security guard, who didn’t know him. He was nabbed and put on report.
The next morning, this news was around the network by 10AM. Jokes were being done about the deed, there was even graffiti on the walls inside the lift .....and the canteen was packed with people who wanted to see him. Nigel made his Sales Manager attand the canteen and “face the music”. People were looking and pointing at the Sales Manager. The canteen was rarely this packed! Bob Buttel, who worked in videotape entered the canteen and went to the counter. Leigh Mc Qualter (canteen manager) looked at Bob and said “OK Bob, what’ll it be for lunch?”. Bob said “Chicken sandwiches without fingerprints”.
One of the funniest lines I’ve ever heard. (If memory serves me, Bob went on to work on one of the islands off the Queensland coast). Might have been Great Keppel.
Stan Stafford was a regular on The Tarax Show (five nights a week – live. With a live audience, a ballet....Margot Sheridan on piano and Lawrie Wilson on Organ. Cast included Joff Ellen, Patti Mc Grath, Ron Blaskett and Gerry Gee, Denzil Howson, Ernie Carroll (Producer and played Professor Ratbaggy – along with Denzil), King Corky, Norman Swain. Many of the crew that did the Tarax show would have dinner in canteen from 6-7 and then go and work on IMT. Stan Stafford was a former jockey who lost the use of his legs after a race fall. As a result, he was carried around by a former policeman. When he needed to go to the toilet, he had to be carried there. And, so it was one day when Stan needed to go to the toilet......I think it was King Corky who took him there.......then came back to complete rehearsal. Came the 20 minute mark in the show when the floor manager said “Where’s Stan.....he’s on in 30 seconds)........only then did Corky go “Oh shit!”. Someone had to get Stan from the toilet and take him to do his spot.
When Uncle Norman (Norman Swain) was appointed the “star” of the Tarax show, he/some genius, suggested that he “enter” down a slide. There was huge publicity to coincide with this event.....press and on-air promos.....”Uncle Norman is coming”.......etc. Came the night and Uncle Norman perched at the top of the slide.....he started sliding and then came to a messy heap at the foot of the slide. Joff and others in the cast were really impressed by this “entrance”......they were cheering and laughing, until someone realised Norman was in acute pain.........he’d broken his leg.
(A story against myself). During the Don Lane Show, there was a day when I had little to do, so I drove the switchgirl (Katrina) for the Don Lane Show office mad by playing silly practical jokes on her. I finally went to lunch, and Katrina was happy to see the last of me. About 1PM, the phone rang and a voice said “Packer here.....is Faiman there?”. Katrina yelled into the phone.....”Piss off Mike”. It was Kerry.
Mike Mc Coll Jones, October, 2020
Sammy Davis Jnr. 1959In April 1959, Lee Gordon, Australia’s leading entrepreneur brought Sammy Davis Jnr to Australia for the ‘Lee Gordon Big Show’. The shows were held in the West Melbourne Stadium ( House of Stoush!), the Sydney Stadium, and Festival Hall Brisbane. Also appearing were Jerry Lee Lewis with Diana Trask. Plus the Australian Jazz Quintet and the Morty Stevens Orchestra.
Sammy, with his music director, Morty Stevens, arrived at Bendigo street to video some songs in Studio One. This was prior to Studio Nine, and also prior to our first Ampex VR1000 Video Recorder being commissioned. So the word ‘video’ is used loosely as our only option was in a little dark room next to the maintenance department. It was home to a mysterious piece of equipment known as a Kinescope Recorder, or commonly referred to as a kinerecorder. A high quality 16mm film camera mounted in front of a blue (monochrome) picture tube. Being polite about this early TV recording technology, the pictures were marginal at the best of times. The industry was indeed grateful when magnetic broadcast video recorders came into the market, staying with us for the next fifty years!
But I digress. So there we were with production, lighting and engineering crew eager and waiting to record a few songs from one of the world’s greatest entertainers accompanied by an equally famous music director. It’s interesting to note that at that time television in Australia was only two years old.
Our crew’s average age was 22, and our experience was around two years. But our enthusiasm and eagerness to learn was immeasurable And as it turned out the experience gained from that day spent with Sammy was something all of us will remember.
From the first song he rehearsed, just listening to the to and fro banter with Marty was priceless. His communication with the crew, his involvement with the production was so good. And the sudden idea to have camera two (crane camera) with extended camera cable reverse tracking through the props bay made for a great number with Sammy walking with the reversing camera doing a very cool version of ‘Spring is Here’.
After rehearsing again and again we were ready to go.
Then Sammy politely asked if he could get us all together down in the props bay. He gave us a five minute chat that had such a relaxing effect on us all. Not being able to stop or edit he said if anything goes wrong, just ignore it and keep going. (just another IMT one could say!).
The rehearsals had been so good, that nothing did go wrong. All went well. A great production, a great experience, from a wonderful entertainer, and an amazing man. And another great memory from those early GTV days over sixty years ago.
Sammy Davis Jnr. 1969My time at GTV does not go back that far, but do I remember operating follow-spot on Sammy Davis Jnr for a 'special' in Studio 9 in 1969 or 1970. I was also boom operator for his appearance on the Don Lane Show. Sammy is an excellent drummer and, at one point in the show, he lept into the band to take over from Graham Morgan on drums. From the boom I had an excellent view of the look of horror on Sammy's face when he realised that Graham was left-handed and the kit was set-up in reverse to what he was expecting. Sammy coped amazingly well in what would have been a difficult situation for him.
Graham Kennedy, 1989Time for another story!
I did tell this I think some years ago, but some may not have heard it and it’s time we had a more recent one on dear old GK. Recent being thirty years ago.
My life, after leaving GTV and ATV0, went in the direction of sales and marketing of broadcast and domestic television and audio products. I was therefore able to stay in touch with all my old friends in Television.
With JVC’s invention of the VHS video recorder, and subsequent development of the S-VHS camcorder, I received a phone call one morning from Graham. This was the period in the eighties when Graham’s Coast to Coast late night news show was achieving high ratings, but he was looking for a broader more family friendly show to do.
“It’s Graham here Bill. I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve dobbed you in to sponsor a new show I’m doing” Gulp I thought, and do we have hundreds of thousands of dollars in our budget for Television advertising?
Before I could open my mouth, he said “ Oh and by the way, it’ll only cost you a handful of video cameras and TV’s”.
Thanks to Graham, our consumer sales absolutely sky rocketed! And true to his word our costs were quite minimal
My meetings with GK over those few years were generally over very pleasant lunches and the occasional dinner.
One such dinner was, as Graham later said, quite eventful. In fact it attracted a headline on page 2 of the Age the next day on the 12th of December 1989.
The headline read:
Kennedy hero in unscripted drama.He might not be the $6 million dollar man- a mere $18,750-a-week man, actually- but Graham Kennedy is no slouch as a crime fighter, witnesses report.
It was Saturday night in a posh Potts Point restaurant called Butlers, and Mr Kennedy and a group of friends that included the head of JVC in Australia, Bill Dougall, were eating at a table in an alcove near the front door.
They had just munched their entrees when Mr Dougall’s partner, Val Stewart, sitting on Gra Gra’s left, looked up to see a young man standing beside her. He mumbled something about wanting a light, then snatched her handbag from the floor beside her chair.
Ms Stewart said she was immobilised, stunned by the audacity of a robber walking straight in off the street. But Mr Kennedy, she said, “moved like lightning”. He grabbed the man by the wrist and held on tight in a struggle that saw his chair tipped over backwards and the Nine Network’s most valuable property go sprawling on the floor.
The robber let go the bag and vanished into Victoria Street, Mr Dougall in hot pursuit. But an accomplice had bicycles waiting and they escaped.
“My hero,” said Val Stewart. “ Definitely too much excitement for one night,” said Mr Kennedy, righting his chair. “After all,” said restaurant staff, not terribly surprised, “this is King’s Cross.”
A copy of the treasured article and Graham’s fax to me the next day is attached.
Fax was Graham’s favourite method of communication. It read: Dear Bill, Thank you for a wonderful evening ( An eventful one too!) The wine, food and company was excellent. Best Wishes, Graham.
And so concludes another amazing and cherished memory of many years ago.
October 2020 ----------------------
Graham Kennedy - DutchyA smaller GK story, but dramatic for me at the time:
I cut GK video off the air for about 1s during his IMT closing remarks!
At the time I was about 19 working the Master Control desk, it was my first on-air mistake and I thought it could be my last. I'm not sure that St9 people were aware of it but the crew in St2 waiting to do the late news certainly were. I dutifully fessed up with an entry into the MC log book. There were no messages to report to the Engineering Office the next day bit I think Wally probably had a word to me. On MC again the next night I went to the canteen to get some dinner and when standing in the queue I felt a nudge from behind and quietly GK said to me "you won't do that again to me will you Dutchy?" I looked around to see him moving off and said something mundane like "I hope not Graham". He had obviously done his homework to find out the 'perp', because as far as I knew I was well under his radar.
Nothing more was said, even when I later became a TD for his shows. He could be merciless at times with floor crew but I was pleased he treated me kindly. As you say Bill, a nice guy.
It also showed me that the GTV crews were very supportive of us youngsters learning the ropes. I appreciated it then and I applaud it now.
Ray Holland (Dutchy)
November 2020 ----------------------
His Royal Highness Prince Phillip. November 1956Andy, Dick and a few of us who were only 17 or 18 years of age, had recently finished our two year Radio and Television technical course at the Melbourne Technical College ( Now RMIT).
We began our employment with GTV towards the end of 1956.
Under the direction of Chief Engineer Rod Biddle and his two assistant Chief Engineers, Tom O’Donohue and Jack Young we were placed in the various jobs to assist in the assembly of the studios, control rooms and outside Broadcast vehicles.
There was considerable pressure to complete these projects to enable the televising of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. This was to be well before the official opening of the station scheduled for after the Games.
One of the tasks that Dick and I were given was to assist with the assembly of a two camera VW Kombi OB van.
Incidentally this little van proved to be incredibly reliable, doing countless OB’s both as a source of program and a transporter of the then very heavy OB equipment. ( A picture of the Kombi can be seen on this website doing a Phillip Island Armstrong 500 OB.)
The two camera installation in the van was overseen by TV Engineering. They used the shed for their installations that later became the Carpenters’ workshop on the rear of GTV’s property.
Two of the TV Eng guys were Ray Walsh,( Walshie) and Alan Gibbs (Gibbsie).
We treated these guys with such awe and respect who, unlike us green behind the ears teenagers, they had both returned to Australia after years of experience in the UK TV industry.
They both had a flamboyant approach to everything. Gibbsie loved London so much he brought a London cab back to Australia with him! He also had a classic expression used whenever he’d solved a problem with a piece of equipment...”She’s a goer” he’d be heard saying!.
Walshie, I think was amused with the idea of having two teenagers assigned to him to do the work, and initially seemed quite strict in the way he directed us. Dick recalled recently that he was a bit scared of Ray during that week!
But I digress. The first job for our little OB van was for it to be at the newly constructed Olympic swimming pool to cover all the water sport events.
Camera one was set up in the building with a strategic view of the pool and the thousands of excited ticket holders.
Outside in the van were crammed Denzil Howsen Director, Wally Shaw Audio, and Dick McEwen CCU.
For camera two’s placement, and possibly Denzil’s idea, we placed it under the pool to get underwater shots of the water polo players through a 30 inch diameter porthole. This was in a narrow passageway, with just enough space for two people to squeeze pass each other. There was certainly insufficient room for a large camera tripod.
The solution was to carefully balance the front of the camera on the narrow porthole ledge, with no room for any pan and tilt head.
There we were, Billy Beams on camera, and myself carefully balancing one of GTV’s most valued possessions for hours on end to ensure it didn’t come off the ledge.
The idea of covering the water polo from underneath the water became more significant when two of the competing teams were from Russia and Hungary. At that time the Soviet Union had only just invaded and overtook Hungary. The fact that the Russian and Hungary water polo teams were to play each other was considerable news in the papers at the time.
This match had just started and camera two soon went to air when it became obvious there was no love lost between the teams.
A minute or two into the game we could hear commotion at the entrance to our narrow passageway. Someone came stumbling up the passageway saying there were VIP’s coming and to make way. “How can we do that” I said to Billy. Obviously we couldn’t. The game was becoming quite violent with kicking and punching clearly being seen on camera and through the porthole.
Then to my left, and in single file I could make out three or four people moving towards us. A moment later looking over my shoulder and two inches from my right ear, was His Royal Highness Prince Phillip, quietly observing the commotion through the porthole. Then in a loud voice “ My God, that’s cheating isn’t it?” “Yesss Sir!” I said jumping to attention, nearly dropping the camera off the ledge!
Prince Phillip stayed a few minutes talking to us, wished us both well, turned around, and disappeared back the way he came in with his minders.
If this is what working in television is going to be like, I thought, I’m in for a very interesting and exciting time!
65 years later I know how right I was.
Bill Dougall. November 2020
Buttered Rock Buns.Thank you Bill, love that story, we newbies arrived at GTV in the early 60’s fresh from RMIT with TV and Radio Ops in hand..at which time you and others were the respected disciples of the house...after 3-4 years of fun at Bendigo St, many of us headed overseas to do the “World TV “ thing..many of us had a ball traveling to most continents at someone else’s expense, building TV stations in weird and exciting countries and enjoying an expat life.
Many of us had successful careers and moved on and up to fresh but related business careers in the industry... ..many a story to tell from these past wonderful journeys and experiences...BUT ... all a result of Melbourne Tech’s BCTV tech course.... and the wonderful experiences at GTV!!!! How lucky were we??
Best wishes to all, it is a wonderful thing reading these posts..
Other memories, or maybe my ageing memory is fading, ..
..the buttered rock buns arriving for morning tea at the footy ground after you have run the cables, mounted the cameras, and started alignment.
The smell of warming meat pies wafting out of master control racks on a late night weekend shift..
The annual Christmas goof tape transmission to TOC night shift up the coaxial cable..
Regularly checking if front and back porch were correct width!! Really!
...Yes St9 Audio, “George” “Fred” is disabled...
It is 2am, the third restart of Rod’s 60 minute BP super show recording, it is the weekend after TX time, no real vt editing except by razor blade, so any mis switch or artist error meant restart...triple time $ for many and double for next days if on shift.
The Ghost of Studio OneIt was late on a Sunday evening in 1959 at GTV’s Bendigo Street Studios.
Nothing too exciting was going on, either in the studios or on air. Just a B grade feature movie in its last fifteen minutes. The program was going to air via studio one in preparation for the Sunday night epilogue with a camera being set up on the epilogue reader, John Casson.
He was a rather sombre faced gentleman, and was sitting quietly in his unlit set, going over the reading for the evening.
It was quite a boring evening for us all really, with the commercials being far more interesting than the movie. Billy Beams, duty director for the evening, was, like most of us, looking forward to the end of the evening’s transmission.
In Master Control, senior engineer Lindsay Sage, was being his usual conscientious self, constantly checking for the best picture and sound quality coming from telecine and going to air. He had to make sure GTV’s Sunday movie was optimised for the hundreds of thousands of loyal viewers to receive the clearest pictures possible on their black and white 17, 21, and even huge 23 inch, Astors, AWA, Admirals, and other TV’s!
After all the GTV Sunday night movie had a huge following. So nothing could go wrong under Lindsay’s watch.
Suddenly, Lindsay thought something’s not right....”What was that?” he thought to himself. No, nothing. Must be imagining things. Then, so fast, almost subliminal, and superimposed over the two film characters, Lindsay thought he saw a dark ghostly face. Then it was gone again.
A very serious and now concerned Lindsay Sage rushed into studio one control asking Billy if he’d seen anything strange or unusual coming out of his vision mixer. “No, what do you mean?” said our straight faced Director.
This was enough for Lindsay to believe the problem was elsewhere, as he rushed back to MC, grabbing video patch cords, punching video switching buttons, and yelling as if our world was ending, “There’s video leakage in the video mixer”
By now the most spooky ghostly faced full screen image was flashing every two seconds. Then a commercial break, and the ghost had gone! As if GTV’s commercial dollars were more important than any ghost!
The movie ended and a properly lit John Casson went to air for the Epilogue followed by the station’s closing for the evening.
Could our mysterious ghostly visit have occurred by director Beams somehow accidently splitting the mixer fader between camera one and telecine? Surely not. Not our wonderful, cheeky, impish sense of humoured Billy Beams. God only knows what Lindsay entered in the MC log for that night sixty one years ago.
I think it appropriate to show our appreciation for Billy Beams being the imaginative and humorous person he was. And perhaps an apology to dear Lindsay Sage for unwittingly playing along with Billy’s effort to make us all laugh! (Including maybe a few hundred thousand viewers)
Can you imagine if anyone tried that today?
I should tell you briefly of the background of our epilogue reader who like Lindsay unknowingly starred in the Ghost of Studio One. Directed By Billy Beams. I located much of this information from the Age Newspaper.
John Casson had a remarkable triple career. He was born in London to the great theatrical couple Dame Sybil Thorndyke and Sir Lewis Casson, and was from an early age involved in the theatre in Britain and Australia. As a Navy pilot in the British Navy he was shot down and became a prisoner-of–war. He became involved in organising a coded message link with British Intelligence in London. After the war he returned to the theatre in Glasgow.
The smog filled air there, for family reasons, made him accept an offer from JC Williamson Theatres in Melbourne. However he soon became more widely known for his excellent Bible Readings on GTV’s Epilogue! But can you believe this, church authorities complained that Casson was not ordained. For God’s sake! ( do you like that?) So he could not continue the excellent work he was doing.
His third career began as a management consultant making good use of his experience in the Navy and theatre production. He was also a kind and caring person, which Andy can verify, that he went well out of his way after an epilogue one night to give him a lift home in his new Morris Minor.
As a further note re Billy Beams, Billy’s wife Gabby has just sent me a note re my story saying how much she appreciated it. I’m sure she won’t mind me relaying some further comments she made to me. Gabby confirmed that he was bored stiff that night. And when he was that way, God forbid, he did some things that today would make your hair curl. One night during Hal Todd’s “Night Owl Theatre” when Billy was Duty Director, the film going to air was a swashbuckling movie where there were several sword fight duels. When these took place, Billy would get the audio of machine guns firing, and put it to air during the sword fight! Thanks to Gabby for that!
Billy is greatly missed. He died almost five years ago.